Thursday, November 19, 2009


The beauty of forcing yourself to cook new things is that in the process you discover the use of herbs, spices, flavors, and techniques that you may not have stumbled upon otherwise. Not that chicken salad is hard to make or anything, but this is probably my fourth or fifth attempt at a recipe that hubby likes. See, he loves chicken salad but there's only about a couple of places he wants to eat it from: Napoleon's Restaurant (small eatery in our home town) and his mother's. I guess I need to ask her for her recipe since I've been missing the target lately. However, I did brave up and decide to try something new this time... and I just might be creeping closer to victory!

I usually buy the canned chicken from the store when making chicken salad, but the Pioneer Woman does not. This woman is basically living the life I dream of, so when she speaks- I listen. Enter: poached chicken (bone-in). For this recipe, I had to pick the meat off the bones instead of just dump it out of a can and I sincerely appreciate the experience. Why was I so scared of chicken bones before?? The chicken salad turned out great and hubby actually liked it. Score. Enjoy!

Chicken Salad
The Pioneer Woman 

1 whole cut up fryer chicken
2 stalks (to three stalks) celery, chopped
3 whole green onions, chopped
2 cups (to 3 cups) grapes, halved
a small handful of fresh dill, minced
1/2 cup mayonaise
1/2 cups plain yogurt or sour cream [I used a little of both]
1 T. (to 2 T.) brown sugar
1 T. (to 2 T.) lemon juice
kosher salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste

Step 1: Rinse chicken thoroughly and place in a large pot of water. Turn on the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is done (about 45 minutes to an hour). When you are ready, remove the chicken from the pot and place on a plate. With your fingers or a fork, pull all of the meat off the bones, chip into bite-sized chunks and set aside.
Step 2: Chop all of your fruits and veggies and place them in a bowl with the chicken. In another bowl mix mayonnaise, yogurt (or sour cream), lemon juice, brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Add fresh herbs (dill, oregano, cilantro...whatever makes your skirt fly up) and if you're feeling a bit brazen throw in a dash of cayenne pepper! When the dressing tastes just right (you must taste test for appropriate saltiness especially), pour it over the chicken/veggie/fruit mixture and stir gently until everything is thoroughly mixed.
Step 3: Allow the salad to chill for several hours (or even overnight). Serve on a bed of lettuce or in a sandwich.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

happy 1st anniversary to us! :)

Today is our 1st wedding anniversary! Woohoo, we made it!  Of course the first year had its challenges as we adjusted to married life, but I can say with confidence that it has been the most exciting year of my life by far. Hubby works so hard for us so I like to keep him happy and full with my cooking experiments...he never complains and is my biggest fan! I love you, sweetie!!!

This morning I wanted to make something a little different for breakfast since it is a special day but didn't have a lot of time as it is a church morning. So with an idea in mind I set out in search of a pumpkiny, spicy pancake- and I found these. They are so perfect for this time of year and really add a different flavor to your every-day pancakes without an overbearing allspice taste. Trust me, these are a winner!!

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
adapted from Joy the Baker Blog

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
(OR ¾ AP flour & ½ whole wheat flour)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter

Step 1: Whisk together flours, salt, spices, sugar and baking powder in a medium sized bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, egg, pumpkin and vegetable oil or melted butter.  
Step 2: Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined.  Don’t worry if you have a few lumps.  You don’t want to over beat the batter, it’ll produce tough pancakes.  
Step 3: Let the batter sit for 10 minutes while you heat the skillet [I skipped this step].  Over low-medium heat, melt a tablespoon of butter or vegetable oil.  Once skillet is hot, spoon a heaping 2 tablespoons of batter per pancake into the skillet.  When pancake starts to bubble slightly, carefully flip over.
Once browned and cooked through place pancakes on an oven proof plate and place in the oven set at 200 degrees F to keep warm while the rest of the pancakes are cooked. Serve with whipped cream and cinnamon sugar or maple syrup.  Delicious! 

the many faces of chili

Last week I found two packages of chili mix in my pantry and since I don't really have a good homemade chili recipe I decided to use up those little magic packs...and let me tell you something, there is NO shame in that! The chili was really, really good. Then over the course of three nights, I used the chili for three different meals: Chili & Cornbread, Frito Pie, and Loaded Baked Potatoes! What a great way to make your food and money stretch. Here is what I did:
  • used two chili packets since I wanted to make a lot [and of course, all the ingredients to go with]
  • added chopped onion & minced garlic [with the meat while it was browning]
  • added 2 cans red kidney beans to add bulk and fiber
  • used my crockpot to cook the chili slowly so that the meat gets tender and the spices get a chance to really set in

Here is the recipe for the best cornbread in the world! [The only kind I will eat!] It was passed down from my grandpa.

Sweet Cornbread

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine 
1 egg
1 1/2 cup sour milk [buttermilk]
1 1/2 cup corn meal
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
3/4 cup flour

Cream sugar and margarine. Add egg and sour milk. Mix cornmeal, salt, and soda. Add to wet ingredients and stir. Add flour and mix well. Pour into 9" greased pan. Bake at 450 degrees for 25 minutes.

It really doesn't get any better than this, folks!

The Frito Pie and Loaded Baked Potato are fairly self-explanatory. You can pretty much add whichever ingredients suit your taste. To the Frito Pie, I simply opened a bag of Frito's, filled the bottom of the bowl with them, poured the chili over the top, added shredded cheddar [gotta have the cheese] and then added some shredded lettuce and tomato for a little extra nutritional value ;) but I'm not going to lie... most of the time I enjoy it with just the chips, chili & cheese! Now for the loaded baked potato, well, you can go crazy with this one! I baked the potato in the oven for about an hour and then added chili, cheese, chopped green onion, and sour cream. Hubby and I both drooled over this one!

I'm sure one day I'll land a chili recipe that is to die for and never go back to the spice packets...but until then, they will have to do. They really do make a good tasting chili and the great thing is you can whip it with practically no effort!