The Heartburner- my husbands dinner when I’m not home.

So my husbands says to me when I get home, “I can’t decide if you will be appalled by my dinner or want to try it.” Well, that is always an interesting start to a conversation.  Needless to say, my interest was piqued.

This is what he told me, all while smiling innocently in the hopes I wouldn’t bust him. For what, I’m not sure.  All I know is that look always makes me a little nervous when it is used at the beginning of a conversation.

This is what he told me.  All measurements are to taste & preference as he doesn’t remember measurements and trying to ask is like pulling teeth.  All of this was him going with his gut.

Directions: 

  • Mix 1/2 lb ground sirloin with seasoned salt, chili powder, black pepper, granulated garlic, diced Visalia onion, & diced jalapeño.
  • Take sliced white mushrooms & jalapeños & sauté in olive oil with Old Bay, & S &P.
  • Take a Vidalia onion slice and sauté with salt & soy sauce.
  • Grill the Burgers 4 mins each side, or until medium well.
  • When assembling the burger, place thick slices of Colby jack cheese on the meat.
  • Mix may, relish,clime juice, and Cajun seasoning.  
  • Assemble on a Kaiser roll with lettuce.
  • “Smush and try to eat.”

He says it was most enjoyable.  I christened it and there you have it.  Apparently, he ended up with two patties.  I am interested but also scared to try something with that many jalapeños,  we shall see!

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When the husbands away, the tomatoes come out to play (run away in terror from the pot)

So once again, my husband calls and tells me he will be late at the gym and then he will go get groceries for me and to eat without him. This means one thing.

Tomatoes!
Since my husband hates tomatoes and everything tomato-y tasting- I tend to use what I can when he isn’t around. This time, I decided to do something involving the new 100% wheat pasta (apparently what we had had before was not 100% wheat- the bastards can be tricksy!) we had in the cupboard and some squash a friend had dropped off after her ratatouille dinner.

Whilst the pasta boiled, I dumped a can of italian chopped tomatoes into a pan along with some Marsala wine. I let that simmer and decided to throw in some leftover bruschetta mix.

Simultaneously, I also made garlic bread from a nice Italian loaf I had frozen for such an occasion.

I added in some oregano, as well as Salt & pepper. Towards the end of the pasta’s cooking time, I ended up mixing in some fat free sour cream which helped tighten the whole mixture up.

The dinner ended up being really nummy, but it was surprisingly not the prize I though it would be.

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What was the real surprise was when I randomly decided to put my leftover chunky sauce on my garlic bread. I hadn’t sliced it yet and just ended up piling the whole lot on there. Then my surprise happened, it was delicious! This became my meal!

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It was delicious and because the bread was toasted, it didn’t get all soggy like I hate. The crunch of the bread and the garlic mixed with the creamy, tangy tomato mixture made me think I had rather come up with my own version of something I saw on “French Cooking at Home” (I couldn’t remember the name or find it) instead of the side it was originally intended as. The cooking show talked about how a small meal for one usually involved a few pieces of bread with different toppings- like sautéed mushrooms or steamed arugula and chicken- things like that. It was basically whatever topping you wanted was the limit.

The point, once I find it, is that my whim ended up better then the meal I actually planned. Go figure! This is why I love to experiment and why I always emphasize it in cooking. The mistakes are almost always useful in some way, even if only as a lesson.

Chicken Orzo Soup

So todays lunch started with a leftover roaster chicken. We had been going nuts with family visits and baptisms and ball games, so we decided to have a nice dinner at home. It was suppose to be Sunday, but due to life, it ended up being Monday. We cooked a 3 lb. roasting chicken and I had saved the carcass for later (see How Many Meals from one chicken post) and now, what do I do with it?

Today was the first picking, so I can still get lots more meat and broth off of it before I cook it for chicken stock. I picked off a few pieces and chopped them, enough for a small batch of soup, about 4 cups.

I fried some purple onions and mushrooms. I did toss in a few red peppers chunks, but I am not thrilled with how they turned out, even though they were a nice texture crunch when I tried my soup. I added a squeeze of garlic, about 2 Tablespoons, and fried them until soft. I added chicken broth as well as the leftover gravy from the Chicken dinner night. I then added a dash of Marsala wine (to get the tasty bits off the bottom of the pan) and then added about 2 cups chicken stock.

In another pot, I cooked about 1 cup of Orzo according to package directions. When this was done, I added this to the soup.

I tossed in Salt, pepper, and rosemary, and brought to a boil.

I’m not sure what wild cooking imp made me do the next step, but I took a good spoonful of some Chive & onion reduced fat cream cheese spread I had in the fridge and stirred that in. I’ve had luck with cream cheese thickening stuff in the past. I turned off the burner as soon as the cream cheese had dissolved, stirring the whole time.

What came out of the pot was not bad. Bland enough to be comforting and easy on the tummy, but still had enough flavor to keep me from thinking I was eating hospital food. The rosemary and the chive/onion cream cheese gave a background flavor without overpowering the chicken taste in the broth.

My favorite part was the mushrooms! Having never really tried other mushroom varieties other than white and Bella, I think this would go wonderful with some smaller mushrooms, possibly fried by themselves in some butter before being added to the soup.

Fried Green Beans and Crunchy Onion Chicken

I said I would post one of my favorite dishes, and here it is! My mother-in-law introduced me to this dish before I even married into the family. It’s her fall-back and I have to say, I love it! She makes these in a non-stick pan and used butter. I only have stainless steel, which does tend to stick more, but we also use Olive Oil to feel a bit healthier sometimes. I cook these around medium heat, and you have to watch them or they will burn and smoke quickly.

Melt two tablespoons of butter (the real stuff) on medium heat in a non-stick skillet.

I use green beans that we can or get from other family members. I drain the jar, but still let a little bit of liquid in the bottom. Dump the beans into a mixing bowl. To this, add flour enough to coat. I tend to use anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup depending on how dry they are and how long I am letting them sit. Sometimes, the coating sticks better if the beans sit a bit.

To this mixture, I add salt and pepper to taste. I also add Old Bay and minced garlic and I stir until everything is evenly coated. Don’t worry if the coating looks a bit wet or gummy, that just means it will be a bit more crunchy later on!

When the pan is hot, dumb the beans in all at once and spread them out in a layer. Now this is the important part, and the one I have the most trouble with…Leave them be! Do not stir them right away. These beans crisp when they are left alone, so wait a few minutes (like 3-5) before using a spatula to flip them over. Once they start crisping, then you can start stirring more. Eat when you reach the preferred level of doneness.

I ate these with my version of French’s crunchy onion chicken. I love French’s onions. I eat them straight out of the container. I’ve tried off brands, but I do not like them as much. I also love the original onion flavors, the cheddar ones made me gag, but my husband loved them.

I like to marinate my chicken in a sauce before coating it in breading. I do this all the time now, and without it, the chicken doesn’t seem as moist or flavorful. I coat my chicken in Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue sauce (my husband introduced me to this and we use no other sauce in the house). I will sometimes use a meat hammer on it first. I dump the chicken breasts in a plastic bag (Gallon works best).

In another gallon bag, I combine roughly 1/2 to 1 cup crunchy onions, about a tablespoon of flour, and some seasoned bread crumbs if I have them. The onions never seem to cover much, and I’d have to use a whole box on two chicken breasts to get the kind of coating I can get with a shake of the bread crumb container. So I combine. The breadcrumbs evenly coat while the onions give flavor.

After I mix everything in the bag, I seal it, and then run my marble rolling pin over it a few times. This does wonders for crushing the onions. Remove chicken from barbecue bag, stick in coating bag, and pat and roll it around until you get the coating you want. Put on a sprayed or non-stick cookie sheet and cook around 375 F for about 20 minutes, depending on how thick your chicken breasts are. I sometimes flip the thicker breasts half-way through to make sure I get an even coating.

Eat when all sign of pinkness is gone from the breast and they are fully cooked (I always have to cut into mine to check).

Use a spatula to remove breasts from sheet as the coating can stick if you don’t spray it enough.

Friday Nights

My husband and I have been trying to save a few bucks every week like everyone is want to do in this economical climate. Instead of going out with my parents and their friends every Friday night (all are retired and slightly more financially stable than us) we tend to make Friday nights special dinner nights for just us.

With tax season over, I now have a husband again and was pleasantly surprised to find him home early on Friday afternoon. I had texted him about the absolute rotten day I had ( some interesting clients) and was met at the door where he handed me one of my favorite drinks and told me to relax.

I will post the drink in a bit as I have come up with several that have recently been tested and approved by friends. Mostly, I wanted to share the absolute wonderful meal I literally came home to.

During the summer, the grill is uncovered and my husbands inner chef stretches his arms and warms up for superb feasts of season delight. In our quest to eat healthier- grilling has provided a delightful donation to our cause. Admittedly, it is not always healthy what we put on it.

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With our local butcher (and by local I mean 25 miles away) having customer appreciation week, he was able to purchase very nice New York Strip steaks for a reasonable price. All told, after he was done purchasing meat and veggies, our dinner in was still cheaper then a dinner out, and that is without including gas.

My husband never seasons the same way twice, and he cannot tell you what he put in a dish five minutes after he made it because he gets into this creative cooking coma. I certainly do not complain as the results are fantastic.

The strip steaks were marinated in garlic, ginger, wine, worcheshire sauce, soy sauce, balsamic, and “some other random spices I can’t remember” to produce a tender and juicy main event.

The veggies had grated ginger and Old Bay as far as I have been able to deduce- and were spicy without being overwhelming. The tomatoes were a perfect compliment to the steak. He seasoned and wrapped everything in foil and placed on the grill for a “low and slow” preparation. He did like-wise with chopped potatoes, putting EVOO and garlic on them while they roasted. I didn’t really cook anything for this meal, but merely wanted to show you what can happen to make a bad day better. Also, how a man who professes to “randomly throwing stuff together” to get some of the best meals I have ever had. We joke that we married each other for our cooking.

Some of our closest times are experimenting in the kitchen- so learn to combine your love of your spouse/significant other with your love of food, and you can have the best of all worlds!

Cornbread Casserole

When I hear the word “casserole” in a recipe title, I am always a bit hesitant. It always draws up images of leftovers longing to be included in one final culinary adventure before they are either biffed or eaten forever. I usually only make a taco casserole I lifted off a Campbell Tomato Soup can years ago. Years ago, I saw a picture where someone had used a corn bread mix in a crock pot. I know others still have used them in casserole dishes. I looked at a recipe I found on Allrecipes  for about three seconds and decided to make my own with a few tips from the above link.

First, I discussed with my mum what we would put in it. She made the marvelous suggestion of corn. I then promptly forgot it while I was making the dish, but I vow it will make it into the next round!
Usually, when my husband or I try something new, we ask the other what they would change. I got a resounding “nothing” out of my hubby on this one.
I wanted to make it semi healthy- so here is what happened.

I cooked a cup of brown rice according to directions. I opened and rinsed a can of black beans and mixed the two together. To this mixture gastronomic delight I added about ½ cup salsa and 1/ 4 cup taco sauce to make sure it was moist. I used a mixture of mild & medium salsa, do what you like for taste. I spread this over the bottom of a 9×13 greased dish.

Next, I fried some onions and a few canned banana pepper slices in some olive oil and threw in the leftover ½ pound of taco meat I had in the fridge. Once everything was heated I spread this over the rice and bean mixture. I dished a little more salsa on top and threw on a handful of cheese for fun.
The kicker here is the one thing I borrowed from the recipe link above- I mixed about a cup of cheese into a boxed cornbread mix. It was phenomenal! I will add more cheese next time (the original recipe said a bag of a Kraft mix from the store). Spread this mixture on top. I baked 425F for ten minutes, then dropped the temp down to 400F for another ten. I’d say you could do the whole thing for an even 375 to 00F for about 20 to 25 minutes. It’s done when a toothpick in the cornbread comes out clean. I waited until mine had a golden tinge to the top.

The casserole had a tinge of spice without overdoing it, and the sweetness of the cornbread brought it together!
While I was so busy stuffing my face, I forgot to take a picture of the casserole. What follows is when I was packing it away for tomorrow. Since the picture of the leftovers looks so awesome, I figure that the actual picture of the casserole would have been too epic to post here. I have to say that this is one of the best recipes I have ever made, let alone pulled out of (insert term for dark place here), especially for a first try. I followed my gut.

Corn Bread Casserole

(Forget tooting the horn, I think I blew it up)
My hubby preferred it without, but I thought that a dab of fat free sour cream finished the casserole perfectly. We had it with a salad.
Change it to the level of spiciness you like for a tasty and somewhat healthy casserole!

Marinated Pork Chops

Marniated Porkchops

I also made Lipton onion soup potatoes as a side but what really caught me was the asparagus.

Usually, when I make asparagus to go with a meal, I do it the way my mother-in-law taught me, toss spears with generous amount of olive oil, salt, pepper and bake. Tuesday night, I was not paying attention and accidently grabbed the Old Bay seasoning (same can shape as my black pepper) and applied liberally before I realized what color it was. I merely mixed and continued. My husband and I use Old Bay on French fries a lot and it works out wonderfully.

Moving on!
To my normal asparagus mixture, I added about a Tablespoon of minced garlic (for those you who haven’t discovered the squeeze bottles of minced garlic at the grocery store, you are missing out!) and applied a liberal amount of shaved parmesan! I went nuts with it. Mixed it all and baked it at 375 F for about 15 minutes (we like ours with a bit of crunch) and stirred it twice. It was the best! I overdid the salt a tad but I didn’t mind the saltiness- but the parmesan added a lovely roasted cheese taste with a bit of salt added in and it completed the meal very well.

Don’t be afraid to experiment- sometimes the mistakes are better than the original recipe!