Jalapeño Burger Business (get it?)

Who doesn’t love a good burger off of the grill?  Okay, not everyone.  Sometimes they are fabulous and sometimes just plain flat and flavorless.  These burgers do not have that problem.  As I get older, I have no interest in boring food and these are a party on your taste buds without actually burning them off.  They are definitely a crowd pleaser and even professed jalapeño haters, like my youngest, will devour these with great enthusiasm…unless they are my friend Allison, who will nibble on it for an hour.  I wish I could eat slowly, but I feel like the mother from a Christmas Story; if I don’t inhale my food, I’ll never see a hot meal.

Where was I?  Oh, yeah.  You can serve these on Texas Toast or gourmet buns, but we were quite pleased with our plain Jane buns.  The avocado is the perfect compliment and the prep is painless.  Gourmet meal with fast food prep time.

Jalapeño Burgers

Ingredients
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 TBSP + 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 & 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 sweet red pepper, sliced
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • garlic herb cheese spread
  • Burger buns or Texas Toast
  • Butter or olive oil
Directions
  1. Mix the jalapeños, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper and ground beef and shape into patties.  Cook on the grill or in the broiler to desire completion.
  2. Sauté onions and pepper in butter or olive oil until tender.  Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper if desired.
  3. Top each burger with garlic herb cheese spread, sautéed onion and pepper and avocado and serve on a bun.
  4. Take that first bite, close your eyes and sigh a happy sigh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muddered Pork Chops

At least that’s what Daniel called them when he was 5 and this was his favorite meal.  Typically, I only smother when the weather is cold, because a rice and gravy can be pretty filling, but last night was stormy.  The damp chill made it a perfect night for this Cajun comfort food.  I’m a little nervous about backlash from my Louisiana family, and my grandmother might be looking down her nose at me from Heaven, because, once again, I do things a little differently.  It’s good, I promise!  And I’m totally kidding about my family coming after me.

These were actually inspired by Emeril’s smothered chops recipe, so they can’t be all bad, right?  Normally, I use boneless chops and cut them into bite sized pieces after cooking so we can make this a bowl meal, but I only had bone-in chops this time.  They still turned out awesome.

The best part of this recipe is that it is virtually impossible to screw up!  There have been times I’ve had to make it without celery, potatoes, green pepper or broth (used bullion instead) and it always turns out yummy!  Last night was no exception.  I was working like crazy, trying to finish before the power went out again during the storms, helping with homework and answering phone calls.  I realized that I had accidentally tripled the amount of flour, but saved it by adding extra olive oil.  I caught myself pouring in beef broth, but only after 2/3 of the can was already in the pot.  I doubled seasoned with Tony’s and Zatarain’s Blackened Seasoning, but this was a fantastically happy accident.  Somehow it ended up being one of the best ones I’ve made in a while.  Who knew?

You gotta’ love it when your kids say, “Hmm!  This is good!” like they are shocked you have it in you.

Smothered Pork Chops

Ingredients
  • 6-8 thin cut pork chops
  • 3 TBSP, or lots and lots of Emeril’s Essence Creole Seasoning (is it strange that the name of this kind of creeps me out), Tony Chachere’s or other Creole seasoning,
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • heaping 1/4 cup flour (in other words, not a level cup, 1-2 TBSP over)
  • 1-2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1/2 – 1 green pepper, chopped
  • salt and black pepper to taste, or 1/2 tsp of each
  • 1 TBSP minced garlic, or garlic powder
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 2 – 14.5 oz cans chicken broth
  • 1 & 1/2 – 2 cups water
  • 1 pound smoked sausage, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 cups potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
  • cooked rice for serving
Directions
  1. Season both sides of all the chops and rub them to get that flavor in there.
  2. Heat your olive oil in a black pot or similar heavy duty pot on high heat and brown the chops for about 3 minutes per side.  Remove to a plate and keep warm.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and add the flour, stirring constantly until you have a roux the color of coffee with a teaspoon of cream in it, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add onions, celery, green pepper, salt and black pepper and cook in the roux, stirring constantly for 4-6 minutes, until veggies are soft.
  5. Add the garlic, bay leaves, broth and water and bring to a boil.  I add an extra 2-3 TBSP of Tony’s or other Creole seasoning here, but season to your taste.
  6. Put the chops back in and reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 35-40 minutes.
  7. Add the sausage and potatoes and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low again and cook, uncovered for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the bay leaves and serve over rice.  Make tummies very happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Shawarma’s Gonna’ Get You

Ten points if you got that song reference and thank you Frank, for getting that version of the classic song stuck in my head whenever I make this recipe.

This might be it, folks.  This just might be the favorite recipe in our house.  Every time I make it, people ask for the recipe.  Every time I make it, Jamie says, “You know, I really don’t love Shawarma, but this is amazing!” and he then proceeds to eat fourths or fifths.  Every time.  When I remind him that this happens every time, he looks at me like I am insane.  Every time.

Anyway, I fell in love with Indian and Middle Eastern food in my childhood thanks to my mother’s cooking and my father’s moving us all over the globe.  Tragically, as adolescence, and then adulthood moved in, I forgot about Shawarma.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that Tony Stark, in the Avengers movie, reminded me of its wonders.  My quest for the perfect recipe began almost as soon as we returned from the theater, but my need for that magical, taste bud-caressing curry flavor couldn’t be sated by the recipes I found online.   I began to play.

What follows is the latest version of an ever-evolving four year Chicken Shawarma research project that will make even professed curry-haters, like those in my home, beg for more.  I always double this recipe with the hopes that I might actually have leftovers enough to make another family meal, but am always denied that pleasure by the hungry masses.

I do this so unconventionally that some might say it’s not even Shawarma, but let them.  Instead of grilling an entire chicken breast, I actually cube my chicken and cook it in the marinade.  The spices infuse the chicken better and I am unwilling to sacrifice a lick of flavor.  I also have switched from a yogurt-based sauce to sour cream, but you can use fat free and it will not change the flavor.  Additionally, I use peanut butter in my sauce instead of tahini because it’s easier to find and stores better.  Andrew told me last night that the “sauce is boss” and he could drink it from a glass.  Daniel actually got busted eating the sauce with a soup spoon.

In the summer I will marinate the chicken for a longer time and grill it in strips on the barbecue because Shawarma is almost a weekly staple here when it’s hot out.  That mixture of seasoning and the fresh tomato and lettuce just screams refreshing during the sweltering months (that’s April or so through October or November in Louisiana).  When you grill, warm the pitas 1 min per side on the grill before filling.

I used wheat pocket bread this last time because the store was out of true pitas, but dinner was still a hit.  So without further ado, I bring you…

Chicken Shawarma

Prep Time: About 30 minutes, plus 30 min-24 hr marinating time      Serves: My 4 if you double the recipe
Ingredients (Marinade)
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 3 cloves minced garlic, or sub garlic powder
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
Additional/optional marinade ingredients
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp dried mustard
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • salt and black pepper to taste
Sauce Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 TBSP peanut butter
  • 3 & 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp + salt to taste
  • 1-2 tsp garlic powder to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/2 small, peeled cucumber
To serve
  • Pita bread
  • chopped Romaine lettuce
  • chopped tomatoes
Directions
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl and add the cubed chicken.  Toss to coat all pieces and marinate for 20 minutes (great) at room temperature or up to 24 hours (greatest) in the refrigerator.
  2. In large skillet on medium high, add the contents of the marinating chicken, cooking and stirring until the chicken juices run clear, about 6 minutes.
  3. Drain the liquid and push the chicken to the sides of the skillet, then add a little olive oil or butter to the center of the skillet.  Turn your heat up and cook the chicken for 2-3 minutes, just long enough to crisp the outside of the meat slightly.  Remove from heat, but keep warm.
  4. In a food processor or blender, combine all of the sauce ingredients, including cucumber and parsley, and puree.
  5. Cut pitas in half and warm for 10 seconds in the microwave, or in a skillet coated with cooking spray.
  6. Fill pitas with meat, lettuce and tomato, then top with sauce.
  7. Hold onto your hat and enjoy!  Your taste buds will thank you.

 

 

 

 

Spinach Artichoke Dip

I played with this title for quite a while, finally settling on Spinach Arrrtichoke Dip, complete with the dip sculpted into a skull and crossbones on the plate as my featured image.  Sadly, someone who shall remain nameless stumbled upon the plate and ate said skull and crossbones before I could get the photo.  Heartbroken and giving up on my second choice, Asgardian Spinach Artichoke Dip, complete with horrible sculpted Mjölnir, I have opted for plain vanilla.  Darnit!  That skull was cool.

Anyway, few things can be as delicious as a good spinach artichoke dip, but few things can be a nauseating as a poorly made spinach artichoke dip.  Luckily, this easy take on a classic is a fairly difficult recipe to mess up.  I have played with it for years and, like most of the things I make, it’s rarely the same twice, but it’s always good.  We make it our meal because it’s filling and stands alone nicely.

You can play with the cheeses, adding extra and other varieties like cheddar, mozzarella and Parmesan, and you can also go fat free with the mayo, sour cream and cream cheese.  We, of course, love a nice helping of Tony’s mixed in with ours and I do the whole shebang in my food processor to keep it simple.  I always double the recipe, but try a single and have fun with it.

I’m actually laughing as I read my old recipe card because I certainly add extra seasoning and cheeses, having never, since the first time, actually stuck to the recipe.  Still good, I promise.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Oven 350°
Ingredients
  • 1, 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 (10 oz) package frozen spinach, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayo or Miracle Whip
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
Other
  • French or other bread, cubed or tortilla chips for dipping
  • Mozzarella, Parmesan, cheddar, garlic salt, Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, etc. for a little extra pizzazz.
Directions
  1. Mix all ingredients well and then place in a baking dish, ensuring your dip is no deeper than 3/4-1 inch thick.  Cover loosely with foil and bake for about 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
  2. Serve with a good bread or tortilla chips and enjoy. 20160415_080440

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosemary’s Potatoes (see what I did there?)

Good morning from stormy Louisiana!  I am feeling pretty good today because I do love myself a good thunderstorm, in spite of a trauma I suffered earlier…I headed out into the downpour, opting not to wear my Gorton’s fish stick guy rain slicker (mistake), to feed the chickens today and all was right with my little world.  I love the rain on my face and in my hair, the scent of clean earth and the way the greenery changes color when lightening shoots across the sky during these storms.  The raincoat feels like it blocks too many senses with which to enjoy these things sometimes…if that makes sense.

I guess I need to stop here and tell you a secret.  Like all nerds before me, I believe I have something of a super power.  No, I am not delusional, but I really do have the ability to walk through a spider web where none are expected or have been before.  If ever you are blazing a trail and need that person to lead the way solely for the purpose of spider web discovery, I’m your “man.”  Indiana Jones would have loved me!   I’m not bragging here, just stating fact.  The down side is that I loathe spiders and, as tough as I think I am, those little eight-legged monsters can turn me from bad a$$ pioneer woman into a break dancing, freaking little girl in an instant, making the people in this video look like gladiators (sorry for a little language in the video).

Anyway, as I walked out to the coop today, enjoying the weather, my shins suddenly felt resistance and I was sent sprawling into the mud.  As I fell forward, time seemed to slow to a crawl and thoughts swirled through my head: I thanked God that my face had not made contact with this web, I was also grateful for soft, muddy ground on which to land and not the concrete I’d just stepped off of, and OMG!  What kind of mutant creature makes a web so strong that it can knock me off of my feet!?!  

I gave zero thought to who might be watching this spectacle as I sprang to my feet, using my best karate, break dancing and gymnastics moves to beat the crap out of myself, assuring that I had not picked up a hitchhiker.  It was exactly like this, but add mud and rain into the mix and subtract flaming shoes.  Skip to 54 seconds if you don’t want to hear most of the bad language and hit the restroom first so you don’t wet your pants laughing (Note if you skip ahead; he had spilled gas on his shoes)

This strange dance lasted for what felt like hours, but likely was only seconds, until I felt I was spider free and that I might survive this horror.  I was actually out of breath and thought a coronary might be what was for breakfast today when I stumbled back into the house.

My children immediately ran to my side, certain I was in real trouble, but I assured them that I would recover…in time.  Yes, I was muddy and out of breath, but no, I had not been wrestling a prowler or bear at the chicken coop.  My neighbors likely think that I am plagued by an aggressive ghost, am a martial arts champion, or I’m just plain crazy, but they’ve seen this display many times, so I’m not going to sweat it.

What does this have to do with rosemary potatoes?  Not a frickin’ thing, but I had to get that off of my chest.  Talking it through promotes healing.

Any-hoo, these are a nice, quick treat and a delicious side when you don’t have an hour to roast them in the oven.  Enjoy.

Rosemary Skillet Potatoes

Prep time: 5-10 minutes       Cook time: 15-20 minutes       Serves: 4ish
Ingredients
  • 1 & 1/2 pounds red or white potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, cut in lengthwise quarters and then 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 TBSP minced garlic or garlic powder
  • 2 TBSP dried (or fresh) rosemary (I grind my dried rosemary in the food processor or with a mortal and pestle to avoid eating twigs)
  • 1-2 TBSP butter, if needed
Directions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat and then add the potatoes, stirring to coat them with the oil.  Add all but the butter and stir/toss to coat the potatoes.
  2. Cook, stirring often, for about 15-20 minutes, adding butter, if needed to prevent sticking, evenly coat the potatoes with the seasonings and promote a nice crust on the potatoes.  Potatoes are finished when they are crusty on the outside and perfect on the inside.
  3. Serve alone or drizzle with your favorite sauce or condiment.  A nice compliment to almost any meat main dish.
Rosemary skillet potatoes 2.jpg
Paired with yesterday’s Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Glaze (I SWEAR!)

I believe I have mentioned that I am a sucker for Balsamic reductions, glazes, dressings, etc.  This recipe was one of my first attempts at a balsamic glaze and I love it, love it, love it!  It’s a fairly easy meal since the bulk of the work is done in the slow cooker.  I paired it with skillet rosemary potatoes and the boys were very happy with the results, as was I.  I usually double the glaze recipe because we like to pour it over our pork servings and smother our plates in it as well.

I’m sitting here ready to continue telling you how much I love this recipe, but suddenly the featured image is distracting me.  On one hand, I want to run and heat up the little bit I have left and eat it for lunch immediately because it was so yummy.  On the other hand, when I look away, out of the corner of my eye the picture looks a little scary.  Almost like…that is to say…I mean, I have 4 dogs and it’s generally time to run, not walk, to the vet when…Ok, trust me, the tenderloin tastes good.  Moving on.

Nope, I can’t.  The old 1974 Weight Watchers recipe cards keep coming to mind, Rosy Perfection in particular.  Why did I choose this as the featured image?  I can’t change it now since that would be cowardly.  Right?  I mean, half of the post is trying to decide if all of you might see vague images of…No!  This is my favorite tenderloin recipe.  It’s not just good, it’s fan-freaking-tastic!  Fran Tarkington amazing and the picture stays!

So, yeah.  Try to find one giant tenderloin, rather than two little guys, which will shrivel and look like…

Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Glaze

Prep Time: 15-20 min          Cook Time: about 6.5 hours (mostly, slow cooker)           Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 1 – 1 & 1/2 TBSP garlic powder or paste
  • 1 tsp sea salt, or other
  • 2 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
The glaze
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 TBSP cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 TBSP soy sauce
Directions
  1. Lay your dry tenderloin(s) out on a clean, dry surface (wax paper is a great idea) and sprinkle the side facing up with half of the garlic, salt, sage and pepper.  Rub the spice into the meat, flip the loin over and repeat.
  2. Place 1/2 cup water in the bottom of your slow cooker, then place the tenderloins into it.  Cover and cook on low for 6 hours (if you haven’t tried slow cooker liners, you need to).Balsamic Tenderloin7
  3. When the 6 hours is almost up, in a small saucepan, mix the cornstarch into the 1/2 cup of water until dissolved.  Add the remaining glaze ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer gently, cooking until thick and whisking often, about 3-5 minutes.  Set aside.
    1. DO NOT LEAVE THE SCENE.  Just saying, bubbly glaze in your stove is a bit of a drag. Do not run to the lavatory, water the garden or start chopping broccoli, while singing the song, with your back to the glaze.
  4. Preheat your broiler to high and line a broiler tray with foil or use a disposable tray.  Remove the pork from the slow cooker, pat dry (without burning off your finger prints) and place into the broiler pan.  Brush with the glaze and broil for 2-3 minutes until it starts to bubble.  Remove and flip, brushing with glaze again, then return to broiler.  Repeat until you have a nice, caramelized crust.
  5. Take a photo before applying extra glaze, then pour that saucy goodness over everything!   Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

 

Super(man) Smörgåsbord

Well, I am just about recovered from my two weeks playing hostess.  Meaning, I am trying to remember how to do things like drive a car, cook and clean, since my company let me do none of these things.  To get back into the groove, last night I had the BEST recipe to prepare for you all and was ready to blow your socks off!  Sadly, I realized at 4 pm, that the recipe started off in a 6 hour slow cooker.  So, be ready, because tomorrow is when I will actually blow your socks off.

What are we to do in a situation like this; when the oven quits or we just simply blow it?  Quick Hamburger or Tuna Helper?  Grilled cheese sandwiches?  No.  The last minute meal of choice around here is the Super Smörgåsbord.  Bringing family, young and old, running into the dining room with joy in their hearts and smiles on their faces for many years, this is the ultimate way to clean out your fridge.  I mean, the ultimate way to satisfy any palate.

Super(man) Smörgåsbord

Ingredients
  • Whatever you want
Directions
  1. Shake off the initial panic from the broken oven, meat you forgot to defrost, lack of ingredients, etc. and take a deep breath.
  2. Open the cheese, meat and vegetable drawers and pull out armloads of your favorite things; cheese, pepperoni, celery, those tomatoes living on borrowed time, etc. and pile it onto plates.
  3. You can also throw together last month’s quick and easy last minute pizza crust and create an assortment of pizzas.
  4. Serve with crackers and milk, juice or wine in fancy glasses to remind people it’s about being a free spirit and not about lack of preparation or panic.

Note: don’t serve the children wine in the fancy glasses.