Saturday, December 19, 2015

Hot Chicken Salad, December 19, 2015

We'd planned to have dinner out last night, but my poor sweetheart appears to have a touch of the flu and only wanted toast for dinner, so I drove through McDonald's. I should have had toast, actually, and cocoa. So, I was glad tonight to have a home-cooked dinner. It was a very retro sort of dinner, with the main course, hot chicken salad, coming from my mother-in-law's West Point Hostess cookbook. I'd planned to serve green salad with the casserole & potato soufflé, but we had already eaten it, so I just served some pineapple on the side. Not a very healthy dinner, at all, but really delicious and pretty easy to throw together. Boot is visiting for Christmas and he and Jeannene really liked it, especially the potatoes. He put his third serving of potatoes on a tortilla. He can eat like y'all would not believe, probably because he works out 4 or 5 hours a day.

Hot Chicken Salad
2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped
1 1/2 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. chopped pecans
3 tbsp. dried minced onion
3 tbsp. lemon juice
Salt & pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup (the original recipe calls for cream of chicken, but I used what I had on hand and it worked out great)
3/4 c. mayonnaise (I use the olive oil mayo)
Potato chips to crumble on top (I used plain Lay's, but I think perhaps sour cream and onion or BBQ might be interesting)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix everything but the mayonnaise, soup, and potato chips. Put in 2-quart casserole. Mix the soup and mayonnaise and pour over the top of the chicken mixture. Do not mix it into the chicken. Top with an even layer of crushed potato chips. Bake about half an hour. Serves 6-8. 

Potato Soufflé
About 6 c. mashed potatoes (I just used a package of Bob Evans pre-made mashed potatoes)
8 oz. chive cream cheese (the sort in the tub)
2 eggs
1/4 c. sour cream
A pinch of salt
4 tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix well and place in greased (I use cooking spray) 1 1/2-2 qt. casserole or soufflé dish. Bake 45 minutes. Serves 6-8. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Longhorn, December 17, 2015

Last night, we had a little more Christmas shopping to do. When we were done, Jeannene was famished, so we went to the closest restaurant, which happened to be a Longhorn Steakhouse. I'm not sure I've ever been to one before and I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of peanut shells on the floor and the generally not-rustic appearance of the dining room. We ordered the cheddar dip with flatbread for an appetizer. It was tasty, but would have been infinitely better had it been hot, instead of lukewarm. My Moscow Mule, however, was perfect and Jeannene had a delicious seasonal local beer. We both got filet mignon and wedge salads. My side was a baked potato and hers was a pecan sweet potato casserole, which was tasty. The wedge salad really shouldn't have been called that, as it was more of a composed salad, with romaine leaves arranged artfully across the salad plate. It was nice and cold, though, so that was good. I was disappointed that the large amount of dressing basically drowned most of the salad. The lettuce was too delicate for that burden. My steak was good, although the blue cheese crust had to be scraped off, as the flavor and volume completely overwhelmed the flavor of the meat. Jeannene's filet, unfortunately, was cooked to medium, rather than the medium-rare she had ordered, so I had finished my steak before her replacement steak arrived. I think, after two mishaps like that, it might be time to cook tonight!

Ram's Horn, December 16, 2015

We were out Christmas shopping the other night and ended up at Ram's Horn, in Rochester, MI, for dinner. I decided just to order whatever sounded good, whether it went together or not. I got a cup of chili and an order of buffalo chicken potato skins. I'd forgotten their chili is basically just hot dog chili, which is a little weird to eat in a bowl. It's nice and spicy, though, so I appreciated it on the chilly evening. When my potato skins arrived, they were completely drenched in barbecue sauce. I thought, "Hmm, how is that Buffalo?" but contemplated just going ahead and eating it, thinking perhaps I had misread the menu. Then, I realized it was ridiculous to eat something I hadn't ordered and didn't want, especially since it was something so unhealthy. I asked the waitress about it and she said they only had regular and BBQ skins. However, she did check the menu and I had not lost my mind. She had not registered the addition of the Buffalo version to the menu. So, she had the kitchen make my order properly. When they arrived, they were quite yummy. Jeannene had already finished her breakfast, some layered concoction involving sausage gravy. I ended up bringing most of mine home.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pot Roast, December 15, 2015

My house smelled completely heavenly all day yesterday, thanks to the pot roast in my slow cooker. This rendition takes minimal prep and, when paired with store-bought mashed potatoes & steam-in-the-bag corn, makes a very simple dinner. Plus, it makes its own gravy!

Slow Cooker Pot Roast
3 lb. boneless chuck roast
Garlic salt & pepper
1 onion, sliced
2 or 3 bay leaves
3 crumbled beef bouillon cubes
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I use low fat, low sodium)
1/2 c. dry white wine

Rub roast with garlic salt & pepper. Brown on all sides in a skillet that's been coated with cooking spray. Place in slow cooker and scatter onions over top. Top with the other ingredients. Cover with just enough water to cover everything. Cook 8 hours on low. Serves 6. 

Chicken Pot Pie, December 14, 2015

Our family birthday tradition is that whoever is having the birthday gets to pick whatever they want for dinner. Our boys both have December birthdays, so we often get to celebrate their birthdays with them. We had steak for Boot's 23rd while he was here over Thanksgiving weekend. For Pie's 21st, we thought we might go to Buffalo Wild Wings, as we did last year. Instead, though, he asked his mom to make him turkey sandwiches on cheap white bread with swiss cheese and squeeze mayonnaise. Not that there's anything wrong with turkey sandwiches---it just didn't seem like a very special dinner. He didn't want cake, either, asking that we skip it and just give him the money we would have spent on it. LOL. He got cake, anyway---a very small grocery store chocolate cake with chocolate ganache icing. Since I was making a chicken pot pie for a friend whose father-in-law passed away, I decided to make one for us, as well, in case we didn't want turkey sandwiches. Here's the recipe. This time, it took forever to cook. I may try it on 425 degrees next time. Might be time to get an oven thermometer!

Swedish Meatballs, December 13, 2015

I generally make special saffron & fruit buns for our St. Lucia Day breakfast. However, this year, we rushed out the door in the morning to pick up our son's biological mother so we could get Santa pictures & go to lunch, so just grabbed bagels on our way out the door. So, for dinner, I made my cousin Lenore's Swedish meatballs recipe, with egg noodles, and her sweet-sour cucumber slices---plus a salad. We also drank cranberry juice with scoops of raspberry sorbet. I don't have Lenore's permission to post her recipes, but you can find some good renditions out there. I like Martha Stewart's version of the meatballs, which you can find here. Just make sure you rinse the salt well when you make the cucumbers or they will be too salty!

Black Bean Chili, December 12, 2015

Whenever I make something vegetarian, Jeannene asks, "Where's the meat? Is there at least cheese in it?" She completely adored this vegan black bean chili (well, she did add shredded cheddar and sour cream---scallions are a nice garnish, too) and so did I. It's perfect for a chilly winter night. I made corn muffins (from a box) and a salad  (from a bag) to go with it. 

Black Bean Chili
1-2 tsp. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cans black beans

Heat oil in a soup pot. Cook the onions, peppers, garlic, and salt until veggies are softened. Add seasonings and cook a couple minutes. Add tomatoes & beans. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on lower heat 15-20 minutes. Serves 4-6.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Pollo Asado Rice Bowls, December 9, 2015

I love being brought meals because (aside from the obvious benefit of being able to keep up with a new baby AND the dishes) people bring us foods I wouldn't have thought of making. Last night's was delicious! Carol brought me a prepared mix of chicken (a breast), black beans, corn, tomatoes, and other yummy stuff to dump in the crockpot. She offered to cook it, too, but I saw no reason not to cook it myownself. The nice thing about crockpot meals is that the house is perfumed with scrumptious smells all day, too. Along with the main attraction, Carol brought us brown rice, tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, and an avocado, which I made into guacamole. Great stuff!

Chicken Bacon Alfredo, December 8, 2015

There's a group of angels who live here in our little village. I haven't even met most of the MOMS Club members yet, but they have been generously and kindly bringing us dinner last week and this week. Tuesday night, Jackie dropped off a great, big pan of pasta with alfredo sauce, big chunks of chicken, and plenty of glorious bacon. It was scrumptious! To accompany, she brought bagged Caesar salad and we added some Pugliese bread Jeannene picked up from the grocery to go with Jarlsberg dip. I cannot say enough about my gratitude to these women and I can't wait for our wee boy to get his shots so we can go play with them!

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

What I'm Cooking in December

I'd taken care to plan meals for November and December before our son was born, but we've been well-cared-for by friends and my darling wife has been cooking up a storm, too, so I've not made most of the things I intended to make. I am starting to feel more competent about getting things done and also caring for our wee boy, so I expect to begin cooking again next week. We have kind friends bringing us food the rest of this week. 

Anyway, I saw one of my friends posting on FB about not knowing what to make for dinner, so I thought I'd post what I have planned for December, in hopes that she will find some inspiration:

-Ropa vieja, black beans & rice, avocado salad, maduros
-Bean thread soup, potstickers, salad, mandarin oranges
-Matzo ball soup, latkes, applesauce, salad, sufganiyot
-Pot roast, roasted veggies, wilted lettuce, pear salad
-Black bean chili, corn muffins, honey apples
-Swedish meatballs, egg noodles, lima beans, salad, fruit soup
-Hot chicken salad, potato souffle, green salad, fruit
-Beer-marinated hangar steak, butternut mac & cheddar, roasted cauliflower
-Spaghetti, Caesar salad, garlic bread
-Cuban Nochebuena feast
-Spicy beef & noodles, snow peas, pineapple
-Chicken with white wine sauce, baked farro & squash, fennel salad
-Boeuf bourguignon, mashed potatoes, peas
-Cheese fondue with bread & veggies for dipping, green salad, chocolate fondue with fruit for dipping, champagne cocktails

Other things:
-Lucia Buns
-Various cookies & candies, if I get ambitious
-Spiced nuts
-Yellow pea soup (for my Red Tent Temple sisters)

Sloppy Joes & Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches, December 7, 2015

I went out by myself last night for the first time since before our baby was born, to get my brows arched and bangs trimmed, then to a cookie exchange at the library. I spent yesterday afternoon making the chocolate rum balls I learned to make from my almost-grandma. Every year, she had a wondrous "cookie factory" at her house and we would bake cookies and make fudge to plate up and take around to the neighbors. The rum balls were a perennial favorite and have become my signature Christmas treat. They do pack a bit of a punch, as the rum is not baked off! I included the recipe in a post about my own cookie factory a few years ago, along with a bunch of the other treats I make.

The other cookies at the exchange last night were:
-Cherry pie bars
-Lemon tea cookies (which were amazingly lemony!)
-Dutch cheese cookies with a cherry in the center
-Peanut butter blossoms
-Ritz smeared with peanut butter and dipped in chocolate
-Snowflake Ritz dipped in melted Andes mints and sprinkled with crushed candy canes
-Church windows cookies made with chocolate and colorful mini-marshmallows
-Rolled marzipan balls dredged in cocoa
-Cooked marzipan & meringue cookies
-Oatmeal raisin cookies from McDonald's
-Oatmeal white chocolate cookies dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled with crushed candy canes

You should have seen our sampling plates, piled high! I managed a bite of each cookie and brought the rest of my plate home. I was very ready for dinner!

Luckily for me, I have the best wife ever. She had not only cared for the baby, but she had done household chores and made dinner. She had a mug of hot cocoa with peppermint Kahlúa waiting for me, too. She detests sloppy joes, but made them for me because I love them and did pork tenderloin for her sandwich. We also had waffle fries & corn.

Cut-Out Cookies for Tanya

As we have a new baby, Elijah, who was born November 5th, I don't know if I'll manage cut-out cookies this year. Perhaps! I did manage some chocolate rum balls yesterday, so who knows? But, my friend, Tanya, asked if I happen to have a recipe for them and I do. I've never had a problem with it and it tastes quite yummy! This is the recipe I always use when I make cut-outs:

Cut-Out Cookies
4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 sticks butter, room temperature
2 c. sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. vanilla (you can use other flavors, too---I like a mix of citrus fruit juice, especially at Easter)

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Cream the butter and sugar until light yellow and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Add flour, with speed set on low, and mix until well-combined. Add vanilla. Form into 2 disks and wrap in plastic. Chill half an hour. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough out to about 1/8" thick, on a floured surface, one disk at a time. Cut out with cookie cutters and place on ungreased baking sheets. Chill about 15 minutes, so they're nice & firm. You can decorate them with sanding sugar before baking, if you want. Otherwise, use your favorite icing once they're baked. I like royal icing for these, but plain old powdered sugar icing is great, too. Anyway, bake these until the edges just start to brown, 8-10 minutes. Cool on wire racks before decorating. These are also good without any icing, sanding sugar, or anything. Makes about 30 2 1/2" cookies---or 15 larger ones.