Chicken and Tater Tot Casserole

I think, if my not-always-reliable memory serves me correctly, that this recipe was featured in the “Chopped Dinner Challenge” on the Food Network recently.

Yes, a quick check on their site confirms that my facts (and memory) are indeed correct.

alert the media. 

Anyhoo, tater tots, for the uninitiated, are ground up, formed, seasoned potatoes that are held in very high regard in this house. Very high regard. Very high. Very.

Capiche?

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This was a winner all around and will definitely be made again.

Chicken and Tater Tot Casserole – adapted from Food Network

  • 4 tbs. unsalted butter
    2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
    1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Fresh ground black pepper
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    2 cups milk
    1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 3 cups frozen tater tots, thawed
    1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the carrots and onions and season with pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 6-7 minutes. Add the peas, and cook for another minute or so. Stir in the flour, and then whisk in the milk and wine and bring to a boil, whisking. Boil until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chicken. Transfer to a greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the chicken mixture.

Pulse the tots in a food processor with the thyme until medium ground. Scatter over the top of the casserole and bake until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden and crisp, 30 to 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Gorditas

I’ve said this before, but today, it bears repeating:

“The best laid plans of Mice and Men……”

Translated?

We (meaning J, Sabrina and myself) were supposed to embark on a 6 1/2 hour drive to Lubbock to take a tour of Texas Tech College tomorrow morning.

Supposed being the operative word. In typical mother fashion, I had it all planned out: Alexander was to be shipped off to a friend’s house, the pups’ care was arranged, hotel rooms were booked, our route was mapped out, and the tour was scheduled.

phew...

Then, at 7:30 last night, J came home with the news that he wouldn’t be able to make the trip with us because of work. No problem.

Right about now you’re probably thinking, ok, just because J can’t go, why don’t you and Sabrina hit the road “Thelma and Louise” style?

Without the gunfire, of course.

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Do you know what my father will do to me if I tell him I made that drive?

** shudder **

Gorditas – adapted from Food and Wine

These were fun, different, and tasty. They come together really quickly, and are a nice change from tortillas or taco shells.

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for frying
  • Shredded chicken, salsa, sour cream and cotija cheese, for serving

In a large bowl, mix the masa harina with the water and the 1/4 cup of oil. Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a 10-inch log; cut into 10 pieces. Using a 3-inch round biscuit cutter, mold the pieces into flat disks a scant 1/2 inch thick.

Heat a large griddle. Add the gorditas and cook over high heat, turning once, until lightly browned in spots, about 2 minutes per side. Using the back of a spoon, lightly press an indentation in the center of each gordita.

In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil until shimmering. Add the gorditas and fry over high heat until golden and crispy, about 2 minutes per side; drain on paper towels. Top the indentations with chicken, salsa, sour cream and cheese and serve hot.

 

Slow Cooker Tikka Masala

My slow cookers are, by far, the hardest working appliances in my kitchen.

Well, aside from the wine opener, that is …..

Seriously though, my love for these amazing gadgets is well documented and very well known. Sabrina has stopped me on several occasions from purchasing yet another crock pot/slow cooker, because each time we are in a store I always come across a “new and improved” version of a model I already own. These versions usually have a totally cool upgrade, like an LED timer or something nifty like that.

And I get caught up in the moment, because I am so technologically hip, you know….

stop laughing Dad.

Anyway, with school starting this week, and J’s erratic work schedule, I will be relying on these babies more than ever.

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Suffice to say, this version of Tikka Masala will become my go-to recipe from now on. The only change I will make next time will be to add more chicken, as the sauce/meat ratio was a bit off for my liking.

Slow Cooker Tikka Masala – adapted from dinners, dishes and desserts

  • 3 lbs. boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs. fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 (29 oz) can tomato puree
  • 1½ cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tbs. Garam Masala
  • 1 tbs. cumin
  • ½ tbs. paprika
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Chopped cilantro

In the medium bowl mix together onion, garlic, ginger, tomato puree, yogurt, olive oil, Garam Masala, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, pepper, and cayenne. Once well combined and smooth, add chicken and toss to coat.

Pour into the slow cooker, and add bay leaves. Cover and cook for 6 hours on low, or 3 hours on high.

Garnish with cilantro, and serve with flatbread or rice.

Chicken Chilaquiles Casserole

Happy Friday and holy smokes today is August 1! School starts in three weeks – how thrilling is that? The posse get so mad at me every time I say that… but it’s an especially exciting year for them – Sabrina will be a senior and Alexander will be a sophomore!

If he lives that long…..

Anyway, I only have one thing to say about the month of July…. it was quiet. Quiet because it was just Sabrina and I for 90% of the time (unless you count the dogs, but aside from barking, they really don’t talk too much, thank goodness)…. J has been traveling nonstop, Alexander is in Vegas, so she and I have had a lot of time together.

A lot.

As in, I’m quite confident she’s ready for a break from me.

But no matter, we did all sorts of productive things, and most importantly she finally obtained her learners’ permit!

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I’m so happy! However, given the fact that most of the roads here have 65-80 mph speed limits (which I love!), we have been taking drives out by the ranch, where it’s less…… congested…. with people anyway….

The bovine population is another story entirely.

Chicken Chilaquiles – adapted from The Wanderlust Kitchen

  • 2 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed, torn into pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup mild beer
  • 1 (28 ounce) can of whole tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 (7.5 ounce) bag white corn tortilla chips (I made my own!)
  • 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • ½ lb. cheddar/jack cheese blend, shredded
  • ½ c. chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, sliced (optional)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add chile pieces and toast for a few minutes until fragrant. Set aside in a bowl of hot water for 15 minutes.

Puree with garlic, beer, and ½ cup soaking liquid in a blender. Add in the whole tomatoes and continue to puree. Run through a fine sieve and return to the pan. Stir in cumin and coriander. Simmer over medium-low for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Layer a 9 x 13 baking dish with half a bag of corn tortilla chips, using your hands to press the chips down and break into pieces. Add half of the shredded chicken, then half of the sauce. Layer the remaining chips, chicken, and sauce, then top with shredded cheese.

Bake, covered with well-greased foil, for 25 minutes. Remove foil, bake another 5 minutes until cheese is bubbly.

Let sit for 15 minutes to cool and set, then garnish with cilantro, cherry tomatoes, green onions, and jalapeno (if using).

 

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.

 

 

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

Chicken Tinga Tacos

I had a super-colossal problem with this sauce.

The problem being, I couldn’t stop eating it.

For real. 

I kept dipping my tortilla chips into it, and pretty soon, I was too full to eat an actual taco. So…..being the practical mother that I am, I did the sensible thing.

I told Alexander to eat it.

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Chicken Tinga Tacos -adapted from Serious Eats

1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
1 cup medium diced white onion
2 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 large tomatillo, husk removed, rinsed, and roughly chopped
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1/4 tsp ground cumin
One (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted diced or crushed tomatoes
2 tbs. roughly chopped chipotles plus 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from one (7-ounce) can
1/2 light beer
1 bay leaf
Warm corn tortillas, tomatillo salsa, onion, cilantro, grated cotija cheese, and llime wedges for serving
Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken thighs skin-side down and cook until well browned, about 6 minutes. Flip thighs and continue to cook until other side is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate, leaving fat in pan, and set aside. Add onions and garlic to Dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have browned around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add tomatillo and cook until browned around the edges, about 4 minutes. Add oregano and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, chipotle, and adobo sauce and stir to combine. Remove from heat.
Using a stick blender, puree sauce until smooth. Stir in beer and bay leaf, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Nestle chicken thighs in sauce, reduce to a simmer, and cook until meat registers 165°F in thickest part of thigh on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer chicken to a plate and let sit until cool enough to handle. Remove sauce from heat and discard bay leaf.
Pull chicken meat into strips, discarding skin, any large pieces of fat, and bones. Stir chicken into sauce and cook over medium heat until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
Spoon chicken into warm tortillas and top with tomatillo salsa, onion, cilantro, and cotija cheese. Serve with lime wedges.