Sunday, January 29, 2017

Foodie Field Trip- Graziano Brothers

Have I ever said how much I HATE shopping? The mall is so depressing to me. I never go there. The worst part of the holiday season- shopping. Back to school time- shopping. Mindlessly shuffling through the giant tomb of consumerism just sucks the soul out of me. 

Unless it's foodie shopping. Ohhhhhh ya. Then I am alllll about hitting the store. Not just the everyday grocery store. Foodie shopping. Gourmet groceries. Unusual produce and ingredients. Ethnic foods. Kitchen equipment. Spices and herbs. Oils and vinegars. Wines. Cookware. Knives. All the knives. Now you're talking to my heart, folks. My foodie friend Mary was in town for the weekend. We met for sushi on Friday evening and decided we better hit Graziano's in the morning so she can restock cooking supplies for her Missouri home, and I can stock up on a few things too. A few things- ha! Who are we kidding here?

So Friday night over dinner at Sakari Sushi Lounge and sake bombs Mary, our friend Angi and I munched on fabulous sushi rolls and discussed the upcoming Chocolate Affair in Hannibal. Angi and I are planning a road trip for the event- yay!! Girlie Foodie Field Trip!- and the discussion turned to Graziano's. For those of you who aren't familiar, Graziano Brothers is a landmark food store in Des Moines. Founded in 1912 by Louis and Frank Graziano, two brothers who had emigrated to Iowa from San Morello, Italy, and made their way to Des Moines. Louis opened the grocery store while Frank remained employed by the railroad company until the store was well on its feet. The grocery store sits just south of downtown Des Moines in an area that was once known as Little Italy and has supplied Des Moines with authentic Italian groceries, pastas, breads, homemade sausage, meatballs, imported deli meats and cheeses, bulk spices and herbs and some of the best olives on the planet for over 100 years.

The quaint store facade is suited perfectly for the old time feel of the store. Not a huge store, they have a small collection of shopping carts at the door. You'd think you wouldn't need one here, but if you know me...... ya, you do. The first items in the door are the bulk spices on the right, olive oils on the left. This is where Mary and I began our stock-up shopping. Graziano's house blended Italian seasoning is the best thing I have ever tasted. Herbs, garlic and bits of crushed red pepper are the perfect seasoning for any Italian dishes from pasta to pizza sauce. I grab the usual size bag for our house, it's priced at $3.25. I kid you not, there is a good 3 cups of seasoning in this bag, easily enough to last us a year or more. At home I transfer it to an airtight container to keep it fresh. I also grabbed a bag of crushed red pepper, again easily a year's supply, for $3.45. You just cannot get a better deal anywhere.

We love mushrooms at our house and in the same section of the store you will find beautiful dried mushrooms, like porcini, portobella, and woodear. I grabbed some porcini and woodear because, well, you just might need them, and at $2.75 and $1.15 respectively, I just can't say no. I also snuck a nice bag of sun dried tomatoes, soft and raisiny, not dried and crispy into my shopping cart. I am often searching the supermarket for sun dried tomatoes and most of the time find just the oil packed kind. That's not usually what I want for cooking and baking. Sun dried tomatoes that are packed by themselves like this are excellent in breadmaking.

Continuing down the aisle, Angi had lots of questions. Recommendations for a pasta sauce? Type of olive? Recipe ideas? For a first timer in the store she was suitably impressed by the variety and selection, especially when we got to the meat and cheese counter. Italian sausage was bought by all, and Angi grabbed some of the extra hot sausage. Mary tried a couple different imported salamis and cheeses that were new to her, Angi got several of the hot pepper cheeses and I went with the traditional famous Italian sausage and provolone cheese- sliced to order every time. It's hard to beat the Iowa classic Italian sausage sandwich especially with the best sausage hands down.

The pasta aisle was like an amusement park for food lovers. Every shape, every size. Every pasta you can possibly imagine in sizes from one pound packages to giant bags I'd guess to be 5 pounds or more. I grabbed some fusilli and some cavatelli as my mind had trouble focusing on just on or two types. I am not kidding when I say it's so easy for any self respecting foodie to go absolutely freakin bonkers in here. In the same aisle I was just as tempted by several different kinds of arborio rice and risotto mixes and seasonings. Bags of wandas tempted me, but I resisted. Italian cookies and candies also beckoned to me, but I was strong. After all, I did have a giant tub of Graziano's olives in the cart- a whole quart container for $4.75.

South Union bread is sold here, and the aroma of that freshly baked bread was so welcoming. Italian rolls, breads, focaccia, loaves, so so many options. I did not get out of that aisle without a focaccia in my cart. I can't wait to eat it.

At the front of the store there are several large frozen and refrigerated cases containing fresh mozzarella, Italian sodas and beverages, more sausages like salami and others, marinated peppers and......more olives. Different types of olives. Yes, again I fell victim to the lure of olives. This time I grabbed some castelvetrano olives. If you ever get a chance to try these you simply must. In the frozen case you can find prepacked Graziano's Italian sausage in one pound hunks, pasta sauces from some of the local Italian spots, and housemade meatballs- even miniature meatballs. I grabbed a pound- they will be awesome with the cavatelli! Here again, pasta is king with probably 20 or more varieties of handmade ravioli, lasagna, cavatelli, pastas, manicotti, and the whole reason for coming here in the first place- cannoli. Oh. Em. Gee. Creamy ricotta cheese, just the right amount of sweet, chopped pistachios, bits of bittersweet chocolate and that crunchy cannoli shell. You bet I got one!

Also at the front of the store is this amazing piece of history- this beautiful and old old old butcher block. How I'd love to sit around that table with an espresso or macchiato and talk about the old days with the many people who have labored over that surface, kneading bread, rolling pasta, cutting wandas, chopping, singing, feeding their family and sharing the love. It had to be a prominent part of someones home kitchen at one time. The top is worn with years of use- Mary and I wondered about the many generations of cooks who stood beside this table and thought about all the meals prepared by hand. Kind of gives me the shivers to think about all that table has seen over the decades.

I'm happy to say Mary and I got Angi off to a good start with some Italian marinara sauce, delicious olives, some giardinera she picked out, and her sausage and cheeses. I'm pretty sure she will be back. I KNOW Mary and I will! Now........ off to go cook something............

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, January 23, 2017

Two for One Recipes- Sauteed Chicken with Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

My friend Mary, who lives in Missouri, has a very unique business venture going. In her home, a gorgeous and charming Victorian in a sweet small town, Mary cooks gourmet three course dinners for every day or special events, and invites guests to come and dine at The House on Vine. Since she lives in a small town, restaurant options are somewhat limited and Mary offers a very unique service that even in larger cities can be hard to find- meals tailored to the guests likes and tastes and special dietary requests.

She has hosted some pretty awesome dinners. Centered around the holidays she made a steak dinner common in Des Moines but unheard of in other cities- Steak DeBurgo. Her guests were so impressed! On another occasion she had a group of ladies who are following the Whole 30 diet, and Mary's menu for their dinner fit their requirements. From incredibly creative appetizer to decadent soups Mary's dinners have quite a loyal group of regulars with word spreading fast! It won't be long and the House on Vine will have to move into larger restaurant quarters!

Anyway, since Mary and I have been friends for years you can bet we have talked food and recipes and cooking many times over. When she used to live here we would often meet for dinner or cook at her place or mine. Sometimes we'd have a dinner of all appetizers, and sometimes we'd make a regular meal, like one night when we made homemade fried chicken and Mary made the BEST chicken gravy ever. I wish I could nail the gravy like she can. We have shared recipes by the dozen and often talk about what we're making. Mary was telling me about a dinner she was making for some guests over the weekend and it sounded like something I knew I needed to try out. The original recipe called for sea scallops but both of us thought it would be just as delicious and a lot more budget friendly if we swapped pricey seafood for more affordable chicken. I am a big fan of pounding out chicken breasts into schnitzel-like pieces, giving them a dusting of flour or coating of panko and a quick pan fry with a little butter and olive oil. You can't beat that for quick cooking and delicious tender chicken. I thought about that, but in the end went for a quick saute of lightly seasoned and floured chicken tenders with a creamy leek and Dijon mustard sauce. The rest of the recipe is composed of a warm salad of shredded Brussels sprouts. I added shredded carrot for color (I still had some rainbow carrots to use up), garlic for bite, and a sauteed leek for a milder onion flavor. No added dressing is needed as I sauteed the sprouts in a little of the Sinful Food garlic olive oil and finished with a squeeze of fresh lemon for the acid you need to cut the richness. A few sprinkles of crispy bacon go on top for a fabulous and flavorful cold weather salad you will love.

This recipe also uses products from Sinful Food. I used their Signature Seasoning to boost the flavor of the chicken and to season the vegetables in the salad. Their garlic olive oil is perfect for sauteing the vegetables and tossed with a few squeezes of fresh lemon, make a lovely dressing right in the salad bowl. You can get your own Sinful Food products by clicking HERE.

Sauteed Chicken Tenders with Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

1 lb boneless skinless chicken tenders
Sinful Food Signature Seasoning
1 cup flour
Sinful Food garlic olive oil
1 leek, sliced
3/4 cup Pinot Grigio
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 lb Brussels sprouts
1 or 2 carrots
1 leek
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 pound bacon, cooked crisply and crumbled
Sinful Food garlic olive oil

Slice the Brussels sprouts and separate into shreds. 

Use a sharp knife to slice the sprouts, then separate the
shreds with your fingers.
Shred the carrot and add to sprouts. I used a vegetable peeler to create long ribbons of carrot. Set aside.

Leave one end of the leeks uncut, so you can fan out the petals
and rinse out any sand, then you can hold together and slice.
Trim off the green tops of the leek, Slice lengthwise and clean thoroughly. Slice thinly and set aside. Finely chop the garlic cloves. Set aside.

Set all the vegetables aside for now. I sliced all the leeks together and just used half for each dish.

For the chicken, place the flour in a shallow dish and add a good 1 teaspoon Signature Seasoning. Heat a little butter and olive oil in a heavy skillet. Dredge the chicken tenders with flour and add to the hot skillet. Brown on each side until golden brown and cooked through. Remove to plate and keep warm. Repeat to cook all the tenders.

When the chicken is done add the leek to the skillet, adding additional oil if needed. Cook for several minutes until the leeks are softened. Add the wine and chicken stock. Bring to boil and reduce by half. Add the cream and Dijon mustard. Cook until desired thickness. Keep warm.

In another large skillet heat 2 tablespoons garlic olive oil. Add the leek to the skillet, cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the Brussels sprouts and carrots and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. You want the vegetables to be barely cooked and still crunchy. Season with the Signature Seasoning. Sprinkle the lemon juice over all and toss again.

Now you can serve the salad piled onto a large platter with the chicken on top and sauce on the side. I made a small pot of couscous and served the chicken and sauce over the couscous with a mound of salad on the side. This is a great salad for lunches too. It's just as delicious chilled as warm. Next time I think I'll try it with great big shrimp, or maybe those sea scallops. I'm sure it will be fantastic.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a "sponsored post." As a Brand Ambassador, the company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift or something of value. Regardless,  I only recommend products or services I believe are of good quality and safe. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, January 16, 2017

New Adventures Ahead- My First Brand Ambassadorship

Simple fries made spectacular with
rosemary olive oil and fresh rosemary.
Hey, it all started with a contest. A simple drawing. Comment under this picture and we will pick a winner. On Day 9, they chose me. My prize? A gourmet olive oil and seasoning blend with another to share with a friend. The company? Sinful Food, a company based in Utah that specializes in gourmet infused olive oils and a signature seasoning blend. Like I always do, upon receiving my prize I started playing in the kitchen, and sharing the results with company founder Chris Lee and Brand Ambassador Michaela Rosenthal. 

They took notice, and shortly after, Michaela and I began communicating about what it takes to become a brand ambassador and I began making lists of foods and brands I was partial to. At the same time, Chris was thanking me for sharing the dishes I'd made. Together they made me an offer I just could NOT resist- how would you like to come aboard as a junior brand ambassador and help represent the company? OF COURSE I WOULD!!!

Michaela's incredible short rib recipe
Guys, you have no idea how excited I am about this! Getting to work so closely with Michaela is going to be an education that cannot be valued. Michaela is a multi-time champion competitive cook, recipe developer, brand ambassador for several large national brands, and has appeared on Food Network. She has been to the World Food Championships and has a long list of accolades. Now I know what a young chef feels like getting to work with someone like Thomas Keller or Geoffrey Zakarian or Scott Conant! I feel that same way right now! 

Sinful Foccacia loaded with basil
Chris has so many great things planned for the company, including a line of coffees and gourmet chocolate. My brain has been in overload with ideas ever since being invited to join this fantastic team. I'm super excited for this opportunity, and I hope you will all join me in following this fantastic company on Facebook and on Instagram, supporting them by liking and commenting, and sampling their products. Michaela and I will give you lots of great recipe ideas!

Family Cookbook- Debbee's Ooey Gooey Chex Mix

Remember when cereal snack mix only came in one flavor? That savory salty Worcestershirey crunchy mix was a staple in my family for the holidays. I'd always pick out the wheat cereal squares, or the Cheerios, because yes, we sometimes broke the recipe rules and added Cheerios in there as well. They were so good, they always soaked up the seasoned buttery sauce and turned brown and super crunchy, and don't forget the pretzels. I always crunch off the salt first before munching the pretzel. Yum.....memories.

Sooooo gooey and yummy
Then sometime later came the delightful "Muddy Buddies" or "puppy chow"- chocolate and peanut butter coated cereal shaken with confectioners' sugar to coat. So decadent and chocolaty and oddly enough, fairly nutritious with the fortified cereal and protein packed peanut butter. Lots of variations came around with different nut butters and added goodies like candies and sprinkles. Lots of fun, lots of holiday themes.

Measuring out alllll that crunchy cereal
Fast forward to the Pinterest Era where recipes evolve and take on new versions, new ingredients and new names. Oddly enough there seems to be a trend on Pinterest to nickname recipes "crack." If it tastes good it must be crack? I'm not a fan of this trend but I'm a fan of many of the recipes, like this chewy and gooey cereal snack mix recipe my daughter Debbee shared during our family baking day this past Christmas. She found it on a couple Pinterest pins called Christmas Crack but since we don't like to name our food after street drugs, we don't call it that. It's ooey gooey because it really stays a bit gooey after it cools, and it's so buttery and delicious you can't stop eating it. Plan on making more than one batch because you will be addicted!

Oooey Gooey Chex Mix

6 cup corn Chex Cereal
6 cups Golden Grahams cereal
2 cups coconut
2 cups slivered almonds
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter

Combine cereals, nuts and coconut in a large bowl.

In medium saucepan mix syrup, sugar and butter. Bring to a boil. Boil for two minutes. Allow to cool for two minutes. Pour over cereal mixture, stir to coat. Spread out on sheet pans to cool.

Store this mix in airtight containers or zip top bags. You can jazz it up a bit by drizzling the cooled mixture with melted chocolate too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Roasted Meatballs and Polenta

I love going through piles of old photos. Seeing pics of the family over the years is hilarious. The fashions, the hairstyles, the eye glasses. So many laughs. Of all the pictures in the box, baby pictures have to be the best. I don't mean just the pretty posed Olan Mills photo package snaps, I mean the photos of my kids in their daily lives. Playing in the yard. Running on the beach. Sitting on someones lap. Opening presents on their birthday or Christmas. Digging in the sand and dirt. Fighting. Laughing. Crying.


Who doesn't love a pic of a little kiddo who hasn't quite mastered the art of self-feeding struggling with a spoon filled with something bright and colorful, guaranteed to stain everything it comes in contact with? Everyone has them. We take a ton of pics of our kids on their first birthday as they are digging into that first birthday cake, stuffing cake in their mouth, packing frosting up their nose and creating amazing new hairstyles with the sticky combination or cake, ice cream and frosting. So. Much. Fun. I have loads of those fun pics. One of my very favorites is a pic of my son Nick sitting on a neighbors lap manhandling a chicken wing drummette that's been grilled and is coated in sticky barbeque sauce. He was such a teeny tiny guy, the chicken drummy looks like a big chicken leg in his tiny hand.

Pupcake, aka Patryk, before and after spaghetti
Dig through your own photos. I'm willing to bet you have a pic or two or twelve of your own kids indulging in one of the favorite foods of young kids all over the country- spaghetti. You're experiencing mental time travel as we speak aren't you? Remember the first time you placed a bowl of carefully cut up spaghetti noodles and red sauce, cooled down to lukewarm, with or without a spoon, on your child's highchair tray for them to eat? Never mind the mess or the stains or the scrubbing you had to do afterwards to return the kitchen, the highchair and your child to their pre-dinner state, I'd be willing to bet my paycheck you grabbed a camera at least once and snapped a pic or two. I know I did!

My kiddos really loved spaghetti. They loved meat sauce and meat balls and even sauce with no meat at all. They loved to twirl the long noodles with a spoon and fork, and of course they would slurp up the long wiggly sauce-coated noodles with as much sloppy noise as possible and giggle insanely after. They loved spaghetti with the traditional marinara sauce and they also loved spaghetti when I made with a brown gravy instead. That was a big favorite around our house back then, and it still is with me today, even though the kiddos are long grown and on their own.

Meatloaf is one of my favorite comfort foods. I have such wonderful memories of my mom's meatloaf and the gooey sticky ketchup baked on top. It would get a little burned and caramelized on the edges, just so so insanely good. I often crave that comfort after a crummy day in the office but who has time to waste on something that needs to bake for an hour or more? Not most busy families. The answer is easy- meatballs! Meatballs go from raw burger to plate in a snap, just mix it up, roll into balls, bake and bam-done. No waiting for an hour or two for the meat to cook through, it's done in 30 minutes. All you have to worry about is getting your sauce together and how you want to serve them. We have shared meatball recipes here before. It's not that complicated really, any meatloaf recipe works just as well in meatball size. Sauce or not, make meatball subs, cut up and use for pizza topping or drizzle with barbeque sauce and serve as a football snack, meatballs are easy and awesome.

Tonight we are roasting the meatballs in the oven, like I always do. No more turning meatballs in a skillet for me- that's too messy and labor intensive. Roll and roast. Easy peasy. After roasting they will get a short simmer in a quick brown gravy made with beef broth and thickened. You can add mushrooms if you like, I didn't have any on hand so we went without. I made a pot of pasta for the Chef and a pot of polenta for myself. I love the combination of hearty polenta and sharp cheddar cheese and a rich brown gravy. I had plenty of leftovers too which was great for workday lunches.

Roasted Meatballs with Polenta

2 lbs ground beef
2 eggs
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 teaspoon Sinful Food Signature Seasoning, plus more
small handful parsley, chopped, plus more for serving
2 cups rich beef broth
cornstarch slurry for thickening
2 cups cold water
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 tbs butter
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Set oven to 350 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Crumble the ground beef into a large bowl. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over and the seasoning. 

Add the minced garlic, onion, chopped parsley and the egg. Mix everything together using your hands to make it easier. Roll into ping pong ball sized meatballs and place on parchment lined pan. Sprinkle with additional Signature Seasoning.

Bake at 350 degrees until completely cooked. This takes about 30 minutes. 

In a Dutch oven or braiser, heat the broth. Add enough cornstarch slurry to thicken to a thin gravy. Add the meatballs and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

While meatballs are simmering, place the cold water in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the corn meal and a half teaspoon of Signature Seasoning. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and cornmeal is cooked, usually about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter and the cheese.

Serve the meatballs and gravy over the polenta. Sprinkle with additional chopped fresh parsley.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free as part of a random drawing. There was no requirement of using the products and then providing written promotion. This post is entirely of my own writing. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe are of good quality and safe. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Ozzy's Book Report **Language Warning**

It's time to go back to school, kids, with an old fashioned book report. This one, however, is going to Rockin' the Kitchen style- we're going to do a book report on a cookbook. Fun, right? What does this have to do with Ozzy? You'll see........

If you ever caught an episode of The Osbournes you know exactly what I mean with the language warning. Lots of F Bombs. Lots of bleep bleep bleeeeep bleep. I'm ok with that, as an adult I can appreciate the humor in a cookbook written with lots of expletives. It's funny. So please, be warned- lots of F Bombs coming. That being said, the cookbook What The FXXK Should I Make For Dinner by Zach Golden is a terrific collection of easy to prepare recipes that uses traditional and trendy ingredients. Lots of vegetables, seafood, great cuts of meat, roast chicken, something everyone needs to master, and kale. Yep, kale.

Let's start with that roast chicken. Of all the life skills a cook needs to master, roasting a chicken is one of them. Besides producing a tasty meal you also have leftovers and a roast carcass to utilize in other ways as well, like making stock, which is another essential cooking skill. WTFSIMFD walks you through roasting a chicken to juicy perfection really emphasizing the important of seasoning- "make it rain herbs on that bitch" and "season with a shitload of salt and pepper." Stuffing the cavity with a lemon is one of my favorite ways to get flavor into the bird and keep it juicy.

The Beet Salad with Chevre recipe gives a nod to my favorite television guilty pleasure in the directions, and is very accurate. Working with beets will turn your work surface into something that resembles a homicide scene. Zach's recipe uses beets you roast yourself (more learning for the new cook) and simple but fresh ingredients to create a salad that's earthy and delicious.

Seafood also plays a role in the cookbook with awesome recipes for clams, scallops and lobster. The Clams with Andouille Sausage will "open up like your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving." 

Looking for a pasta recipe for your foul mouth vegetarian friends? Ya, that's in there too. Linguine with Snap Peas, Ricotta and Mint sounds delicious and is not complicated at all. Great recipe for a new cook to try, and makes a great vegetarian entree or lunch dish. Like meat? Serve this as a side with some grilled seafood. 

Craving some pork? That's covered as well with a peachy pork loin recipe that roasts in the oven. Simple ingredients, simple directions. Delicious results.

Pork and fennel also appear in the cookbook- and that is one my favorite flavor combos. Pork pairs perfectly with the slight anise flavor of the fennel- try it, you'll love this unique vegetable.

Grilling halibut sound up your alley? 

Be sure to get your grill "as hot as balls." However hot balls may be.

My favorite of all southern foods is without a doubt Shrimp and Grits and Zach has a unique and DELICIOUS recipe in the book. Bacon, shallots, juicy shrimp and arugula make this an awesome dinner for chilly weeknights when I don't feel like going out for dinner, but I want something really really good, and don't mind getting cussed at while reading the directions.

Looking to impress a date with a home cooked meal? You can get "classy and easy as fuck" with the Steamed Lobster and Saffron Butter. You even get to cook live lobsters in this one, so prepare yourself. If you're like me and don't like to cook living creatures to death, just grab some lobster tails from the fish counter and make just the saffron butter. 

All in all, this is an awesome cookbook. The recipes were all deliciously crafted and modern. Lots of fresh ingredients and easy to find cuts of meat and seafood, it's a great book for new and experienced cooks, as long as they have a sense of humor and don't mind a few colorful words interspersed. Grab yourself a copy!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, January 6, 2017

Family Cookbook- Janelle's White Chicken Chili

Today we're going to work with some leftovers. Making over your leftovers into something really delicious and totally different is not all that difficult. All you need a well stocked pantry and some great recipes and you can recycle your leftovers into something so delicious, no one would guess it's leftovers! 

Sitting in my fridge right now is a good two-thirds of a roast chicken. In a household of two a roast chicken normally provides a couple meals for us, and if I make enough of the sides, like stuffing, I am perfectly happy with a repeat of the same meal. This time we enjoyed our chicken with roasted vegetables and a salad so I now have a lot of chicken and a world of ideas of what to do with it. A couple weeks ago my daughters and I had our family baking day, and my daughter in law Janelle had a big crockpot simmering away with her award winning white chicken chili. Yes, award winning! Earlier in the season our company hosted a chili cook off and Janelle took first place with her creamy cheesy chili. I love this stuff!

I sat up my workstation right at the kitchen table- my chicken to pick, vegetables to chop and cheese to cut up, cans to open and my crockpot. Because I had such a large chicken, I had easily 3 cups of cubed chicken meat to use. You can also sub cooked chicken breast or thighs. The cut up chicken went into the crockpot first, followed by the diced onion and bell pepper. Janelle uses a yellow bell pepper when she makes her chili. I used a red bell purely for economic reasons. I stopped at the store to grab the few items I did not already have and yellow bells were $4 each, with red bells at $1.50 each, so red bell pepper it is! Next I cut up the cheese. I didn't have a box shredder in the drawer and didn't want to drag out the food processor. I just cut up the cheese into tiny cubes. Janelle uses half pepper jack and half Monterrey Jack, but I used all pepper jack since we like things spicier. I had roasted and diced some fresh Hatch chilies when they were in season so I got those out of the freezer and used those. 

The other ingredients were the real surprises to me. Jarred Alfredo sauce? Sounds bizarre but the creamy texture is exactly perfect for this hearty soup. Sour cream and chicken broth also go in the pot and white beans. I used canellini beans because I love them so much. Cumin goes in to bring the chili flavor out to the forefront and cayenne pepper to taste- add sparingly at first as it will intensify. Finally, a couple cups of corn kernels, another item this Iowa girl always has in her freezer, and it's ready for a slow simmer in the crock pot to meld all the flavors into creamy perfection. I'm not so sure I can wait patiently for this chili to cook!!

Janelle's White Chicken Chili

3 cups cooked cubed chicken
1 jar alfredo sauce
1 cup sour cream
2 cups chicken broth
1 can diced green chilies
one medium onion, diced
one bell pepper diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups frozen corn kernels
3 cans canellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese 
1 tablespoon cumin
cayenne pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large crockpot. Cover and cook on Low 4-5 hours. 

I made tortilla strips to serve with our chili. It's super easy to do and much more economical than purchasing ready made tortilla strips. They are great to have on had for soups, chili and salads too. Start with a package of fresh corn tortillas or make your own if you can. Brush the tortillas lightly with olive oil.

I used olive oil that had been muddled with a couple slices of jalapeno for a little extra heat. Stack the tortillas and cut into strips with a sharp knife. Spread out onto a parchment lined baking sheet and pop in a 400 degree oven. 

WATCH CAREFULLY! They crisp quickly and can burn in the blink of an eye. Allow to cool then store in an airtight container.

Serve the chili with the tortilla strips or any other garnish you like- sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro or a lime slice, or even a little bit of all of that!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free as part of a random drawing. There was no requirement of using the products and then providing written promotion. This post is entirely of my own writing. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe are of good quality and safe. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Family Cookbook- Debbee's Frosted Cranberry Cookies

My Chef is always teasing my about cookies. He will break out into his goofy rendition of the Cookie Monster classic- "C Is For Cookie, Cookie Starts With C"........ or even his version of the Barbra Streisand tune "You Don't Bake Me Cookies Anymore"when he feels he has been neglected and no cookies have been baked in a while. Poor guy. This year he got what he wanted- several delicious cookies we made on our family baking day. My oldest daughter Debbee brought this recipe to the baking party. Tender buttery cookies with a hint of cranberry tartness from the jellied cranberry sauce, a chewy texture that I love, topped with a light icing and sprinkled with sparkling chopped craisins.

Debbee is busy making treats on family baking day
Cookie making is an easy skill to master. Using a mixture is key- you get the light and fluffy texture of the butter and sugar creamed together. Eggs and vanilla go in next and the dry ingredients are gradually added in to make a tender dough. This dough is rolled into balls and flattened slightly with the bottom of a glass for uniform shape and size and even baking. Cool on a rack before drizzling with icing and sprinkling with the chopped sugared berries. They are gorgeous! Be sure to make plenty- even a double batch- if you're sharing. They disappear fast.

Frosted Cranberry Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, room temp
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup jellied cranberry sauce
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup craisins, chopped
2 tb sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tb milk
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375. Line baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

In medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar til light and fluffy.Add cranberry sauce, egg and vanilla. Mix in the dry ingredients 1/2 cup at a time until all combined. Drop by tablespoon onto prepared baking sheet or roll into small balls. Flatten slightly. Bake for 10 minutes. Cookies do not brown. Cool 5 minutes then remove from pan.

In a small bowl toss cranberries with sugar. Set aside. Combine icing ingredients in another bowl. Frost cooled cookies with icing and top with cranberries.

These delicious cookies are perfect on a holiday cookie tray or just to fill te cookie jar at home for your family. I loved the sugared craisins on top. They added an unexpected sweet and chewy pop. We made these cookies on our family baking day and they were a huge hit. In our house, these guys got gobbled up right away. Since craisins and canned jellied cranberry sauce are available year round I'll be baking these guys again and again for The Chef.