Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Chicken UNFRIED Steak with White Sausage Gravy

Chicken Fried Steak is one of the ultimate comfort foods.  It just makes you feel happy.  Pair it up with mashed potatoes and it's even better.  Throw some sausage gravy over them both and you're in comfort food nirvana!  I was in the mood for Chicken Fried Steak, but didn't feel like frying anything.   I just didn't feel like babysitting it on the stove top or stinking up the house with that fried food smell!  So, I decided to bake it in the oven.  I've done this before on many occasions with other foods.  See this post:


But I had never done it with steak.  I searched my pantry to see what I could use as breading.  I needed something that would make it crispy (to get that fried crunch) but I also wanted it to taste good (otherwise, why bother?).  So, I decided on using a mixture of half corn flakes and half Ritz crackers.  It worked like a charm!  Here's how I did it:


4 cubed steaks
seasoned salt (Lawry's)
flour (for dredging)
1 egg, beaten
2 TBS milk
corn flakes
Ritz crackers

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Place a baking sheet in the oven while it preheats.  This will help the bottom of the steaks crisp up in the oven (a metal baking sheet works best).

Next, make a dredging station:  Get out 3 small pans (I use cake pans, but you can use pie plates or shallow bowls).  Put some flour in the first pan and season with a little seasoned salt.  Put the egg and milk in the second pan and whisk it together.  In the third pan, put a mixture of half crushed corn flakes, half crushed Ritz crackers (the amount you'll need depends on how big your steaks are - just eyeball how much you'll need).  Season the steaks with seasoned salt.  Dredge them in the flour, then egg, then crumbs.  Place on a plate until all are dredged.

Once all the steaks are dredged, remove the hot baking sheet from the oven.  Spray with a little cooking spray, then place the steaks on.  Spray the tops of the steaks with a little more cooking spray (or drizzle with melted butter).  Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, depending on the size.  If your steaks are really big, they may need to go a few more minutes.  Here's what they look like:

They come out crispy and the crackers give them a buttery taste that is just delicious.

While they are in the oven, make the gravy.


2 pork sausage patties (Jimmy Dean)
2 TBS flour
2 cups milk

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Crumble the patties into the skillet.  Break them up with a wooden spoon while they brown up.  You want to render the sausage grease as you brown up the bits.  Here's how it should look:

Sprinkle in the flour.  Stir it around and let it cook and bubble up for a few minutes (you're cooking out that raw flour taste and making a roux).  Slowly, whisk in the milk.  Bring to a boil, whisking constantly to avoid lumps, then reduce the heat and simmer until it thickens up (this doesn't take long at all).  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve the gravy over the steak and mashed potatoes if you want total comfort food heaven!

Look at that!  I dare you not to be happy when that is on your plate!  It's not possible.  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Chicken Spaghetti - One Method, Two Ways

I really like when a recipe is versatile.  You know, you can use the same process, but create different dishes, depending upon what's in your pantry or what you're in the mood for.  This is one of those.  I'm going to show you one basic method for chicken spaghetti, then show you how to make two distinct recipes using that method.


The first thing you need to do is poach some chicken.  This not only cooks the chicken, but also leaves you with a flavorful chicken broth that you will use again later.  You can use a whole cut-up chicken or just bone-in thighs or drumsticks, or boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  All you do is adjust the cooking time.  You cook the bone-in pieces longer than the boneless.  Very versatile.

Fill a big pot about half-way full of water.  Add the chicken pieces and some salt (a few teaspoons).  You could leave it at that.  But if you want your broth to have more flavor add some chunks of onion (yellow, purple, green onion - any will do), carrot, celery, even stems from parsley.  Sometimes I even throw in a chicken bullion cube to boost the chicken taste.  Bring it to a boil then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the chicken is cooked through.  For boneless breasts this takes about 20-30 minutes.  For bone-in chicken it takes a bit longer, about 35-45 minutes, depending on how big the pieces are.  Just take a piece out and cut it in half to check.  If it doesn't have any blood (the juices run clear) then it's done.  (You're gonna shred the chicken later anyway, so cutting it to check is no big deal).

When the chicken is done, remove it to a plate and let cool.  Meanwhile, remove the veggies from the broth and discard them.  (Save the broth!)  You can strain the broth through a sieve if you want, but it's not necessary.  Bring the broth back to a boil and add your spaghetti, broken into thirds. (You can use any cut of pasta you have)  By cooking it in the broth, you are adding chicken flavor directly into the pasta.  Cook the pasta until al dente (don't over cook it because it will finish cooking in the oven later).

While the pasta is cooking, shred the chicken.

That's the basic method.  It's what you do with the chicken and pasta that changes the recipe.  I like to make it two ways.  One is a red spaghetti and one is a white spaghetti.  First, let's talk about the red.


Once the pasta (I used Rotini here) is cooked and drained (you can discard the broth at this point for this recipe), mix in a little of your favorite marinara sauce.  (Whether you made it yourself or it's from a jar - doesn't matter.  As long as you like the taste of it, it'll work for this recipe)  Mix in just enough to tint the pasta pinkish-red.  Like this:

Next, mix in the shredded chicken.  Pour into a 9x13 baking dish.  (Spray it with cooking spray for easier clean-up)

Top with mozarella cheese (or provolone).

Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes (until heated through and the cheese is melted).

Serve topped with the remaining sauce.

Simple, but so yummy.  Cooking the pasta in the chicken broth gives this dish a wonderful depth of flavor.  You gotta try it.

Now onto the second Chicken Spaghetti.


Once the pasta is cooked, save about 1 cup of the broth.  I dip a measuring cup into the pot and kind of scoop it out.  (You'll need this broth later)  Then, drain the pasta.  Mix in the shredded chicken, a can of condensed cream of chicken soup, 1 diced carrot, 1/2 of an onion, diced, and 2 TBS chopped parsley.  Mix well.  Add in enough of the reserved chicken broth to loosen it up.  You don't want it too thick or too soupy.  Somewhere in the middle.  Then salt and pepper to taste.  Pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

 This tastes like a combination of chicken noodle soup and a chicken pot pie.  Really tasty and so comforting!  My husband and kids loved it.  They told me it was a "Keeper".

So, I hope you give this method a try.  And feel free to change up the recipes according to your taste (and what's in your pantry).  That's the great thing about this method.  The recipe possibilities are endless.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fabulously Frugal French Food at Home

French food has a reputation for being pricey and, let's face it, pretentious.  But, I am here to show you a few French-inspired dishes that are not only easy to make, but down-right cheap.  Even though they don't cost a lot, they still come out looking like a million bucks!  Impress your friends with these fabulously frugal french dishes.

This first recipe is based on a dish my husband loves from Picadilly.  I don't know if there are Picadilly restaurants in places other than the south?  It is a cafeteria-style restaurant that serves down-home cooking.  Anyway, he loves this dish.  I know it's technically not French, but it is a souffle.  It's sort of a French-Southern fusion.  Here it is:


2 cans of sliced carrots, drained and rinsed
2 eggs, separated
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 TBS all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a food processor, add carrots, sugar, flour, baking powder, butter, vanilla and egg yolks.  Puree very well.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.

Then, fold the egg whites into the carrot puree very gently.

Put into a baking dish and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.

It may be slightly cracked on top, that's o.k.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.  This dish is sweet and velvety.  Just delicious!

This next recipe is one I've been making since junior high school.  A former French teacher of mine shared it with me and I loved it.  I use to make it with a plain pie shell and you can do that if you want. But, I recently found a super-easy way to make a pie crust using cheddar cheese.  Yum!  So worth the extra few minutes.  You can use any left over ham you might have or just use deli ham, that's what I do most of the time.  This is great for dinner or brunch or even breakfast.  One of my very favorite recipes!


1/2 lb. of ham, chopped
1/4 lb. cheese, shredded (cheddar, swiss, jack, whatever you have)
1/2 can evaporated milk
3 eggs, beaten
Deep dish pie shell (or use the special cheese crust recipe to follow)
1 Tbs flour
dash pepper

Preheat oven to 320 degrees.
Mix milk, eggs, pepper, flour and 1/4 of the cheese to make the batter.  Set aside.  Layer the pie shell with half of the ham:

Half the remaining cheese:

All of the batter:

The other half of the ham:

Then the other half of the cheese:

Place the pie plate on a cookie sheet with sides just in case your quiche bubbles over.  No one wants a mess in their oven!  Bake at 320 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until just set and golden brown:

Let cool a bit before slicing to serve:

This is gooey and salty and so good!  You could substitute anything you want for the ham: bacon, turkey, cooked breakfast sausage, etc.  You can add any veggies you like, too:  broccoli, spinach, peppers, etc.  But my favorite is plain ham and cheese.

Here is the special cheese crust I was telling you about:


1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted

In a bowl mix cheddar, flour and salt.  Stir in melted butter until evenly moist.

Press into a pie plate.  Fill with quiche batter as directed in above recipe.

Super easy and delicious!

So, I hope you try these fabulously frugal French recipes.  It's so nice to have a few recipes that will please everyone but won't break the bank.  Au Revoir and Bon Chance!  (good bye and good luck)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ham it Up!

Ham is one of my favorite things to eat.  I love it on a sandwich, of course, but nothing beats the salty/sweet triumph that is my Mama's holiday ham.  It takes all day to make, but is so worth it.  She uses toothpicks to stud it with pineapple rings and cherries.  Then, she makes a glaze out of pineapple juice, cherry juice and brown sugar, which she bastes it with for hours while it's cooking.  It's a true labor of love.  She makes this delicious concoction every Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter.  And there's never much in the way of leftovers!  Other than the ham bone, which is perfect for making beans!  I have to say my Mama makes the best ham on the planet!  I do not.  As you probably know, I love to cook.  I cook everyday.  But I have yet to master her perfect ham.  So, if I got your hopes up about her ham, I do apologize.  No recipe to follow.  I will, however, tell you how I get my ham fix between holidays.

This recipe is so simple, you'll think, "It can't be good.  Can it?"  Trust me, it is.


1 pkg boneless ham steaks (the fully cooked kind)
Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce
pineapple juice (optional)

Heat your broiler to high heat.  Lay the ham steaks on a baking sheet.  Place under the broiler for 2 minutes.  Baste with the BBQ sauce (mixed with a little pineapple juice, if desired), then flip them over.  Broil for another 2 minutes.  Then, baste top side with BBQ sauce.  That's it.  Super-easy but so good.

Nothing goes better with ham than potatoes.  Here is an easy recipe for Scalloped Potatoes that goes great with ham.  This feeds 4.  It's easy to double the recipe if you're cooking for a crowd or have big eaters in your house.


4 medium-sized Idaho potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 a small onion, diced
1 cup milk (or half & half)
1 TBS all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I like Monterrey Jack or Cheddar, but use whatever you like)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a 2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray (or butter it).  Place cubed potatoes and diced onions in casserole dish.

In a large measuring cup (or bowl), mix milk, flour and salt/pepper to taste (a little more than you think-the potatoes suck it up).  Whisk this mixture well to incorporate the flour.

Pour over the potatoes.

Cover with foil and bake 25 minutes.  Remove foil and continue to bake 15 more minutes.

Sprinkle shredded cheese on top.  Place under the broiler for a few minutes until golden brown.  Watch it closely because it doesn't take long!  Here's what it looks like:

This is one easy and delicious meat & potatoes meal!

Left over ham is such a versatile ingredient to have in your fridge.  Whether you have left over smoked ham from a holiday, extra ham steaks, or even deli sliced ham, you can make something delicious with it.  One thing my Mama always did was make a pot of white beans with her left over ham bone.  She cooked it on the stove top, but I use my crockpot (no baby-sitting that way!)  Since most of us don't have an entire ham bone laying around, I make mine with chopped up ham.  Here's how I do it:


1 lb dried white beans (such as navy beans)
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
Cajun seasoning
3 1/2 cups chicken broth or water (or a combination of the two)
Left over chopped ham, smoked sausage or bacon (or a combination of any of these)

Soak the beans in a large bowl of water overnight.  The next morning, drain and rinse the beans.  Place beans in crockpot.  Add onion, bell pepper, and ham.

Add broth (or water) and season to taste with Cajun seasoning.  Stir.

Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.  Stir and mash some of the beans up against the side of the crockpot.  Stir again.  This helps to thicken the beans.  Cover and cook 2 more hours.  Serve over rice or just as is.  I like to top my white beans with a sprinkle of vinegar.  Sounds weird, but it's absolutely delicious!

Another great thing to do with left over ham is add it to left over mashed potatoes.  Stir together potatoes, ham, sliced green onion tops and a little bit of milk.  Put in a buttered casserole dish and top with shredded cheese and Ritz cracker crumbs.  Bake at 400 degrees until hot and cheese is melted.  Easy and inexpensive casserole that uses up left overs!

So, I know it's not my Mama's famous ham, but I hope you'll give these recipes a try.  You don't even have to wait for a holiday!  Enjoy!