Thursday, May 31, 2012

Curry Chicken

I've been feeling better every day.  Yesterday was a bit chilly, so I thought something a little more spicy was in order.  We had two teenage boys to feed, one teenage girl, and the ten year old who eats like a little bird in addition to myself and my husband, so we didn't have much in the way of leftovers, but enough for lunch today.

Curry Chicken

3 pounds chicken, cut into pieces
2 pounds red potatoes cut into chunks/squares
1 bag pre-shredded carrots, because I cut corners wherever I can
1 tsp onion powder
6 tsp oil or butter for stir frying (this is approximate)
6 tbsp curry powder
3 cups chicken broth
3 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Ground coriander (optional)

Heat your wok over a medium-high heat.  I use a REALLY large wok, the largest I have found anywhere.  Add your oil or butter, whichever you prefer.  I prefer butter for the flavor boost, but some prefer certain vegetable oils for health reasons.  Mix your curry powder in a small bowl with a tablespoon of water to make a paste.  Stir fry your curry paste (you can actually purchase curry paste in some cities, but it isn't available where I live) and onion powder for about 30 seconds.  Add your cut chicken and cook about five minutes.  When your chicken gets white, add the carrots and potatoes, stir frying for about a minute.  If you need a little extra butter/oil, add it as needed.  Sometimes, at this point, I transfer everything to my large stainless steel pot to simmer, depending on how many dishes I want to wash.  Other times, I use the wok, but it does get extremely full, and can be difficult to stir well.  Whichever pot you use, add your broth, sugar, and some salt and pepper, tasting to make sure you don't need more curry or other seasonings.  Mix well, cover, and simmer over low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes, until your mixture thickens a bit.  Sprinkle ground coriander on top as a garnish, if you desire, and serve over rice.  I use jasmine rice for just about everything, but you can use white rice, and even add a dash of curry while it cooks for added flavor.

P.S.  I think tomorrow is going to be Chicken Marsala.  Indian food, then Italian's alphabetically correct!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Casa Ole Enchiladas Attempt #2

So, being a Texas girl displaced, I constantly crave some of the foods from home.  Houston is a huge city, with amazing cuisine, and it's funny how one of the things I miss most are the cheap Tex-Mex enchiladas from Casa Ole.  I have attempted them once before.  I did some research on enchilada gravy and started from a roux-based one.  This is what I have so far, though it may still need some tweaking.  Also, please keep in mind that while I did use measuring spoons to attempt to record this the best I could, some values may be approximate.

Enchilada Gravy

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tbsp chili powder (I used Mexican chili powder I found on sale up here, not sure if it made a difference)
4 cups tomato broth (tomato bouillon and water)

I used my cast iron skillet for this, by the way:  Heat oil over medium heat and add flour like you are making roux for gumbo.  Basically, for those who haven't done gumbo roux, you make sure your oil is hot, and then add your flour, stirring quickly with a whisk.  Stir constantly and don't let the flour burn.  If it burns, chunk it and start over.  There is nothing worse than burned roux.  Okay, maybe burned popcorn.  But, I digress.  Let your roux cook for few minutes, while stirring, until it turns light brown in color, about the color of peanut butter.  Add your dry ingredients, and continue cooking for one minute.  I measure them out in advance into a little bowl, and when the roux is ready, just dump them in together to keep from burning my flour.  Once your mixture has cooked for one minute, add the tomato broth and stir until it is mixed.  Bring it to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes-ish or until at desired thickness.  Casa Ole doesn't have very thick sauce, which is the mistake I made last time.

The gravy as it simmers

The Rest of the Deal

2 dozen corn tortillas
3 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded taco cheese

Preheat your oven to 325.  Once you have your sauce, pour half of it into the bottom of your casserole dish.  Heat some cooking oil in a small pan and run your corn tortillas through the oil until they float, and pull them out.  Sprinkle cheddar cheese (at least a tablespoon-ish?) in the middle of each tortilla and roll it up.  Smoosh them as close as you can together.  I have found that it will keep the cheese from running out too much.  I have found that my pan will fit two dozen, though you may have to trial and error.  I tend to err on the side of caution with a new pan:  cook a few tortillas, roll and place them, figure out how many more will fit, etc.  Once you place them all, pour the remainder of your sauce on top.  Some people like to run the tortillas through the sauce, but I found that to make it too saucey on the inside, and I didn't care for it.  Then, sprinkle your taco cheese on top.  I don't always use both cups, sometimes if my pan is smaller (depending on how many I'm feeding), I use maybe a cup and a half or so.  Just eyeball it so that it looks good to you.  You'll be the one eating it, and maybe you like more cheese.  Maybe less.  You decide.  Anyhow, toss them in the oven and bake them for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until your cheese melts and gets nice and gooey.  I don't like my cheese to brown on my enchiladas.  I think it dries them up too much.


Anyhow, if you have any modifications or suggestions, let me know.  I think this one was pretty darn close, but it doesn't mean it can't improve!

Friday, May 25, 2012

It's a Jello and Hamburger Mac Day

Home from the hospital, and swallowing is not really my friend right now.  I have been doing a lot of toast and tea, honestly.  I use the Texas toast bread and once the butter softens it up a bit, I'm good to go as long as I take small bites.  I made some jello earlier.  I would trust that you all know how to make jello, but after eating the hospital's attempt at jello, I just can't be sure.  For starters, it's amazing how good things taste when you follow the instructions.  So, I just followed the instructions on the box, and yum!  Jello!  My husband is making hamburger mac tonight for dinner, since he wanted to do something easy that meant I wouldn't have to cook. When we do hamburger mac, we just throw 2.5 pounds of cooked burger in with about 5 boxes of macaroni and cheese or shells and cheese, toss in a little seasoning and we're good to go.  On occasion, we do it with a block of Velveeta and maybe some sausage instead, and some cream of mushroom soup, but tonight, we're going simple all the way.  Here's hoping this dinner will work well as an after-surgery meal.  Surprisingly, the ham and potato casserole turned out to be excellent for that purpose, though that was a pleasant and un-intended side effect.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ham and Potato Casserole

I have to make something tonight that the kids can eat tomorrow with very little fuss, so I am making a casserole for them.  They can either pop it in the oven tomorrow night, or I can do it later this evening and they can just heat portions up in the microwave.  I haven't decided yet.

Ham and Potato Casserole

2 pounds ham
3 pounds red potatoes or 1 bag of frozen southern style hashbrown potatoes
2 can cream of mushroom soup
Dash of Worcestershire sauce (I only use Lea & Perrins)
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

This one is really easy.  Let's start with the potatoes.  Slice them into cubes and boil until tender.  If you use the pre-cut hashbrown style potatoes in the frozen section, toss them in a pot and boil them for 8 minutes.  I love these in a pinch, they make for a much faster prep.  Drain your potatoes and put them in the bottom of a casserole dish.  I have Pyrex now.  I used to use my super-awesome Pampered Chef stoneware casserole pan, but that was decimated a few moves ago.  Throw in your cream of mushroom soup.  I used to use Campbell's, but I have found that for this, you really don't taste it much anyhow, so store brand works just as well for half the price.  There have been a few times that I substituted cream of potato when one of the girls was here for dinner who hates mushrooms, and that works just fine, too.  Add one can's worth of water to the mix and stir well.  Dash in some of that yummy Worcestershire sauce (to taste, though I have been known to use as much as a quarter of a bottle on this meal) and mix that in as well.  Slice up your ham and stir that in.  Sprinkle your cheese evenly across the top and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until your cheese is as bubbly as you like it.  I like to zap it under the broiler for a minute or two at the end to brown my cheese a bit, but it is entirely up to you.  Super easy, especially on busy work/school nights, and the kids love this one!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have surgery in the morning, and I really needed a chocolate chip cookie, so I decided to make some of my favorites.  A few months ago, I was talking to a friend about how much I love snickerdoodles.  I mentioned that adding chocolate chips to my super-awesome snickerdoodle recipe would be amazing, and she said it sounded absolutely repulsive.  I, of course, had to prove her wrong by making a few modifications and presenting my findings.  She was appropriately astounded by the awesomeness of these cookies.  The whole family loves these, and a batch usually only lasts a day or two, even when there are only four of us home.  Here goes:

Chelsea's Awesome Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cinnamon (Makura is the only way to go)
1 c. butter
1 c. white devil sugar
1 c. light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp light corn syrup
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (can substitute half vanilla and half almond if you want a nutty flavor)
pinch of nutmeg
12 oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325.  Cream butter.  Add sugars, then eggs, corn syrup, and vanilla and mix thoroughly.  Add baking powder, soda, nutmeg and cinnamon and blend well.  Add flour and mix until blended.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Roll spoonfuls of dough into small-ish balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until puffed up.  Enjoy!

Chicken & Dumplings

It is only right and proper that I begin with the ultimate in Southern food.  My husband swears when I make this that it is his absolute favorite thing I cook, though I'm pretty sure he says that about everything I make, so I can't be sure.  Please remember that I am never going to be cooking for less than four people, and sometimes as many as 8, with the hope of leftovers.  My typical pot of choice for this is my largest silver stock pot with the thick bottom.  Those cheapie thin bottom stock pots have issues with burning whatever you cook, no matter how careful you are to stir frequently.  Also, my chicken and dumplings is a full MEAL, and I make it with some veggies, just to make sure my kids get something decently healthy in their bodies, whether they like it or not.

Here goes:

Chelsea's Chicken & Dumplings

2.5 pounds chicken (I prefer breast meat or tenders, use what you like)
14 to 18 chicken bouillon cubes
14 to 18 cups water
1 bag shredded carrots
1 bag frozen southern hash brown potatoes
Dash of lemon juice
Cavender's Greek Seasoning to taste (this is the most important part!)


6 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
9 tbsp shortening
2 cups milk

I start the chicken first.  Add 14 cups of water and bouillon cubes, lemon juice, and a healthy sprinkling of the Cavender's to your stock pot with the chicken and carrots, and boil for about 15 minutes.  Turn it down to a simmer and pull out your chicken (Do NOT use your hands - use a slotted spoon!).  Slice or shred it up depending on your preference (I always remove every last bit of chicken fat, because I just can't stand biting into it) and put it back in the simmering juice.  While it simmers, make your dumplings.

Dumplings:  Mix your flour, soda, and salt together.  I sometimes add black pepper if I'm feeling it, since it gives it a nice flavor.  Sometimes I toss some Cavender's in there, and sometimes I do it exactly like it says above.  Once your dry ingredients are mixed, cut your shortening in.  I use a fork and just make it crumble nicely.  Add your milk and mix.  At this point I usually have to stick my hands in there and knead it like I'm making bread.  Once you get a nice dough, roll it out flat on your flour-dusted cutting board and slice your dumplings.  I have a small countertop, so I do it half at a time.  As I finish cutting them, I feed them into my simmering pot.  The whole process of the dumplings takes the longest, so you will likely be simmering for close to an hour by the time you finish.  As you drop them in, you will have to stir everything up so they don't stick together.

Once all of your dumplings are in the pot, your soup should be thickened from the extra flour that was added from rolling your dumplings.  You shouldn't need extra, in fact, you may need to add those other four cups of water and bouillon cubes to the mix if too much of your liquid has boiled off.  You can add that at any time, or not if you don't need it.  Just remember to keep it as an option.  Not every meal will come out the same way every time. 

If you want potatoes in there (and we love potatoes at my house), toss that bag of the pre-cut ones in now.  I sometimes cook up fresh ones, but this is the fastest way, and chicken & dumplings can be a bit time consuming already.  Keep stirring after you toss them in, and turn your pot back up to about a medium high, unless your stove cooks really hot, then you might want it at medium so you don't burn the rest.  Once it bubbles a bit (not a full boil, mind), turn it back down to low.  This is when I taste-test a spoonful.  Sometimes I need to add another dash of lemon juice, sometimes it needs a bit more Cavender's.  You decide.  Once you have your seasonings just right, put your lid on and turn it back down to low.  Simmer for 10 minutes, and you have a fantastic meal, chock full of yummy potatoes and carrots and chicken and tons of dumplings.  And that's doing it my way.  If you have any questions, let me know.  I'll be happy to answer any that you have.

Coming Back

So, I did a major plastic surgery job on my blog today.  Definite overhaul.  Rather than being in-the-middle-of-divorce girl, I have a whole new set of priorities.  I am going in for a major surgery on my thyroid tomorrow morning, and I am terrified that it will mean the end of my singing career.  Rather than focus on the negative, however, I have decided to enjoy the skills I will definitely still have:  organization and cooking.  My recent remarriage to a man with four children, when I already had two, has required that my menu planning and cooking skills reach a whole new level in the last year, and I really feel the need to share my discoveries with, well, everyone!  So, I decided last night that this will be my new outlet, and I hope someone out there finds some of this useful.