Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chicken Spaghetti

My nephew, Nathan, and his wonderful wife, Jen, have each lost a ton of weight over the past couple of years. Something tells me it had nothing to do with her Chicken Spaghetti recipe, which I made tonight for the first time. This recipe is loaded with all things calorie and delicious, but it's more than worth the weight wait, heehee.


6 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 lb thin spaghetti
1 stick butter
1 cup onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
6 oz. jar diced pimento
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can evaporated milk
2 tsp mustard
1 tbls Worcestershire sauce
4 drops Tabasco sauce
1/2 lb grated Velveeta
1 cup sour cream

Optional Topping: Bread, cracker, or corn flake crumbs mixed with some melted butter.
Oops. Forgot something for the photo (and OOPS--the pimento, too! It was in my car.)...Boil seasoned chicken until tender, reserving broth. Shred cooled chicken. While the chicken is cooking, saute onions, celery, pimento, and garlic in butter until soft. Cook spaghetti in chicken broth (add water if you need to.) Drain, reserving broth (yes, again.) Mix all of the above, except sour cream and Velveeta. Add some broth if it seems too dry.

Place in a large baking dish or pan.

Did you know you can grate Velveeta? (I thought it would be too mushy, but it was fine. It reminded me of the good old days, when we ate Cheese Whiz straight out of the can.)Mix grated Velveeta and sour cream, and then spread it over the spaghetti mixture. (Top with optional crumb mixture, if desired.)Bake at 375 degrees until bubbly hot. (Freezes well, prior to cooking, if you want to split it in half for a rainy day :) Feeds a crowd!

Spice-Crusted Salmon with Lime-Orange Salsa

[Originally posted last summer at Half-Past Kissin' Time. Just had to offer it up again, as it is fantastic and a know a lot of people eat fish this time of year (Lent).]

Because I have always been a big fan of butter (I have always been a "dunker") and have been trying to cut back, I feared I wouldn't get to enjoy salmon anymore. Now that I have this recipe, I can eat a whole piece of salmon without a drop of butter and enjoy it! Everyone who tries it loves it. We found the amount of spice mixture to be just right for two large fillets; you may need to double it. (Don't double the salsa ingredients, though, as it makes plenty.) Oh, and the salmon without the salsa is wonderful; since the salsa's a bit putsy, I don't always make it.

Spice Mixture:
1/2 T black peppercorns
2 T whole coriander
2 T whole cumin
1 tsp kosher salt

Salsa Ingredients:
4 oranges
1/4 C fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 C fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 garlic clove, minced
1 T minced Chipotle pepper
1/2 red onion, chopped

1 lb salmon fillets

Salsa: With a sharp knife, remove skin and white pith from oranges. Working over a medium-sized blow to catch the juice, cut the orange segments from their surrounding membrane, letting segments fall into the bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Salsa can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to eight hours. It does take about 30 minutes to do this. If you don't have the patience, buy your favorite fruit salsa separately, or just prepare the salmon without it; it's delicious with or without.

Spice Mixture: Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add coriander and cumin; toast, stirring constantly, until aromatic, 2-3 minutes. Let cool, and transfer to a spice mill or mortar and pestle (see, you do have a use for one of those!) Add peppercorns to the mill, and coarsely grind all of the spices. Stir in salt. [Now, some will say this process is unnecessary. I strongly disagree. The heating and grinding awakens the flavors, unlike that bottle of ground stuff that's been in your pantry since you got married. Trust me.]

Prepare the grill or heat broiler. Coat the pink side of the salmon with the spice mixture (Hubby likes to give them a light spray of olive oil first.) Grill or broil on a lightly oiled rack until the salmon is opaque in the center (about 5 minutes per side). Serve with the salsa and your favorite side.

And don't forget to come back and tell me how much you loved it!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Aunt Bette's 5-Hour Oven Stew

When you smell the aroma of this stew cooking, you will feel like a superstar cook; seriously. It's fantastic. It's also easy. Aunt Bette's stew obviously takes five hours to cook, so you do have to plan ahead, but it's simple to prep and takes care of itself once you put it in the oven.

Ingredients:3 potatoes
2 sweet potatoes (our addition)
3 celery stalks
6 medium carrots*
green beans**
3 lb. chuck roast
1 T sugar
salt and pepper to taste (we like kosher salt)
4 T quick-cooking tapioca (baking aisle)
1 large sweet onion (not pictured)

1 large can of tomato juice
1 French bread loaf (for at the meal)
*I know, I know; there's only one in the photo (Mr.4444 was running to the store for me when I took the photo.)
**Recipe calls for canned, but we wouldn't dream of it!)

We used this pan, which is 12" x 18" and about 3 inches deep. A Dutch oven would be fine, too, but we added even more beef that I told you about, and it made a huge amount that would not have fit in our Dutch oven.
First, wash and rinse the veggies. (I love Veggie Wash.)
Cut the celery into 1-inch chunks like this:
Peel the potatoes, but put them in water until they are all peeled, or they will turn icky colors while they wait.)
Slice the onion like this...
Make the bacon. Bacon?! What bacon? Why, the bacon you like to use as a weekend morning alarm clock for your teenage son! (Always the multi-tasker, I am!)In case you were wondering how much snow we still have, I took the next photo on the deck. Put the sugar, tapioca (which looks a lot like sugar), salt and pepper in the same bowl, mixed.
Cut the fat off the meat and put it in a huge bowl with the veggies as you prep; it's easier to mix everything and then put it in your pan.
Cut the carrots like so...
And the potatoes/sweet potatoes, in eighths...
Here's proof that Mr.4444 has nice jeans, too! (And a nice butt, of course.)
Sprinkle half of the seasonings over the top of what you have so far. (You will not have this much meat, unless you are really into beef, like we are.)
Give it a good stir, sprinkling the rest of the seasonings and tapioca to get it all spread throughout.
Dump it into your pan and pour tomato juice over all, just until barely covered (though it's not even necessary, according to my friend Jennie, so don't worry if you don't have enough :)  Bake (covered) for five hours at 250 degrees. When you smell it cooking, that means it's just about done. Only then can you afford to check a potato.

Looks good enough to eat, doesn't it?! For instructions in how to eat this stew like a pro, click over to Half-Past Kissin' Time's Beef: It's What's for Dinner.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Taco Soup

Wondering if all of our meals here are the 4444 household are fancy? Here's evidence that they are not. This is the easiest recipe ever, and as Jen (Cheaper Than Therapy) can attest, it's delicious and very family friendly. This meal took five minutes to throw together (I'm not kidding; I watched the clock.) Soooo simple.

Ingredients:1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can whole kernal corn, undrained
1 can black beans, undrained
1 small onion, chopped or diced (I didn't use all of the onion pictured)
1 lb. chicken, cut up (you could easily use a few breasts from last night's dinner; just grill extra)
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 pkg Hidden Valley Ranch dip

Garnish (not pictured): Grated cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips

Dump everything in the crockpot.Yup; it's that easy. Cook on low for seven hours (or whenever you feel like turning it off before that; ). Serve with grated cheese, tortilla chips, and sour cream. Don't expect any leftovers (feeds four).

Monday, February 2, 2009

Filet of Beef Moutarde Forestiere

About now, you must think we are all sheeshy-froo-froo in the kitchen, but believe me we are not. Just two nights ago, we had boxed mac-n-cheese and chicken patties for supper, so please don't rush to judgment. I'll warn you, though; between the filets and the expensive cognac, this is not Hamburger Helper, but when you consider what it would have cost to take nine people out for filets, I think it's a bargain. This is a very special meal (read why here), and we have it maybe once every couple of years.

BTW, this one is all Mr.4444. I did make Emeril's potatoes to go with it, and Aunt Amy brought two salads, but other than that, I was just the photographer.

This recipe has been doubled. (And there are two other packages of mushrooms not in this photo.)

9 6-to-8 oz beef filets, butterflied
2 sticks of butter
tons of mushrooms (or 8 oz. if you're crazy)
1 tsp each of rosemary and sage (we used fresh)
1/2 cup cognac
8 tsps Dijon mustard
8 tsps mild mustard
4 Tbls. sour cream
1/2 tsp regular paprika
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbls parsley, plus more for garnish

Prepare all ingredients before you begin. Mr.4444 always does that, so here they are.Don't forget the paprika. And be sure to strip the leaves of the herbs from the stems before you chop them. Put the cousins on the mushrooms...Grandpa4444 taught me about cleaning mushrooms. Never wash mushrooms, making them all slimey. Instead, wipe them clean, starting at the tops and moving downward. Trim off the icky bottom-of-the-stem part.Heat 3 skillets; one over medium heat (for the mushrooms), two over high. Add a stick of butter to the mushroom pan. When butter is melted and hot, add mushrooms. (As you can see, it's a bit more than the 8 ounces called for in the recipe, cuz we think mushrooms are important!) Saute mushrooms, adding salt and pepper to taste. Watch them (don't allow to burn). See this? It's going to come in handy soon, believe it or not. Don't worry; it's a lighter, Silly! Add remaining butter to hot pans. Get the steaks ready. YUM!! When butter is melted and hot, add steaks. After a few minutes, turn steaks, then sprinkle with crushed rosemary and sage. Mr. 4444 says a good rule of thumb is to cook them about six minutes on one side, and seven on the other (make sure the pan is hot!) And speaking of rules of thumb, here's a pic of Mr.4444 showing his brother how to tell when a steak is done to your taste. With an open hand, press on the soft part of your hand, just below your thumb. That level of "give" you feel is the feel of a medium rare steak. If you close your fist and press on it again, that feeling is the feel of a steak that is medium-well. Use that to gauge how done your steaks are, or in this case, you could also use a thermometer. According to Mr.4444, 140 degrees is medium rare. He took them out at 130 degrees (because he knew they'd be in the oven with the mushrooms for a little while) and put them in the oven on warm, in the mushroom pan, while he prepared the sauce.

Oh, and BTW, because we had two pans of steaks, Mr.4444 scraped all the gunk from one pan into the other before starting the sauce. He said that stuff is what makes it taste so good. (I was skeptical, but this man can cook, so I didn't argue.)Now here's the fun part; the beginning of the sauce prep and the part that brings everyone to the kitchen; flaming the cognac. Pour the cognac into the "dirty," still-very-hot pan, and light it on fire! (This is sure to please all the pyromaniacs in the house.) The burning gets rid of the alcohol but keeps the flavor of the cognac in the pan. Then add both mustards, paprika, cream, and sour cream. Half-way through, stop to clean the glass off the floor.... from one of the bowls flying off the counter. (The parsley here was not necessary, but it didn't hurt. :)Whisk the ingredients together...Mix some mushrooms into the sauce. Grate pepper over steak and salt to taste. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve steaks piping hot, topped with mustard cream sauce (put remaining sauce in a gravy boat on the table). Garnish with more parsley.Grandpa would be proud. :)