Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Spinach and Artichoke Skillet Chicken with Sundried Tomatoes

I haven’t made many of Kevin’s recipe’s over the years because they often required more effort than I wanted to expend but when he published his 2016 favorites on his Closet Cooking blog, the Spinach and Artichoke Skillet Chicken with Sundried Tomatoes really jumped out at me, as did a couple others.  His recipe called for four 6 ounce breasts, but since I had 36 ounces of meat, I increased everything by 50% to get this:

Spinach and Artichoke Skillet Chicken with Sundried Tomatoes – Adapted from Closet Cooking

1½ tablespoon oil
3 (12 ounce) skinless and boneless chicken breasts, jicarded to ½” & halved cross ways
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1½ cup homemade chicken broth
12 ounce cream cheese, room temperature and cut into cubes
6 cups baby spinach (I used the bag full so about 8 cups)
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, quartered
3/8 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated
3/8 cup sun dried tomatoes, sliced
Handful of grape tomatoes (my addition - they needed to be used).

1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat, season the chicken with salt and pepper, add the chicken to the pan and cook until lightly golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, before setting aside. (I cooked them to an internal temp of 160F then piled them up as the thinner ones got done)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Hoppin John’s For New Year’s Luck

As a person who was born on Friday the 13th, I’ve never been superstitious but this is a good excuse to make this dish at least once a year and there is no reason to take any chances just in case good luck is involved.

I looked at several online recipes and most include some type of pork, veggies, the black eyed peas, spices, and liquid all cooked together and served over rice.  But when I read Steph’s recipe on her Plain Chicken blog, the idea of cooking the rice with the peas and using a smoked sausage really appealed to me. 

I made half her recipe with a few changes to arrive at this:

Hoppin John's – Adapted from Plain Chicken

½ lb andouille sausage, sliced ¼” thick half-rounds (I used Poche’s
2 (15-oz) cans black-eyed peas, undrained
1 (10-oz) Rotel, undrained
1½ cups beef broth
½ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup diced green bell pepper
¼ cup diced celery
1 tsp Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste
¾ cup uncooked rice

1. Cook sausage in a large pot until browned, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the onion, green pepper and celery and cook until tender.
3. Add black eyed peas, diced tomatoes and green chiles, beef broth, cajun seasoning, garlic, and black pepper & bring to a boil.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Favorite Meals of 2016

I’ve read several posts about the best recipes of 2016, but since we make very few original recipes (we usually make yours), I decided to do one on the dozen favorite meals I blogged about last year.  Some are from restaurants, some cooked by others, and some cooked by us and all delicious.

Lets begin with the little RV trip we made to Louisiana’s Cajun Country in January.

Over Stuffed Seafood Po Boy from Bon Creole in New Iberia 

Crawfish Bisque given to us by our campground neighbors at Cajun Palms RV Resort

Friday, December 30, 2016

Another Smoked Rib Roast And A New Family Addition

Per my last post, our Christmas dinner guest list was primarily friends, but son, Rhett, and his family came over from South Carolina on the 26th for a holiday visit and his meal request was for smoked beef rib roast (prime rib).  Since this is one of my favorite meals, I was only too happy to accommodate his desire.

Kroger's had their bone-on, choice, rib roast on sale for $6.99/lb earlier so we bought a four bone roast and let it hang out in the fridge for a week before cooking - the butcher had cut off the bones and tied them back on.

I didn’t have any of my special prime rib rub and since we have enjoyed Montreal Steak Seasoning on our steaks I decided to give it a try on the roast.  I didn’t want to cook it with the bones as it might affect how it cooked and they would need to be removed for the crust adding process to get it around the entire roast.  So I removed the curved bones, flipped them the opposite direction, and laid the curved side of the roast back on them, thereby creating a space between the bones and the meat.

I cooked it in the smoker at 225F to an internal temperature of 120F, then wrapped the roast in foil and placed in a pre-warmed cooler to rest until dinner time and the rib meat became a little appetizer - then the bones were simmered overnight for rich beef broth.

Fifteen minutes before meal time, the roast was unwrapped, placed on a rack in a pan and put into a 475F oven for 10 minutes and came out looking like this.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Braised Short Ribs For Christmas Dinner At Almost Heaven South

As we often do, we invited a few folks over for Christmas dinner that we knew had no other plans so we ended up with nine to dine at Bev’s pretty table.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Following is our Christmas Newsletter that hits the highlights of our year.  Thanks again for stopping by Almost Heaven South so we can mutually share a little piece of our lives with each other.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Holiday greetings to our family and friends, we hope you’ve had a great year and here is a little about ours.  We’ve had quite a busy year in 2016.

We are always happy to report that things continue to go well for our children and are pretty much the same as last year with them being in the same locations and jobs, except Wende has entered politics and is a member of the Oak Ridge Beer Board and made a run for city council.  Kathy and the girls came in for a visit in late June and Eric and family were here in early July – we always we look forward to seeing them.  Rhett and Beth have bought a travel trailer and now he can return to something he did a lot of in his childhood.  The grandkids continue to grow up way too fast – driving, dating, and about to graduate high school. 

We did quite a bit of RVing beginning with a couple of weeks in January (between knee replacements) in Cajun country near Lafayette, LA, where we ate lots of great food and got familiar with the area.  After Larry’s second successful knee replacement, we went to the Callaway Gardens, GA area and Stone Mountain, GA for a 10 day, two-stop rally with our RV club, then went directly to Sevierville, TN for another five day rally with the Thor Diesel Club and we had a fine time at all three stops and with both groups.

Then on July 20 we headed out for a 68 day trip to Colorado and New Mexico where we made stops in Kansas City and Denver to visit with friends before heading to our primary destinations in the Rocky Mountain high country.  Larry’s main goal for the trip was to get away from the heat and humidity of home and we were not disappointed as we had temps in the mid 70’s and humidity in the 20% verses the 90’s at home.  We spent about 10 days each at four CO stops and another 10 days in Santa Fe, NM and when we got home, all decided that about two weeks shorter would make for a better trip.

We were home for about three weeks then went off to Maggie Valley, NC for a week where we hosted a fun rally for our RV club and this ended our RVing for the year – but not the traveling, at least for Beverly.  She, Pat and some friends spent the last two weeks of November, including Thanksgiving, at our time share on the beach at Marco Island, FL, then they came home for five days and headed off to the Caribbean Island of St. Maarten for two weeks (they had postponed their normal spring trip due to Larry’s knee replacement).  Obviously Beverly has been really on the go this year and looking forward to just relaxing over the holidays.

We had another significant change in living arrangements here at Almost Heaven South when previous house sitter and now good friend Cindy moved into our downstairs – you might say we now have a full time house sitter, but she has really become a member of the family.

On the medical front we continue to be okay but after having both knees replaced, Larry still had a toe problem which caused pain when he walked and this was corrected in late October and resulted in a left foot boot for six weeks.  Now that he has recovered from his knee and toe surgeries and is nearly a bionic man, other than a few minor issues, we continue to experience pretty good health and we are enjoying our blessed life.

On a sad note, we lost both of our little four legged girls and the grieving was pretty hard on us.  Thirteen year old Sweetie Pie died early summer and eight year old Coco died in November while Bev was in Florida.  Her mothering gene is alive and well and she’s on the hunt for a replacement.

That’s all to report from our part of the world and our wish for you is a Very Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year. 

Beverly & Larry

Monday, December 5, 2016

Impromptu Steak and Potatoes

My good buddy Joe knows I’m once again dog sitting and bachin-it so on Friday he said he would plan to come over on Sunday, which sounded great to me.  Later that evening he called back to offer a different plan – he and Carol would both come over and bring steaks and salad – for some reason they think I’m a good steak cooker but I don’t think so.

At Carol’s request, my contribution to the meal was to be twice baked potatoes, which is one of my favorites and I was happy to do.  I used the Pioneer Woman’s recipe but didn’t follow it too closely.

8 baking potatoes, washed (I used 6 large ones)
3 tablespoons canola oil (use just enough to coat them)
2 sticks salted butter (I used 1½ sticks)
1 cup bacon bits (see note 1 below)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup Cheddar or Jack cheese (I used about 1¼ cups cheddar)
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons seasoned salt (I used Lawry's)
3 green onions, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper

Larry note 1:  Since I didn’t want to trash the cooktop, I diced a pound of bacon into 1/2 “ pieces and cooked them over low heat in a high sided sauce pan until nicely brown.  It takes a while to render enough fat but once the pieces are all submerged, they quickly become a nice crispy golden brown.  Then I removed them with a slotted spoon, drained on paper towels, measured out the needed one cup, and saved the rest.

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. Rub them with the canola oil and bake for 1 hour, making sure they're sufficiently cooked through.
3. Slice the butter into pats. Place in a large mixing bowl and add the bacon bits and sour cream. Remove the potatoes from the oven. Lower the heat to 350 degrees F.
4. With a sharp knife, cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scrape out the insides into the mixing bowl, being careful not to tear the shell. Leave a small rim of potato intact for support. Lay the hollowed out potato shells on a baking sheet. (See note 2)
5. Smash the potatoes into the butter, bacon and sour cream. Add the cheese, milk, seasoned salt, green onions and black pepper to taste and mix together well. (IMPORTANT: If you plan to freeze the twice-baked potatoes, do NOT add the green onions.)
6. Fill the potato shells with the filling. I like to fill the shells so they look abundant and heaping.

Larry note 2:  When my mom made these she did not oil the potatoes and the skins were always crispy and hard to damage, but the oil keeps them pretty tender.  You real cooks likely already know this, but I found that if I went around the potato flesh with the slanted point of the knife, it made the potato scoop out easier and left just the amount of potato I wanted on the inside.