Sunday, April 13, 2014

Shrimp and Corn Soup

Shrimp and corn soup is my absolute favorite kind of soup ever!  When I go out to eat at a restaurant, if it's on the menu, I order it.  I just love the spiciness mixed with the sweetness of the corn, plus the creaminess.  Yum!  It's just plain delicious.  I had a recipe from years ago, but it was made with cream cheese and half and half, so it was very heavy.  I wanted to make a little bit of a lighter version.  Here's what I did:

SHRIMP AND CORN SOUP

1 lb small shrimp, peeled and deveined (I like to remove the tails, too)
1 stick unsalted butter
6 TBS flour
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 cups milk (I used 2% but whole is good, too)
2 cups chicken broth (or seafood stock if you have it)
2 cups frozen corn
Tony's (cajun seasoning)
2 green onions, sliced

Cook onion and bell pepper in butter until tender.  Season with Tony's.



Once the veggies are cooked down a bit, sprinkle in flour and let cook, stirring, for a few minutes.





Whisk in milk and broth.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.




Add corn and shrimp.  Cook until the shrimp are pink.  This doesn't take long at all.  Season again to taste.




Garnish with green onions.




This soup is awesome!  So delicious I couldn't stop eating it!  Plus, it's easy to make for a crowd, just double or triple the recipe.  If you like shrimp, this is a must try for you!  Perfect for the Lenten season and beyond.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Beef and Caramelized Onion Pasta

When I first moved out on my own and had to cook for myself, well let's just say I wasn't making haute cuisine.  I was so proud that I could make boxed macaroni & cheese and Hamburger Helper.  Oh how times have changed. Those mixes (not that there's anything wrong with using them) have a lot of sodium!  If you read the nutritional labels you'll be shocked at just how much.  But I do like the convenience of a quick beef pasta dish that everyone likes.  So, I made my own.  It may take a little more time than the box mix (not much more), but is just as easy and tastes way better!  Plus, you control the quality of the ingredients and the amount of salt.

BEEF AND CARAMELIZED ONION PASTA


1 lb ground beef
1 onion, sliced
Salt and pepper
8 oz egg noodles, cooked
1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth
1/2 cup water
8 oz sour cream

Brown ground beef in a large skillet.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Remove the browned beef and drain all but about a teaspoon of the fat.  Add sliced onion and cook on medium-low heat until caramelized, stirring often.  It will take about 20 minutes or so but it's so worth it!  The onions become golden and sweet and delicious!






After the onions are caramelized, add 1/2 cup beef broth and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Add water and return beef to the pan.  Season again to taste.  Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes.  Meanwhile, cook egg noodles.


After the beef has simmered, remove from heat then stir in the sour cream.  It's important to do this off the heat so the sour cream doesn't curdle.


When the noodles are done, drain them and add them to the beef mixture.  You can garnish with chopped fresh parsley if you like.




This dish is just as easy as any boxed mix, but tastes so much better.  Give it a try and see for yourself.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Cook A Whole Chicken In The Crock pot

Have you ever picked up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store because you just didn't feel like cooking supper?  Or didn't have the time to?  Well, here is an idea that will let you get that same convenience and tender, juicy chicken with minimum effort.  Cook a whole chicken in your crockpot!

When I first heard of this, I was skeptical.  Obviously, the skin can't get crispy.  But, you know, I didn't miss it.  I deboned the chicken and shredded it to use in other recipes and it was perfect!  Plus, it was so easy to do.

CROCKPOT ROTISSERIE CHICKEN

1 whole chicken, cleaned
your favorite seasoning (I used Tony Chachere's)

Place a foil ring into the bottom of your crockpot.  You don't need any liquid because the chicken will make plenty on it's own.


Clean the chicken and remove any giblets or parts that might be in the cavity.  Season well, inside and out.  Place the chicken, breast side up, on top of the foil ring.  The ring keeps the chicken from sitting in too much of its own juices.  Otherwise it will fall apart and be too difficult to get out in one piece.  You could also use vegetables in place of the ring.  Cut up some carrots or celery or potatoes (or all three) and sit the chicken on those.  Bonus: they add more flavor and you have a built-in side dish.



Put the lid on and cook on low for about 8 hours.  My chicken weighed 4.5 lbs.  If yours is bigger it may take a little longer.  You can check for doneness after 8 hours by wiggling a leg.  If it's loose, it's done.  But don't keep opening the lid.  Every time you do, it adds another 20 minutes to your cook time.  But 8 hours on low should do it unless you have a ginormous chicken.


As you can see, it was so tender that it just fell apart as I was removing it from the crockpot.  Which was fine with me.  I carved some up for supper that night, then shredded the rest.  I used it to make quesadillas and a quick chicken pot pie later in the week.  Super time saver!


If you are busy and need a way to get a jump start on supper, this recipe is for you.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tricks For A Better Breakfast

My kids love "Breakfast Night".  Every so often I cook all breakfast foods for supper.  It's a fun thing I've been doing since they were little.  Tonight, I was going to make bacon, hash browns and waffles.  But, when I saw a can of biscuits sitting in my fridge, I decided to try something new.  Instead of plain old regular waffles, I turned those canned biscuits into Cinnamon Sugar Waffles!  Here's how I did it:

CINNAMON SUGAR BISCUIT WAFFLES

1 can biscuits (like Pilsbury)
Melted butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Heat your waffle iron and brush some oil on it (the sugar will stick if you don't).

In a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon.



Brush melted butter on each biscuit (front and back).


Roll the biscuits in the cinnamon sugar mixture.


Once the waffle iron is hot and ready, place 2 biscuits in and close the lid.  These cook fast.  They were done in 2 minutes!  



We drizzled some cane syrup on top and they were crazy good!  But you could make a cream cheese glaze or melt some strawberry preserves to pour on top or dust with powdered sugar.  Easy, fun and yummy!

Another trick I wanted to share that really blew my mind is cooking bacon in the oven.  I never knew the best way to do it and I hate splattering grease while cooking bacon in a skillet!  I saw this on Pinterest (there are actually a ton of pins about this - all different).  I found this method to work best:

OVEN BACON

Bacon
A broiler pan
Cooking spray

Do not preheat your oven!  This is important!  You want to put the bacon in a cold oven then turn on the heat.

Spray a broiler pan (it has holes to let the fat drip away.  You could also place a rack on a baking sheet with sides) with cooking spray.  Lay strips of bacon on the pan.  Place in cold oven, then turn heat on to 375 degrees.  After 10 minutes, flip the bacon and cook 10 minutes more or until crisp.


As you can see, the bacon doesn't curl up.  It lays nice and flat.  Plus, the fat drips away so it's not insanely greasy (let's face it, it is bacon so it's gonna be a bit greasy, but it's not swimming in fat).

One more breakfast tip to share.  Freeze orange juice in an ice cube tray.  Then you have orange juice ice cubes.  Place them in a glass and fill with champagne.  Voila!  Mimosas that stay nice and chilled!  

So, try one of these tips the next time you make breakfast.  And don't forget the mimosa!  Cheers!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Shrimp and Grits

It is the season of Lent.  A time of sacrifice.  During Lent, many people give up meat on Fridays.  So, cooking this time of year takes a little extra planning.  For me, it is especially difficult.  You see, my Old-School Italian husband, (Italian Catholic, you know the ones who eat the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve) does not eat seafood.  I know!  I grew up on the river, so you know I LOVE seafood.  But him, not so much.  So, what do I cook?  I usually make cheese pizza, or pasta with no meat, or beans.  His non-love usually beats my love, so I stay away from seafood at home.  But sometimes, I make what I like and he just has to fend for himself!  Haha!  That's what I did today.  I love shrimp and grits!  The sweetness of the shrimp with the creaminess of the grits, plus the spiciness from the seasoning - it's just perfection to me.  Bonus:  it's pretty easy to make!  Here's how I did it:

SHRIMP AND GRITS

1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
canola oil
Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning
Louisiana hot sauce
Worcestershire sauce
2 TBS unsalted butter, cut into pats (plus more for grits)
Quick grits
salt and pepper
fresh parsley, chopped (about 2 TBS or so)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

If your shrimp were frozen, thaw completely.  You can put them in the fridge the night before to thaw or put them in a colander and run COLD water over them until they thaw.  Either way, dry them well with some paper towels.



After they are dried, drizzle a little canola oil on them (not too much, don't drown them).  Then season them well with Tony's and rub it in.  Make sure everything is distributed evenly.



Put them on a cookie sheet with sides and roast in the oven for about 5 minutes, depending on the size of your shrimp.  Mine were medium sized (41-60 count - that means there are that many shrimp per pound).  I think that size is perfect for this dish.  You will know they are done when they turn pink and curl up.




While the shrimp are in the oven, prepare the quick grits - just follow the package directions.  When the grits are done, season to taste with salt and pepper and add as much butter as you like.  Set aside.

As soon as the shrimp comes out of the oven, top with the pats of butter and let melt.



Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce to taste (more if you like it spicy, just a little if you don't).



Stir around to coat the shrimp. Then, sprinkle the chopped parsley on top.




Serve over warm grits.




This was so amazing!  I've only ever had this dish in restaurants because I was intimidated to try it at home.  Well, no more!  It was really easy and so good!  Do yourself a favor and give this one a try.  You will love it!  Hopefully you have a husband (or wife) who loves seafood too because this is a great dish to make for someone you love.  It looks impressive, but as you just read is super simple.  That'll be our little secret, though.  Enjoy!



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cajun Braised Chicken

Last week one of our local supermarkets had a super sale on chicken.  They had thighs, drumsticks and split breasts for $1.00 per pound!  Since I cook with chicken a lot, I stocked up.  I bagged most of it and froze it.  Then I used some of the split breasts (big, whole breasts with the bone) to make this recipe.  It's a braised chicken with a Cajun flair.  It was delicious!  Here's how I did it:

CAJUN BRAISED CHICKEN

4 lbs chicken pieces (bone-in)
Tony Chachere's creole seasoning (any Cajun seasoning will work)
2 TBS oil
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 TBS tomato sauce (or paste, even spaghetti sauce would work)
Splash of Louisiana hot sauce
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth (plus more for braising)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large pot with a tight-fitting lid (dutch oven) heat oil.  Season chicken well with Tony's.  Brown chicken in the oil on all sides.  Remove to a plate and set aside.






Drain any excess grease and discard.  Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup chicken broth.  Make sure the pot is over high heat, then add the broth and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to get up all the bits of chicken stuck to the bottom.  That's all deglazing is.


Once you deglaze the pan, add hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and tomato sauce.  Add onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic.


Return the chicken to the pot.



 Add enough chicken broth (or water or a mixture of both) to make the liquid level halfway up the sides of the chicken.




Bring to a boil.  Put the lid on the pot and bake it in the oven at 350 degrees for 2 hours*.  (If you want to cook this on the stove top, cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 1-2 hours or until chicken is cooked through.  I like to put it in the oven because I find it easier).

*Cook time will depend on how big your chicken pieces are.  Mine were really big, so it took 2 hours.  Small drumsticks would take way less time, maybe 45 minutes - 1 hour.  Just check to see that the insides are not pink and the juices run clear.



Since my pieces were so big, I shredded them up instead of serving a giant piece of chicken (even though my husband could probably eat it and then some).

I like to serve this over rice.  After all it is a Cajun dish.  We Cajuns love our rice!  But you can serve it over pasta or french bread or just as is.  You definitely want to make this one!  It is so good.  Ca cest bon!    




Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lemon Chewies (my favorite cookie)

I love cookies.  I make them all the time.  They are my go-to dessert.  If I have to send a snack to school with the kids, cookies.  If I am going to a pot luck, cookies.  If I need a hostess gift, cookies.  They are easy to make and everyone loves them.

Over the years I've made a million different kinds of cookies.  Peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, white chocolate cashew, cranberry breakfast cookies and of course, chocolate chip.  But my favorite cookie of all time is the lemon chewy.  It is soft, sweet, creamy, slightly tangy from the cream cheese and covered in a lemony glaze.  Oh my.  I could eat these every day!

LEMON CHEWIES

1 stick butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 cup all-purpose flour

Glaze:

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp cream cheese, softened
Juice from half a lemon
Remaining zest from lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Zest the entire lemon.  Measure 1/2 tsp to add to cookie batter.  Keep remaining zest to add to glaze.

With a mixer, beat butter, cream cheese and sugar until creamy and fluffy.


Beat in vanilla and 1/2 tsp of the lemon zest.  Gradually add in flour, blending thoroughly.

Drop by rounded teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart (they will spread a little).

Bake at 350 degrees for 11-12 minutes or until slightly golden.



Transfer to wire racks (sit the racks on top of a cookie sheet to catch drips from the glaze).

While the cookies cool, make the glaze by combining powdered sugar, cream cheese, juice from half the lemon and the leftover zest.  Whisk until smooth.  If too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.  If too thick, add a little more juice.



Drizzle the glaze over cooled cookies and let sit to harden.



This recipe yields about 33 cookies.  If you need more, it's super easy to double.  I cannot stress how much I love these cookies!  They are so good!  If you like lemon, you will love these lemon chewies.  Give 'em a try.