Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hot Chicken Sandwiches

So I roasted one big chicken one night early in the week, then had enough leftover cooked shredded chicken to make a Chicken Pot Pie and these sandwiches. Oh, and I made chicken stock out of the leftover chicken bones and used that in an awesomely spicy (and non-kid friendly) batch of Red Beans with andouille sausage over the weekend. I'd say that chicken was a great deal!

I've never tried anything like these Hot Chicken Sandwiches, but the original version used Cream of Mushroom soup and crushed buttery crackers. Since we are trying to eat less processed food, I tried to make a recipe similiar, but cut down on the processed ingredients.

I made my own buns, which was a treat by itself! My husband and I enjoyed the sandwiches, my oldest ate about half of a sandwich (I'll call that a victory) and my youngest just ate the bread.

Hot Chicken Sandwiches

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1/4 cup crushed saltines

Melt the butter over medium heat, add the flour and stir for about 2 minutes. Add the water and milk and stir constantly until the sauce bubbles and thickens. Add the poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, soy sauce, stir to combine. Taste the sauce and see what else it needs - if the sauce is to your liking, add the chicken and cracker crumbs. Stir gently to combine (don't manhandle your chicken into mush) and heat until the mixture is heated through and bubbles again. Serve over spilt sandwich buns.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Chicken Pot Pie

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive compensation from Amazon if you make a purchase using this link. Thanks for helping to keep food on my family's  table! :)

Chicken Pot Pie
recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman; here's the book it's from and the website recipe

1/4 cup butter
2 celery stalks
1 carrot
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth or water
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt (will probably need more to taste)
1/4 cup sour cream or heavy cream
1 pie crust, recipe follows below

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the celery, carrot, onion and peas. Saute over medium heat until the veggies are cooked through and the onions are translucent. Add the chicken, then flour and stir to combine and to cook the flour. Pour in chicken stock or water, stirring to keep the sauce smooth until it bubbles evenly. Season with thyme, pepper and salt. Taste it and see what else it needs needs.

Stir in the sour cream or cream until combined, the turn off the heat. You don't want the cream to get too hot at this stage and curdle. Pour into a greased deep dish pie plate (I love my Fiesta one my mother in law gifted me!) and allow the filling to cool while you make the pie crust.

Easy Pie Crust
From Very Best Baking by Nestle
Makes 1 crust

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening or butter (about 2.75 oz total)

2-6 tablespoons ice cold water

Combine flour and salt in bowl. Cut in shortening with pastry blender until crumbly. Sprinkle with water until mixture holds together. Shape dough into ball; place on lightly floured surface. Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness. 

Top pot pie filling with crust; tuck the hanging over edge under and crimp. Cut holes in the top of the crust to allow the filling to bubble out. Put pie plate on a baking sheet in case it bubbles over. Bake at 400º for 30 minutes. 

Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting into.

Friday, November 7, 2014

At Home Rotissere Style Roasted Chicken

Rotisserie chickens from the store are so darn cheap, and I pick one up almost every time I hit Sam's. This recipe is an option for you if you are keeping away from MSG/who-knows-what-other-chemicals that are in store bought. I also buy whole chickens when they are on sale and freeze them so I always seem to have one on hand.

I've tried this as a slow cooker recipe, but I just didn't like the results. It wasn't the same as the rotisserie chicken from the store. It was a skin texture issue - the oven gets it crispy and crunchy, and the slow cooker skin was limp and rubbery. If you don't care about the skin or if you remove the skin before cooking anyway, try the slow cooker and see how it turns out for you! (Maybe 8 hours on Low would work as a conversion?)

Rotisserie Style Roasted Chicken
recipe adapted from allrecipes.com

4 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 5-6 pound whole chicken

In a small bowl, mix together salt, paprika, onion powder, thyme, black pepper, and garlic powder.

Remove packaging from chicken and discard giblets from chicken. Place in a greased baking pan and sprinkle with spice mixture. Rub spice mixture to coat the whole chicken. Top with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4-6 hours or up to overnight. (I do mine right away in the morning, let it hang out in the frig until about 1:00ish when I put it in the oven.)

Remove chicken from frig and allow it to come up to room temperate - about 30 minutes before baking. Remove plastic wrap, the place chicken in a 250º preheated oven.

Bake uncovered for 5 hours or until chicken internal temperature hits 180º. Let chicken stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The 5 Year Old Homemade Granola Bar Recipe

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive compensation from Amazon if you make a purchase using this link. Thanks for helping to keep food on my family's  table! :)

I've been making this recipe for homemade granola bars for 5 years now. That just doesn't seem right. - where did the time go? I posted the original recipe in 2009! That means I have made many, many batches of these. Some batches turned out great, some fell apart, and these treats have faded in and out of popularity in our house.

But I always seem to return to this recipe when I'm looking for a treat that I know what the ingredients are (not processed, not weird fake chocolate) or if I want to make something to add to lunches when I've already spent all the grocery money that week.

These are not peanut free so they don't work for school peanut-free zones. My 1st grader has to have a peanut-free snack, so he can't take these, but we include them in his lunch.

I've revised the recipe a bit to include some tips and switched the ingredient order around to show how I really whip these bad boys up. I also included ounce weight measurements for the honey and peanut butter - I really hate trying to scrape honey and peanut butter out of a measuring cup, so I set the bowl on my handy-dandy kitchen scale and squirt/dump the ingredients.

The honey or corn syrup choice is totally up to you. Corn syrup is much cheaper than honey, and the finished bars seem to stay together better with corn syrup. I prefer to use honey because it's a cleaner/simpler food, but it's OK whatever you choose.

Chewy Granola Bars
18- 20 bars, depending on how the bars are cut

1/2 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup (5 oz) honey or light corn syrup
1/4 cup (2 oz) creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups old fashioned oats 
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease on 9 x 13 pan. Melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, honey or corn syrup, peanut butter, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Add the oats, flour and baking soda to the bowl. Stir to combine or until the flour is incorporated and the oats are coated in the butter mixture. Now add in the mini chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed.

Press into pan (a potato masher works great - this compaction keeps the finished bars from crumbling) and bake for 18-22 minutes. Let cool for at least ten minutes or until almost room temperature.

OK! Now we are at the hardest part of the whole recipe. You want the pan to be cooled down enough to be warm to the touch - too warm and the bars kind of crumble and fall apart, too cool and those suckers are a PAIN to chisel out. Go around the edges of the big granola bar mixture with a butter knife or spatula to loosen it from the pan. Maybe lift the edges a little to separate it from baking pan. Place a big cutting board or cookie sheet on the top of the baking pan. Now FLIP!

Ahhhhh, so it broke! No biggie! Just slide it back together!

Stick the whole cutting board or cookie sheet in the frig or freezer at this point to harden up the chocolate and cool the bars down. These can be quite a mess to cut if the chocolate is still soft.

After the bars have cooled off and the chocolate is hard, cut off the broken pieces. Serve those to two little boys who like to help in kitchen...or you eat them, I won't tell! If yours didn't break, then cut into granola bar sizes!

My preferred option for wrapping is to put them individually into snack size bags. Sometimes I don't have them, so I use sandwich size bags. Sometimes I don't have anything else better to do and I wrap them with plastic wrap. I have found that my boys seem to have problems getting them out of the plastic wrap, so bags work best for us right now.

I store them in the frig, in the "Lunch/Snack" drawer. My boys really enjoy them!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Easy Freezer Lasagna

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive compensation from Amazon if you make a purchase using this link. Thanks for helping to keep food on my family's  table! :)

I don't make lasagna often...if I do, it's the Slow Cooker Lasagna. But lots of extended family are coming to stay with us for Thanksgiving this year so I am prepping and freezing any meals for while they are here.

This is the lasagna recipe I use when I make a traditional lasagna and it's called "Easy" because it's not a complicated, all day event. Anyone who has a traditional Italian grandmother will probably hate this recipe, but hey, it's better than Stouffer's!

Easy Freezer Lasagna

1 lb ground beef or italian sausage
1/3 cup chopped onion
28 oz jar marinara or spaghetti sauce (we like Trader Joe's Marinara)
10-12 uncooked lasagna noodles (the # needed will depend on how they fit in your pan)
22 oz cottage cheese
16 oz shredded mozzarella cheese, shredded (one of the only cases where I buy cheese pre-shredded!)
Sprinkle of dried parsley
1/2 cup water

Brown the ground beef with the onion until cooked through. Drain. Return to the sauce pan and add the marinara sauce. Stir to combine, then set aside to cool.

In a greased 9 x 13" pan, spread a big spoonful of the sauce in the bottom of the pan. Next layer half the noodles, breaking them if needed to fit into the pan. Next spread half the sauce, half of the cottage cheese, and half of the shredded cheese. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Sprinkle the top with dried parsley (this step is just for looks!)
Pour the water around the outer edges of pan. Cover with foil. (If you are freezing the lasagna, stop at this point*) Bake covered for 1 hour at 375 degrees. Uncover and let stand 10-15 minutes before cutting

*Freezer cooking directions:
Remove from freezer and let thaw before baking. This usually takes over 24 hours in the frig.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Our Easter food for 2014

Easter was very laid back at our house. My husband got back from a weeklong business trip on Saturday so we were all quite content to hang out at home together. My kids ate more candy than I would have liked, but I guess I only have the person who bought and filled their Easter baskets to blame...ahem...me.

So we feasted on:

Ham in the Slow Cooker, Scalloped Potatoes (this recipe without the ham) and Roasted Asparagus using this method I use for all my roasted veggies.

The ham was very easy to put together in the slow cooker and was the only thing my kids ate. The grownups loved the scalloped potatoes and it's a good thing too, since I have an enormous amount of leftovers. The asparagus rounded the meal out nicely.

Then for dessert after naptime and a long walk around the neighborhood was Coconut Cupcakes:

I made these on Saturday so I had a lot of anticipation for them. I decided to only make a half recipe, which is a good thing because after my oldest son took one bite, he decided he doesn't like coconut anymore. "The cupcakes were good, Mom, I just didn't like the taste of the coconut." He's a good sport, though, and didn't share that until all the rest of us were done inhaling ours. Don't let that deter you, these cupcakes were darn tasty.

Hoping you and yours had a great Easter!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Super Bowl Food: Dorito Chicken Casserole

This was our Super Bowl Food. I didn't want to do a bunch of appetizers or a ton of work, but still wanted it to be "fun food." This sounded like a reason to eat a whole bunch of Doritos, which would be a hit with our family.

My husband was sneaking Doritos the whole time I was trying to whip this up. He commented that he thought the chicken mixture, before being layered in the casserole, tasted like it could be a dip by itself. The grown-ups really liked this dish, while the kids picked around the chicken to get out the chips.

The next time I make this, I will heat up the chicken mixture without the crushed chips and serve it over the Doritos and give that a try.

Dorito Chicken Casserole
recipe adapted from The Taylor House

2 cups diced cooked chicken
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 (10 oz) can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can Rotel tomatoes, drained (I used Mild)
1 packet taco seasoning
1 large bag Doritos, crushed into bite-size pieces

Optional toppings:
Shredded lettuce
Diced tomato
Black Olives
Pico de galo
Avocado or Guacamole
Jalapeño slices

Preheat the oven to 350º. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, 1 cup of the cheese, the soup, milk, sour cream, Rotel, and taco seasoning.

In a greased 2 quart casserole dish (I used too big of a dish - don't be like me), add one layer of chips, then half the chicken mixture, another layer of chips, then the rest of the chicken. Top with the remaining 1 cup cheese.
Cover the pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted, and the casserole is bubbly. Spoon onto plates, and top with your preference of toppings.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Friday Night Pizza: Salad Pizza

We have homemade pizza every Friday night: cheese pizza for the kiddos and a "grown up" pizza. Some grownup pizzas that we've had are Bacon and Jalapeño Pizza, Hawaiian (Ham and Pineapple) and the always popular "Garbage" or Loaded pizza...lots of veggies and meats. The kids will sometimes relent and let me put pepperoni on their pizza, but they've been known to request pepperoni, then pick it off once it's on their plate. Sigh. As long as there are no hissy fits, I don't comment on that. :)

The recipe looks long, but it details how I cook my pizzas. I feel like I have perfected homemade pizza for my family, enough to rival our favorite delivery pizza, so that nobody feels like it's "just" homemade pizza. It's damn good.

I need to write a big post about my pizza process with photos, but the keys are:
1. A really hot oven with ample preheating time to get a pizza stone hot. I use this Pampered Chef stone (without handles) that I got as a wedding gift. I preheat my oven to 500º at least 30 minutes before I start rolling out my dough. This is not a summer cooking process - use your grill in the summer to save your AC bill!
2. Cooking the pizza directly on the hot stone. Using parchment paper makes it easy to slide it off. I've tried to use cornmeal to slide it off, but it was tricky and not always successful. Those pizzas became big calzones after they got stuck and flipped onto themselves. There was lots of cursing that night. Parchment paper is cheap pizza insurance.
3. Kosher salt. See this post on salting food. It looks like alot of salt, but I swear, it works.

The dressing for this salad was fantastic, and this recipe makes more than you will probably need. I just stash the leftover dressing in the frig and use it throughout the week.

Salad Pizza
recipe adapted from Dinner: A Love Story

Your favorite pizza dough - I used this easy recipe
2 tablespoons or so olive oil
Pizza sauce or tomato sauce
Kosher salt

Salad dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Pinch dried oregano
Pinch black pepper
Big pinch kosher salt

Salad ingredients:
1 small head lettuce, or about 4 cups mixed greens
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved, or 1 large roma tomato, chopped
1/4 cup large diced red onion

Preheat oven to 500º with a pizza stone in the oven. It is better to give the stone a good 30 minutes (or longer if you have the time) to get really hot and evenly heated. Roll out the pizza dough with a rolling pin or with your hands, and lay it on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Top the dough with olive oil and either spread with your fingers or pastry brush to cover the dough surface. Spread with your preferred amount of pizza sauce - I usually go a little light on it. Grab a healthy pinch of kosher salt and salt the pizza with your hand about a foot in the air for even coverage.

Open your oven, and slide the pizza onto the hot pizza stone by pulling the parchment paper onto the stone. Bake 10 or so minutes, until the crust is bubbled, the sauce is hot, and the crust is browned to your preference. I don't set a timer since it varies with the dough's thickness. I pick one of the boys to sit in front of the oven and direct them to let me know when the pizza is bubbling.

While the pizza is baking, combine the salad dressing ingredients in a shake top jar. Combine the lettuce, tomato and onion in a large bowl and toss with the salad dressing.

Remove the pizza from the oven by pulling the parchment paper and slide the pizza back onto the cookie sheet. The parchment paper will probably be browned (see photo above). Let cool for a couple of minutes, then cut into pizza slices. (It is much easier to cut the pizza BEFORE adding the salad) Top the pizza with the dressed salad, and serve.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Faux Pecan Pie

There is something about having a pie in the oven (from scratch, even) that makes you feel like a domestic goddess.

My husband was coming home from a business trip one night and I wanted to celebrate. Not like it was an incredibly long or horrendous trip, but just that my life is different when he's gone. So, for his first dinner back, I wanted it to feel special.

The dinner that preceded this pie was not super special: a rotisserie chicken (store bought thankyouverymuch), jasmine rice, and salad. Two of those ingredients were bought that afternoon from my warehouse club, but still, a weeknight that ends in pie is fancy.

Faux Pecan Pie
based off the recipe at Southern Plate

4 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
Deep dish pie crust, unbaked (I used this recipe)
1-1/2 cups crushed pretzels

Preheat oven to 350. Combine the filling ingredients, (eggs, sugar, melted butter, corn syrup, and vanilla) and whisk until combined and smooth.

Pour filing into pie crust,

 then sprinkle pretzels over the filling.

Bake for 1 hour, covering with foil if the crust starts to get too brown. Remove from oven, let cool completely.

The verdict:
I don't think this would have passed for a pecan pie in a blind taste test; the texture just wasn't the same. If I did make it again, I would combine the filling and pretzels before pouring it all into the pie crust. When the pretzels were just sprinkled over top, it felt like two separate layers.

No one in my family cared - it was gobbled up. While I don't think I'll make it again, it gave me a chance to practice my pie crust technique and it was a fun weeknight treat.