Chicken Spaghetti

Sometimes, the name of a dish alone is enough to pique your interest to want to try it.

This, however, is not one of those times.

Just kidding.

I actually had a version of Chicken Spaghetti about 4 months ago, and was absolutely mortified when I found out what goes into making it.

Seriously.

Talk about unhealthy … processed cheese, canned soup, canned broth…….. no how and no way.

So I did a leeeetle bit of experimenting, combining several different recipes, and voila:

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Yes I know – worst picture ever.

But don’t pay attention to that. Pay attention instead to the fact that this was made with homemade béchamel sauce, real cheese, pasta, and assorted vegetables.

Deeeee-licious.

One thing I’ve learned with baked pasta dishes, though, is that you should always always ALWAYS make more sauce than you think you need. And thin that sauce out with additional milk. Otherwise, it gets too dry and gummy and then no one wants to eat it.

Including me. 

However, as proof that this was really good, here is the same dish after dinner:

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Granted, Alexander and his 15 year old boy metabolism did 80% of the damage.

Chicken Spaghetti – adapted from several sources on the internet

  • 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • 1 lb thin pasta, cooked for about 4 minutes (or half the recommended cooking time)
  • 3 cups béchamel sauce, thinned with 1/2 to 1 cup additional milk (see below)
  • 2 cups grated white cheddar cheese (or any cheese, really)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients (reserving one cup of cheese for the top) and pour into a greased baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese, and bake at 375 degrees until bubbling around the edges and lightly browned on top – about 30 minutes.

Bechamel Sauce 

5 tbs. butter
4 tbs. all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
2 tsp black pepper
Directions

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Cook whisking constantly, for about 3 minutes. Add the milk slowly to the butter/flour mixture, whisking constantly until very smooth. Bring to a full boil, then remove from heat. Season with pepper, and set aside until ready to use. Thin with additional milk if the sauce gets too thick.

 

 

Fresh Strawberry Bread

One thing I’ve noticed since our move to Austin is the lack of “stuff” in the freezer. At this very moment, there are a few containers of ice cream (Alexander’s favorite), a few quick breads (that’s a given), and ice.

seriously.

So imagine my complete and total surprise when I discovered a container of sliced strawberries in there the other day. I mean, where did they come from? I have no recollection whatsoever of procuring said container. Strange. Yet…. there they were.

I did the only thing I could think of (aside from turning them into a smoothie), which was to make this bread.

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And may I say, that was an excellent move on my part.

Fresh Strawberry Bread – adapted from saveur

3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1¼ cups canola oil
4 eggs
4 cups roughly chopped strawberries

Heat oven to 350°.  Grease a 12 cup bundt pan with baking spray and set aside. Whisk flour, baking powder, and cinnamon in a large bowl; set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk sugar, oil, and eggs. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Stir in strawberries and pour batter into prepared pans. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 40 hour. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Indoor Jerk Chicken

Sabrina and I have been on our own this past week, since Alexander is in Florida and J is working in NY (lucky devil), so she and I have had free rein to kick up our heels, paint the town red, and stay out till dawn.

Yeah right.

Truthfully, we took the time to visit the Texas State History Museum, had lunch downtown at a food truck she saw on TV, have completed lots of art projects, and caught up on our movie-watching.

And gone to bed early every night.

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Clearly we are out of control….

So with all of our dinner options, we have been tossing around multiple ideas (strangely, going out to eat wasn’t one of them), and made these pork chops one night last week…

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Although I was concerned that the sauce would be too spicy, it was perfect – and truthfully, I really liked how fast everything came together. We will definitely be making this again.

Indoor Jerk Chicken – adapted from Martha Stewart

  • 1 Scotch bonnet or habanero chile, stemmed
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tbs. packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 tbs. ground allspice (I used half this amount, since I don’t care too much for allspice)
  • 2 tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbs. lime juice
  • 2 tbs. vegetable oil, plus more for grill
  • 2 bone-in pork chops (or chicken)
  • Fresh ground black pepper
In a food processor, puree chile, scallions, garlic, thyme, brown sugar, allspice, soy sauce, lime juice, and oil. In a large zip-top bag, combine chops with paste. Refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to 1 day).
Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-low. Clean and lightly oil hot grill. Grill chops, covered, turning often to prevent charring, until cooked through, 20-25 minutes

Happy July 4th!

It’s the Fourth of July… which means today we celebrate the fact that we are legally allowed to blow things up.

Oh, and American Independence Day, too.

However, much to my chagrin, fireworks (or explosives of any kind) are banned in the development we are currently residing in.

Dang it.

Armed with that knowledge, Sabrina and I are off on a mission this morning to find explosive materials fireworks, and set them off on the ranch. Right now, it’s still a very large piece of dirt, so there is no danger of setting fire to anyone or anything.

We hope…..

Anyway, Sabrina is especially excited about today, it’s one of her favorite holidays and she really goes all out – in fact, her ensemble consists of flag Converse hi-tops, a sequined flag tank top and flag aviator sunglasses.

It’s intense…. just like her sometimes……

Happy July 4th!

 

 

 

Red Velvet Banana Bread

Ok …. we need to sit down and talk. Do you have a moment?

For real.

Apparently, I am the only person on this entire planet that doesn’t think that “red” is a flavor.

It’s not.

However, in the interest (or Pinterest, in this case) of keeping Sabrina happy, I acquiesced  to buying a cake mix (!!) and preparing this for her.

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She’s come to accept (notice I didn’t say love, I said accept) banana bread, and therefore specifically sent this pin to me last week, with the not-so-subtle caption “I would really like to try this”.

Subtlety has never been her strong point……….like her grandmother…. I’m still convinced they are the same person……

Anyway, the verdict, in her exact words…….. drum roll please…… “It’s good – not overly banana-y, but kind of sweet.

But my question remains……. do you taste the red? And if so, what does red taste like?

Much like the owl from the Tootie Pop commercial……the world may never know….

Red Velvet Banana Bread – adapted from pinterest / something swanky

  • 1 red velvet cake mix (just the dry mix, not the other ingredients on the box)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 medium bananas)
  • optional: powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray a 9″ loaf with a non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Mix together cake mix, eggs, vegetable oil and bananas until well blended, then pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from loaf pan.

Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

 

Skillet S’More’s

It’s the last day of June!

Which means……holy smokes…………. 82 days until MY birthday.

*** big grin ***

Yes, I’m going to start counting down, because this birthday is going to be really special. I mean, last year, I was in Italy on my birthday – which, by far, was the best birthday EVER!

Thank you Mom and Dad :)

But this year, I’m in a new state, with my posse and my beloved J……. all that’s missing are my parents, but hopefully I can persuade them to come out, because I think know we will all have an epic time.

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I’m already planning my cake….. and you can bet your last dollar that it will contain mass quantities of chocolate :)

Skillet S’More’s – adapted from cookies and cups

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows (Or cut large marshmallows in half, which is what I did)
  • 8-9 Giant Marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350°
In bowl of stand mixer beat butter and sugar together for 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time, then add vanilla and mix until evenly combined, scraping sides as needed. Add in baking soda, continue mixing until incorporated. Whisk together the baking soda, graham cricket crumbs and flour, then stir into the butter mixture.

Spread half of the dough into skillet, then sprinkle the chocolate chips over the dough. Top with mini marshmallows. Cover marshmallows completely with remaining dough. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.

While cookie is baking cut your giant marshmallows into thirds. Remove cookie from oven and top with marshmallows. Return to oven for 10 more minutes. If the marshmallows aren’t browned enough, turn oven onto broil and toast for 15-20 seconds until golden brown.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Zucchini Apple Bread

I suspect that, if my father was still here, he would really enjoy a slice of  this bread.

And by “still here”, I mean still here in Austin.

But he’s not………because……….well, he doesn’t like me anymore and said I’m a terrible baker.

yeah right.

Ok,ok – call off the lynch mob, neither of the preceding statements are true. He and The Queen Mother are not in Austin anymore because they have bigger and better things on their agenda right now.

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Exactly what, I couldn’t tell you. Something about privacy laws and confidentiality agreements.

However, on a separate note, can you believe that this is the last weekend of June?! July is literally around the corner – and we haven’t planned a single thing to do yet this summer.

Actually, I like the way that sounds……

Zucchini Apple Bread – adapted from Aaron McCargo

Nonstick spray
1 cup finely grated zucchini
1 cup grated apple, peeled and cored
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat 2 (4 1/2 by 8 1/2-inch) loaf pans with nonstick spray. Line the pans with parchment paper and spray the paper.

Combine the zucchini, apple, brown sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla extract in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add 3 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg to the bowl and mix well.

Divide the batter between the 2 loaf pans. Bake until a toothpick or skewer inserted in the middle of each loaf comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the bread from the pans and cool on a wire rack.

 

Tex Mex Cheese Enchiladas

So remember yesterday, when I talked about posting recipes with/without photos?
Well…… here we have a classic example of my hesitancy to publish this, since the photo I was able to take was/is not……very good.
At all.
See?
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These enchiladas, though, were worth the time to find the chiles (c’mon – this is Texas….. it wasn’t like they were hard to find!) and every minute of time spent on them – they were so good, and although a bit spicy, definitely will be made again.
Tex Mex Cheese Enchiladas – adapted from Serious Eats2 ounces dried Ancho chilies, stems and seeds removed
2 ounces dried Guajillo chilies, stems and seeds removed
2 dried Arbol chilies, stems and seeds removed
Hot water, for soaking
1/2 pound ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth (I used beer, with outstanding results)
2 tbs. vegetable oil
2 tbs. all-purpose flour

For the Cheese Enchiladas:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
12 corn tortillas
1 pound cheddar cheese, grated, divided

For the Chili Gravy:  Heat a heavy 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Cut all the chilies open along one side, so that they can be laid flat. Working in batches, cook chilies in the skillet, pressing down with a spatula, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 5 seconds on each side; be careful not to let chilies burn. Transfer to a large bowl and cover chilies with hot water, setting a small plate on top to keep them submerged. Let stand 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, add ground beef to cast-iron skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer beef to a medium bowl and set aside. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of beef fat from skillet; if there isn’t enough fat leftover in the skillet, add enough oil to make up the difference. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in minced garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer onion and garlic to a blender.
Drain chilies, discarding all of the soaking liquid. Transfer chilies to the blender with onions and garlic, and add cumin, oregano, black pepper, and 1 cup chicken stock. Blend mixture until smooth, scraping down the sides with a spatula occasionally, about 1 to 2 minutes on high. If the mixture won’t blend, add another 1/2 cup of stock.
Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, press chili mixture through a mesh strainer set over a large bow until only chili skins remain in strainer. Discard skins.Heat oil in cast-iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add flour and stir immediately with a wire whisk. Continue to stir until roux turns light golden brown. Add chili mixture and stir in remaining broth and ground beef. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a slow and steady simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is dark red and thick like a gravy, about 30 minutes. If too thick, add a little water to thin it out.
Meanwhile, For the Cheese Enchiladas: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 375°F. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high until shimmering. Working 1 tortilla at a time, carefully slide tortillas into oil and cook, turning once, until just starting to look leathery, about 5 to 10 seconds per side; avoid frying too long, as overly crisp tortillas will crack when folded. Transfer the fried tortilla to a paper towel-line plate to drain.

Working 1 tortilla at a time, dip fried tortilla into sauce, then transfer to a plate. Arrange 1/4 cup of cheese  in a line along center of tortilla, then roll up. Set rolled tortilla, seam-side down, in a 9-by-11-inch baking pan and repeat with remaining tortillas and cheese.

Spoon remaining sauce on top of enchiladas, followed by remaining cheese. Transfer to the oven, and bake until cheese melts and just starts to bubble, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.