Thursday, May 21, 2015

Smothered Potatoes

Smothered Potatoes are the ultimate comfort food!  This was a staple in my house growing up.  My Mama made them all the time and even though I've been trying for years, I can't seem to make them as good as her's (maybe I'm not supposed to, right?).  But, they're still pretty good.



SMOTHERED POTATOES

5 medium Idaho potatoes (they have the right starch content)
1 medium yellow onion
Salt, pepper, Cajun Seasoning to taste
Low sodium Chicken broth (or water)
Bacon grease (you can use oil, but bacon grease is magical)

Peel the potatoes and cut into small chunks.  Chop onion into similar sized pieces.

Heat about three Tablespoons of grease in a big pot (with a lid) over medium-high heat.  Once hot, add onions and potatoes.  Stir to coat in grease, then let cook to get a little color on the potatoes, stirring occasionally.  You just want them to brown a bit.





Then, season to taste with salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning.  Stir well.  Then, add about 1/4 cup chicken broth (or water but broth adds more flavor) stir and put the lid on tight.  Turn down to medium-low heat.  Let it steam for about 5 minutes.



Remove the lid.  Stir.  Then repeat the process.  Add a little more broth, stir and put the lid on.  Let steam.  Keep repeating this until the potatoes are tender and smothered down like this:



These potatoes are creamy, a little smoky from the bacon grease, savory from the chicken broth and just plain delicious!  My family absolutely loves them!  I can't seem to make enough.  It's a good thing this recipe is so easy.  The hardest part is peeling the potatoes.

Friday, May 15, 2015

DIY Cleaners

There is no need to spend a fortune to clean your house.  You can make lots of cleaners for pennies from things you probably have on hand.  Bonus, less chemicals in your home!



*If you have granite countertops this is a must.  Don't buy expensive cleaners when you can make it in seconds and it works great!

GRANITE CLEANER

Pour 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle.  Add 3 drops dish soap and swirl GENTLY to mix.  Fill bottle VERY SLOWLY with water.  Try to avoid making suds.

Spray on granite and wipe with a soft cloth.


*If you have kids (or you yourself are super clutzy, like me) you need to pretreat laundry stains.  This recipe for homemade "Shout" works like a charm.

HOMEMADE SHOUT PRETREATER

1/2 cup ammonia
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup baking soda
2 TBS Dawn (dish soap)
2 quarts water

Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle.  Spray on stain and let sit for a few minutes.  Launder as usual.




*If you have pets, you've probably had to clean up a urine stain (ewww).  If you have carpet, that smell can linger and be totally gross!  This method worked great for me. But, please test it on an inconspicuous area to be sure it doesn't discolor your carpet.

PET URINE STAIN CLEANER

1/2 cup peroxide
1 tsp Dawn (dish soap)
Baking soda

First, soak up as much urine as possible with an old towel!  This is VERY IMPORTANT!  Mix peroxide and Dawn.  Set aside.  Sprinkle a good amount of baking soda over the stain.  Pour peroxide solution over area. Scrub well. Let sit 10-15 minutes.  Vacuum thoroughly.  Repeat as needed.


*If you have a wooden cutting board, you know cleaning it can be tricky.  Soap and water will dry it out and cause it to crack.

The best way to clean it is with a cut lemon.  Rub the cut side of the lemon over the board then wipe with a clean damp cloth.  If you have a stubborn stain, pour a little kosher salt on it before scrubbing with the cut lemon.  Then wipe.  Once completely dry, rub a little olive oil on it to keep it conditioned.

*After you've used that lemon to clean your cutting board, don't throw it away.  Put it in your garbage disposal and let it rip.  This disinfects it and gets rid of odors!

*Here's a great way to get odors and stains out of your DISHWASHER:

Empty the dishwasher.  Fill a glass measuring cup with white vinegar and place it right side up on the top rack.  Run a hot water cycle.  Then, remove the cup.  Sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda on the very bottom of your empty dishwasher.  Run another hot water cycle.

Worked great on my stainless steel dishwasher and on my Mom's plastic dishwasher as well.


*Microwave splatters can be a real problem.  You don't want to use chemicals where you put your food.  So how do you get it clean?  Here's an easy way:

Mix 1/2 cup baking soda with 1 cup of water in a microwave safe cup (I use a glass measuring cup).  Microwave on high for 2 minutes or so, until very hot and steamy.  Let it sit in the closed microwave for 5 minutes (longer if really gunky).  The steam will help loosen the gunk.  Then, wipe clean with a scrubby sponge dipped in the soda water.  Wipe off with a clean damp rag.


Making your own cleaners is super easy to do and can save you a lot of money.  It's also good for the planet.  No down side.





Wednesday, May 6, 2015

7up Biscuits

My daughter is in college.  She's almost finished her first year.  It's crazy!  How did she grow up so fast?  It really does happen in a blink!  Anyway, what I miss the most about her not being here is the whole family sitting around the table together.  So, when she was home the other day, I made a big supper for us to sit around and enjoy.  It included these moist, buttery 7up biscuits.  They were the star of supper!

These are similar to the copycat Popeyes biscuits I've blogged about before.  But, those used club soda instead of 7up.  You can use any clear carbonated beverage here.  I found this recipe online and tried it because A, it looked easy, B, I had all of the ingredients on hand, and C, the photo made my mouth water.  Always a good sign.



7UP BISCUITS

2 cups baking mix (Bisquick or Jiffy brand)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup 7up
1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut sour cream into baking mix.  I use a pastry blender but a fork works just as good.  To "cut in" just means to work the wet ingredients into the dry until crumbly.




Stir in the 7up.  It will be sticky.  That's ok.  Don't over mix!



Sprinkle more baking mix (or flour) on your counter (about 1/2 cup).  Knead and fold the dough until coated in flour.





Pat out evenly (about 1/2 to 1 inch thick).  Cut out with a round biscuit cutter (or just use a glass).  Should yield about 8 biscuits.



Pour melted butter into a cast iron skillet (or baking dish).  Or you can just put the butter in the skillet and stick it in the oven until the butter melts.  But don't let it burn!  Then, place the cut biscuits on top of butter.



Bake 13-15 minutes or until golden brown.






Optional:  Pour a little more melted butter on top.  (Why the heck not?)


There's nothing better than a buttered biscuit and this one bakes in a puddle of butter.  So, yeah it's pretty awesome.  The 7up helps it rise and get light and fluffy.  The sour cream gives it a tender crumb.  This is a really easy but absolutely delicious biscuit!  

     

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Chili Lime Baked Chicken

I cook a lot of chicken. It's something everyone likes, even the pickiest of eaters.  However, it can get a little boring.  So, I'm always looking for new ways to make it. The other day I looked in the pantry and fridge to see what I had on hand and came up with this marinade.  It turned out pretty good!  My Pickiest Eater Ever Son loved it!  When that happens, I write the recipe down and call it a keeper.  Here it is:



*Note:  I doubled this recipe because I wanted leftovers. A few nights later, I shredded the chicken and used it to make quesadillas.  Yum!


CHILI LIME BAKED CHICKEN

4-6 pieces bone in chicken (legs or thighs or a combo)
2 TBS lime juice
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp garlic powder (fresh garlic would burn here)
1 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 TBS honey

Place chicken in a big zip top bag.  Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl with a whisk until well combined.


Pour marinade over the chicken and seal bag.  Make sure all of the chicken is covered well.


Place in the fridge for at least a few hours.  *Tip:  put the bag in a bowl just in case it leaks it won't get all over your fridge!  You could fix this up in the morning and let it sit all day in the fridge.  The longer it marinates the better. But not more than a day.  The lime juice (which tenderizes the meat) can actually start to cook the chicken if left too long.

When you're ready to cook it, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place chicken in a baking dish (or big cast iron skillet).  Don't pour the extra marinade on top, discard it.  Too much liquid and the chicken will steam instead of bake properly.


Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 45-55 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken.  Just make sure it's no longer pink inside.


This chicken was very tender (the lime juice does that) and flavorful.  The skin was crispy and golden (the sugar and honey does that).  

I will definitely be making this again. I always have these ingredients in my kitchen, it was easy and my picky eaters were satisfied.  That's a win in my book.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa and Baked Tortilla Chips

This time of year there are farmer's markets everywhere.  If you're not visiting one, you're losing out.  They provide really fresh produce at great prices!  Plus, you are supporting local farmers.  It's a definite win win.  When you come home with all those fresh tomatoes and onions, make some salsa.  This recipe is really simple and way better than anything you get in a jar.  Bonus, you can control the heat level.  If you like it hot, leave the seeds and ribs in the jalapeño.  If not, remove them.

FIRE ROASTED SALSA

3 medium Creole tomatoes (or 6 Roma tomatoes)
1 clove garlic (leave skin on)
1 small onion
1 jalapeño (2 if you like it really hot)
Olive oil
Salt/pepper
Juice of 1/2 a lime
2 TBS chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Preheat broiler with rack about 4 inches from heat.

Cut tomatoes in half.  Quarter the onion.  If you want a little bit milder salsa, cut the jalapeño in half lengthwise and take out the ribs and seeds.  If you like it hot, leave it whole.

Put the tomatoes, onion, jalapeño and garlic (leave skin on the garlic or it will burn) on a flameproof baking pan.  Drizzle a little oil on them and rub it in.


Place about 4 inches under the broiler.  Broil for 5 minutes.



Flip over and broil for another 5 minutes.  Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't burn.  You just want a little char.


Take the skin off the garlic and discard.  Then put the charred veggies in a food processor (or blender).  Add the lime juice, cilantro (or parsley) and salt and pepper to taste.  Purée until you reach your desired consistency.  I like it smooth like restaurant salsa. But,  if you like it chunky, just pulse a few times.



This is easy.  Really easy.  But so fresh and wonderful.  I love it with chips but it's also great with chicken or beef.  It's delicious over scrambled eggs!  And it gets better and better as it sits in the fridge (let's the flavors marry).

Here is a simple way to make baked tortilla chips to go along with your salsa:

BAKED TORTILLA CHIPS

Flour tortillas
Cooking spray
Salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut each tortilla into eight triangles.  I like to use a pizza cutter for this.


Place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet (try not to overlap them).  Spray lightly with cooking spray.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Bake in preheated oven for about 5 minutes or so.  Keep an eye on these.  They go from perfect to burnt in no time!  Yours may take a few minutes more or less.  Just bake them until lightly golden and crisp.




These recipes are so simple but make a big impression.  People are wowed when you serve them chips and salsa that you made from scratch.  They don't need to know how easy it was.  Just smile and say "Why, thank you".

Monday, April 20, 2015

Strawberry Jello Cream Pie



I bought a flat of strawberries, Louisiana strawberries.  They're the best, ya know.  Strawberries are kind of a big deal around here.  Lots of strawberry farms equals lots of fresh, sweet, delicious strawberries.  Every year I buy a flat or two.  I put several bags in the freezer to use for smoothies.  Instead of using ice, I just throw in whole frozen strawberries.  They don't get watered down that way.  I also make lots of strawberry desserts, like this one.

STRAWBERRY JELLO CREAM PIE

1 graham cracker crust
1 (3oz) pkg strawberry jello
1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups cold sliced strawberries
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 TBS powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a large bowl with a pour spout, mix jello and boiling water.  Stir for 2 minutes to dissolve.



Add cold sliced strawberries.


Stir together then put in the fridge to chill for about 20-30 minutes (to cool it off).


Then pour it into the graham cracker crust.


Chill until set, at least several hours.  (You can make it the day before you need it and chill overnight).


After it's set, whip the cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract with a mixer or a whisk until thick.  (You could substitute Ready Whip or Cool Whip if you don't want to whip the cream yourself).

Spread over the chilled pie.



Garnish with crushed graham crackers or fresh berries.


Chill until ready to serve.



This is a simple, old-fashioned dessert.  Perfect for a warm summer evening.  Kids love it!  Kids at heart love it, too.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Nutella!

My first trip to New York was about 20 years ago.  My husband, then boyfriend, took me to Brooklyn to meet his family.  I not only met his big Italian family, I also met friends, neighbors and acquaintances.  Everyone was very nice to this little girl from the swamp and it was a wonderful trip that I remember with fondness.  But, what I remember most about that trip is the massive amounts of food we encountered everywhere we went!  Baked ziti, cannolis, spumoni, the best pizza I've ever tasted, amazing bagels, prosciutto bread, the list goes on and on.  My favorite foodie find, however, was Nutella.  Back then, it wasn't available all over the country like it is now.  I had never even heard of this chocolate hazelnut spread.  When my Mother-in-law handed me a pretzel covered in Nutella to try, I was hooked.  All I could say was, "Where has this been all my life?"




Here are a couple of recipes featuring this little jar of awesomeness:

This first recipe is super simple.  In fact, it only has 3 ingredients.

NUTELLA BROWNIES

1 cup Nutella
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
10 TBS all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8x8 baking dish.  In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together until combined.



Press into the greased baking dish in an even layer.  The batter will be thick.


Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.


Let them sit and cool before you try to cut them.  Otherwise you'll have a big mess on your hands.


These are fudgy and delicious!  Not too sweet and they have that undeniable Nutella flavor.  Perfect brownies!  And the recipe could not be easier.  The hardest part is waiting for them to cool.

This next recipe is a bit more work but well worth it.  If you like chocolate chip cookies, you'll love these.  These are chocolate chip cookies kicked up a few notches!

NUTELLA CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

1 stick butter, softened (let sit at room temp till soft)
1/4 cup Nutella
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 degrees if you have a dark or nonstick cookie sheet).  Cream together butter, Nutella, granulated sugar and brown sugar until smooth (a mixer works great for this but if you don't have one just beat the tar out of it with a whisk).



Add the egg and vanilla extract.  Mix until fluffy.



In a separate bowl, mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon with a whisk until thoroughly combined.



Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture just until combined.


Gently stir in chocolate chips.


Drop by heaping Tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Leave some room between them because they will spread.


Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set.  8 minutes is perfect for my oven but every oven is different.  Just keep an eye on them.




These cookies are crisp on the outside and fudgy on the inside.  Almost like a cookie/brownie combo!  Yum!  Have a few of these with a big glass of milk and all is right with the world.

So, if you love Nutella like I do, make these recipes.  Right now.  And if you've never tasted Nutella, well, what are you waiting for?  Seriously, go.