Sunday, October 31, 2010

Real World Cooking - Here we go again...

So the thing about the real world is that you don't always have the right ingredients or the time to do what you really want to do in the kitchen.  In the real world, today is Halloween.  And since this Halloween fell on a Sunday aka "a school night" I wanted to eat dinner before we went trick-or-treating.  I wanted something simple, tasty and reheat able.  I also would like to pretend that it's fall outside and not 83 degrees right now.

With all those factors in mind I settled on a Texas favorite - King Ranch Chicken.  Now, typically, K.R.C. is not the most low-cal, healthy casserole you can eat, but with a little tweaking it's easy to make it something you can have when the occasional urge hits.  I also decided I would make Mini King Ranch Chicken Casseroles - individual servings ready to go!

So I started with a store bought deli roasted chicken.  This is one of those great time savers that is worth the cost.  You generally won't pay but $1.00 more for the roasted chicken than you would for the raw one from the meat department, but you save a ton of time by having this ready to rock and roll.

You can see that you get quite a bit of meat from this little bird.  I'm going to use about 1 1/2 cups of chicken and this bird's generously provided about twice that.  I'm thinking chicken salad for lunches this week....I diced up the chicken into bite sized pieces, making sure I had about 1 1/2 cups ready to go.

Next, I diced a small onion and 1 green bell pepper and sauteed them over medium heat.

Once they'd cooked about 4 or 5 minutes I tossed in the cut chicken, 1/2 of a can of the healthy version of cream of chicken soup, 1/2 a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles (Rotel!), 1/4 tsp of chile powder, 1/4 tsp of garlic powder, some salt and pepper.

They all got mixed together well and heated through.

Next I cut about 6 corn tortillas into strips 1" wide.  I also sprayed the inside of my 7oz green Le Creuset ramekins with some Pam.

Now comes the fun part!  I started layering.

1st - corn tortilla....

2nd - chicken mixture....

3rd - grated cheddar cheese...

Then you repeat the layers one more time and your ramekins are full and look like this -

At this point, you can either bake your casseroles or you can cover and refrigerate them.  If you're ready to bake them, put them on a baking sheet, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, then bake the Mini King Ranch Chicken Casseroles for 18-20 minutes or until they're nice and bubbly.  Dinner!!!

Individual King Ranch Chicken Casseroles
Serves 6

1 small onion, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken breast
1/2 can cream of chicken soup (reduced fat works great here)
1/2 can diced tomatoes with green chiles (such as Rotel)
1/4 tsp chile powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
6 corn tortillas (6")
4 oz 2% cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sautee onion and bell pepper over medium heat for 4-5 minutes.  Add the chicken, cream of chicken soup, diced tomatoes with green chiles, chile powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Mix well and heat through.

Cut the tortillas into 1" strips.  Spray the inside of 6 - 7oz ramekins with cooking spray.  Layer tortilla strips, 1/4-1/3 cups chicken mixture then a bit of cheese.  Repeat the layers ending with a filled ramekin. Place all 6 ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes or until the casseroles are bubbling.

Calories 123, Fat 4g, Carbs 7g, Protein 14 g

Oh...and Happy Halloween!!!

I Have 12 1/2 Hours of Sanity Left

It's true.  In 12 1/2 hours I will throw myself into one straight month of literary abandon.  No, I don't mean I'm going to bury myself in books and not come out to see the sun.  It's time for National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo.  What the heck is that, you ask?  It's an annual event in the month of November in which the Office of Letters and Light encourages everyone who has ever thought, "I could write a book," to actually do it.

The challenge?  Write a 50,000 word novel  The time frame?  30 days  The fear factor?  High

I've participated in this before.  This ain't my first rodeo.  So, you would think that I'm prepared.  Don't hold your breath.  You think you have time.  You think you'll write some character sketches and maybe research parts of your planned plot line or locations where your protagonist lives or drinks or works or whatever.  Then you wake up and it's Halloween day and you've got 12 1/2 hours left, and there's a weeone to take trick or treating and there's laundry that needs to be folded and there's a dog that needs a bath so badly you can smell her from outside.

The great thing is that I'm not alone.  There are countless others around the world today in the same boat.  So what will I do?  I will fold the laundry, I will take the weeone trick or treating, I will at the very least schedule a grooming appointment for the pooch, and sometime around midnight I'll start writing...and I'll keep writing until the story is done.  Hopefully that will be before the end of the month and will include more than 50,000 words. :D

Oh, but don't worry.  We still need to eat.  I'll still be making dinner....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

7th Annual Pumpkin Carving Party

I think we all WANT to be that parent.  You know, the one that spends an afternoon with their child carving halloween pumpkins?  Sometimes, we just aren't.  That's why this event even came into being.  I figured we needed to carve a pumpkin and so did our friends, right?  So doesn't it make perfect sense to invite our friends over and host the most dangerous party there is - A Pumpkin Carving!  What's so dangerous, you say?  Consider that this event is comprised of parents, children, knives and booze...and you have your answer.

So below are a smattering of photos from Sunday's party.  You'll see carving, laughing, bobbing for apples, and just plain good snacks!  We had a blast!  Thanks to all of you who joined us for what had to be the HOTTEST Pumpkin Carving afternoon we've had yet!!!

The Beer...

The Weeone's costume 

My only niece - isn't she adorable!!!

The Food

Frankenstein Cookie Cake

Monster Mouths

The Snake (hotdogs in crescent dough painted by the weeone with food coloring)


Uncle Bill is the Weeone's OCP - Official Carving Partner!

The Girl Teacup and The Weeone

Bobbing for Apples

My youngest nephew

Aunt LaLa got in on the Carving this year too!

Happy Halloween Y'all!

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's Getting Hot in Here!

First, yes, the Annual Pumpkin Carving Party was yesterday. Yes, it was fun. Yes, there are photos and I'll share them later this week so you THINK I cooked when I really picked up take out Chinese or went to grab Mexican food. ;D I'm devious that way.

It's October 25th. Remember just a few days ago when I praised Fall for it wonderousness? I take it all back. Fall is taunting me. I want those crisp, beautiful, cool fall days, but what do I get? I get a 90 degree Monday on October 25th. Most people find themselves drawn to cool things to eat on hot days. But you all know me better than that, right? So what do you think I made today?

Yep. Soup.

Now, I have had a life long love affair with Tomato Soup. It's my favorite soup. It's my soup soulmate. I luuuuurrrrvvvveee it. As a kid I ate the Campbells Tomato Soup and it was fine. As an adult who loves to cook, I love to make different types of Tomato Soup. I've made lots of different recipes over the years. Tonight, I wanted to wing it. No recipe, just me, my taste buds and whatever ingredients I had to make do with. Welcome to Real World Cooking 101.

Now, you can't have Tomato Soup without Grilled Cheese. It's like salt without pepper, mac without cheese, the weeone without headbands - it's just not right. And luckily I had half a baquette and some sliced sharp cheddar on hand!

Game. On.

So, here's how it went down in my kitchen tonight. I started with a full 32 oz container of chicken stock because, well, I think all soup recipes should start with a full 32 oz container of stock. It just makes the calculations so much easier. ;D Pour that into a soup pot that is at least 4 qts. Put the pot over medium heat.

To the stock I added 2 15oz cans of organic diced tomatoes. I didn't have any fresh or canned crushed, but you could use either. Although if you use fresh you'll cook them a bit longer.

I let the tomato and stock mixture heat until it just bubbled. Once it did, I added 1 cup of fat free half and half. You could use heavy cream here if you'd like, but I find that subbing the half and half is a nice way to cut the fat out but still get some creaminess.

At this point I added some Italian seasoning and salt and pepper, just a few shakes of one and a few grinds of the other. Let the soup come to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer it for at least 15 minutes. The next part is my favorite. I like gadgets. I do and I can't help it and I won't apologize for it. So it stands to reason that the part of making Tomato Soup where I get to wield my immersion blender would be fun. Power tools for the kitchen. So, yes, if you have an immersion blender then process the soup until smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender you can put the soup, in small batches (small is key here!) into a regular blender to process - be aware that hot soup in the blender can grow and force blender lids to go flying across the kitchen followed closely by the soup itself....not that I would know from personal experience or anything!

Now, you've got your soup! Next, the grilled cheese sandwiches. I fyou slice the baguette on an angle you get a prettier sandwich, but really, just slice it to the thickness you'd like.

Heat up a skillet or if you have a double burner griddle pan like mine - it's great for this sort of thing. It's also great for pancakes, in case you're trying to figure out why you should go buy one. ;D I know, I'm helpful.

Then butter one side of each slice of bread, put some cheese inside and....grill! Don't forget to flip before they get too dark unless of course someone in your family likes the slightly burned grilled cheese! We used to pawn the burnt ones off on my brother when we were kids.

So you put those two items together and you have dinner.

So, when it finally gets cold in Houston, how much do you want to bet I make ice cream....or popsicles....

Tomato Soup
Makes 4 2 cup servings

32 oz chicken stock
2 15 oz cans organic diced tomatoes
1 cup fat free half and half
Italian Seasoning to taste
Salt & Pepper

In a 4 qt pot heat chicken stock and tomatoes until they just bubble. Add half and half, stir in and heat to a boil. Add all seasonings. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Process with an immersion blender until smooth. Makes 4 2 cup servings.

Calories: 110, Fat: 0, Chol:12.5mg, Sodium: 930mg, Carb: 22.5g, Fiber: 3.5g, Sugar 15.5g, Protein: 7.25g