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Sunday, January 25, 2015

BBQ Chicken Quesadillas and Chicken Tortilla Soup

Hotel gift shops tend to be terribly overpriced.  But, that was my only choice last week.  We'd flown to Palm Springs for my broker/dealer's investment advisory conference.  Talk about the luck of the Irish.  Connie'd bought the tickets for 6pm instead of 6 am.  That meant we'd get in AFTER the conference had started.  Turns out we had an ice storm in Indy so we had a better shot at getting out at 6pm rather than rescheduling from the cancelled 6 am flight.   Once we landed in Palm Springs, Connie started talking about In and Out Burgers.  Animal style.  With special sauce and sautéed onions.  Thank you to my wonderful friend Robin for teaching me that trick!  Even at 10 at night the burgers were wonderful.  The fries, not so much.  But the burgers, really memorable!  Then we were off to the hotel where we pretty much tossed our suitcases on the floor and crashed.  The keynote speaker the next morning was one of my all-time favorites, David Kelly.  He's an economist who's originally from Ireland so he delivers his analysis in the most delightful brogue.  Four pages of notes and an hour later, we were ready to dig into the breakout sessions.  Over the one and a half days, we did ten sessions.  Only one was a clunker.  The second morning the keynote was Brian Billick.  One of the stories he told was of having to cut guys from the roster prior to the season opener.  He realized about halfway through cutting a fellow that he was in the midst of cutting a guy he wanted to keep.  So, he pointed his finger at him and said, "Now, you know what it feels like to be cut.  I don't ever want to see you in here again.  Get out there and get busy!" 

Tuesday evening after drinks in the lobby bar with our friend Windus (who was VERY comfy - lol,)

we went to a lovely restaurant called Cork Tree with our friends, Nadine, Helene and Nadine's hubby.  Talk about perfection.  The service was great and the food was fabulous.  If we lived nearby we'd be regulars.  We all started out with duck confit tacos.  Then, Connie and I split scallops with a heavenly lemon risotto and a duck breast with a wild mushroom risotto.  It was amazing.  Our incredible waiter, Michael, suggested a bottle of Patz and Hall Pinot Noir.  That will become a regular with us!

Dinner was early and the sun was still out so we enjoyed another glass of wine on our balcony.  Here's the view:

Wednesday morning during one of the breaks, I headed to the Marriott's gift shop.  I'd seen some cookbooks in the window so thought I might just find something I'd love.  Ten cookbooks later and they were all overpriced and I wasn't excited.  Then, I saw the one by Donna Kelly called Quesadillas.  Still a bit overpriced but it did look really good.  So,  I bought it.  I was a couple of seconds late to the session taught by the chief legal officer of the holding company.  Who I've known for years and who greeted me by name as I slunk into my seat...  Sorry Gerry!  It was all I could do to leave the cookbook in the bag and listen.  I'm glad I did because Gerry did a great job of presenting.  Afterward Connie came up and laughed and said, "Cookbook."  Like this is a surprise!

From the conference we headed out on a Desert Adventures Tour.  Turns out there's an 840 acre ranch a bit northeast of Palm Springs that's used for these San Andreas Fault tours.  There's an oasis, a recreated Indian village and lots of fantastic rock canyons.  We tasted several of the plants that the Indians would have used as one of their primary food sources.  Fascinating.  Bonnie, out tour guide, was a wealth of knowledge.

see the line going across?  those are coyote tracks

that's palm fruit hanging down.  tastes just like dates!

water on the oasis

After that, our friends Gerry and Edna (who live "next door" in Yucca Valley) met us for dinner at a local Italian restaurant.  It was so good to get to spend time with them!!!

Thursday, we had breakfast at the hotel then walked the grounds.  Along the way, we met the fellow who owns the hawk who scares away the pesky birds like the sparrows who will swoop down and steal diners food! 

Then, we were off to Indy and freezing temps once again.  But, it was good to be home and see our furry kids and get back in the routine. 

Tuesday, I tossed a couple of chicken breasts in the crockpot with about half a cup of water.  About 10 hours later, I put them into a refrigerator container.  Finally, Friday, we were home for dinner.  It was time to try one of the quesadilla recipes.  I started with the bbq chicken one.  Now, we always have a ton of cheese on hand.  Not so much Friday.  No smoked cheese.  None.  It was time to improvise.  Instead of smoked gouda I used about half queso fresca and half extra sharp cheddar.  I also sautéed the red onions for a bit to soften the flavor. I'd highly recommend doing that.  We gave these quesadillas a five out of five.  And, a different quesadilla recipe is on the menu for next week!

The second chicken breast went into chicken tortilla soup.  Actually, truth be told, 2/3 of it went into the soup.  The other third was Connie's lunch.  You see, he's having a colonoscopy and was allowed plain chicken and cottage cheese for lunch.  Yum, huh?  I'd been reading Pioneer Woman's latest cookbook and it had a tortilla soup recipe so I decided that'd be a great place to start.  And, I'm glad it did because it was wonderful!  I made a couple of changes to the recipe.  First, I added a splash of lime juice.  Then, instead of the Rotel tomatoes, I used some leftover salsa.  I used the broth from cooking the chicken and added a couple of cups of water along with a bit of chicken Better Than Bouillon.  And, I left out the tomato paste and cornmeal.  LOL, I know.  Connie's going to faint if I ever serve him a dish made exactly as the recipe is written.  Now, one note, the recipe looks a bit intimidating given the long list of ingredients.  Just make sure you've got everything chopped and your mis en place ready to go and it'll come together in no time flat.

Barbecue Chicken Quesadillas


1 large chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1/3 c barbecue sauce (we use Sweet Baby Rays)
1/2 c thinly sliced red onion
1 t olive oil
1 T olive oil
1/4 c minced cilantro
4 c grated smoked Gouda or an equal amount of crumbled queso fresco and sharp cheddar
4 10" flour or wheat tortillas


In a small skillet, sauté the onion in the olive oil.  Once it's softened, toss it with the chicken and barbecue sauce.  Lay two of the tortillas in a large skillet that's slicked with about half a tablespoon of olive oil.  You'll want half of each in the skillet with the other half hanging over the edge.  Put 1/8 of the cheese on each tortilla.  Then top that with 1/4 of the chicken mixture on each.  Then, top with another 1/8 of the cheese and 1/4 of the cilantro.  Fold the other halves of the quesadillas over.  Once the bottoms are crisp and browned, flip the quesadillas and cook the other sides.  We didn't garnish our with anything but the recipe suggests you could use a sour cream paprika sauce or a white cheddar sauce.  As far as I'm concerned, these are perfect just the way they are!

adapted from Quesadillas

Chicken Tortilla Soup


2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (poached and shredded or use a rotisserie chicken and shred the breast meat)
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t garlic powder
1 T olive oil
1 c diced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c diced green bell pepper
1/4 c diced red bell pepper
10 oz can Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies
4 c low-sodium chicken broth
3 T tomato paste (I omitted this)
2 t lime juice
4 c hot water (I added water and Better than Bouillon)
1 15 0z can black beans, drained and rinsed (the recipe called for two)
3 T cornmeal (I omitted this)
5 small corn tortillas (I used a handful of Tostitos Scoops, crushed)
diced avocado
diced red onion
sour cream
chopped cilantro
shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese


Ree's recipe calls for baking the chicken after drizzling it with olive oil and sprinkling some of the seasonings on it.  You can do that if you've got the time.  I didn't and it was just fine.  So, I started out by putting the broth, shredded chicken, seasonings, salsa (in place of the Rotel tomatoes,) and black beans in a big saucepan.  Then, in a medium skillet I sautéed the onion, garlic and peppers in the olive oil.  Once they were all softened I added them to the soup and heated everything through.  After the soup was in the bowl, I added the splash of lime juice and garnished it.  That's a bit more cumin on top of the sour cream. Here's how the soup went together:

adapted from the Pioneer Woman Cooks, Food from my Frontier

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ramona's Mini Cinnamon Rolls

I'm not quite sure where to start here.   Grandkids or curry?  Well, let's just start with curry.  It's not something I'm terribly fond of.  I'll put it in chicken green bean casserole or chicken salad with a bit of chutney.  But, a full-on curry?  Not so much.  One of the few things that's just not a favorite.  Now, keep in mind that I make the assignments for the Blogger CLUE Society.  Every month we're assigned a fellow blogger and asked to choose a recipe to make and post about.  It's a fabulous group of bloggers so I always love reading everyone's posts.  And, I get a LOT of great ideas for future meals.  Last month we stopped at the store and bought the things I needed so I could make one of the recipes that very night :-)  When I make the assignments, I decide up front what the formula will be.  Then, that's the way it is.  I don't look at the list.  I don't choose who I'd like to have.  I just pick a formula like one has six, two has seven...  So, this month I got a blog titled Curry and Comfort.  My heart sank.  I'd have to fix curry and blog about it like I liked it.  But, I'd soldier on and do it for the group.  Then, I started reading Ramona's wonderful blog.  It's not all curry.  In fact, a huge percentage isn't curry.  There are TONS of wonderful recipes there.  I had a list of fun things to try.  We were heading to Columbus over the holidays to see our kids and grandkids.  And, Ramona has some great kid friendly recipes.  One in particular caught my eye.  Our munchkins love sweet rolls.  They would love these mini cinnamon rolls.  So, Ramona, thank you so much for a fun morning with my grandkids.  They came in the kitchen all tousled and barely awake.  And, they left with full bellies from a fun meal!

Ramona from Curry and Comfort is delightful.  She's originally from Sri Lanka but has spent most of her life in the US.  It's no wonder she's got great recipes for kids since she's got two of her own.  And, like me, she collects cookbooks.  My hubby would be SO happy if I only had 400 like she does.  Last count I had about 1200...  One of the things I like about Ramona's blog is that she doesn't just do photos of the finished dish.  She shows you along the way what the dish looks like.  And, she uses some convenience foods for those of us who are crazy busy.  One of our differences is that she loves spicy food and I'm not a huge fan of anything spicy.  So, instead of making her Asian Apricot Chicken Wings and taking the heat out, I focused on the recipes I didn't need to change thanks to me being a wimp!  But, I am so going to make those wings later.  And, just a note her, according to my friend, Christiane, Ramona has some fabulous curries on her blog.  Hopefully, you're a fan of curries and will go try some.  And, I promise, some day soon I'll try one myself. 

I'm going to let Rosie and Bradley show you how:

Unroll the dough from a can (or two - these don't last long) of crescent rolls.  Lay the two pieces out on a silpat or your very clean counter.  Press the seams together. 

Melt a tablespoon or two of butter (you'll need about one per can.)  Then, brush on the butter.  You see we didn't have a brush to a spoon worked just fine.

Sprinkle the dough with cinnamon and sugar and roll the dough up lengthwise. 

Cut each roll into eight rounds.  Put the rounds on a baking sheet cut side up.  Bake according to the package directions.  While they're baking, make some powdered sugar icing.  Pour about a cup of powdered sugar into a bowl.  Add about a quarter of a teaspoon of vanilla and a tablespoon of milk.  Mix well.  The kids did a magnificent job of sharing their tasks.

It should be easily drizzled.  If it's too runny, add powdered sugar.  If too thick, add milk.  Once the rolls come out of the oven, drizzle them with the icing.  Now, the trick is to keep everyone from snitching one so you can actually serve them with breakfast.  That's the reason for the second pan of rolls!  There's the finished product - with one missing already! - along with homemade sausage and quiche. 


Now, here's a list of the other bloggers who are participating this month.  Please stop by and visit them.
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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Still Celebrating!!

Happy New Year!

We celebrated with our normal seafood fest.  This year, though, we toned it down a bit.  It's usually a multi-course extravaganza with loads of leftovers.  This year we had a few leftovers to use for dinner with Mom.  But, not like most years. 

We've just kept celebrating from Christmas on...  We'd bought a duck to fix Christmas evening but truth be told we were having so daggone much fun relaxing that we never got it made.  The next evening I pulled out my trusty FARM Bloomington cookbook by Chef Daniel Orr and followed his directions for roasting duck.  Believe it or not, it was wonderfully moist and NOT greasy.  Now, what I'd do differently is really glaze it so it doesn't need barbecue sauce.  And, you could remove the skin and crisp it up.  We just removed it and tossed it...  Much healthier!

Then, Jim and Donna had their annual games party.  We both look forward to an evening of games, camaraderie, and snacks.  I took my friend Brett's pimento cheese.  It's kicked up from the normal pimento cheese we love.  Brett adds in some pickled jalapenos and toasted pecans. Did I get a photo?  Nope, so you'll just have to imagine. 

The first year I met Connie we talked about what we like and don't like about New Years Eve.  Neither of us like the big parties.  Staying home and having a special dinner is much more our style.  I asked what he'd like for dinner and he said, "Seafood."  He's from Boston and that's what a special meal is.  Seafood.  Off to the fish market I went.  Where I proceeded to buy about one of everything.  We must've had eleven courses.  You name the seafood, we had it.  Over the years, we've narrowed the menu down considerably.  This year it was grilled oysters and a seafood salad.  That's it.  It was pretty perfect! 

We used the leftover crab in a wonderful pasta dish.  When I read the recipe I knew it was the one for us because it not only had crab but also crème fraiche.  And, I had a cup of homemade crème fraiche from quiches with the kids.  I also had a bit of leftover tasso ham from the oysters and caviar from the salad...  Needless to say they were a great addition to the pasta!

New Year's Day is always a party at my brother's house.  Except this year there were going to be 29 there.  And, Mom has a bad back.  And, she's about 4'8 now and pushing 90 years old.  She and my brother John agreed she should stay home.  So, Connie and I took dinner to her instead of going to John and Pam's.  Actually, we stopped by their house since I'd promised to bring a Casa D'Angelo salad.  Then, we headed to Mom's.

I made pork loin in sauerkraut just like Pam's mom does.  But, I did mine in the crockpot to see how it turned out.  Fabulous!  Then, I made smashed potatoes.  It's a recipe from a restaurant in Santa Fe called SantaCafe.  These potatoes were so fabulous I bought the cookbook when there some 15-20 years ago.  Looks like it's still open so that's good news!  At any rate, these are lumpy potatoes with carrots and green chilies.  Not your normal mashed potatoes.  The first and only time I've made them for the crew at John and Pam's house, Pam's mom asked if I'd like for her to finish them.  You know, get the lumps out.  I said, no thank you, they're supposed to be that way.  She was scandalized.  Lumpy potatoes!!!  You see, they LOVE their mashed potatoes and they must be totally lump free.  My side of the family however prefers some lumps and bumps. 

You know, I just looked through photos to see what I'd want to put in this post and realized I totally forgot about one fabulous meal.  We make Mom's vegetable soup from scratch.  Using stew beef and beef bones.  We also had the trimmings from the beef tenderloin we were taking to the kids.  The butcher was kind enough to cut the beef bones in half.  We roasted them and feasted on the marrow.  It went on toast with some Himalayan pink sea salt shavings.  (Thank you, Liz!) 

Then, we used the beef to make a fabulous recipe from Michael Symon's Carnivore.

Throughout all of our cooking adventures, Wee Mac remains too tense.  Here he is valiantly guarding some cookbooks...

Let's start with New Year's Eve since this was the recipe to beat all recipes!  I got the recipe out of Wine Spectator.  It was in an article about the Reveillon dinner at Emeril's in New Orleans.  The original recipe called for 36 oysters and veal demiglace.  Since there were two of us I cut it down to 1/6th the original recipe and subbed in some beef Better Than Bouillon for the demiglace.  The original recipe called for 3/4 c of demiglace.  That would've translated to two tablespoons.  I used a teaspoon of the BTB. 

Emeril's Grilled Oysters


6 oysters, washed and patted dry
2 oz butter, at room temp
2 T veal demiglace (I used one tsp of beef Better than Bouillon)
1/2 fresh sage leaf, finely minced (I used about 1/4 t of rubbed sage)
1/4 t minced garlic
1/2 t lemon juice
1/4 t finely grated lemon zest
1/4 oz tasso ham, finely minced
smidge crushed red pepper flakes
1 T panko breadcrumbs
1/2 c finely grated romano cheese


Mix the butter with everything through the red pepper flakes. 

Shuck the oysters being careful to conserve the liquor.  Put the oysters on a bed of rock salt.  We used a 9x13 pan for six oysters.  Sprinkle the oysters with the panko.  The recipe actually called for a teaspoon of the panko.  By the time I was done sprinkling, I used closer to a tablespoon. 

Then, top the oysters with the butter mixture. 

Sprinkle them with the romano cheese. 

Since it was so cold out that the grill would've been fussy, we chose to broil the oysters.  Broil or grill just until the cheese has melted. 

adapted from Wine Spectator

Smashed Potatoes


5 small-medium russet potatoes, coarsely chopped
2 handfuls of baby carrots, chopped
2-4 T butter
1/3 - 1/2 c sour cream
4 oz can chopped green chilies (or chopped fresh green chile)
5 dashes Tabasco sauce (I omit this sometimes)
pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 c chopped green onion
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper


In a medium saucepan with water to cover, simmer the potatoes and carrots for about 20 minutes or until very soft.  Drain well.  Add the butter.  Smash with a potato masher.   Do NOT use a mixer as that will get them too smooth.  Mix in the other ingredients.  These make fabulous potato pancakes for leftovers...

Pan Roasted Sirloin with Mushrooms and Soy


1 2-lb top sirloin steak
kosher salt
1/2 t sugar
2 T plus 1 T canola oil
1 lb mushrooms cleaned and sliced (he called for chanterelles.  I had creminis)
1 shallot, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T fresh thyme leaves
1/2 c dry red wine
1 T soy sauce
1 T grainy mustard
1 T unsalted butter


You're supposed to start by rubbing the beef with a mixture of 2t of salt and the 1/2 t of sugar then refrigerating it overnight.  Problem was that I wanted to fix the beef for that very evening.  So, I just skipped the refrigerate overnight step.  If you do follow those instructions, please make sure to bring the beef to room temp for about half an hour before browning it...  Now, to brown it, heat 2 T of the oil in a skillet.  Once it's shimmering, pat the beef dry and put it in for about 3-4 minutes per side.  That'll give you medium rare.  Remove the beef and allow it to rest.  Make sure you put it on a plate or cutting board that'll allow the juices to accumulate and not run off. 

Now, in the skillet that you browned the beef in,

add the remaining tablespoon of oil.  Heat it to shimmering and add the mushrooms. 

You'll want them to get nicely browned so they'll need to cook for about 4-5 minutes.  Use medium high heat when cooking the mushrooms.  Now, reduce the heat to medium and start adding the other ingredients. 

First the garlic for about a minute.  Then, the thyme for another minute.  Then, the wine.  You'll want it to reduce by half before adding the balance of the ingredients.  Add the juices that've accumulated.  Slice the sirloin in very thin slices, against the grain.  Spoon the sauce over the beef.

adapted from Carnivore by Michael Symon

Crab Pasta with Prosecco and Meyer Lemon Sauce


2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, sliced
1/8 t red chili flakes
3/4 t kosher salt, divided
1 1/2 c dry prosecco
1 c crème fraiche
zest of 2 Meyer lemons
2-3 T Meyer lemon juice
1 lb shelled, cooked crab
1 lb fresh fettucine
1/4 c chopped flat-leaf parsley


The sauce will come together in about the time it takes to get the pasta cooked.  Start a large pot of salted water.  You'll want to bring it to a boil then add the pasta so it finishes cooking at the same time the sauce is ready.  While that's heating up, sauté the shallot and chili flakes in the oil in a medium skillet.  Once the shallot is softened, whisk in the prosecco and crème fraiche.  Over medium high heat, bring the mixture to a boil.  Once it's reduced to about 1 3/4 cups (which will take 10-15 minutes,) stir in the lemon zest, 2 T of lemon juice and the crab.  Remove the crab sauce from the heat. Toss the sauce with the al dente pasta and serve topped with some chopped parsley.