Friday, July 25, 2008

California Chicken Spaghetti

This dish is super tasty and super simple!

16 ounces uncooked angel hair pasta (I NEVER use that much pasta in it.... you probably don't need to cook that much. I'll tell you more about that later)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into strips
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons dried basil
(this last time we used fresh basil because there is an abundance of it growing in the back yard... and I ended up adding more than 2 Tablespoons with it fresh)
2 tablespoons Cajun-style blackened seasoning (depending on what brand of seasoning you can end up a little spicy! If you don't want to buy cajun seasoning (or if you don't want it so spicy), go to the bottom of this post for a suggested way to make your own seasoning.
salt and pepper to taste
10 roma (plum) tomatoes, diced

1 zucchini sliced
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until al dente. Drain.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken pieces, and cook, stirring until browned on the outside. Stir in the garlic, basil, Cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper, then mix in the tomatoes and zucchini. Cook until tomatoes are semi soft, and chicken is cooked through.

Toss with pasta, and serve with crumbled feta cheese on top. Also top with fresh basil if desired.

Okay, so my suggestion with mixing it with the pasta.... Don't just throw all the noodles in at once because odds are you won't end up with the right sauce to pasta ratio.... What I do, is dump all the sauce into an big pot or big serving bowl, then slowly add in the noodles in batches, mixing after each batch, until it looks like a good sauce to noodle ratio. I don't like there to be so many noodles that you don't get much flavor. The recipe says 16 ounces... I don't think I even use half of that. But, hey, it's up to you

If you want to make your own seasoning, this one works well. It is actually a "creole" seasoning recipe, but it is quite close to cajun and has pretty much the same ingredients in it! So, if you already have these ingredients on hand, you can mix up your own seasoning rather than buying a "Cajun Seasoning" at the store. Just mix it up and keep it in an airtight container. You can use it for all sorts of stuff. This makes quite a bit, so if you don't think you want so much, just half it.

Cajun/Creole Seasoning:

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

NOTE: If you want similar flavor without as much heat, make this recipe, but don't use so much cayenne pepper. That's where most of your heat is going to come from.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Culinary Experimentation

Sometimes Steve and I like to experiment. A couple weeks ago we decided to make foil dinners-- you know, wrap up some meat and potatoes and whatever else you want in some foil and cook it. A simple concept. But, why not kick it up a bit... make a bit of a more... gourmet foild dinner, if you will. Here is what we came up with. And we must say... it is quite good! We've made it again since then.
Unfortunately I don't really have exact measurements. This is one of those things you have to just kind of... put in however much you want of each thing! I'm going to share with you the ingredients, and you can decide what proportions and quantities you want to do.

Here is what was in it:

Ground Italian Sausage (Mild or hot depending on your heat preference) formed into a patty.
A slice of Bacon (put this on the very top)
Cloves of Garlic sliced
Onions sliced
Yukon Gold Potatoes sliced
Carrots sliced

Fresh Basil

and the secret ingredient.......

That's right folks. Blue Cheese.

Now, don't go judging just because it says blue cheese. I'll be honest, I am not a huge blue cheese fan normally.... but this.... is really good!!! The cheese just melts into it and mixes with the juices from the meat and bacon drippings and the moisture from the vegetables and creates a delicious sauce! Very good. Try it for yourself.... come on... don't be scared....

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Walkabout Onion Soup

So, Steve and I used to get this soup at Outback Steakhouse. It was a creamy, onion soup. Very tasty. Unfortunately, they don't serve it there anymore.... but luckily, we had already found a good recipe for it. I know it isn't exactly soup weather right now... but I always love soup! And we hadn't had this for a while, so we made it this week. If you like onions... you'll like this! If you don't like onions.... well..... try it anyway! Maybe it will convert you.


2 cups thinly sliced yellow sweet onions (ie. vidalia)

2 tbsp butter

14.5 ounce can chicken broth

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground pepper

2 chicken boullion cubes

1/4 cup diced velveeta cubes compressed in a measuring cup (okay, so sometimes I use this processed, velveeta cheese, but sometimes I just use regular shredded cheddar cheese. I usually use more than 1/4 cup if I use the cheddar though.... almost 1/2 cup)

1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups white sauce (below) Okay, so it only says to use that amount... but I always end up using all of it. Mostly just because I always forget that it says to only use a certain amount!!! Anyway... if you want to use all the white sauce, go for it! it always turns out fine when I do.

Thick White Sauce:

3TBS butter

3TBS flour

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups whole milk (I have used milks ranging from skim to cream here, so.... if you don't feel like buying whole milk... use whatever you've got. it'll be alright.)

To make the White Sauce....

In a 1 quart sauce pan, melt butter and add flour, cook on medium heat until the flour turns thick and comes away from the side of the pan.
Pour milk in flour a little at a time and stir constantly until it becomes smooth. Add salt. Mixture should thicken and becom like thick pudding.

Remember to stir constantly taking care not to let mixture lump. Set aside off from heat until ready to use for the soup.

In 2 quart sauce pan place 2 TBS butter and sliced onions.

Cook at low to medium heat, stirring frequently until soft, and clear but not brown.
Add chicken broth from can, chicken bouillon cubes, salt, pepper, and stir until completely heated through.

Add white sauce and Velveeta cheese (or cheddar). White sauce will be thick because it has been removed from the heat. Simmer on medium low heat until the cheese is melted and all ingredients are blended, stirring constantly. (If you're using cheddar, be sure not to let the soup come to a boil after you've added the cheese, as this could cause it to curdle).
Turn temperature to warm and let cook for additional 30 to 45 minutes.
(It says to do this.... but, I usually don't leave it that long... just because I'm too hungry..... but, again, I've done it both ways. Both turn out just fine).

Serve with some crusty bread. You could also top the soup with some shredded cheddar cheese if you wanted.

"Spicy" Rice

This is a great rice to go with that Fiesta Lime Chicken. It says spicy, but don't be mislead. It is not spicy in the sense of "wow, that's got some heat!" It is spicy as in.... it's got spices in it.


1 fresh corn cob
3 tbsp. olive oil
6 scallions (green onions) chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1-2 green bell peppers, chopped

2 fresh mild green chilies (anaheims are good), seeded and chopped

generous 1 1/4 cups long-grain rice

2 tsp ground cumin

2 1/2 cups chicken stock

2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

salt and pepper


Cut the corn from the cob. heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the scallions, celery, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened (be sure not to burn your garlic! burnt garlic tastes bitter...yuck...). Add the bell peppers, chilies, and corn and cook for 3-5 minutes.

Add the rice and cumin and cook, stirring to coat the grains in the oil for 2 minutes.

Stir in the stock and half the chopped cilantro and bring to boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes, or until nearly all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is just tender.
Remove from the heat and fluff up with a fork. Stir in the remaining chopped cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Fiesta" Lime Chicken

Okay, so just before we moved we went to Applebee's with Steve's parents. Steve's mom got the Fiesta Lime Chicken and said she wished she knew how they made it. I made it my duty to try to find a recipe that copied it.... unfortunately it has been a while since I actually had that dish at Applebee's, so I'm not sure whether this actually tastes anything like it or not! But, it is good none-the-less. Worth trying.

I did think it had a strange combination of ingredients before I made it... I mean, it says "fiesta" in the name, then it's got teriyaki sauce in it! I dunno, maybe mexicans use more teriyaki than I am aware of : ) Or maybe it's an asian/mexican fiesta! Fun for all! Either way.... the dish was pretty tasty. Don't be scared by the long list of ingredients. It is very simple to make. And I actually already had all of these ingredients on hand except the teriyaki sauce and the liquid smoke.
What is liquid smoke? Well, I'm glad you asked. It does sound a bit strange to anyone who's never heard of it. In fact one time my dad (I think it was my dad) was at Walmart and he asked one of the employees (a teenager no doubt) whether they had any liquid smoke. And the kid is like, "...ummm.... Liquid smoke? You mean like beer?" hahaha..... Oh boy.... Anyway, no... liquid smoke is not beer just incase you were wondering. It is, in fact, just what the name says..... smoke in liquid form! What they do is create smoke with some water and wood chips or something then they gather the condensation that is infused with the smoke. (Okay, so that is the very simplified version, but who cares). And there you have it! Liquid smoke. So, you get the smoke flavor without the unhealthy carcinogens! (and without having to do the work of smoking). I found my liquid smoke near the barbeque sauces and marinades and what-not.... It probably depends what store you're at. You can probably ask an employee at the store. Then again.... they might take you to the beer isle....

Okay, enough about the smoke... lets get to the chicken.


about 1 cup water

1/3 cup teriyaki sauce

3 tablespoons lime juice

2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast


1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon milk

2 teaspoons minced tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons minced jalapeno peppers

1 teaspoon minced onion

1/4 teaspoon dried parsley

1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

1/8 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon cumin

1/8 teaspoon chili powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 dash black pepper

1 dash garlic powder

Additional Ingredients

1 cup shredded monterey jack and cheddar cheese blend

More limes to squeeze over the top.


1 Combine marinade ingredients then chicken in a medium bowl and allow to marinate for 2-3 hours.

2 Combinine dressing ingredients in a medium bowl, cover, and chill until needed.

3 Grill the marinated chicken breasts for 3-5 minutes per side, or until cooked through.

4 Arrange the cooked chicken in a baking pan, spoon some of the prepared dressing over the top , and sprinkle with cheese.

5 Broil the chicken for 2-3 minutes, or just until the cheese has melted.

6 Squeeze fresh lime juice over the top and serve!

You could serve this with spanish rice and some pico de gallo or salsa.... some tortilla chips..... home made guacamole.... mmm... My plan was to top it with pico de gallo (fresh chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime), but unfortunately only one of my tomatoes was alive today.... the rest were covered in mold!!!
Note to self: it is much more humid in Ohio.... especially with no AC yet....... so, must find a better way to store my tomatoes......

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Chicago Dogs

While visiting Chicago on our way to our new home, Steve and I had our first Chicago dogs ever. Now, you might be thinking.... okay, I've HEARD of a Chicago dog.... but what exactly makes it different than a normal hot dog? Don't worry, those were my exact thoughts before the dog was handed to me.

Well, here's the breakdown (thank you wikipedia)---
"A Chicago-style hot dog is a steamed or boiled all-beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun, which originated in the U.S. city of Chicago, Illinois. The hot dog is topped with mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish (usually neon green), a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, sport peppers (a little pickled pepper with medium heat), and a dash of celery salt; but never ketchup. The complete assembly is sometimes called "dragged through the garden" because of the unique combination of condiments. It is considered taboo to put ketchup on a Chicago hot dog; some hot dog stands don't even stock the condiment."
So, there you've got it folks! Go grab yourselves a Chicago dog today! Or whip one up for yourself, now that you know what it contains. Personally, I liked this Chicago style better than your every day hot dog.... the more veggies you pile on the better! And I didn't even miss the ketchup.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Thai Curry (Evil Jungle Princess)

We once went to a restaurant in Salt Lake City called Thaifoon and ordered something called Evil Jungle Princess. It was a coconut based Thai curry. We loved it, and I decided to try to find a recipe for it. It has become probably Steve's favorite dish. It's got some crazy ingredients that might only be found at Oriental Markets, but it is well worth it in the end... *1 Tbsp Red Curry Paste
*2 1/4 inch Lemon Grass stalk- trimmed and bias sliced (can't get fresh lemon grass? Some places have it dehydrated and others have a lemongrass paste!)
*2-3 lime leaves (can't find these? just use a little more lemon grass and/or lime juice)
*2 Tbsp Palm Sugar
*1 Tbsp Fish Sauce
*1 Tbsp Peanut Butter
*2 Tbsp Sweet Chili Sauce
*13 oz Coconut Milk (not the sweetened kind, just regular)
*Chicken Breasts- cut to bite size pieces or strips
*1/2 cup fresh chinese long beans-blanched (these are like really long green beans, but slightly different. If you can't find these at your oriental market, you can just use fresh green beans. They aren't in the picture because they didn't have any the day I went to the market.)
*Red bell pepper- cut into 1/4 inch strips
*1/2 cup blanched Asparagus spears
*Canned Bamboo Shoots
*1 tsp Lime Juice
*1/4 cup Fresh Thai Basil- chopped (if you can't find Thai Basil.... you guessed it... just use
regular fresh Basil!)
*1/4 cup Frest Mint leaves- chopped
*Roasted Peanuts- chopped
*Jasmine Rice (or whatever kind of rice you want...)

(The measurements of vegetables and chicken are not to be followed too strictly. Just, add however much you want! You like lots of vegetables? Just put in however much looks good. I always put in a lot more than this recipe says. Don't like vegetables so much? Add more chicken and cut back on the veggies.)
Game Plan:
Don't forget to cook your rice!
While that's cooking.........
Combine the coconut milk, red curry paste, lemon grass, lime leaves, fish sauce, palm sugar, peanut butter, and sweet chili sauce in a saute pan. Bring to a simmer. Add the chicken, long beans, asparagus, and bell peppers. (I don't like my vegetables to lose all their texture, so I usually put the chicken in first and let it cook a little before I add the veggies). Cook until chicken is just done and the curry sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the lime juice and the fresh herbs. Mix. Serve over steamed jasmine rice (or regular rice) and top with chopped peanuts.
(Just so you know.... the lime leaves and fresh lemon grass aren't really intended to be eaten. They just add flavor to the dish. When you are eating it, just push them to the side of your plate. Or suck on them first then push them to the side. They taste good! They are just tough so you probably don't really want to chew and swallow.)