Sunday, January 27, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Well, folks, here's this week's plan. We had a few carry-overs last week from some schedule changes, so you may recognize a few entries. Beware: upon further reflection on this week's menu plan, I realize that it is not in any way diet-friendly. I blame it on the baby's need for rich, heavy foods, so if you have a problem with it, take it up with my unborn child!

And, FYI: I'll let you, the reader, choose what recipes I post this week. Just leave a comment! If I get no comments, I'll know that it's time to spice up my menu plans.

Chicken and Bacon Corn Chowder

Yellow Rice

Schultzie's Mess
(inspired by Guy Fieri's Food Network Show "Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives." This artery-blocking delight can be found at Schooner or Later, a restaurant in Long Beach, California. The menu describes it like this: "This world famous, local tradition is a tasty blend of chopped ham, onion, and bell pepper grilled with hash browns and eggs. Topped with melted Cheddar cheese.")

Maple-Sesame Bacon Fried Rice

Crunchy Chicken Fingers
Potato Wedges


Who knows? But I'm taking homemade salsa and some BBQ Cola Smokies to a friend's house for the Super Bowl.

Pork Steak was on sale last week, so that may find its way into the menu rotation. It would probably take the place of the Crunchy Chicken Fingers meal, and I'd just switch to baked potatoes instead of wedges.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Looking back at past weeks' menus, I noticed a lot of repeats. Really, how many times did I schedule Pot Roast? It's sort of amazing how we get in a food rut, eating the same 10 things over and over again. So this week, to remedy the rut and shake things up a little bit, I'm digging up some menu items from the archives.

Pork Chop and Rice Hot Dish
Green Beans

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Corn on the Cob

Beef and Noodles
Cucumber Salad

Maple-Sesame Bacon Fried Rice



Find hundreds more menu ideas every Monday over at!

Friday, January 18, 2008

White Chicken Chili

Back before my husband and I tied the knot and he whisked me away to the land of promise, I worked for a small, non-profit organization. I was there for three years, and I loved it; hundreds of miles away from my family, they became my local family.

One of the days I most looked forward to was soup and salad potluck day. One of the dear ladies I worked with, Betty, always brought in her signature soup, a White Chicken Chili. It was, among so many delicious options, my personal favorite, a fact that I shared with her on more than one occasion. I remember having the feeling that its recipe was a closely guarded secret, and I always imagined Betty in the kitchen tinkering with this and that until it had arrived at perfection. Looking back, I'm pretty sure I alone manufactured that story; I can't remember a single shred of evidence to support it. (At least, I hope that's true--otherwise, I could be in big trouble for sharing this recipe with you.) But it seemed a much more romantic and intriguing notion than reality: Betty, under shroud of night, clutching her cumin and cayenne, casting furtive glances about to check if anyone was hiding in the shadows, watching her develop her secret soup formula. She probably got the recipe from a book somewhere, but that isn't very exciting, is it?

When it came time for me to wed (doesn't that sound old timey?), the ladies I worked with threw me a bridal shower. Most gifts came from my registry, but there were, of course, several exceptions: some hand-knit dishcloths, a decorative wooden rooster (thanks, Sandy), a soup tureen with bas relief grapes and squash and things on it. The soup tureen was from Betty. I hadn't registered for it, and to be truly honest, it wasn't really my style (sorry, Betty, if you're reading this). But tucked inside that tureen was the best present I received all day: Betty's White Chicken Chili recipe.

I have since seen many versions of this recipe, and I'm sure they're all quite similar, but I've been making this one for years because it was a gift to me, and I love it. I'm passing it along to you in the hope that you will love it, too.

White Chicken Chili
1 48 oz. jar Great Northern Beans
4 cups chicken broth
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 (4 oz.) cans chopped green chilies
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. ground oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 cups cooked chicken, diced

In a large dutch oven or soup pot, saute onion in oil until tender and translucent. Add chilies and spices and mix thoroughly. Add beans, broth, and chicken, and stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour.

Serves 10

Betty even noted for our information: 415 calories, 16 grams of fat per serving.

Being health conscious, Betty probably doesn't do what I do after the soup is done: ladle it into soup bowls, and top it with shredded cheddar and a dollop of sour cream. But it's really, really good that way, even if you have to throw those 415 calories and 16 grams of fat out the window.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ranch Oyster Crackers

I had the classic City Grandparents/Country Grandparents arrangement growing up. My dad was raised in the city, and visiting his parents meant Pepsi and Pringles and takeout pizza. Visiting my mom's parents out in the country meant corn on the cob fresh from the field, popcorn popped on the stove, and these oyster crackers. At the time, I probably preferred the City Pepsi and Pringles. But now, looking back, I have exceptionally fond memories of the Country fare, especially these crackers, which grandma kept in a huge yellow Tupperware bowl that seemed to have no bottom.

They take about 30 seconds to prepare, and they are delicious--and amazingly addictive! I now bring them to my husband's Family Christmas every year, and they go fast. They've become a family favorite of a whole new family. Give them a try!

Ranch Oyster Crackers

2 (12 oz.) bags oyster crackers
2/3 c. vegetable oil
1 envelope dry Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix
1 tsp. dill
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (NOT garlic salt)
1 tsp. celery seed (optional)

Dump crackers into a gallon Ziploc bag. Pour oil over top, close bag, and shake bag to distribute oil. Open bag, dump in herbs and dressing mix, seal bag, and toss around until all of the crackers are coated.

These are great right away, but even better after the flavors have had a chance to combine. They keep for a super long time in your cupboard, but don't expect them to last that long!

Chocolate Pie

A month or so after Charis was born, I had a craving for a Chocolate Pie. The only way I had ever thought of making a Chocolate Pie was to use a box of pudding mix--either instant, because it's easy and takes 5 minutes, or cook-n-serve, if I wanted to be really fancy. Now, in my life, I have not been a very discriminating pudding consumer; I was always more than satisfied with these box mixes. But now, at a time when I wanted Chocolate Pie--yea, NEEDED Chocolate Pie, I had nary a chocolate pudding mix box in the house. Shootfire.

Luckily for me, my mother was staying with us at the time, and she suggested that we make Chocolate Pudding from scratch. Pshaw! I thought. I don't know if I want it that bad. But she hauled out the Hodgson Mills cornstarch box and showed me the recipe for vanilla pudding, and, by george, it did look easy. She suggested adding chocolate chips to the hot pudding to make it a chocolate pudding--so we did.

Land sakes, it was good, and much simpler than I expected. The resulting pudding was much richer and tastier, and less chemical-y than its boxed counterpart. We layered it in a cooked pie shell (I use Pillsbury Pie Crusts because I have never met a crust recipe whose flavor I like better, and hey, how easy is pre-made?) with a whipped cream topping, and it was divine. Now, it's one of Abe's most requested desserts.

Chocolate Pie

1 pre-baked 8"-9" pie shell
2 c. whipped topping of choice (I usually use Cool-Whip, but we've also used the real stuff, and it's wonderful, too.)

1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. corn starch
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. milk
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. chocolate chips (I prefer Hershey's Special Dark Chips)

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually stir in milk until smooth, then whisk in the egg yolks.

Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat, and let boil for 1 minute.

Remove from the heat, and add the vanilla and chocolate chips, stirring until the chocolate is all melted.

Pour into prepared pie shell. Cover surface with plastic wrap or waked paper to prevent a tough skin from forming. Chill until firm, about 3 hours. Remove wrap, top with whipped topping, and serve!

Menu-Plan Monday

Back again. Just a reminder--you can always head over to for more Monday meal ideas (by the hundreds!).

I forgot to post the recipe for Parmesan Potatoes last week, so forgive me. I will post that ridiculously easy recipe today. Look for more recipes this week!

Steak Salad w/raspberry vinaigrette (recipe to come!)
Roasted Green Beans

White Chicken Chili (recipe to come!)
Yellow Rice

Grilled Cheese
Tomato Soup

Shepherd's Pie

Chicken and Dumplings

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Rissole Potaotes

I used to have a subscription to a very useful magazine called Cuisine At Home. There are a lot of cooking magazines out there that I don't have a real use for; they're full of recipes for Tofu-this and Curry-that, which is not how my family rolls. Cuisine At Home is a cooking magazine, but it's typically filled with amped-up classics like fried chicken, pot roast, pizza, and apple pie, and soon-to-be favorites, like chocolate bread pudding, so it's actually a handy magazine to have around--particularly since every recipe is detailed and illustrated. Toward the end of my subscription, I found that the editors included a few too many seafood recipes for my liking, but before that, not an issue passed where I didn't pick up some very useful tips--tips that ranged from How to Make the Perfect Pizza Dough to Deglazing a Pan to Making Simple Syrup.

This recipe accompanied a recipe for Beer-Braised Brisket. While I haven't made the brisket yet, I have made these potatoes several times, and I believe they're Abe's favorite potato. They're a tiny tiny bit hands-on, so I don't make them super often, but when I do, they're always a delicious treat. The resulting potato is crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside, and buttery all the way through. They're perfect alongside any roast meat. Or air, for that matter. They're frankly just perfect.

Don't let the phrase "tiny tiny bit hands-on" turn you off--at least read through the recipe to see that, though these potatoes have a couple distinct steps, they're really quite easy. Plus, you'll get a cooking gold star for being able to parboil, steam, AND fry--all in one dish. (It sounds more complex than it really is!)

Rissole Potatoes

1 1/2 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks (2 in. or so); OR use small red potatoes, and leave whole.
6 Tbsp. Butter, divided
2 tsp. dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Parboil potatoes in a saucepan for 10 minutes; drain.

Melt 4 Tbsp. butter in the pan over low heat. Add potatoes, cover pan with a lid, and cook over low/medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Swirl the pan occasionally to stir, holding the lid in place.

Uncover pan and increase heat to medium-high. Saute potatoes 10 minutes, turning potatoes until golden brown on all sides.

Place remaining butter and parsley in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Melt butter in microwave, and stir to combine with parsley. Pour over potatoes before serving, and add salt and pepper to taste.

adapted from Cuisine At Home, October 2004

Monday, January 7, 2008

Menu-Plan Monday

Happy Monday! Here's our menu plan for the week. I've marked this week's upcoming recipes in italics.

Meatball Subs
Parmesan Potatoes

Hawaiian Ham
Pineapple-Almond Rice Pilaf

Pot Roast
Rissole Potatoes
Glazed Carrots
Garlic Bread

Shredded Beef Sandwiches
Spinach Salad

Chicken Stew (like Pot Pie, minus the potatoes and the "Pie")
Garlic Smashed Potatoes


Eat out with Christmas Gift Cards! Whoopee!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Jo Jo Potatoes

Some years ago, when I was still school age, my parents used load us up in the car to go spend the evening with their friends, Lucky and Dennis. Lucky had been a college roommate of my mother's, and Dennis had been a college roommate of my dad's. Imagine that. Anyway, Lucky is not generally known for her culinary skill, so dinners down there were pretty basic--we called them "Standard Chicken Dinner." Baked faux-shake 'n bake chicken, stove top stuffing, and green beans was the menu for just about every visit. To this day, I occasionally make Standard Chicken Dinner just for the trip down memory lane.

On rare occasions, though, I remember dining on purchased fried chicken and these phenomenal things called Jo Jo potatoes. As near as I could tell, they were just potato wedges, but they had some sort of wonderful, crumbly seasoning crust on them--I could easily have eaten the whole order myself. Maybe it was just the welcome departure from Standard Chicken Dinner, but I always hoped that those Jo Jo things would end up on the table during our visits. I never knew where they came from, and Lucky and Dennis live about an hour away from my parents, so the Jo Jo shop certainly wasn't convenient to our home. Those delicious potatoes became legendary in my mind, both because of their inherent yumminess and their illusive nature. I could never really have them when I wanted them, so anytime they showed up, it was miraculous.

Years later, in my travels as an adult, I'd catch glimpses of Jo Jo potatoes at random delis and take-out places, even at the occasional gas station. But I suppose that there's not really a standard definition out there of what makes a Jo Jo potato, because all of these potatoes I was encountering were shockingly different--some had a thick, crisp crust on them and were heavily spiced, while others were softer, milder, with more of a crumbly coating. Some were just fried potatoe wedges, plain and simple. None matched up the the wonder that was the Jo Jos of my youth--I suppose life is like that a lot; you can't go home again, and all of that. So I gave up hope and forgot all about them.

Then, a week or two ago, I was looking at a blog called Chocolate and Zucchini. I only visited because the name sounded intriguing, and it turns out that the author is one of those serious French foodies who eats things like quail eggs en papillote with a melange of turnip greens and fennel. (I made that one up, but she eats some really strange stuff.) Many of her posts are too bizarre for me, but here and there, she posts something I can get behind. Her post called "Deluxe Potatoes" caught my eye, mostly because the words "deluxe" and "potatoes" used in the same phrase suggest a dish I will most certainly enjoy. So I checked it out, and darned if the photo she posted of said potatoes didn't closely resemble those Jo Jos I'd enjoyed so much as a kid. They didn't look quite as crumbly, and they called for whole mustard seeds, which don't happen to reside in my spice collection, but just the same, that post rekindled the hope within me that I would someday get to taste these tasty fries (though it almost seems sacrilegious to call them that).

So after a little research and a few modifications to the recipes I found, I present to you the recipe for Jo Jo Potatoes as I served them tonight. They still aren't the real deal, but they're the closest I've tasted thus far. And my kids scarfed them up like they were going out of style, so they're a keeper, in my book, Grail or not.

Jo Jo Potatoes

4-5 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed well, but not peeled
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
1/2 c. fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. flour
2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. celery salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
dash cayenne (optional)

First of all, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Then, toss all of the dry ingredients into a gallon-size Ziploc bag and shake to combine. The measurements there for the seasonings are guidelines--feel free to alter them as you wish, or measure them in your palm and skip the measuring spoons altogether. So long as you start with approximate amounts of the bread crumbs, flour, and Parmesan, you can't really go too far wrong.

Then, cut your potatoes into wedges--I generally get about 8 wedges from each potato, but the important thing is not the number, but that they're more or less evenly sized, so they all cook at the same rate.

Dunk your wedges in the melted butter, then shake them, a few at a time, in the Parmesan mixture, and arrange on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Stand them up with the skin side on the bottom if you can, but if they want to lay on their sides instead, that's fine--just flip them halfway through the cooking time.

If you have any leftover butter, drizzle it over top of the potatoes before you pop them into the preheated oven. Or don't, if all that butter scares you. But then, if butter scares you, you're probably not making this recipe, or any other recipes on this blog, for that matter. Bake for about 35 minutes or until they're tender and browned, then wallow in their scrumptiousness.