Chicken and Veggie Pasta Salad

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This is the most delicious, crunchy, delicious, fresh, delicious, satisfying pasta salad you’ll ever dream of tasting.  Did I mention it’s delicious?

My mom makes this one all the time and a hilariously favorite memory from my childhood is the time my mom was going to be super busy working all week one summer when my brother and I were around 11 and 14, respectively.  She made a gigantic Tupperware bowl full of this salad and we were supposed to eat it for lunch all week long.  You remember those green 1980’s Tupperware bowls that you could sit in?  One of those.  My brother was this knock-knee’d, pre-pubescent, bottomless pit and I’m sure we’d been swimming and he’d been working up an appetite all day.  Well, when my mom arrived home that evening, she found him sitting Indian-style with the giant green bowl in his lap eating the last morsels of this salad with a kitchen spoon the size of his head.  It didn’t even make it past Day 1.  Where that kid put the food, I’ll never know.

My recipe varies just a bit from my mom’s, so I’m sure once this is posted I’ll get an email subtlety alerting me to where I’ve gone wrong.  But, that’s my burden to bear.  So here’s how you make it.

The ingredients:

  • 1 lb. tri-color rotini
  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 med-large FINELY diced red onion
  • 2 cups FINELY diced cauliflower
  • 2 cups FINELY diced broccoli
  • 1 can large black olives, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bottle La Martinique True French Viniagrette
  • 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • Seasonings: cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, garlic powder

So, here’s the secret to this particular recipe.  Tiny, tiny diced vegetables.  I mean like half-the-size-of-a-dime tiny.  And don’t buy those gross pre-sliced olives.  Get the large or jumbo olives and slice them yourself, lazy.  From there it’s just a tiny bit of cooking and a stir to combine.

Dice up your veggies.  Remember…TINY.  Cauliflower, broccoli, red onion.  Toss them into a giant green 1980’s Tupperware bowl.  Or a regular big bowl, as I’ve done below.  You’ll lose the vintage-y aspect, but it will taste exactly the same.

Now slice up the olives and throw those in, too.

In the meantime, cook your pasta to the specifications on the back of the box and let it drain.

Now, in the same pot you’ve just poured your pasta out of, add a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Add in the chicken breast pieces that you’ve just diced…also TINY.  Season them liberally with cayenne pepper, garlic powder, a bit of salt, and black pepper.  I use a lot of cayenne because it’s the only spicy thing that’s in this salad and I like-a the spicy.

Stir to incorporate the seasonings and cook until just done.  Here’s what the process looks like (steamy pics to follow).

Now add the pasta and chicken to the veggies in the bowl.  Season again with a bit more salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Now, just add a big dollop of dijon mustard and about 3/4 of a well-shaken bottle of La Martinique.  This dressing really is imperative.  No impostors will be accepted.

Simply stir to incorporate and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.  Because you added the dressing while it was still hot, it may soak it up and appear a bit dry when you’re ready to eat it.  Simply add the remaining 1/4 bottle of dressing to moisten it back up.  Enjoy from 2 feet in front of the TV while eating directly from the bowl with a giant mixing spoon.  Or like a regular person.  Your call.

Wine Braised Pork Loin

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Hey yall.  Been busy.  Here’s an easy little dinner that’s always super delicious to get you over the hump.  Sorry about slacking on the picture taking.  I promise to do better in weeks to come.

The ingredients:

  • 1 small pork loin
  • 8oz dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced white onion
  • 1 handful baby carrots
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 handful cremini mushrooms
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

I buy these Hormel brand 1lb pork loins from the grocery and keep them in the freezer for a quick dinner every couple of weeks.  You can get them pre-seasoned (as pictured here) or plain.  I prefer the plain so I can season it myself.  They’re not tenderloins, so they need to be cooked correctly to get a tender end result.  Braising is the best way to do that, in my opinion.

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Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Chop celery and onion.

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In a covered pot that can go from stove-top to oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Season pork liberally with your preference of seasonings.  I just used salt and pepper for this particular roast, but get as crazy as you like.  Rosemary-garlic.  Lemon and herb.  The possibilities are endless.  Sear the meat on all sides.

Once the meat is browned on all sides, remove the pork from the pot and add the diced celery and onion.  Season and stir a couple minutes or until translucent.  Now, add a big ass glass of wine and a cup of chicken stock.  Let that come to simmer and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan.

Now it’s fool proof from this point on.  Put the pork back in, nestled in the wine reduction.  Dump in a handful of carrots.  Slice horizontally through an entire head of garlic and place that in the pot.  Toss in the bay leaves.  Your pot will look a little something like this before you put the lid on and slide it into the oven:

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With the lid on, put it in the oven for a low and slow 2-2.5 hours.  When you pull it out, it’s gonna look like this and your house is going to smell like heaven.

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At this point, I add a handful of cremini mushrooms and pop it back in the oven with the lid on for about 20 minutes.  You’ll be able to slice it like butter and I like to serve it over brown rice or mashed potatoes.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Chicken & Vegetable Stir Fry with Fried Rice

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Most Sundays I like to sit around the house in my pj’s watching Netflix nursing an Azalea hangover until it’s Game of Thrones time.  The typical hangover Sunday dinner tradition is to peruse the Shenghai II delivery menu for about an hour before ordering the same thing I always do and having one of my two favorite delivery boys, Mike or Earl, deliver it to my door while I apologize for looking the way I do.  MOST Sundays.

Last Sunday I decided I didn’t want to spend $20 on takeout that I was sure to only eat about $4 of before putting in the fridge and throwing it out 3 days later.  It was like I turned into a grown up for an evening.  A hungover grown up in her pj’s on her couch at 5pm.  It’s the best I can do.  A semi-grown up in pj’s that still wanted Chinese food.  Solution: Stir Fry.  And, of course, fried rice.  That’s right, because I’ve been absent with recipes for a couple of weeks due to a hectic schedule on my end, you guys get a two-fer this week.  You’re welcome.

I’m not gonna lie, you need a shit ton of ingredients to make this particular stir fry, but you could certainly scale back on the veggies and use what you have in your fridge.  This recipe also works with beef, shrimp or even tofu for you vegetarian weirdos.

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The ingredients (that I used):

  • 2.5-3 cups cold cooked white rice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 large yellow or white onion
  • 1 lb chicken breast
  • 1/2 zucchini
  • 1 large carrot
  • 4 fresh broccoli florets
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1/4 cup frozen green peas
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 green onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
  • chili oil
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce
  • red pepper flakes
  • vegetable or stir fry oil

Not to sound all Rachel Ray-ey here, because I would drop kick that annoying, pancake-faced, flat-chested little wench given even the smallest opportunity…but the rule does apply:  Need it twice?  Chop it once.

Many of the same ingredients will go into both the stir fry and fried rice, so even though they get chopped differently, do all your prep work up front and then you’ll be ready to cook.  The cooking goes quickly, the prep…not so much, depending on how fast you are with a knife.

Start with the chicken.  I used super thin ribbony slices of white meat.

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I set the chicken aside in a bowl and mixed in 1 1/2 tablespoons of corn starch, red pepper flakes (to your liking), and about 2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce.  That can chill in the fridge out while you’re doing the rest.  With the remaining 1 tablespoon of corn starch, you’ll make a slurry.  Basically, you need to mix it with a whisk or fork into about a cup of cold chicken stock and set it aside (sorry I forgot to take a picture of this step).

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Zucchini.  I like to chop mine into ribbons, so that they’re about the same size as the chicken.  Put it on a large plate for all your stir fry veggies.

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Carrot.  Peel it.  Cut about 2/3 the same way you cut the zucchini and the last 3 into a smaller dice for the fried rice.  Separate them onto their respective plates.

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Onion.  I used 1/2 a large onion and diced half of it for the fried rice and slivered the other half for the stir fry.

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Broccoli.  Slice about 4 large florets thinly for the stir fry.

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Celery.  Slice about 1/2 stalk into ribbons for the stir fry.

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Green onions.  I used 2-3 and chopped them on the bias.  1/2 for stir fry, 1/2 for fried rice.

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Garlic.  About 4 cloves, finely chopped for stir fry.

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Ginger.  Peel and finely chop about 1 tablespoon.  More if you like more ginger.  Less if you like less ginger.  None if you don’t like ginger.  Duh.  It goes on the stir fry plate.

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Now you should be all ready and prepared to begin cooking.  Get your ingredients all set by the stove.  This goes pretty fast.

Fried rice first. Get your shit together.

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Heat a pan or wok to med-high heat and coat with about 1 1/2-2 tablespoons of oil.  Add your veggies (minus the peas) and stir fry for 1-2 minutes.  Then add the eggs and scramble while you stir fry.

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Next, once the eggs are just cooked, add in the cold rice and keep stirring.

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Now add in about 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and 1/2 tablespoon of chili oil and stir, stir, stir.  I season with red pepper flake, too, but that’s your call.  I like it spicy.

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Finally, add the frozen green peas and stir fry for about another minute before transferring to a plate.  Give it a taste.  It’s delicious.

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The perfect use for leftover rice any day of the week.  Not just Hangover Sunday.

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But wait!  There’s more!

I switched pans because my wok is super small, but if you have a big wok (wink, wink), use it for both and clean one pan…like a boss!

It’s stir fry time.  Get your stuff within arm’s reach.  This goes fast, too.

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Add about 2 tablespoons of oil to a pan or wok over medium high heat.  To that, add your garlic and ginger and stir fry about 30 seconds.

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To that, add the chicken that has been marinating in the soy, pepper, and corn starch.  Stir fry that just until it starts to get some color.

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Now start adding your vegetables.  They can all pretty much go in at once.  Stir, stir, stir.

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After about 1 minute, it’s time to add the chicken stock/corn starch slurry that you mixed up earlier.  Pour that in and let it come to fast boil while you continue stirring.  It should begin to thicken after boiling.  Keep stirring for about 1 minute.  Add in about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and a splash of chili and sesame oil.

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After a couple minutes of stirring and sauce thickening, it’s all done!

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Enjoy your Sunday Hangover dinner without having to open the door to a delivery boy half naked this week!  Best when served hot while watching Game of Thrones.

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Rice and Gravy with Sirlion

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Fewer things in this world will fall as close to any coonass kid’s heart as a steaming plate of rice and gravy.  I have some friends from Breaux Bridge, LA–serious Cajun Country, that have recently made me aware that there’s a entire festival/cook-off hosted there annually where you can find what I imagine must be some of the best rice and gravy in the world. I’ve added next year’s event to my bucket list.  In the meantime, whenever I get the craving, here’s one in about a million recipes (you can make this with beef, pork, poultry, seafood, wild game, or just veggies) to have it in the comfort of your own home, coonass kid or not.  This is my sirloin version and it’s really delicious.

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  • 1.5 lbs. (or somewhere around there) sirloin steaks
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 1 large or 2 small onions
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Mushrooms (your preference/optional)
  • Flour
  • Cooking oil (olive oil or vegetable oil)
  • 3 beef bouillon cubes or 4 cups of stock
  • Dried thyme
  • Garlic powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt, Pepper, Cayenne
  • Steamed rice (duh)

The first step is to thoroughly season your steaks, front and back, with salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne.  Then, I lightly dust them with flour, reserving the remaining flour for later in the cooking process.

I use a cast iron skillet to cook this, but you can use any large heavy-bottomed pot or deep skillet.  Brown the steaks in a few tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil until dark golden on each side and set them aside on a plate to rest while you cook.

Next, finely chop the bell pepper, celery, onion and garlic and toss them into the hot pan with the meat drippings and oil.  Add more oil if necessary and stir until they begin to turn translucent.

Now chop and add the mushrooms and season everything with salt, pepper, cayenne, a bit of dried thyme leaves, and a pinch more cayenne.  Stir that all around for a bit until the mushrooms warm up.  If you’re not a mushroom lover they can totally be left out. Mushrooms are one of my favorite foods, so I add them to everything when I have the chance.  Completely your call.

As I’ve been cooking, because I didn’t have any ready-made beef stock on hand, I dissolved three beef bouillon cubes in about 4 cups of water with 2 bay leaves until it came to a low boil.

Next I added the reserved flour from the steaks, about 1/4-1/3 cup, and stirred that in to the cooking veggies, allowing it to cook for about 2-3 minutes over medium heat.

Now begin to SLOWLY pour in your hot stock.  Pour about a cup, stir, allow it to incorporate, come to a simmer, and then slowly add another cup.  Adding it all at once will make your gravy too thin.  Nobody likes thin gravy.  Nobody.

Remember those steaks that you browned earlier?  Those are going back in.  And all that meaty juice that’s on the plate?  That’s going back in, too.

Just nestle them right back into the pot, let them get covered with gravy, turn the heat down to medium-low or a very low simmer, cover the pot and let the magic happen.  It’ll take about 45 minutes to an hour, but magic WILL happen.  The steaks will fall right apart with the pull of a fork and make this blissful blend of meat, mushrooms and gravy right inside that pan.

Trust me, it’s worth the wait.  This picture doesn’t do it justice.  Enjoy!

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Garlic Basil Green Beans with Mushrooms

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I don’t have babies.  I just never wanted one of my own.  I always thought I’d make an exception when Anthony Bourdain, Clint Eastwood, or Ryan Gosling asked me to, but strangly enough, they never came a-knocking.  Whenever I’m around kids for extended periods of time my ovaries tie themselves up in knots.

I will confess, however, that I enjoy when my friends get pregnant. It helps to keep me out of the bars…a little. One of my nearest and dearest friends, Casandra, is currently expecting a little girl. So, instead of hanging like we used to, in a smoky bar demolishing a bottle of midshelf vodka, now we cook dinner and watch Game of Thrones.  It’s a nice break for me…sometimes.  Because I still like my vodka and am always drinking for two. Plus, she makes a pretty adorable pregnant person where I’m sure I’d just gain 100 lbs and have thighs that went all the way down to my feet.  Here she is, smiling and happy with totally normal-sized ankles:

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The other night Casandra and I got together to cook a dinner that anyone, pregnant chick or not, would be proud to eat and decided to create a blog post on one of my favorite go-to side dishes: fresh sauteed green beans with garlic and mushrooms.  Yummmm.

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The ingredients:

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  • Fresh green beans
  • 3-5 toes of garlic
  • sliced mushrooms
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • dried basil
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper

First, prep your green beans.  I chop or break off the viney-stem end and give them a good rinsing.  Easy as that.

Next, finely chop your garlic and slice the mushrooms.  We didn’t take a picture of slicing the mushrooms but we’re assuming you can use your imagination here.

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Fill a deep skillet with water, bring it to a boil, salt it liberally, then add your beans.

 

You just want to blanch them.  Cook them in the boiling water until they’re just tender enough to eat but still have lots of “snap” in them.  Test them to be sure they’re perfect before you pull them off to drain and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process.  Here’s adorable pregnant Cass doing the “green bean test”.

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Yep.  They’re perfect!  Drain and shock them in cold water and let’s move on.

In the same pan, add a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and begin sauteing your garlic.

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Next, add the mushrooms.

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Now, add about 1/2-1 tablespoon of dried basil and some fresh cracked pepper and let that all saute until it’s cooked over medium heat.

 

At this point, I have to physically restrain myself from eating the garlic and mushrooms out of the pan with a pair of tongs.  Do what you must.

Now add the green beans back into the pan and saute them with all that mushroomy-garlicy goodness until they’re steaming hot again.  Add some sea salt and stir until everything is hot and perfect.

The entire process happens in less than about 12 minutes and these are best when hot, fresh and right off the stove so plan on making them last, when everything else is almost done so they don’t sit around.

Now all that’s left to do is to enjoy this perfect side dish and soak up all your accolades for being the best damn green bean cook this side of the Mississippi.

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MOM’S Poached Chicken Salad

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Full credit for this delicious chicken salad has to go directly to my mom.  It’s her chicken salad recipe and she’s pretty famous for it.  When she started making this I remember her using her blender to shred the chicken little bits at a time.  It took forever.  Later that year was the Christmas she got a food processor.  Mostly because the whole family wanted chicken salad and we didn’t want to have to wait on it.  To this day she can be overheard referring to her food processor as her “chicken salad maker”.  I’m pretty sure it’s the only thing she uses it for.

I’m actually not sure if she’s going to be super pissed because I’ve shared the recipe today with all of you, but I’m going to take that chance…mostly because she lives 3 states away and out of smacking reach.  She’s got a helluva backhand.  Also, because it’s summer time and everyone deserves the chance to eat these chicken salad sandwiches out of a cooler on the beach of your choice.  It’s the perfect picnic food.  You’re welcome.

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The ingredients:  

For the poaching liquid:

  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Onion
  • Bay Leaves
  • Garlic
  • Parsley
  • Lemon
  • Salt
  • Peppercorns

For the salad:

  • Poached chicken breasts
  • Onion
  • Celery
  • Mayo
  • Garlic Powder
  • Black Pepper
  • Cayenne

I used this entire 1.5 lb package of chicken breasts when I made this batch and it made what I can only measure as a “SHIT TON” of chicken salad.  So if you make this much, be prepared to eat chicken salad at every meal for about a week.  Or just be a normal person and make less.  The measurements in this particular salad aren’t actually that important, just figure out a reasonable ratio and run with it.  I believe in you.

The first thing you must do is to create the perfect poaching liquid for your chicken breasts.  Poaching is simply cooking something in a simmering liquid of your choice.  Not boiling.  Simmering.  Think:  low boil or slow bubble.  I like to prepare the liquid and let it simmer for a 20-30 minutes before I add the chicken in this recipe, just to be sure the water has taken on the full flavor of everything you’ve added.  Here’s how I do it:

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To a large skillet I added a big handful of baby carrots (that had admittedly seen better days but were still ok to use for poaching), the tops and bottoms of a bunch of celery, a big handful of fresh parsley, a halved lemon–juice squeezed in, one quartered onion, and a palmful of both kosher salt and whole peppercorns.  Let that come to slow boil for about 20-30 minutes to really get the flavor out of the veggies then you’re good to go.

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Now add the chicken breasts.

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Bring it back up to a simmer and let that poach, covered, for about 20-25 minutes or until you can see no more pink in the thickest part of the breast when you slice it with a knife.

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It’ll look white and boring like boiled chicken.  That’s because it is legit what it is.  In the end it will taste delicious.  Trust me.

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Now clean all the weird shit off of the breasts.  Any gross fatty pieces or gummy ass ligament stuff has gots to go.  Bye Felicia.  Chop the chicken into manageable pieces and add them to your food processor aka chicken salad maker.

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Now give that a whirl.  You’re literally going for the tiniest shreds you can get.  Completely toe’ up.  Just when you think it’s small enough, pulse it a few more times to show it you didn’t come to play.

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Here’s what it should like when you’re all said and done:

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Now while your chicken was poaching, you were super smart and chopped up your veggies for the chicken salad.  You need 1 onion and about 6 stalks of celery for 3 breasts, so adjust your ratio accordingly for however much you’re making.  Here’s the big secret to this recipe according to Mom:  everything has to be chopped super duper tiny.  Like freaking microscopic.  But you can’t use your chicken salad maker to do it.  It has to be hand chopped for some ungodly reason.  The shitty thing is, she’s right.  A food processor will almost liquify the veggies and won’t chop them uniformly enough.  It really does have to be done by hand.  Don’t be a lazy asshole.

Celery:

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and onion:

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Now mix these tiny chopped vegetables with your pulverized chicken and add some mayo. I’m guessing I used about 1+ cups for this batch.  Basically, you want to use enough mayo that it holds together tightly but not so much that it’s mayonaissey, get my drift?  So just a bit at a time and stir it in until it feels right.  I added this much at first and then started stirring.

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Then I added another spoonful and the seasonings and it was perfect.

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For seasoning I like to add black pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne…salt only if needed.  Mayo can be salty sometimes so check to be sure.

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I think the cayenne is important.  It won’t be too spicy, but it will add a tiny kick.  You won’t regret it.  Don’t be a pussy.

Now, all that’s left to do is decide how to enjoy the perfect chicken salad you’ve just made. I like it on toast, crackers, pretzel chips, veggie chips, or on green salad.  Most of the time, I just eat it with a fork out of the bowl standing in front of an open refrigerator door if I’m being completely honest, however.  I do hope, for your sake, that you get the chance to enjoy it out of a cooler on the beach at least a couple of days this summer!

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However you enjoy it, be sure to give full credit to my mom when anyone asks about the recipe.  She is a sweet lady but she’s definitely not too proud to smack the shit of you.  I warned you about that backhand.

 

 

 

Holy Guacamole!

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I’ve just recently returned from an amazingly relaxing vacation in Cancun, Mexico where in only 8 short days I was able to accomplish several things:

  1. Get an amazing tan.
  2. Drink several gallons of tequila.
  3. Read 6 novels by the pool.
  4. Eat enough guacamole to feed a small 3rd world country.

Upon my return I’ve really let my reading habits go back to shit, however, I’m determined to keep my tan, tequila-drinking stamina, and new-found guacamole habit at their heightened levels.  I’m an achiever.

Guacamole is one of those things that’s super simple to make…it’s really all about finding the best ingredients.  First and foremost, the perfectly ripe avocado.

My proven method is to squeeze every avocado in the store until I’ve either found the ones I guess are perfect (just enough give) or ruin the entire bunch for all the other shoppers.  But, apparently, there are more foolproof methods.  The Kitchn Blog suggests checking under the stem to see if the fruit is ripe and perfect.  While another touch-and-go method I’ve used in the past is to simply buy them unripened (too hard to the touch) and put them in a brown paper bag overnight with the top rolled closed and the next day–Viola Davis!–they’re perfectly ripe and ready to use.  Great guacamole really does come from using the perfectly ripened, creamiest avocados you can find though…so do your best.

The ingredients:

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  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 1 small tomato
  • 1 handful of cilantro
  • 1 garlic clove
  • salt
  • crushed red pepper flakes

Half your three avocados.  Remove the seeds.  Score the avocados into large squares with a paring knife and scoop the sections into a medium sized mixing bowl.

Zest the lime and add the zest to the bowl.  Now coat the avocado with the juice of the lime and add about 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and red pepper flakes.  Stir to coat.

Next, finely mince about 2 tablespoons of cilantro and add that in.  Finely dice the small tomato and squeeze out the majority of the juice before adding it to the bowl.

Now just finely mince 1 clove of garlic and about 1/4 cup of red onion and add that in, as well.

Just mix all that together, mashing some of the larger avocado pieces and leaving some whole for chunkiness, taste it to be sure it’s spicy or salty enough for your tastes, and enjoy (with or without tequila).  Ole’!

Red Beans & Rice

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A Louisiana classic!  Let’s make some red beans!

Your ingredients:

  • 1 lb red beans, soaked overnight in cold water
  • 3 tablespoons of bacon grease
  • 2 small or 1 large yellow or white onion
  • 5 stalks celery
  • 1 1/2 lbs. smoked sausage
  • 1 ham bone with meat or 1 lb. cubed smoked ham
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chicken base (stock starter)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 5 scallions
  • Seasonings:  Tony’s, Cayenne Pepper, Black Pepper, Salt, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, Hot Sauce

Soak your beans overnight in cold water (or follow the package instructions for the “quick soak”), then rinse and drain.  Set aside.

Add about 3 tablespoons of bacon fat to a large heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat.  Here in the south, we’re raised to save bacon grease and store it a mason jar in the refrigerator.  I don’t know a self respecting southern cook who doesn’t have a jar of bacon grease looming in the back of the fridge.  If you’re not one of us, just cook a little bacon and use the grease left in the pan.  Yes, it’s an essential step in this process.

Next, finely dice your onion, celery and green onion and add that to the pot to cook.

Allow the vegetables to cook and soften and add the following seasonings, to your taste–but be liberal:  Salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, tony’s, and cayenne.

Now finely chop 4 cloves of garlic and add that to the party.  The veggies should be getting soft and translucent by this point.

Now, it’s time to add the meat.  I used about a pound of Cajun andouille sausage, and a few links of regular smoked sausage.  Chop into bite size pieces and add it to the pot.

I made a ham for Easter Sunday and reserved the ham bone specifically with these red beans in mind.  If you don’t have a ham bone lying in wait in your freezer, then you can simply grab a package of diced smoked ham from the grocery store.  I just added the big, frozen bone directly to the pot.

Now toss in your beans and cover it all with water, by about an inch.

At this point, I like to add a big, heaping tablespoon of chicken base, which is the same as stock starter or bouillon.  It adds more flavor along with about a dozen shakes of your favorite hot sauce and a few bay leaves.

Now bring the uncovered pot to slow, rolling boil and cook for about an hour.  You’re looking for some of that liquid to cook out.

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Give it a taste and reseason as needed.  If it’s too liquidy (you know how you like it), remove a bit of the liquid from the pot with a measuring cup.  Are the beans super soft?  If yes, then you can proceed to the next step.  If no, let the pot cook another half hour or so, continuing to stir often so nothing sticks to the bottom.

At this point, it’s safe to remove the ham bone (the meat should’ve all fallen off by now) and the bay leaves.

Once the beans are super tender, I take the back of a large spoon and SMUSH (technical term) about half the beans against the side of the pot.  That’s how they get all delicious and creamy.  You know how SMUSHY your like yours, so SMUSH to your own liking.

Then I add about 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley and let it cook over super low heat about another 20 minutes.

Serve with steamed white rice and enjoy!

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*Note:  Red beans freeze really well for up to six months.  I spoon them into quart size freezer bags once cooled and lay flat to freeze for easy storage.

Rotisserie Chicken and Gravy

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Ever buy a rotisserie chicken, eat half of a breast for dinner standing over the kitchen counter, then put it in your fridge to throw the rest away 3 days later?  Yeah, uh huh, me either.

Actually, this used to be my M.O. until I started making a conscious effort to waste less food.  When you live alone but love to cook, it’s not an easy thing to do.  Especially when you’re not a fan of reheated leftovers.

I give loads of meals away to friends and my favorite bartenders, and I freeze what can be frozen for later, but still lots was getting tossed into the garbage.  The leftovers from the go-to easy dinner grab, rotisserie chicken (found ready-to-eat in practically every grocery store), always seemed to end up there.

This post begins our series on great ideas for rotisserie chicken leftovers.  There are tons out there!  Tell us about yours in the comments below!

The other night after about 8 straight days of working without a break and surviving on Cheez-It snack packs and granola bars, I started craving rice and gravy…a southern girl staple.  I happened to have a 3 day old rotisserie chicken in the fridge, mysteriously missing half a breast, so I got to work.

Your ingredients:

  • Leftover rotisserie chicken
  • 1 yellow or white onion
  • 4-5 stalks celery
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or preferred cooking oil)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock (warm on the stove)
  • Seasonings:  salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, thyme, kitchen bouquet

Start with your chicken.  Separate the individual chicken pieces and then make slices with your knife in each piece.  I leave the bones in the dark meat but remove the breasts from the bone.  Set aside.

Next, finely chop one onion and 4-5 stalks of celery.

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Begin to saute the onion and celery in a large skillet over medium heat in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Add salt, pepper, and a pinch of thyme to season.  Stir and cook until the vegetables soften.

Next, add about two tablespoons of flour and stir for a few minutes over medium heat until the flour is cooked.

Now, slowly, begin adding your warm chicken stock about a half cup at a time, whisking as you go to incorporate it without lumps.

Bring this back up to a simmer and allow it to thicken into a gravy.  This should take just a minute or two of simmering.  Now, add a capful (from the 4 oz bottle) of kitchen bouquet.  I’d bet that’s about 1 teaspoon.  A little of this stuff goes a long way.  That’s going to make your gravy nice and brown and add great flavor, too.  Once that’s mixed in and everything is simmering, give it a taste and reseason to your liking.

Now add in your chicken pieces, cover and simmer on low heat for about 25 minutes, or until the chicken is falling apart.  Stir it often during this time to ensure nothing sticks to the pan.

Serve over steamed rice and enjoy!

Turkey and Chicken Chili Verde with Garbanzos and Hominy

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I cannot say enough about this high protein, low fat chili verde. It’s a recipe invention that came from a desire to figure out what the fuck a tomatillo was. I can say proudly today that I’ve made the tomatillo my bitch. And I’m going to share with you now how to make tomatillos your bitch, too.  Here’s how:

The ingredients:

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  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 lb. chicken breast
  • 1 can great northern beans
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 1 can white hominy
  • 1 small can chopped green chilis
  • 1 1/2 lbs. fresh tomatillos
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 fresh jalapeños
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 5 toes garlic
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • cayenne pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt
  • sazon goya (without the red color)
  • garlic powder
  • hot chili powder
  • cumin
  • oregano
  • coriander

First things first, chop your chicken into bite size pieces and add to a large pot to cook with ground turkey.

You have to season at this stage to give the meat plenty of flavor. So it’s now that I add 2 packets of Sazon (Hispanic food aisle, it makes Mexcan style dishes taste more Mexican), a 1/2 tablespoon each of salt and oregano and hot chili powder, 1 teaspoon each of cayenne, coriander, garlic powder and red pepper flakes, and a tablespoon of cumin.  Stir that all in and cook the meat through.

While your meat is cooking, get ready to handle up on those tomatillos. Essentially, you’re about to make a salsa verde. Break out your food processor. It’s gonna be easy. Promise.

Tomatillos come wrapped in their own little papery skin.  You have to peel that skin off, then give them a good rinse to wash off the sort of sticky film that lies underneath. After that, simply quarter them up and toss them into your cuisinart.

To the mixer you’ll now add a big handful of fresh cilantro, 5 toes of garlic, and two whole fresh jalapeños…seeds and all. Too hot for you? Take the seeds out then, pussy.

Now give that goodness a whirl until it’s all puréed.  Set it aside.

Chop up one yellow onion and one bell pepper into a small dice and add that to the cooking meat.  Open your small can of chopped green chilies and add those, too. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Now add your puréed salsa verde to the pot and toss in a couple-few bay leaves.

Now rinse and drain your beans. I really like using this mix of great northerns, garbanzos, and white hominy. The different textures and flavors are perfect for this chili. Add the rinsed and drained beans and hominy to the pot.

Give the pot a big stir and add three cups of chicken stock and a quartered lime (squeeze in the juice then just drop the lime right in). Bring the pot to a simmer and cook over medium heat for about 25 minutes.

Now serve yourself up a steaming bowl of chili, add a dollop of sour cream and garnish with some fresh cilantro. Enjoy your fiesta!

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