Sunday, August 16, 2009

Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

Do you remember the huge fad of no carb dieting? I well remember my co-workers on the no carb kick and walking around snacking on pre-cooked bacon as a snack proclaiming their love for this wonderful diet in which you can eat as much bacon as you want! I thought it was a horribly misguided diet strategy, even though I don't' know beans from apple butter when it comes to it's benefit or detriment, solely because it excluded my favorite things--carbs! I love pasta, potatoes, and bread.

Growing up my family would usually have buttered white bread, which my family called light bread, for evening meal. 10-12 stacks of bread on a plate with margarine for spreading. I really loved buttered bread, and still do. Sometimes we would have canned biscuits with apple butter and I would be in heaven. Do you remember when KFC had dinner rolls instead of biscuits? I do, and loved them. Holidays meant wonderful homemade
yeast rolls that I could eat an entire pan of on my own. Exercising restraint was not my strong suit. I mean, that's why they have elastic in underwear, right?

I whipped up these drop biscuits today for our lunch and really liked them so I thought I would share. These were mixed, dropped, and baked in 10 minutes! Now that's fast. If you have ever been to Red Lobster and enjoyed their dinner biscuits you will for sure love these. I found these to be much lighter with more flakiness and less chew. My second time around I'll add more cheese since you can't really ever have to much cheese
, right? Brushed with melted butter straight out of the oven then slathered with butter is just about all you need to be carried away to carb land.

Garlic Cheddar Drop Biscuits

1 1/2 cups Baking mix (I used Bisquick)
1/2 cup butter milk (see note)
1 cup Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon Garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon Onion powder
2 Tablespoons melted butter, reser

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium size bowl add all ingredients, except butter and stir until combined. Drop by rounded spoonfuls (I used a large spring loaded scoop) onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes or until golden. Brush with melted butter and remove to a basket.

Note: If you are like me and rarely ever have buttermilk on hand, do not fret because you can make your own. For Real! Here's how: 1 tablespoon of white vinegar into a measuring glass, fill to one cup mark with Milk, stir. Let sit until ready for recipe (one minute or so).

The possibilities for these biscuits are really endless. You could put crumbled bacon and Swiss cheese in there, or finely chopped onions and dill, or your favorite herb for herb biscuits. Your creativity is the only limit to what you can do.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Oven Roasted Bacon

What would a southerner do without pork?
I can't remember a time when I haven't had bacon for breakfast, at times lunch, and often times at dinner. The smell of bacon can make me instantly hungry. It was the smell that woke me from sleep at my Robba's house every Saturday morning I spent with her. Unless she made pigs in a blanket. I have no idea what she did to that bacon or the pancakes she made from a box mix, but there is nothing like my Robba's pancake breakfast.
Today brought to an end my quest to fry bacon and not have it shrivel up into a tiny bacon crouton, or burn to a crisp. I like my bacon not too crisp, and certainly not too curly. That desire has left me with this love hate relationship to cooking bacon. I've tried everything from dredging the bacon in flour to fry it( please do not try this) to cutting the bacon in half and cooking it, don't ask I was desperate. I finally came to the conclusion that low, medium high heat, and slow was the ticket, turning the bacon often to keep it from curling up was the ticket. That's pretty much how I've been cooking the bacon for the past six years, until today.

I was watching Food Network yesterday before the house woke up and happened upon Tyler's Ultimate, a show I enjoy if happened upon. I can't remember what his theme of the day was, but he roasted bacon in the oven, for a recipe and was immediately intrigued by this process. He mentioned that it was how restaurants do it to crank out bacon for 500 and when I saw the beautiful flat, not too crisp bacon I knew I was about to embark on a life changing experience. I had heard of cooking bacon in the oven, but always passed it off thinking it would not be such a good thing. Of course I had not seen it done until yesterday. I marched myself down to the kitchen and preheated the oven to 400 degrees and grabbed my Pampered Chef bar pan and laid out a pound of bacon on the pan. Into the oven for 15 minutes, Tyler's suggested baking time. At the 15 minute mark I opened the oven and noticed that it was not quite done, five more minutes did the trick. This bacon was not too crisp, beautifully brown, flat, and very moist. Fat did render from the bacon, but not as much as frying which left more bacon flavor. By this time my kids were up and before I knew it a pound of bacon was gone! The pancakes weren't even done and the bacon was gone. One more pound in the oven. Roasting the bacon in the oven freed me up to focus on every other aspect of breakfast, I didn't have to worry about it one time.

My mind has been racing at the possibilities of roasting bacon ever since yesterday. Here are just a couple of the ideas I have:
  • Sprinkle the bacon with brown sugar before baking, for a great candied bacon.
  • Cracked black pepper, garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, dried Italian seasoning sprinkled on before baking. I think this would give ordinary BLT's a new attitude. Especially if you made the BLT on toasted cibatta bread with Olive Oil mayo, Roma tomatoes, and arugula lettuce.
  • Cracked pepper for peppered bacon
  • Chili flakes
The possibilities are endless. Never again will I fry bacon--it's over. I am so excited that I won't have to degrease my stove from the bacon splatter, or feel the pain of bacon grease popping onto my arm, cheek, or eyelid (OUCH!).

Here's are the steps, I dare not call this a recipe, it's not rocket science at all but will be a new era in your pork consumption.

Oven Roasted Bacon

One pound Hormel Black Label Bacon (it's my favorite)
Cookie sheet.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line the cookie sheet (make sure it has a lip) with bacon in a single layer, making sure the bacon does not overlap. It can touch, but just don't overlap. Bake for 15-20 minutes to desired degree of preference. Remove from oven and transfer to a towel lined plate to drain, or pat dry. I found that my oven took 18 minutes to get perfect bacon for my family's taste preference.

Thank you, God, for creating the pig!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tamale Casserole

Confession: I love casseroles! Whew! Glad that is out, now I can move on. I could eat a casserole every night and not tire of them. For someone who does not like his food to touch, and eats one thing at a time you would think that casseroles are on my "no" list, yet I just love them. I can remember as a kid watching my parents and grandparents eating family meals and being amazed with my grandparents ritual of taking the last 1/4 of each item on their plate and mixing it all together. It just did me in, every time. I know it all mixes together eventually, however I do not care to see the results of, that, mixture. It's weird. I'm weird. How about a casserole?

This is THE casserole to eat if you love tamales. The combination of subtle southwestern flavors come together with the sweet cornbread and hit every nerve in your body saying, "this is it." I've just about decided to make these casseroles in half pans and freeze one for later use. My family of four never eats a whole casserole for dinner. We can take out half of one, but the other half just sits in our fridge lonely and desperate for consumption. Served with a crisp green salad and southwestern dressing, dinner is done.

Tamale Casserole
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn
  • 1 (8.5-ounce) box corn muffin mix (I use Jiffy)
  • 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce (such as Old El Paso)
  • 2 shredded cooked chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup sour cream


1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Combine 1/4 cup cheese and next 10 ingredients (through chilies) in a large bowl, stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray, or portion out the mixture into your baking dishes. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until set. While cornbread is baking: place shredded chicken in a bowl, add just enough enchilada sauce to moisten chicken, set aside.

3. When cornbread is set, remove from oven and pierce entire surface liberally with a fork; pour remaining enchilada sauce over top. Top with chicken; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces; top each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Life in the fast lane

Do you find yourself busy as a beaver...a cranberry merchant at Christmas...a long tail cat in a room full of rockers? Are you sick of feeding your family through a drive through and find yourself just wishing that you could eat something that wasn't wrapped in paper? Well if you are in this boat then this recipe might just help you out. It's super simple, limited ingredients, and varied as your imagination can make it. This dish can have dinner on the table in a matter of minutes! How's that for getting your family out the door and on your way with a home cooked meal?

First the cast of characters:
1 lb. of ground beef
1 can of beef broth
1 box of Rice A Roni
1 stick of butter (you won't use all of the stick)
2 tsp. Garlic Powder (or 2 cloves crushed fresh)
2 tsp. Onion Powder (or 1 cup of chopped fresh)
Salt and Pepper
That's it, nothing more that you need to get dinner on the table lickity split!
Place your ground meat in a large skillet, into which you have poured 1 T. of olive oil and fry over medium heat until it is browned. Once you see the meat starting to brown, add your seasonings (and if using fresh veggies, those too) and continue to cook until the meat is brown. Remove from your skillet and place on a plate to rest while you get the rice a going.
Let's talk for just a minute about frying meat. There's not much in the world I hate more than wormy meat. When meat is fried unattended and cooks without being broken up, looking wormy. It's just not fun for me. One of my good friends, Ana Marquez, who lives in Fort Worth, TX share a secret that her family uses in their restaurant business, a potato masher! That's right friends, a potato masher.

Using a potato masher allows the meat to be broken up, giving you an even texture and making your meat consistently smooth and no clumpy and wormy. I, for one, like smoothly textures ground meat and not all huge clumps. Maybe you are different, but I can tell you this--use a potato masher up until the "clumpiness" you prefer and you'll want to buy me a Starbucks gift card (worth $100 please email me for the address).

Look at this picture to the left, remember we're cooking turkey so that's why it's not more brown. But you can see that there is even texture, and that there are no clumps or worms. At this point you can add your sauce, taco seasoning, or whatever. Hey freeze the stuff and have it on hand for an even quicker week night meal! I think I'm done...are you convinced that you need to mash your ground beef? I sure hope so.

Ok, back to the show. When we last left our pan, it was lonely having just said goodbye to some perfectly fried ground turkey. Place two tablespoons (use the package directions on the Rice A Roni and go by what they say) of butter in your skillet and melt it. Pour in the rice and vermicelli and brown. You'll want to let this set for 1-2 minutes before stirring because you want to get the vermicelli browned and toasty. It's very important for you to not leave your post because you can burn this quick and then you would have to unwrap your food from paper through a drive-through AND clean up the kitchen to boot. Just stand there for 3-4 minutes and stir the stuff, ok?

My personal preference for "perfect" Rice A Roni" is to have some of the vermicelli browned but not completely browned all the way through. It is probably more of a fear that I will burn it, because I have burned my fair share of Rice A Roni over the years. This picture is of what I would call perfect rice. Now, you are ready to pour in the Beef Broth (instead of the water called for on the box directions.) which I love because it increases the beefiness of this dish 100% especially if you are using ground turkey! After you pour in the beef broth, you'll add the seasoning packet and give it a quick stir, so all the powder is completely mixed in. Add the ground beef, stir, cover, and cook it according to package directions. I think it's like 25 minutes or something, covered on low. How about this shot I took of motion? On a camera phone none the less. I love to read Pioneer Woman's blog and she takes motion pictures all the time and wondered if my phone...i mean camera...would do it--viola! It does.

While this is cooking, you have time to cut up fruit and throw in a bag of Steamfresh veggies to finish off the dinner. I usually put some crescent rolls in the oven because by the time the oven heats up and the bread bakes the rice is ready and the hot fresh bread is ready. You can do salad or whatever you like with this dish.
Here it is all done. If my kids didn't do convulsions at the sight of green stuff, I'd add some fresh parsley, or some mushrooms. It's really versatile and super easy to do. Plus the bonus is one dish, one skillet, that will fit in the dishwasher.

You could use Pork Rice A Roni with Sausage, and chicken broth to mix it up. You could do ground chicken, with Chicken Rice A Roni and chicken stock. It's really up to you to decide how far to take this. This dish is one of all my kiddos favorite things to eat because they all love ground beef, rice, and having them together with nothing else to corrupt is just bonus all the way around.

I do want to let you know how awesome these steam fresh bags are. I just love them because the veggies are perfect every time with out any failures at all. We usually dump the veggies into a bowl and season with 1T of butter and Mrs. Dash or whatever we have on hand, but you could just serve these from the bag on to the plates to save time and another dirty dish.
I love this medley because it has crunchy, sweet white corn, yellow corn, carrots, and asparagus. It is really good. There are a ton of varieties and they really, really do work. You can trust me on this. Do make sure you read which side needs to be up--it matters. Also holding it where it says matters, unless you like steam burns.