Thursday, May 26, 2016

Chicken & Waffles Appetizer




A couple of months ago as we were traveling home from Florida, we stopped in Charleston, South Carolina for a few days.  We enjoyed seeing many of the historic sites in the area (visit this post on the RV blog to see where we went!). Of course, I loved the regional food! When I got back home, I needed to bring an appetizer to a gathering but I didn't have much time to put it together. I got a flash of inspiration from my southern food sampling and with the help of convenience food, was able to put together these yummy morsels very, very quickly. All of the ingredients could be made from scratch and if there were, I imagine the results would be spectacular. But I didn't have time to make 10 waffles from scratch of fry up a batch of homemade chicken! Instead I used frozen waffles, boneless chicken wings from the grocery deli, and store bought pimento cheese spread. I have included a recipe for pimento cheese in this post just in case someone was curious, but if pre-made is used, this appetizer is a snap to put together!



Ingredients for 40 Appetizers



10 pre-made frozen waffles such as Eggo brand
Enough popcorn chicken to cut into 40 (1/4 of waffle size) pieces, Tyson brand or from deli
1 1//2 cups pimento cheese spread, recipe below or from local grocery store deli
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon maple syrup


Pimento Cheese Spread


Pimento Cheese Recipe from Cook's Illustrated Magazine - yields three cups


2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 (4 oz.) jar pimentos
1 (8 oz.) package finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 (8 oz.) Package regular shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
14 (or less) teaspoon cayenne pepper


Procedure:
With an electric mixer, gently combine all ingredients together just until spreadable.
Use as a sandwich filling or cracker spread.


Procedure for Assembling Chicken & Waffles Appetizer:



Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If using pre-made frozen popcorn chicken such as Tyson's, follow the package directions for cooking except cut off five minutes of the baking time. Set aside. If using pre-made chicken from the grocery store deli, just set aside. Line baking sheet with foil. Cut each waffle into fourths and place on baking sheet. Spread each waffle piece with two teaspoons of pimento cheese. Top with a chicken piece and bake for 5 minutes. The cheese spread on the waffles should be melted, bubbly, and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and place on serving platter. Drizzle each appetizer with 1/4 teaspoon of maple syrup and serve.



Friday, May 20, 2016

Fruit Tabbouleh


It's the time of the year when every organization, sports team, and club has "The End of the Year Final Celebratory Banquet."  Back when the girls were in high school, I remember how terribly busy we were as we struggled to fit them all into our schedule. This week I attended a last meeting of the year luncheon for the organization I volunteer for. It was held at the same place where Allison had prom, an event center converted from a building that used to be a grocery store. All seemed well during the business meeting portion; everyone admired the crystal chandeliers that hung from the ceiling and commented on the lovely centerpieces in the middle of each table. Then it was time for lunch. The menu on the reservation form had read: "Choice of Chinese Chicken Salad or Caprese Salmon; Hot Rolls and Butter; Oreo Cookie Pie; Iced Tea." One of the ladies at my table asked our server, a college aged guy, for an unsweet tea with lemon. He said, "Sorry, but tea is not on the order for your group." Then someone else said, "We haven't gotten our rolls yet." Once again the poor waiter had to tell us that there weren't going to be any rolls for our group. At this point I asked him, "But you have dessert coming - right?" He looked like he wanted a trap door to open underneath him as he told us there wasn't any dessert "back there". I started laughing and said, "Telling 230 women at a ladies' lunch that there isn't going to be dessert isn't going to go over very well!" At that moment the member in charge of planning the event stood up and spoke over the microphone. She said she was so sorry and felt awful, but the contact person from the facility that she had dealt with was in Las Vegas and communication must have been compromised. We had a good laugh and didn't care at all; it was just wonderful to be together until meetings starting up again in the fall. This experience made me think back on other group gatherings I had been to in the past. For me, the best ones were pitch-ins. Everyone brought their special dish and it was fun to ask for recipes and hear the stories behind them. Of course, the best recipes were the ones that were quick and easy! The salad posted here is a variation of tabbouleh, a traditional middle eastern salad with cucumbers and tomatoes. It's a different alternative to the usual fruit salad and consumes little time to put it together.



Ingredients for Fruit Tabbouleh Salad - Serves 12 at a Pitch-in Celebration




1/2 cup Bulgar (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1 cup boiling water
pinch salt
6 to 8 cups cubed fresh fruit (any kind, even melons if desired)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh ginger root minced
2 tablespoons lime juice


Directions:



Place the bulgur and salt in a medium sized bowl. Pour boiling water over the bulgur and let it sit for at least 20 minutes while the fruit is being cut up.
Whisk honey, mint, lime juice, and ginger together.
Place fruit and soaked bulgur (discard any water not absorbed) in a large serving bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat. Store covered in the refrigerator. 






Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Snacks for a Tribal Themed Sip and See



Last week I had the joy of co-hosting my first ever "Sip and See" party. Apparently this is a southern tradition that has become increasingly popular in other parts of the country. It's actually a way to share the joy of a new baby's arrival by having a bunch of friends and family gather together to view the little one. I gather that it's not usually a shower, although it could be if the guests had not attended one before the baby was born. Of course any party has to include some yummy snacks! Since the guest of honor has a tribal themed nursery, we incorporated that idea into the decor and the food served. Pinterest gave us the idea of the skewered fruit arrows. I found a cute little tribal raccoon on an invitation and printed the image off to tape on small wooden sticks which I then stuck in the cupcakes. I made the tepee sandwiches from thin Pepperidge bread, pretzel sticks, and canned aerosol cheese. I just cut the crusts off and cut the sandwiches on the diagonal. Because the filling couldn't be too thick, I opted for homemade ham salad and (a nod to the south) pimento cheese.



Ingredients for Three Cups of Ham Salad:



1 pound cubed, cooked ham
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup pickle relish (dill or sweet)
2 green onions


Using a food processor, "grind" the ham cubes until they resemble coarse sand. Rinse the green onion,  cut the roots off the bottom, and thinly slice. Mix the ground ham, mayonnaise, pickle relish and onion with a spoon until well combined.



Use as a sandwich filling or cracker spread.



Ingredients for Three Cups Pimento Cheese - from Cook's Illustrated Magazine



2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 (4 oz.) jar pimentos
1 (8 oz.) package finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 (8 oz.) Package regular shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
14 (or less) teaspoon cayenne pepper



With an electric mixer, gently combine all ingredients together just until spreadable.



Use as a sandwich filling or cracker spread. 




Ingredients for about 20 Cupcakes (via tidymom.net):

1 box good quality Red Velvet cake mix
3 eggs
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), melted
1 cup water

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Frosting to ice about 20 Cupcakes:

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use an electric mixer for two minutes to combine the cupcake ingredients. Put about 1/4 cup of the batter into each cupcake liner. Bake for 20 minutes. An inserted toothpick should come out clean. Allow to cool before frosting.

To make the frosting, use the electric mixer to whip all the frosting ingredients together until fluffy. 

I was under time pressure when I iced the cupcakes, and the frosting started to get all "crumby". To save the situation, I crumbled a cupcake up and scattered the cake bits over the frosted ones. It camouflaged the disaster! 

For variations on this cupcake recipe, enjoy my Cupcake Celebration post!



Monday, April 18, 2016

BBQ Chicken Lollipops and Classic Coleslaw



In February of this year, Roy and I splurged and spent the entire month in our motor home parked at Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground. Although I've never been a Disney fanatic, it was magical! We had a great time taking advantage of all the wonderful amenities this fabulous park has to offer; if you want to see my commentary on our adventures click HERE !  There was just one little wrinkle that invaded our quest to have fun every minute. We were/are trying to sell our existing RV in order to upgrade to another one. (If you would like to peek inside it, click HERE).  One evening we got a call from an interested party who said they were flying in the next day to look at it. I got up that morning and cleaned the place so thoroughly that someone could go over it with a Q tip and not find a spec of dust. It was tired and hungry when I finished. Since it was lunchtime and we had a couple of hours to kill before our "showing", I suggested we go to the Trails End restaurant on the grounds.  I ordered the fried chicken lollipops which came with coleslaw. They hit the spot which made the phone call we got from our prospective buyer a little easier to swallow; he had gone to look at a RV before ours and had just bought that one. We still have our RV for sale, but at least I got an idea for a blog post! I'm a big kid at heart and I loved the idea of chicken lollipops. Disney's coleslaw had apple and fennel in it, but the version posted here is just my easy, traditional version. I got the BBQ sauce recipe from the Chef Mickey Cookbook sold in the campground Trading Post. Of course any store bought bottle of barbecue sauce would work just as well. 


BBQ Chicken Lollipops - Serves 4 to 6


Ingredients: 


12 chicken leg drumsticks
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup of BBQ sauce, bottled or recipe below


Directions: 



Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Take a very sharp knife and make a cut all around the top of the drumstick leg. Pull off the skin and push the flesh downward to expose as much as the chicken bone as possible. Scrape the top of the leg to remove the skin there.


Brush a foil lined baking sheet with oil. Place the chicken legs on it. Brush each leg with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes.


Take the chicken out of the oven and slather barbecue sauce all over each leg.Turn the oven down to 375 and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Repeat this step one more time.



Ingredients for 1 cup of Disney's BBQ Sauce:


1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2  teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat.Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook for 25 minutes, stirring frequently.  Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.


Classic Coleslaw



Ingredients:

1 (14 oz.) package coleslaw mix - about 4 1/2 cups shredded cabbage w/carrots
1/4 cup finely diced purple onion
1 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons white vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

In a large bowl, toss the coleslaw mix with the onion.  In a separate bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, and pepper together. Pour over the coleslaw mix and gently stir to completely coat.


Serve the chicken lollipops on top of the coleslaw. May all your days be magical!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Chickpea Curry with Black Rice



My love of Indian food began when Allison's good friend Ashik presented me with a cook book as a Christmas present. He knew I loved to cook and since he was often around at dinner time, I think he was hoping I might try some of the recipes. Roy claims he doesn't like Indian food, but this is one dish he says is yummy. I didn't find it in Ashik's cook book though. The inspiration came from Jamie Oliver's book Food Revolution. He recommends using Patak brand curry pastes as a quick and easy way to make curries. They definitely speed up the process and the results are delicious. Using black rice is a nice change of pace. Besides adding a ton of nutrients, it's nutty flavor pairs really well with the chick peas. Of course, white rice could be substituted and cooked chicken could be added if an additional source of protein is desired.


Ingredients for Four Servings:



1 (15 oz.) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 medium onions
bunch of fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
1 small pepper such as a Serrano or jalapeno
1 thumb sized piece of ginger
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1/2 cup of store bought curry paste such as Patak brand
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup uncooked black rice
Plain yogurt and wedges of lime or lemon for serving



While assembling the curry, cook the black rice according to the directions on the package. Peel the onions and thinly slice them. Wash and chop the cilantro up, stems and all. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from the ginger and dice it up. Decide how much of the pepper to use and remove the membrane and seeds, then mince it.



Over medium low heat, saute the onions, cilantro, ginger, and pepper in the oil until they are tender. Add the chickpeas and curry paste. Mix well and simmer for about 5 minutes.



Stir in the coconut milk and turn the heat down to low. Continue to simmer for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.



Serve with the black rice, wedges of lime or lemon, and a dollop of plain yogurt.



Tuesday, February 16, 2016

So Easy Summer Rolls/Fresh Spring Rolls


Jennifer & Allison in Hoi An - Viet Nam



My attempts fall short in the looks department - but the rolls still tasted yummy!


This fall, Allison and Jennifer traveled around Asia and had the time of their lives. They did it on the cheap by staying in hostels and avoiding fancy restaurants. Taking advantage of all the local culture had to offer, they visited lots of museums and explored each area they visited. One fun thing they did was partake in some cooking classes in Thailand and Vietnam. When they got home, we had a great time going to an Asian market and then cooking up some of dishes they had learned to make. One of them was what restaurants here call Summer Rolls - but their cooking school in Vietnam called them Fresh Spring Rolls. I was surprised that they were so easy to put together. I have had summer rolls in the States made of lettuce and rice noodles, and my Vietnamese friend Kim makes the absolutely best ones I have ever had with pork and pickled vegetables. I imagine this recipe could be used as a starting point and anything that sounds could good be put in a spring roll such as avocado or even cooked asparagus. It would be fun to let guests or kids assemble their own. Likewise, the dipping sauce here is great, but any number of different sauces could be used. Kim serves her's with a divine peanut sauce. Another post on this blog -  Lettuce Wraps -  has three fabulous sauces that would all be great to use with these rolls. Enjoy the recipe posted here - I'd love to hear back about anyone's experience's with summer rolls!


Ingredients and Procedure for Fresh Spring Rolls

Recipe from Gioan Restaurant & Family Cookery School in Hoi An - Viet Nam



5 pieces of hard rice paper (the first one might be unusable as part of learning curve)
1 cucumber grated into long strips (we ended up using a spiralizer)
1/2 carrot grated into long strips
5 tablespoons fresh mint
1 tablespoon white rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
5 teaspoons of onion flakes (optional but nice)
5 pinches of pepper
10 shrimp, cooked and peeled


Dipping Sauce

1 fresh chili, crushed
2 choves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoonlemon juice or lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce or soya sauce


Combine and mix well


*Side note - the recipe the girls were given says "serves four" but note all the "5s" 



Love the name!



Mix cucumber, carrot, salt, sugar, and vinegar in a bowl. Then put in a cloth and squeeze the liquid out.



Soften a piece of rice paper in cold water and put on a plate. (We turned it around so it got nice and wet every where. After it is on the plate it continues to soften.)



Place a heaping tablespoon vegetable mixture onto the edge of the rice paper.
Place pinch pepper, 1 tablespoon mint, l teaspoon onion flakes on top of vegetable mixture.
Fold both sides into the middle.
Roll twice.
Add 2 shrimps on top.
Roll up the rest of the way.


*Side note - as seen above, we didn't follow the directions exactly. It's forgiving!


Serve with dipping sauce and enjoy!




Friday, February 5, 2016

Messy, Yummy Cuban Sandwich with Rice and Black Beans



The weather in January never seems to be very good - no matter where someone is. At the beginning of the month, Jenn and Allison left the Northern Hemisphere for another round of adventure, so Roy and I traveled down to the Florida Keys. I know I shouldn't complain, but I would say we saw a lot more rain that sunshine. The great thing was, since we couldn't hike or bike ride, we went out to lunch a lot. As a result, I got hooked on Cuban Sandwiches as well as Cuban Rice and Beans. Of course I had to try and make them myself and the recipes posted here are the culminations of my experiments. Some restaurants served the beans and rice separately in "Moros y Cristianos" (Moors and Christian) style, but my favorite was when the ingredients were combined together and perfectly spiced. I had a hard time getting the seasoning right until I finally added a teaspoon of Old Bay powder. It dawned on me that since I was eating the dish in places that served seafood, maybe the restaurant kitchens were adding it to the rice as well as their main dishes. Well, it seemed to do the trick and I finally got a nod of approval from Roy. Another couple things turned out to be key; I substituted beef broth for water and did not drain the liquid from the beans. That seemed to add flavor and gave the rice the color I was looking for. As for the sandwich - what a meal! It's a really delicious combination and a great use for leftover shredded pork and ham slices. 


Cuban Marinade Ingredients for a Two Pound Pork Shoulder:



1 orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves and tender stems
4 gloves garlic, minced or put through a press
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper



Directions for Cooking the Pork

Whirl all the marinade ingredients together in a food processor or blender until smooth. Set aside and refrigerate 1/3 cup of the marinade to use when serving. (It is especially good on a Cuban Sandwich!)  Pour the rest of the marinade over the pork. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Then, place the meat in an oven safe pan. Pour the liquid it was marinating around it. Bake covered in a preheated 324 degree oven for 4 hours. At the end of the cooking time, remove the meat from the pan and place on a serving platter. Shred the meat using two forks.   Enjoy the meat with a drizzle of the set aside 1/3 cup marinade. Use the left overs in a Cuban sandwich - see below.


Ingredients and Directions for Cuban Rice and Black Beans



1 cup uncooked white rice (I used Uncle Ben's)
1 (15 oz.) can of black beans, including the liquid
2 cups beef broth
1 large onion, skinned and diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a press
2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon oregano


Saute the diced onion in the olive oil until tender. Add all the rest of the ingredients and cook according to the rice package instructions. When done, all the liquid will be absorbed and the rice will be tender. I have also cooked this in a crock pot for 2 1/2 hours on low and the result was perfect.




To Assemble a Cuban Sandwich:




For each sandwich slice open some kind of crusty bread that is soft inside such as Cuban bread, French bread, or a Mexican bolillo shown above. Slather on side with yellow mustard. On the other side, put a healthy amount of mayonnaise. Lay some sliced ham on the mustard side. The shredded pork goes on top of the ham. Drizzle some of reserved marinade over the pork.  The cheese goes right next to the mayonnaise. Put the sandwich together and brush both sides of the bread with olive oil. Grill each side so that a nice crust appears and the cheese melts. Serve with lettuce, tomato, and dill pickles.