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Hot damn; I’m bloggin’ again! I can’t tell you how many times in the last 6 months I’ve said to myself “I really want to blog… but I’ve got nothing.” You may ask “Why nothing?” To which I answer “because of the kitchen from hell with which I was making do.” See; when we moved to South Dakota I was in Colorado with the kids and my husband was in the Dakotas/Minnesota area working and it was almost impossible, as the new guy, to get time off to go look at places to live. So we went down to the wire and found the mobile home that would be ours with only a couple of days left before he came back to Colorado to get us. The mobile home was AWFUL but it was what we could get. Unfortunately, the worst part was the kitchen. My stove couldn’t boil a pot of water reliably (I’m not joking), the oven turned out to be incredibly finicky, and I had almost zero counter space. I literally had about a 3 inch width of counter space to work with most of the time, otherwise known as “the counter in front of the sink”. I’m perfectly serious; that’s all I had to work with. The tiny amount of counter to the right of the sink was constantly full of drying dishes and counter top stuff that could go NOWHERE else, the stove had hot spots over the pilot lights for the burners; if you weren’t careful, just setting something on the stove would melt it and I burned myself  a few times by forgetting those hot spots were there. All this to say that as the days wore on and I tried to cook and bake I was met with failure after failure. I’ve cooked in inadequate kitchens before. I started this blog cooking in one, in fact. But the kitchen in that mobile home was totally and completely unusable for anything beyond frozen pizza and what could come out of the microwave. I went back to buying nearly everything premade. Our budget suffered because that stuff is way more expensive than homemade and our waistlines suffered because it’s also far less healthy than what I make from scratch. I haven’t blogged because there was not a single thing coming out of that kitchen that was blog worthy. It was awful. It was depressing. AND IT’S OVER!!!

If you’ll notice, I have been using the past tense in my explanation. We’ve moved! Yes; again. But not only that… We’ve bought a house! It’s in beautiful Northern Wisconsin and in desperate need of interior updating (meaning it’s a very sound house, but the previous owners seem to have not updated the inside since the late 70’s/early 80’s), but it’s ours and at a crazy low price! That means we can afford to make the aesthetic upgrades it needs.

Kitchen

Yeah. Definitely needs some upgrading. But it’s actually MINE! I’m not borrowing it from family or renting it from a landlord. And, get this, the kitchen has crazy amounts of storage space! It may not look like much, but there’s plenty of counter space and very nearly my whole kitchen has been unpacked into it and I have cabinets and drawers left empty! Seriously!! I have never had enough space in my kitchen so this is amazing!!

But, the kitchen not withstanding, I still have a lot of work to do unpacking the rest of our stuff. This being the case, I’m trying to make sure I cook easy meals with as little clean up as possible so I can do what I need to do in the rest of the house. I’ll have plenty of time for kicking around the kitchen after our stuff is unpacked. So this week I’m re-sharing my recipe for Crock Pot Caesar Chicken. It’s quite possibly THE easiest recipe I have in my entire repertoire. It truly is almost as easy as ordering takeout, it tastes fabulous, and there is a very small amount of cleanup. It’s also versatile: serve it as a sandwich, a wrap, on a salad, or even just on Triscuits or crackers!

I’m hoping to start blogging regularly once again. But if I can’t make it every week for awhile, please forgive me. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sticking with me thus far! <3

Crockpot (Slow Cooker) Caesar Chicken

Crockpot Caesar Chicken

 

 

My goodness gracious; it’s cold! That’s true for just about everywhere in America right now, but it goes double for the Northern Plains where I’m at. Everywhere I go there’s talk of wishing for summer and lamenting how crazy cold it is. I can understand why they feel that way; not everyone dislikes summer like I do. For those of you who share the summer loving sentiment I have a wonderful recipe that will be like sunshine you can pull out of your oven! And for those of you that share my winter loving tendencies, these Lemonies will be a wonderful treat to indulge in while cuddled up in a blanket watching the season go by out your window :-)

These bars are so easy and incredibly basic. In fact, it’s very likely that the only thing you will need to buy is the lemon. Here’s what you’ll need:

IMG_20141219_124748279_HDRWhile your oven is preheating, the first thing you’ll want to do is brush a 13×9 pan liberally with butter. You don’t have to flour the pan if you don’t want to, but you do definitely need to butter it. Once done, put the 2 sticks of butter in a small sauce pan over very low heat. Now zest your lemon. You can easily do that with a regular box grater. The little rasp-like side that is useless for almost everything on your box grater? That’s for zesting citrus! If you don’t have a box grater with a rasp side, use the smallest holes you can on a regular grater (most have 2 sizes these days). If you only have the one “regular” size option on your grater, you can use that and mince the zest with a knife like you would garlic. Whichever you use, make sure you only grate the yellow part and not the bitter white pith beneath. Set the zest aside and cut the lemon in half around the equator (the middle, not end to end) and squeeze the juice out of it over a strainer set over a bowl to catch the seeds. Set the juice aside. Keep an eye on your butter while you’re doing this so that it doesn’t burn. Once it’s melted, take it off the heat and continue with your lemon.

It’s time to start combining everything. First your dry…

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Then your wet ingredients + half of the lemon zest (but not the butter yet), making sure to measure out only enough lemon juice to satisfy the recipe- some of the rest will be for the glaze or frosting you’ll need. I’ll get to that later.

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Once you have that done, pour the butter into the flour mixture and mix it in. The batter will be very stiff and you don’t have to get it completely mixed.

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Once you’re at this stage add the rest of the ingredients (giving them a whisking with a fork first!) and mix thoroughly. Make sure it’s completely mixed and smooth, but don’t try to whip the ingredients like a cake. These are the lemon equivalent of dense, chewy brownies so the batter is going to be very heavy.

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These now go in the oven until the bottom and edges are beginning to brown and the center is set. You should be able to insert a toothpick in the center and have it come out clean when they are done.

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You have 2 choices now: cover these in a delightful lemon glaze or spread on a wonderfully smooth lemon cream cheese frosting. I’ll include the recipe for both below. But you have to cover these with something; they won’t be very good and they will dry out terribly if you don’t. Despite being similar in texture, these are very different from brownies- you can’t just leave them plain.

Alas; I don’t have a money shot for these! They got taken on vacation with us and I never did get a picture. I do apologize for that! You’ll just have to give these amazing bars a try for yourself to see the finished product ;-)

 

The Recipe:

1 1/2 C All Purpose Flour

1 1/2 C Sugar (White, granulated)

1/2 t Salt

1 C (2 sticks) Butter, melted and cooled slightly

3 Eggs

1 t Vanilla

2 T Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed- NOT from a bottle

1 t Lemon Zest

 

The Method:

*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

*Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 13×9 inch pan. Flouring the pan as well is optional.

*In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Once completely melted, remove from the heat and let sit.

*Zest the lemon as fine as possible and set aside.

*Cut the lemon in half short-ways (around the equator) and squeeze well to get as much juice as possible. Set the juice aside.

*In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.

*In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients; including 1 teaspoon (or roughly half) of the lemon zest.

*Mix the melted butter into the dry ingredients until mostly combined.

*Add the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.

*Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes or until set.

*Remove from the oven and cool completely before glazing or frosting.

 

The Lemon Glaze- The Recipe:

1 C Powdered (Icing or Confectioner’s) Sugar

2 T Milk

1 T Lemon Juice

1 t Lemon Zest (or whatever is leftover from the bars)

The Method:

*In a bowl, add the wet ingredients to the powdered sugar and stir until completely smooth.

*Spread over completely cooled bars.

 

The Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- The Recipe:

8 oz Cream Cheese, softened to room temp (any fat content you please)
1/2 C Butter, softened to room temp
1/2 Lb (1 C) Powdered Sugar (or more to suit your taste and texture preferences. More sugar=stiffer frosting)
1 T Lemon Juice (you should have some lemon juice leftover from the bars)
1 t Lemon Zest (or whatever is leftover from the bars)
The Method:
*In a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy & lightened.
*Add lemon juice & zest and mix well.
*Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix very well.
*Spread over the top of the completely cooled bars.

As you know, I much prefer to use real food (“whole”, “natural”, etc) ingredients when I cook and bake. I try to stay away from processed foods as much as I can, but sometimes the classics are based on foods that are not really good for you. Take pecan pie, for example. One of the main ingredients is corn syrup. Granted; it’s not as bad as high fructose corn syrup (which is ultra processed- WAY more than regular corn syrup), but it’s still definitely not a health food. In fact, my mom can’t eat anything with corn syrup in it without getting a bad headache. So for Thanksgiving last year I set out in search of a recipe for pecan pie that doesn’t use corn syrup. I found several that use honey instead. Score! Honey is most definitely a health food, and you can use it in place of corn syrup in many recipes (but there will need to be other adjustments to the recipe too, so don’t just start swapping honey for corn syrup willy nilly). So I played around with combining some of the recipes and this is the result. My mom LOVES it and no one who’s tried it so far dislikes it.

Pecan pie is actually a very simple pie. All you need is some basic ingredients:

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If you’re using salted butter like I am here, you won’t need extra salt. If you use unsalted butter (which is what most recipes call for) you’ll need to add a little salt to the filling.

You’ll notice, I’m sure, that I don’t have a pie crust pictured. You’ll need one, but the method you use to procure one I’ll leave to you. I used a refrigerated just-roll-it-out-in-the-pan crust from the store. By all means; if you want to make your own, please do! I didn’t because I don’t have anyplace to roll out a pie crust. The great thing about making your own pie crust is that you can make the pie any size you want. You can do a full pie or you can use a muffin tin or individual tart pans to make tiny pies. Either way, it’s up to you.

First you’ll need to melt your butter. Put the butter in a medium sized saucepan over very low heat. Once the butter is just melted, take the pan off the heat and let it sit for a little while; long enough for the butter to cool slightly.

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In the meantime, line your pie pan with the crust and then put the pecans in the bottom. How much you need will depend on the size of your pie pan. The pan I used is a 9 inch, regular depth pan. I used about a cup of chopped pecans, maybe a tiny bit over that:

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Most recipes call for whole pecans to be laid out nicely in the bottom of the crust. I don’t do that. One reason is that whole pecans are crazy expensive. Stupidly expensive. Another reason is the trouble I have cutting a pie that uses whole pecans. The pecans tend to just squish down and make a mess out of the filling. So I use chopped pecans and they work just fine.

Next, add the brown sugar, honey, vinegar, vanilla, and salt (if you need it) to the butter. Whisk all of that together very well. It will take a little mixing to get everything incorporated into the butter- that’s a lot of butter.

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As you can see, there’s still a tiny bit of butter around the edges that hasn’t been incorporated yet. It’s ok; it will get mixed in once I add the eggs…

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There we go! All mixed together and ready to go over the pecans. Gently pour this mixture over the pecans, scraping the pan with a spatula to get all the goodness into the pie pan. Once you do, you’ll notice something:

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Yep. Bubbles. Little bubbles coming to the surface as the gaps between the pecan pieces are filled. But they’re nothing to worry about. You can try to jiggle the pan a bit to get rid of them, but you don’t need to. The pecans will float to the surface as the pie bakes and the bubbles will dissipate then.

Time to go in the oven! Place this on a foil lined cookie sheet so that if the pie overflows the pan will catch it (which I’ve never had happen, but better safe than scrubbing charred sugar off the bottom of your oven) and bake for 45-60 minutes, until the center is set. It shouldn’t jiggle when you shake the pan gently.

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Ok, so my pie isn’t perfect. The crust on the right side there wasn’t pressed to the side of the pan correctly, so it shrank down a bit. Not a huge deal. The huge deal is that this pie almost burned. I should have taken it out of the oven about 3 minutes before I did. I missed the timer when it sounded. I’m lucky I walked through the kitchen when I did. So keep an eye on the timer and make sure you choose a loud one! Anyway, I managed to save my pie and not have to make another.

One of the problems I’ve noticed with pies that substitute another ingredient for corn syrup is that the filling is runnier than it should be.

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As you can see, that isn’t a problem with this recipe! The center looks a little runny, but really that’s just where I pushed the filling in with a knife to cut the pie (which would have been much worse had I used whole pecans). This recipe really is the best I’ve found for pecan pie- period. The flavor is amazing and not sickeningly sweet like the corn syrup recipes out there. The texture is heavenly! And it’s made using one of nature’s super foods- how much better could it get?!

 

The Recipe:

1/2 C (1 Stick) Butter

1 C Brown Sugar

1/2 C Honey

1 T Apple Cider Vinegar

2 t Vanilla

1/4 t Salt (ONLY IF USING UNSALTED BUTTER!)

3 Eggs, lightly beaten

1- 1 1/2 C Pecan Pieces

9 inch unbaked Pie Crust

 

The Method:

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

*Prepare pie pan or plate with the unbaked crust.

*Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.

*Once melted, remove from heat and add the next 5 ingredients.

*Whisk well, incorporating the butter into the other ingredients.

*Add the eggs and whisk very well.

*Pour the pecans into the pie crust so that they cover the entire bottom.

*Gently pour the filling over the pecans, scraping the saucepan to get all of the filling you can.

*Bake the pie for 45-60 minutes; until the pie is set in the center.

*Let cool completely before slicing, but chilling is not necessary. If having something that has eggs in it left on the counter and not in the fridge bothers you, you can go ahead & refrigerate it. But I left this pie out for 4 days before finishing the last piece and I didn’t even have a hint of tummy trouble. There’s so much sugar and fat in the filling that spoilage isn’t an issue for quite some time.

I’ve had some requests for a “print recipe” feature, so I looked around and found one of those! You can now find a new button on each post. It’s labeled “print and PDF” and it can be found at the very bottom of each post along with the sharing buttons. You’re welcome and thanks for your continued support! <3

I haven’t been blogging much lately. Too much life getting in the way. Too many things that just haven’t gone right. Too many things that have just been… complicated. I wish sometimes that things could just be easy. Easy to get done. Easy to go through. Easy to figure out. But that’s not how life is, in general. And when things get difficult and complicated even The Humble Food Snob tries to find things that are as UNcomplicated as possible. Sometimes that even means throwing together a dish that is made up of simple, premade products that maybe aren’t the greatest for you, but provide a measure of comfort that at least partly makes up for some of the dubious ingredients. Sometimes you just need that. One example is my taco bake. Another is this casserole. I found it on a now-defunct blog and played with the recipe until it came out just right. My daughters were reluctant to try it, since it’s not exactly beautiful food, but once they did they loved it! They even like to take it to school for lunch. And now that winter has come to South Dakota I’m looking for hot foods to send with them for lunch. They have recess before lunch (which I think makes more sense than sending kids out to run around on a full stomach) so they need something to warm them up for lunch. This casserole is just the ticket! And it’s easy enough to just throw together; even when life is being frustratingly difficult.

For the chicken filling I like to use roasted chicken. You COULD use store bought rotisserie chicken, but the price you pay for those is just disturbing. In my area they are up to $8-$10 now for a bird that is barely big enough to feed 2 people. Instead, I recommend using rotisserie roasted chicken you made yourself. I shared the recipe last week and it’s perfect for this recipe. So gather your ingredients…

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The yellow stuff in the cup is canned nacho cheese sauce. I haven’t found a recipe I like for homemade yet, so I use canned. You can also use the salsa con queso that’s found in the chip aisle. All you need is about a quarter cup. You can leave it out, but I like the flavor and moisture it adds to the filling.

So chop the chicken, mix in the cheese sauce if you’re using it, and add half a cup of the shredded cheese.

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Once you have that mixture put together, set it aside and mix the cream of mushroom soup, milk, onion powder, salt, and pepper in a small sauce pan and heat to a boil. Turn the heat to low and mix in one cup of the cheese (you should have about half a cup leftover now). Leave the pan on the lowest heat you can manage on your stove and get your crescent rolls ready. Open the can and unroll the crescents. Put a roll on your work surface and flatten very gently to give yourself a little more to work with. Take about a tablespoon of filling and put it on the wide part of the roll:

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Don’t put too much filling on; if you do, not only will you not have enough to fill all of the crescents, but the rolls will open during cooking and all you’ll have is a mess. Now take the bottom corners and fold them in, like so:

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Fold the bottom up to the top and you will have a very neat little parcel of tastiness:

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Spray a 13×9 baking dish with oil or cooking spray and spread a scant half cup of your sauce into the bottom. As you make your parcels, line them up in the pan so they look like this:

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Next, pour the remaining sauce all over the parcels and then sprinkle the remaining cheese over the whole thing.

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Cover this with foil that you’ve sprayed with oil or cooking spray (it’s the easiest way to make sure that what you’re baking doesn’t stick to the foil) and put in your preheated oven. Bake for about half an hour, then remove the foil and return the pan to the oven. Bake another 10-15 minutes or until the rolls are cooked and the sauce is bubbly.

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That looks SO good! I wish I was eating it right now, but even the leftovers are long gone. The girls took them for their school lunch. It’s the perfect meal for when you need good food that’s easy to make! Add a salad or crunchy baby carrots- or even some canned mandarin oranges and you’ve got a simple meal that’s very tasty and satisfying. And, best of all, it’s just plain EASY!

The Recipe:

2 C Chicken, cooked and shredded or finely chopped

1 C Cheese, shredded (most bags of pre-shredded cheese are about 2 cups- just check the package)

1/4 C Nacho Cheese Sauce or Salsa Con Queso

1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup

1 C Milk

1 t Onion Powder

1/2 t White Pepper

1/4-1/2 t Salt (if you’re using seasoned chicken, use the lesser amount)

2 Tubes Refrigerated Crescent Rolls

The Method:

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

*Grease a 13×9 baking dish.

*In a small sauce pan, combine the soup, milk, onion powder, salt, and pepper.

*Bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn the heat to as low as you can get it.

*Add in one cup of the cheese and stir to melt.

*Spread a scant half cup of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.

*Leave the rest of the sauce on very low heat.

*Combine the chicken, cheese sauce, and 1/2 cup of the cheese.

*Open and separate the crescent rolls. You can put out as many as you have room for on your clean work surface.

*Press the rolls gently to flatten slightly. Don’t mash them.

*Place about 1 tablespoon on the bottom of the wide part of the crescent.

*Fold the two bottom corners up and over the filling.

*Roll the crescent up, from bottom to top, as shown above.

*Continue with the rest of the rolls and filling, lining the parcels up in the pan as you go.

*Once done, cover the parcels with the rest of the sauce, top with the remaining cheese, and cover the dish with aluminum foil that you’ve sprayed with cooking spray (so the cheese doesn’t stick to it).

*Bake for about half an hour, remove the foil, and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes; until the rolls are cooked through and the sauce is bubbly.

*Remove from the oven and let sit 5-10 minutes to cool to a temperature that won’t sear your mouth ;-)

I’ve never been one to keep my opinions on the costs of store bought foods to myself. I fully believe that with a few basic ingredients, the know-how, and a little time, you can make those things at home- usually with better results. There are few departments in the store that illustrate that better than the average supermarket deli, specifically  the meats (and veggies) that come pre-stuffed, pre-marinated, and/or pre-cooked. One of the easiest things to replicate at home is the rotisserie chickens that you can buy in the deli- and that is one of the items with the biggest markup. Here in my little corner of the world a whole deli rotisserie chicken sells for $8-$10, depending upon whether or not it’s on sale. That is absolutely ridiculous!! It’s robbery! Grocery stores must think I’ve completely taken leave of my senses to charge that much. I can make the same thing at home for $4-$6, depending on what kind of sale is going on for whole chickens. And I know that it’s freshly cooked and hasn’t been sitting under a heat lamp for who knows how many hours. AND I can use my oven or my slow cooker. So I can have “rotisserie” chicken year round, without heating up my house too much in the summer! (I’ll put the instructions for that at the end.)

This really isn’t a recipe, it’s more of a method. This is all you need:

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FOUR ingredients. That’s it! Now, you can play around with the flavorings as much as you like. You could use lemon pepper, garlic and herb, ranch, just about anything you can dream up. So play around with it a bit!

First, mix the steak seasoning and the paprika together. You’ll end up with a pretty fair amount.

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That’s a full 1/4 cup of seasoning. It’s more than it looks like, really. Next, take 1 tablespoon of the seasoning and mix it with the butter. A fork works nicely for the job.

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You just made compound butter- well done! A little extra for you: you can roll this into a log using parchment or plastic wrap, freeze or refrigerate it (wrapped well), and cut off pats to put on top of cooked steak. It’s FABULOUS!! Ok, back to the task at hand… Now you need to work on the chicken a bit. This butter needs to go under the skin of the breasts. To do that, you need to create a pocket for it to go into. And to do that, you need to carefully put your index finger under the skin and separate the membrane from the meat- like so:

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Very gently work your finger all the way down the breast. The skin may tear a little, but that happens. Just try to keep that to a minimum. Do this on both sides of the breast.

Next, take half of the butter and create a somewhat rectangular patty. Something like this:

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That butter needs to go under the skin, of course. Gently push the butter into the pocket you created and then massage the outside of the skin to get the butter all the way down the breast. You should end up with the chicken looking like this:

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Repeat on the other side and you’re ready for the next step, which is seasoning the rest of the bird. Take about half of the remaining seasoning and sprinkle it all over the inside of the body cavity. That works best if you hold the chicken vertically (sorry I don’t have a picture of that- not enough hands). The rest of the seasoning goes all over the outside of the chicken.

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I didn’t exactly get it evenly on the outside. Whoops. I’m not perfect. We knew that. Moving on! Put this beautiful bird in the oven and roast it for an hour and a half OR until the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165-170. Once you reach that temperature, take the chicken out of the oven, tent the pan with foil, and let the whole thing sit for about 20 minutes to rest.

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Isn’t that pretty! Do you see how the skin split on top? That is why you want to be as gentle as possible when creating the pockets under the skin. I created a tear (you can see it above) and the skin tightening made the tear much bigger. This chicken is fine- but any bigger a tear would have had bad results for the meat.

Now take the chicken out of the pan and put it on a platter or large cutting board and either carve it to serve as a meal or let it cool enough to handle and debone it. I made this specifically to use for other meals; I wasn’t planning on serving this to anyone as dinner. I just took all of the meat off the bone. Here’s what I ended up with:

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I kept the legs whole because my daughters love them. The rest will just go into the freezer, divided into portions to use in other meals (casseroles, soups, pot pies, etc.). I should note that I’m not great at stripping the meat off of carcasses. I cannot stand to eat gristle or a lot of fat. So yes; there was meat left on the bones that I didn’t bother with because I just can’t stomach it. Other people will probably get more meat than I did. Either way, this is still WAY cheaper than buying a rotisserie chicken from the store. And the flavor is worlds better than store bought! Not to mention the amazing aroma the roasting chicken sends through your home :)

The Recipe:

1 Whole Chicken, 3-4 Lbs.

3 T Montreal Steak Seasoning

1 T Paprika

1 Stick Butter, softened

The Method:

*Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

*Mix seasonings together.

*Stir 1 T seasoning mixture into the butter. A fork works well for this.

*Create pockets under the skin of the chicken breasts, gently working your index finger under the skin on each side.

*Divide the compound butter mixture in half. Form a flattened rectangular shape out of each half and slip one rectangle in each pocket you created.

*Carefully massage the outside of the breast skin to spread the butter all the way down each side of the breast.

*Turn the chicken so the cavity hole is facing up (the chicken will be vertical)  and sprinkle half of the remaining seasoning all over the inside of the chicken.

*Lay the chicken down in the roasting dish again, breast side up. Rub the rest of the seasoning all over the outside of the chicken.

*Roast the chicken until a thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165-170. It usually takes an hour & a half to an hour & 45 minutes for my oven, but those times vary; the thermometer method is safer than just timing it.

*Once that temperature has been reached, remove the chicken from the oven, tent the pan with foil, and let the whole thing rest 15-20 minutes.

*If serving as a meal, carve and serve.

*If using for other dishes, remove the chicken to a platter or large cutting board. Let cool until easily handled, and debone. Divide the chicken into proper portions (according to the dishes you plan to use it in), store in freezer appropriate containers (I use plastic and then foil), mark said containers with the date and contents, and freeze. Use as desired.

*When using in other dishes, keep in mind that this chicken will add flavor to the dish. You will need to adjust the salt and pepper of the final dish accordingly! 

*For the Slow Cooker:

*Prepare as above.

*Spray or otherwise lubricate the crock of a large slow cooker (mine is 6.5 quarts and the chicken fits perfectly with no extra room on the sides. A smaller crock would be too small).

*Fold an aluminum, disposable pie tin into thirds and place on the bottom of the slow cooker. This is to keep the chicken off of the bottom of the crock. Alternatively, you could make large balls of aluminum foil to put under the chicken. If you have a roasting rack that fits in your crock, that’s fine too. The point is: keep the chicken off of the bottom of the crock for this method!

*Place the chicken on the tin (or whatever you used to hold it up), put the lid on the crock, and set the slow cooker to high. 

*Cook the chicken 4-5 hours, until the temperature reads as stated above. Remember: when you take the lid off of a crock pot you add about 30 minutes to the cooking time. So do this judiciously. 

*Once cooked, continue as stated for the oven method. 

I’m originally from Indiana, where it’s crazy humid. I grew up in the mountains of Northern Colorado, where the winters are long, crazy cold & windy. So I figured I knew what I was getting into when we moved to South Dakota. Turns out I didn’t quite have it all figured out. The combination of cold, wind, and humidity are just plain bone chilling! People warned us- and it’s not that we didn’t listen, because we did. But you never REALLY know until you experience it. We are just getting into the start of the colder weather- it’s not truly cold yet. But while the temperature claims to be in the 40’s the windchill makes it feel at least 15 degrees colder. And as for the wind… well it blows what they get in Colorado and Wyoming pretty much out of the water. We’re kind of in the apex of the wind curve, if you will- so it’s strongest blowing across our little corner of the world. That being the case, it’s a good thing I have a cache of stick-to-your-ribs, warm-you-right-down-to-your-soul winter favorites that I can make to keep my family’s stomachs cozy and full! This soup is part of that cache.

I found the original on a recipe site and it was called something like “chicken, bacon, corn, and potato chowder”. It was ok- but not really what my family called stellar. And it certainly wasn’t chowder. It was barely thicker than a regular broth soup, despite having thickener in the recipe. So I fiddled around with it a bit and came up with a good soup that my family likes. I still use some flour to make it thicker than a regular soup, but it’s still definitely soup. If you wanted to make it a chowder, you certainly could- just use more fat and flour to make the roux thicker.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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As the name implies, I am using bacon. HOWEVER you could easily substitute ham or even smoked sausage or kielbasa- any of those would give the soup great flavor. And they are a bit cheaper than bacon (about $5 a pound in my neck of the woods!), which helps when making this as Broke Food. If you make one of those substitutions you’ll need to use butter or olive oil to saute the onion.

As for the potatoes, yes; those are frozen potato cubes, better known as Southern Style Hash Browns. They work a treat in soups and stews, actually. Most of the time I use actual whole potatoes from the produce section. But sometimes I just really need things to be easy and quick. So if you have frozen potatoes, now is the time to use them!

For the chicken, I simmered one chicken breast (about half a pound- I’m making a half batch because it’s just the kids & I) in the broth I would be using for the soup for about 2 hours so it would shred super easily… and then realized I didn’t have cream for the finish… and THEN realized I didn’t have an inch of space for a container of broth in the fridge. Yes; I had to throw it away :-( So if you have your poop in a group better than I did, simmer your chicken breast in the broth you will use for the soup (adding water at the end to make up for any evaporation). Or you could use leftover chicken- that works super well too.

Moving on! Cook your bacon over medium low heat to render as much fat out of it as you can. Drain the bacon with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Reserve about 1/3 cup or 5 tablespoons (which will probably be all of it, but you never know). If you have extra, put it in the fridge for future use. (If you use ham or sausage of some kind, now would be the time to fry it as well. Sometimes those things can be greasy and you want the fat rendered out before you put it in the soup.) Saute your diced onion in the bacon fat on medium until soft, 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onion and stir.

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Cook the roux for about a minute to get rid of the raw flour taste, and then whisk in the broth. Add all of the ingredients except the cream, salt, and white pepper. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and let go for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally- it’s going to want to stick because of the roux. At this point all you’re doing is cooking the potatoes and corn through. Once those 2 are done, shut the stove off and stir in the cream. Give the soup a taste and add salt & white pepper to your liking. Remember to use white and not black pepper- no one likes little black floaties in their light colored soup!

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This is a wonderful soup to warm to you right down to your toes after a long, cold, and- here- windy day! Add some hot biscuits with butter (and maybe some honey) and you’re set. I’m looking forward to sharing some more of my winter proof meals with you :-)

 

The Recipe:

1/2 Lb. Bacon, diced

1/2 Onion, diced

1/3 C Flour

8 C Chicken Broth

1 Lb Chicken, cooked and shredded (can be halved and still have plenty of chicken)

2 C Potatoes, diced

2 C Corn

1/2 C Heavy Whipping Cream

Salt and White Pepper to taste

 

The Method:

*In a soup pot, cook the bacon over medium low heat to render as much fat as possible.

*Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Measure out 1/3 C of fat and put the rest in the fridge for another use.

*In the same unwashed soup pot, saute the onions in the 1/3 C bacon fat on medium heat until they are soft- about 3-5 minutes.

*Sprinkle the flour over the onions and bacon fat and stir for about 2 minutes.

*Whisk in the chicken broth until smooth.

*Add all ingredients except cream, salt, and pepper.

*Cover and bring to a boil, then back down to a simmer.

*Simmer 10-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Stir fairly often- the roux will make the soup want to stick to the bottom.

*When the potatoes are done, add the cream and taste. Add salt and white pepper to taste.

 

 

 

I have a recipe up my sleeve that I wanted to share this week, but due to technical difficulties I couldn’t get it posted. I hope to have it up next week. In the meantime, I had something exciting happen last week: I was contacted by Endless Simmer to be featured in their Top 10 Gingersnap Recipes list! I consider myself (rightly) a small time food blogger. I’m not one of the big girls or boys who have hundreds or thousands of followers and their own cookbooks in the works. I can’t say it wouldn’t be fun sometimes to be that. But that’s not my goal. I like what I do and I like my blog. I think about the stress and the time taken away from my family to be a big blogger like that and I say, most assuredly, “I’ll pass, thanks.” So I was amazed that someone actually wanted to feature my post along with so many other wonderful posts from fantastic bloggers. Of course I jumped at the opportunity! So here you go; my first guest appearance :-)

Top 10 gingersnap Recipe Countdown:

http://www.endlesssimmer.com/2014/10/08/gingersnaps-gone-wild-top-ten-gingersnap-recipes/

In my wanderings around town lately I’ve heard many people bemoaning the end of summer and the cooler weather that’s settling in. I smile and say nothing, knowing that my opinion is in the minority currently. But when someone comments on the “end of all the really good summer food” I can’t keep quiet. Just because it gets colder doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of your favorite summer foods! In my family we have ALWAYS grilled over the winter. We make sure we have a sheltered spot for the grill and go for it! Here in South Dakota that may have to change because the wind is so severe, but that’s ok. Sometimes instead of being the familiar, char-grilled food we’re accustomed to, our favorite summer foods must get a wardrobe change. Enter: Sticky Sausages. I found the original recipe on a blog from the UK and changed it to work for my family. The original called for English or Irish bangers- sadly thin on the ground here. Instead, I use bratwurst. They work perfectly! You can even play around with flavored brats if you want. Find your favorite and use it. You may have to buy some extras during the summer and freeze them though. I know in Colorado they really only sell brats at a good price during the summer. Here is South Dakota there are so many people of German and Polish decent it’s not a problem.

Let’s get started. Here’s what you’ll need:

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You could use pancake syrup instead of real maple syrup if that’s all you could get. It would certainly be cheaper. But it would add a little too much sweetness and it’s… well… fake. So if you can, use real maple syrup.

Start by dicing your bacon. Pictured is half a pound of bacon. I take that half pound and just start slicing- just the way it is. I get thin strips- like these:

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You don’t want the bacon really crispy for this. There are two reasons for that: 1) Crunchy bacon throws off the texture of the final dish and 2) The fonde on the bottom of the pan would burn by the end and no one wants burned-bacon-flavored brats. Yuck.

While the bacon is cooking, mix your sauce ingredients. If you heat the honey you’ll have an easier time of it- especially since the other ingredients are cold. You can do that in the measuring cup if you use a glass one or you can heat it in the bowl you’re making the sauce in. I use a metal bowl to mix the sauce, so I heated the honey in a glass measuring cup. Anyway, whisk the sauce together.

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The mustard won’t want to fully incorporate, and that’s ok. Once you heat the whole thing it will smooth out. Once the bacon is done, empty the pan. Personally, I remove the bacon and strain the drippings into a container that I keep in the fridge to use for cooking other things. Why waste what you’ve already paid for?? Once your pan is empty, bring some chicken broth, beer, or ale to a boil. I can’t tell you how much. You’ll want it to come up to almost the top of the brats, like so…

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I used about 2 cups of broth for 6 brats. Now put a lid on this and let the brats boil for about 5 minutes, then turn the brats, put the cover back on, and cook for another 5 minutes. Then you can drain off the liquid.

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Pitiful looking, I know. The brats will be pale and a bit sickly looking, but they will be at least mostly cooked through and that’s what’s important. And we’re about to fix the pale and sickly problem. Put a little of the bacon fat back into the pan (or oil if you’ve thrown that beautiful bacon grease out already) and put it over medium heat. Once hot, add the brats back in and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side (I do top and bottom rather than trying to hold the brats upright to get the backs). You’ll end up with this:

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Aren’t those handsome? Now we set those beauties aside and use the very same pan to boil the sauce. Pour the mixture into the pan and set over medium heat. Bring it to a boil and stir fairly regularly. You’re dealing with a sauce with a high sugar content, so it will burn if you put it over high heat or don’t give it a good stir pretty often.

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It will bubble up in the pan- don’t worry. You’re using a big pan so it won’t boil over. Cook this until it’s thickened. How long that takes depends on your stove and a lot of other things. So keep an eye on it when you stir it and when it’s a bit thicker than when you started, add the bacon and brats back in. Stir everything around so the brats are coated and heated through again and then take the pan off the heat and let the whole thing sit and cool. You’re dealing with a molten sugar mixture- IT WILL BURN YOU BADLY if you try to eat it right away. Let the pan sit for about 10 minutes before you even try to serve these. Even then it will be hot, so be careful.

Get yourself some good rolls and load them up…

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Caramelized onions are wonderful on these brats, but I prefer the sharp contrast of raw onion. Ron and the kids prefer theirs straight up. Feel free to play around and use what you like. I keep talking about the fact that you’re cooking a sugar mixture and, while it’s true that there are 2 super sweet substances in the sauce, these sticky sausages are NOT as sweet as you would think. The bacon, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard add a deep, beautiful savoriness that tames the sweetness. These really aren’t any sweeter than your average honey baked ham. And they are just perfect for an autumn get together of any kind. You can multiply this recipe as you need to and keep the whole thing warm in a foil covered pan in a low oven (about 180-200F) or on very low heat.

So just because summer is (finally) drawing to a close, it doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to fun foods! All you have to do is dress them differently. Kind of like putting away the sundresses and sandals and getting out the hoodies and boots :-)

The Recipe:

6 Bratwurst or Similar Type Sausages

1/2 LB Bacon, diced

5 Oz Honey

1/4 C Real Maple Syrup

3 T Soy Sauce

1 T Dijon Mustard

6-8 Shakes Worcestershire Sauce

The Method:

*Fry bacon until just done. Drain (reserve the drippings to cook with later) and set aside.

* While bacon is cooking, mix the sauce ingredients together. Don’t worry if the mustard won’t whisk in.

*Add raw brats to pan over medium heat.

*Pour broth, beer, ale, or a mixture of those over the brats, coming just up to the top. You don’t have to cover the brats.

*Cover the pan and bring to a boil.

*Boil 5 minutes, turn, and boil another 5 minutes.

*Remove brats and drain the pan. Do not wash the pan.

*Add bacon fat to the pan, to coat the bottom in a thin layer over medium heat.

* Put the brats back in and cook about 3-4 minutes on each side, until they are a deep brown on both sides.

*Remove the brats to a plate and set aside.

*Into the same, unwashed pan, pour the sauce ingredients.

* Cook, stirring regularly, until the mixture thickens.

*Add the brats and the bacon back to the pan and stir to coat and heat the sausages through.

* Take the pan off the heat and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

It’s that time of year again; the weather is getting cooler (well… it is here, anyway), school is back in session, and pretty soon it will be time to close the windows up for cold weather. All of that adds up to one thing: outbreaks of cold & flu bugs. While it’s true that people can get colds any time of year, they always spike when the weather gets colder and school is back in session. Lots of kids + enclosed space with little ventilation = Everyone gets sick.  The little germ mongers just can’t help it when it comes to spreading bugs around. So, try as you might, the odds are that you and those you love will get sick. It just so happens that I have something to help with that. And it’s much tastier than Ny-Quil! Ok, it won’t replace the Ny-Quil. But it will help wash the nauseating Ny-Quil taste out of your mouth.

It’s been proven that chicken soup really does help combat the cold & flu bugs. The protein from the chicken helps strengthen the body in it’s fight against the bugs, the liquid from the broth fights dehydration, and the garlic is a natural bug fighting powerhouse. If you look up the homeopathic properties of garlic, you might just be amazed. Garlic is an awesome superfood! (Here is a great starter article on the awesomeness of garlic.) I came up with the recipe for this soup when a dear friend was sick and I wanted to help her feel better and not have to cook her own dinner. I had never made chicken soup before in my life, but I knew the basics. Really, I just started throwing things in the pot and added salt & pepper until it was just right. My friend LOVED it and when my husband tasted it he told me “you’d better remember what you put in this because it’s amazing and there isn’t enough left over!” Thus was born a chicken soup so good that it garnered the compliment “people pay a lot of money in restaurants for soup that isn’t as good as this!” Yeah- it’s that good. Make it, sick or not, you won’t be sorry.

As the name implies, garlic is a main component in this soup. I usually put 8-10 large cloves of garlic in when I make it. You can, of course, cut back on the garlic. The soup will taste good with less. But it won’t taste as good. And it won’t be quite as healthy. Aside from the garlic, there are very few ingredients for this soup. It’s blessedly uncomplicated and unassuming. But it will surprise you with how good something so simple can be! This is what you’ll need:
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I used baby carrots because I already had some on hand. You can certainly use regular sized carrots and just dice them. I suppose if you really wanted to, you could even use frozen diced carrots. If you’re making this when you’re already feeling under the weather, that would be a great shortcut. I also use as little celery as I can. Typically I can’t stand celery. But it’s vital for this soup. I’ve made it without celery once before and it just didn’t taste right. So I use one extra large or 2 smaller ribs.

I’m making a half batch of this soup, so I have only one chicken breast pictured. That would be about half a pound of chicken. You can also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs if you’d prefer. I can’t stand gristle and sinew, so I rarely use them for anything (this recipe is the only one I can think of that I use thighs). There are 2 ways you can cook the chicken for this recipe: dice it small and fry it in the soup pot, or simmer it for a few hours in the broth you’ll use for the soup and shred it. I’ve done both and both work very well. I suppose it depends on if I have the time to simmer it and don’t want to get my hands all chicken-y (yes; even The Humble Food Snob gets lazy in the kitchen sometimes!). But dicing the chicken fine and frying it in a tiny bit of oil in the soup pot adds some very rich flavor (because of the fonde at the bottom of the pan- the browned bits that come up when you add liquid and deglaze the pan).

Start out by dicing your veggies and mincing the copious amount of garlic. Keep the garlic separate but mix all of the other veggies. Then dice your chicken. It needs to be in very small pieces so that it gets evenly distributed in the soup. Add a VERY small amount of oil to your pan. For half a pound of chicken I’ll use a scant 1-2 teaspoons of oil. If the chicken sticks to the pan a bit it’s ok- the bits will come up when you add the broth. What’s more important is that you don’t have an oil slick on the top of your soup. There is nothing in the soup to soak up the oil and incorporate it; you’ll have to skim the top to get rid of the excess if you use too much. So fry your chicken over medium high heat.

Next, add your veggies all at once, except the garlic. Stir everything together and cook until the onions are a bit soft, maybe about 3 minutes. Now you can add the garlic. But it only needs about 30-45 seconds, so be ready to either transfer the mixture to a bowl to make the broth (like I am because I’m using bullion cubes) or pour the broth in directly. You want the raw edge just barely taken off the garlic in the mixture- boiling the soup will cook it the rest of the way and give a distinct flavor to the soup.

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After adding the broth, add a good pinch of salt and a sprinkling of white pepper. I give it a good dose of pepper by the end and that’s part of what makes it so good. It’s almost spicy, but not overpowering. Also good for cold & flu sufferers as it opens the sinuses some. Just be sure to use white pepper and not black. Black pepper is harsher than white and no one wants little specks of what looks like dirt in their soup. Now give it a stir, cover it, bring it to a boil, then back it down to a fast simmer and cook until the carrots are tender. That usually takes about 20 minutes for me, but just keep an eye on it. Every 10 or 15 minutes, fish out a carrot and give it a poke with a fork or knife if you’re unsure whether or not they’re done.

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Doesn’t that just look like a steamy pot of comfort?? And it smells soooo good! The aroma actually brought the girls out of their bedroom to investigate and they were thrilled that we were having this soup. Kids love it!

Once the carrots are done, turn off the heat and give the soup a taste. Add more salt and pepper if you think it’s needed, and serve. A good yeasty, soft roll is excellent with this soup. Or you can go with a thick, crusty bread to dip in the broth and use as a sop for the last dregs of soup at the end of the bowl.

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If you want to, you can certainly add a starch to this soup. I’ve never liked chicken noodle or rice soup. But if that’s your thing, then by all means; add some noodles or rice. You could even add some barley if you have it.

This soup really is like a loving hug in a bowl. And, of course, you don’t have to be sick to enjoy it. It’s perfect for the cold nights that are coming. This is a perfect soup to serve to those you love after a day of enjoying the turning colors or picking apples in the brisk fall air. And this winter you won’t find anything much better than this soup for curling up with and watching the snow fall. So please; make this soup and share it with those you hold dear. It might just make them feel better. And it will certainly make them feel loved.

The Recipe:

1 Lb. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts or Thighs, diced as small as you can get them

1 Medium Onion (about the size of a baseball), diced

3 Large Carrots, diced

1 Extra Large or 2 Smaller Ribs Celery, diced fine

8-10 Large Cloves Garlic, minced

10 C Chicken Broth (homemade is awesome, but any good broth will do)

2-3 t Oil (of your choice)

Salt and White Pepper to taste

The Method:

*Heat the oil in a soup or stock pot over medium high heat. Watch it; that small amount of oil will heat fast and burn quickly.

*Add the chicken and cook until slightly browned. If it sticks a bit and tears, don’t worry; the bits will come up when you deglaze the pot with the broth.

*Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook 3-4 minutes, until the onion is softened a bit.

*Add the garlic and cook 30-45 seconds.

*Remove the mixture to a bowl to constitute broth if using bullion cubes, or add the ready broth to the pot with the meat and veggies.

*Return the mixture to the pot if it had to be removed.

*Season with some salt and white pepper, but don’t overdo it. You’ll adjust this later too.

*Bring to a boil, then back off to a fast simmer.

*Simmer until carrots are cooked through, 20-30 minutes.

*Turn off the heat and check for seasoning. Add more salt and white pepper if needed.

*Serve with a good bread.

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