Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Italian Croutons

Leftover bread.  I have never had this problem.  Until last week.  I mean, leftover bread? Why?  I'll admit that I have been known to make biscuits and cornbread specifically for dressing (stuffing, whatever you want to call it.) but just to have bread that wasn't eaten?  It was a foreign concept to me.  But then I made burgers and cheesy metts and voila, leftover bread.  Well, buns technically.  

So, what's a girl to do with leftover bread?  Croutons.  Duh.  I love croutons.  I eat them as snacks.  I especially love homemade croutons.  It's the easiest thing you will ever do.  It's like 3 steps.  You can handle that, right?  Ok.  Maybe 4.  Cube the bread, mix herbs with olive oil, mix the bread and the oil, bake.  Simple, right?

Another great thing about making your own croutons? You can add any spice or herb you want! Planning on whipping up a southwest inspired salad? Coat your croutons with chili powder and cumin. Having Italian night? Galic, basil and Parmesan would make a perfect crouton! Just consider this bread your blank canvas!  This particular mix just happens to be my personal favorite. Just be sure to buy plenty of bread the next time you're at the bakery or grocery! 

Italian Croutons

4 cups of cubed bread, preferably not fresh
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, garlic powder, oregano, salt and red pepper flakes. 

Place cubes of bread in a large bowl. Pour olive oil and herb mix over the bread and mix well. 

Spread bread onto a parchment line baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool to room temperature and store in a plastic bag or air tight container. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Saucy Chicken Tacos

Fish tacos, ground beef tacos and now chicken tacos. Saucy Chicken Tacos to be exact.  I'll have to make shrimp tacos next to complete the superfecta. Speaking of superfecta's, it's that time of year again--live racing at Keeneland and the Derby is right around the corner.  I'm really going to try to get my act together and post some recipes that you could use for your derby party. You are having a derby party, aren't you? 

It's also getting closer to Cinco De Mayo and these tacos are the perfect way to celebrate! They're quick, saucy and super delicious! Add a side of rice and beans and you're all set. 

In an attempt to save money and be healthier, I made my own hard tacos shells. I already had corn tortillas in my pantry and couldn't find a reason to spend anymore money when I didn't need to. Bonus?  They're baked! There are a bunch of recipes on Pinterest to guide you through the process of making your own hard shells. Here's just one example.  Obviously, these will also be delicious with flour tortillas if you prefer soft tacos.  I am an equal opportunity tortilla lover.

Now, about this chicken.  It is saucy and southwestern-y and oh-so-perfect for tacos.  Did I mention it's super quick?  I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs to speed the process up a little bit.  Feel free to whip this tomato mixture up the night before and marinate it but you can also just throw it all in a skillet and go from there.

If you're like me, you'll have most of these ingredients already in your kitchen.  I have never used an entire can of chipotle peppers in any one recipe so I store them in an airtight container in the fridge.  I guess you could freeze them too.  Hmm…  I'll have to experiment with that.  Speaking of chipotles, I used two in this recipe but if you like things super spicy, knock yourself out.

This recipe is perfect for a weeknight.  It's quick, easy and delicious.  Add your favorite taco toppings and you are set!  I love white onion, cilantro, tomato, sour cream, lettuce and avocado.  I'm making myself hungry!

Saucy Chicken Tacos

1 package boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 5 or 6)
1 cup tomato sauce
2 chipotle peppers in adobo, finely chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lime
Olive oil

Preheat skillet over medium heat.

In a small bowl, mix tomato, chipotle peppers, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, organo, salt, zest and juice.  Add chicken thighs and coat well.  Pour the entire mixture into the preheated skillet.

Cook over medium heat about 5-6 minutes on each side.  12-15 minutes total or until it registers 160 degrees on a meat thermometer.

Remove chicken from pan, transfer to a cutting board. Roughly chop chicken and add back to the pan and sauce.

Spoon chicken into taco shells and add your favorite taco toppings.  Delicioso!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Chipotle Pimento Cheese and Bacon Burger

Yes, there is a burger under all of that pimento cheese

I have developed a slight obsession with making burgers. I also have a slight obsession with making pimento cheese. When those two meet something magical happens. When bacon joins in on the party it will transport you to another planet.   I used to consider myself a burger purist:  American cheese, mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion and maybe ketchup.  I guess that still holds true to some extent but I have broadened my horizons when it comes to burger toppings, like Kentucky proud beer cheese.  Have you tried that yet?  Well, do it.  Now.  It is my opinion that there aren't many things better than beer cheese.

Enough about the beer cheese though.  This burger features Chipotle Pimento Cheese which is just pimento cheese on vacation to the southwest.  The smokey chipotles with the creamy mayo and cheddar is basically a party for your tastebuds.

I feel like I've been so busy lately.  I'm ready for some down time.  By busy, I obviously mean watching basketball and Netflix.  To be honest, I might be a little depressed over basketball.  It was such an amazing season for my cats and they were a great group of guys.  Later today they'll probably all declare for the NBA draft.  Hence, I will throw myself into baseball and gardening.  I might even get the chance to cut the grass eventually.  It has been raining cats and dogs here lately!

Speaking of the garden, it is almost that time!  I've already started some seeds and will be finishing the rest of that step tonight hopefully!  So far I have three different types of lettuce, kale and a couple of herbs.  I'm planning on building some sort of contraption/shelving unit on my privacy fence to house them.  Bonus feature of that idea is that it should keep the rabbits out this year.  Fingers crossed! I'll be sharing the garden in some future posts depending on my level of motivation which has been very low lately.  Hence, the lack of actual cooking and blogging.

I get distracted rather easily, don't I?  I have made the transition into grass-fed beef land.  It really is crazy how different it tastes than conventional beef.  Or maybe I've just been brainwashed to think that. My burgers are always 1/4 pounders.  I season them simply because good beef just should be enough.  Plus, there is a huge flavor profile with the pimento cheese.  I have some other big plans for that pimento cheese, like using it at breakfast.  Stay tuned!

Chipotle Pimento Cheese and Bacon Burger

Recipe makes 4 burgers

1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
8 slices bacon

Place bacon on a foil lined baking sheet.  Place in a cold oven.  Turn oven to 400 degrees.  Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove bacon from oven and transfer to a paper towel lined plate.  Set aside.

In a medium size bowl, combine all ingredients.  Mix with your hands for best results.

Using a burger mold, form into 4 equal size patties

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Place patties in skillet.  Cook on each side for approximately 7-10 minutes depending on how well done you prefer your burgers.  Remove burgers from skillet and place on a foil lined baking sheet.

Meanwhile,  butter the buns and place butter side down on a baking sheet.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes or until they are golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

Top each burger with a dollop of pimento cheese (recipe follows) and place under the broiler, watching carefully, until cheese melts.

Remove burgers from oven and add bacon and your favorite burger toppings.

Chipotle Pimento Cheese

Yields 1 1/2 to 2 cups

1 (16 ounce) block medium cheddar cheese, grated
1 (4 ounce) jar pimentos
1 or 2 heaping spoonfuls mayo
2 chipotles peppers in adobo, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 lemon, juiced

Mix all ingredients together until creamy.