We’ve got some serious sadness going around our family these days as we await the passing of someone quite dear. It is a difficult time, this watching the veil of death slowly descend. I feel my own sadness and, even more strongly, feel helplessly sad about the grief filling the hearts of my family. It is an impossible place to be, and so I did what I do when I’m processing something — I cooked. A ridiculous amount. Enough food for six or 8 when the reality is there are 3 of us. This afternoon I baked cookies, made a slow cooker buffalo chicken lasagne for 8, a roasted leek and potato soup for 6 at least and dinner for 4 tonight. It was crazy.
And yet when it was done, I felt better. Life may be throwing us some crazy, painful stuff, but at different points of the day, we will be nourished. And that somehow makes it all just a teeny, tiny better.
Buffalo Chicken Lasagne
adopted from Make It Fast, Cook It Slow by Stephanie O’Dea
4 boneless chicken breasts, chopped
1 26-ounce jar pasta sauce
1 cup buffalo wing sauce (make your own or do what I did–buy some)
8-10 uncooked traditional lasagna noodles
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
2 red peppers, chopped
2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar and mozzarella or whatever you want)
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbled
1/4 cup water
In a large bowl, mix the chicken, pasta sauce and buffalo wing sauce. Ladle a big spoonful into the bottom of the slow cooker. Cover with a layer of uncooked noodles that you have to break to make fit. Add about 1/3 of the ricotta. Add a layer of the bell peppers and some of the shredded cheese. Repeat the layers until your run out of ingredients. I had basically three layers. Add the blue cheese to the top and then put the water into the empty pasta jar and shake. Pour that over the top of the entire lasagna.
Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high 4-5 hours. When the cooking is done, unplug the slow cooker and take off the lid. Let the lasagna sit for 20 minutes before cutting (or in my case just spooning out because someone in my family felt the need to stir it up “just to see how it looked.”)
Janet here: So you don’t know what to make for dinner and can’t imagine making another burrito or quiche? Take a deep breath and realize you have the makings of a great (easy) dinner within your grasp. I’m talking something I generally call tortilla pies.
Here’s the general idea: You saute up some veggies, maybe take some chicken you’ve got in the fridge and saute that up, grate some cheese of your liking, add some spices and then build a tortilla tower. Bake it and you are in business about 30 minutes later. It’s that simple.
You could take some leftover veggies too for one of the layers….or saute them fresh in whatever combination you want. Interested in Mexican? Use chilies and south of the border spices. Got a yen for something Indian? Add in cumin and curries and you’ve got something that works there too. The point is it’s as versatile as you want it to be. The only limitation is your imagination.
Here’s a recipe to get you started.
12 6-inch corn tortillas
about 3 cups assorted diced veggies such as onion, garlic, zucchini, peppers, whatever your heart desires
about 1 cup of diced chicken
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheese
1 cup or so salsa OR
2 tablespoons butter, about 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup diced green chilies and about 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9X13 inch baking pan with canola oil.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and saute the veggies/chicken of your choice for about 5-7 minutes until just cooked. If you’re doing veggies alone, start with onions and then add garlic and the denser veggies, ending with zucchini, which cooks quickly and you don’t want it to be overcooked. If you’re doing chicken add it after the onions but before the garlic. It can all be sauteed together.
If you’re using salsa, move to the next step. If you’re making this roux version (pictured here), melt the butter, stir in the flour to make a roux and then add the broth and stir frequently until it thickens. Take it off the heat and add the chilies.
Place 4 tortillas (they will overlap a bit) in the bottom of the baking pan. Add half the sauteed goodies. Spread cheese on top and whatever sauce you’re using. Then add another layer of four overlapping tortillas. Spread your veggie/chicken/salsa/roux/cheese mixture on top. End with four more tortillas and a little salsa/roux/cheese. Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes until bubbling and lightly browned on top.
I was looking for something to make that said summer but didn’t involve grilling. I also didn’t want to spend all afternoon making it. It was too darn hot.
So I started thumbing through my cookbooks and found what I wanted in Rachael Ray’s Look + Cook. (I reviewed it here if you want to more about it.) I had never made anything that combined fruit with chicken so I was intrigued. We grilled some green beans (okay, so we grilled one thing), and mixed them up with some diced shallots, olive oil and mustard. I’m here to say, it was a damn fine meal, I’m not going to lie.
Glazed Chicken and Peaches
with cheese and bacon biscuits
Jiffy biscuit mix. Yup a box of biscuit mix. You can certainly make them from scratch but these were just fine.
one cup of grated sharp cheddar
about 2 tablespoons bacon bits
Mix the biscuits according to the box, and then mix in the cheese and bacon.
Bake in oven following the box directions.
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 large peaches, halved or thickly sliced
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 boneless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
1 shallot choppped
1 tablespoon dried ginger or 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
3/4 cups chicken stock
a little more than 1/3 cup peach preserves
2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Melt the butter with the lemon juice. Add the peaches to the skillet. Cook about 10 minutes until peaches are tender.
While peaches are cooking, put some EVOO in a pan and add the chicken. Cook about 10 minutes each side until tender. Take off the heat, put on a plate and cover.
In the pan that held the chicken, add a little more EVOO, chicken stock, peach preserves, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce. Cook until thickened. Put the chicken on a plate and cover with the glaze. Serve with biscuits and dig in.
Ok, so I really don’t care about football. Once the Eagles are out for the season (John’s team) I get to stop dreading the Super Bowl and the potential for his very deep and meaningful investment (read: tense) in watching it and I get to start just getting excited about the excuse to eat food that, on a day to day basis, I feel obligated to curb my desire for.
What a great combination of words!
I am picturing a bowl…filled with something super.
Like hot wings…
Hot wing nachos.
Yes, life really does get this good.
See, a few weeks back the most recent issue of the Food Network magazine arrived at our house. It had a pull-out booklet on 50 variations for nachos. John pulled it out and read aloud from it periodically, even going so far as to call it food porn. Clearly we were going to need to make nachos and pronto.
We tried the buffalo chicken version, omitting the celery because it just seemed gross to us. That’s one down and 49 to go. Though I’m not entirely sure when the Super Bowl is (it’s soon, though, right?) I can only hope that it gets here soon so we don’t make our way through the whole list–you know, in the spirit of the season.
Don’t these sound good? Read the list and let us know which variations on this tried and true classic sound best to you (or that you’ve tried). What do you do for the Super Bowl?
It’s that time of the year when people drop by unexpectedly and it’s always good to have a few things on hand that you can whip quickly. This recipe works particularly well with teens and boys, if my sons are any indicator. It has the two key ingredients: heat (as in Frank’s Red Hot Sauce heat) and Ranch dressing. In other words, this is not high brow, but yes, it is mighty tasty, so tasty in fact that I didn’t get a chance to photograph it before it was snatched away.
Buffalo Chicken Dip
2 13-ounce cans chicken breast drained
2 8-08nce packages cream cheese softened
1/3 cup hot sauce
1 cup buttermilk ranch dressing
1 cups Mexican blended shredded cheese
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Sray 9 X 13 cassrole dish with non-stick spray. Put to the side one cup of cheddar cheese for the top of the csserole. blend all together. put in casserole dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese. back 20-25 minutes or until bubbling.
The red-eye flight home went well today/last night (kind of delirious at the moment I must admit so I’m not sure what day it is) although of course my theory of sleeping through it all was completely imaginary. The only good part of currently operating on about three hours of sleep is that I know I will sleep well tonight, and as someone who has battled sleep problems for the last decade ever since a particular female event occurred, I’m actually okay with being exhausted right now.
It was so wonderful to see Miss M, who is a baby rock star and that’s just a fact not besotted grandma speak. It’s amazing to see how much she’s changed since we saw her about six weeks ago and to actually be able to interact with her. That smile is killer and renders her Pamp and me into total mush. Once she realizes how much she can control us, we are in trouble for sure.
It was also great to operate more as our new larger family. Three months into your new adventure, you and John are no longer as shell-shocked so, while you’re both exhausted and Miss M still rules the day’s schedule, we had a little more time to just be together as a family. It was so much fun to cook for you and to see how we all interact around this communal eating. I could picture times in the future when M (and perhaps a sibling or cousins from G and S?) are older and we all just cook and eat and play games. I can’t wait.
In the meantime, if you want to know how to make this sour cream chicken, here’s the recipe. I loved it as a kid and I’ve loved making it for you, G and S. It was one of those dinners when my mother announced this was what was coming to the table, I was so happy because I knew I would eat every bite. I can’t wait to make it for M some day.
Sour Cream Chicken
I made it for 5 but you can add as many chicken breasts as you want and then just increase the amount of sour cream, etc
Note: This is a two=day recipe. The chicken marinates in the sour cream mixture overnight.
5 skinless chicken breasts
about 1 1/2 cups sour cream (I use low-fat)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Tobasco or hot sauce of choice to taste (about 6 jerks of the bottleis a good place to start)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup bread crumbs (or more if you’re making more)
Wash the chicken and pat dry. Mix all the ingredients together and then dredge each breast in the sour cream mixture and place in a flat baking pan. Whatever is left over I pour on top of the breasts. Cover the breasts with foil and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, carefully lift up each breast and gently dredge in the bread crumbs. Place back in baking pan. Put back in the fridge until you’re ready to bake.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the chicken and bake one hour or until the chicken is done.
The sour cream “crust” makes this chicken especially tender. I served it with my favorite veggie (which I forgot you hate) and a version of your smashed potatoes, which G proclaimed later were not as good as yours. Dammit it…..stay tuned, I will make them again.
Janet here: As a young feminist, I vowed I would teach my sons to do their own laundry, clean a bathroom, sew, iron and cook. No sons of mine I vowed, not unlike Scarlett in Gone with the Wind, would think of this as woman’s work. Now, as the mother of a 22-(almost 23-)year-old and 18-year-old, I am a little chagrined to report I am two for five. My sons have done their own laundry since they were 10 (each of my children received a laundry basket and a lesson in how to do laundry as part of their 10th birthday present) and they can clean a bathroom, but the others remain elusive. While they have been taught how to sew and iron, they generally refuse — but Mom you can do it so much faster! — and the cooking lessons, well, those fell by the wayside.
So I was shocked last week when G, the college grad, asked me if I wanted him to cook dinner. No one else was home and I feel fairly certain he thought I’d say no, but I jumped at the offer. And I stay committed even after I learned that basically we were going to have chicken nachos for dinner, a meal that he described as his “Mexican dinner specialty” but was absolutely nachos, as this picture will illustrate.
The meal began with G making me a gin and tonic, which was also a first. Then, as I relaxed in the family room, he got busy in the kitchen, which basically meant cutting up the chicken into strips and looking for “the hottest spices in the cupboard” to create, as he put it, “a history mystery mixture of all the hot red stuff.” From there he grated some cheese, threw the whole mixture onto a plate with some tortilla chips, and plopped it in the oven for about 10 minutes. He proudly proclaimed dinner ready, and we sat down to eat. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a tastier plate of nachos.
Janet here: I’m holding down the blog fort on my own this week as Rachel recovers from having a baby — Maxine! — and gets used to life with an infant. It’s hotter than hell here in the Northeast where I’m based, so the idea of standing in front of a hot stove and oven is not that appealing. I also find myself less hungry in general when it’s really hot.
The joy of summer is that you can whip up a salad with just about anything you’ve got in the fridge and voila! Instant dinner. That’s often a harder sell for the young men in my house. What? Just cold veggies for dinner? Adding this buffalo chicken — which was cooked on the grill, keeping the kitchen cool — made this an easy sell. Basically I could add buffalo chicken to arsenic and they would be willing to try it. Happily, this salad was declared anything but poisonous. I served this with my homemade onion rings and it was a major hit. Son G declared that he would ask for this as his last meal if he could. Now that made me feel great.
Buffalo Chicken Salad
1 pound boneless chicken breasts or chicken tenders if you’re in a rush
2-3 tablespoons hot sauce (We’re a Frank’s family but whatever is your favorite will work)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Romaine lettuce, ripped into bite-size pieces
4 stalks celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 scallions, green and white part, thinly sliced
Blue Cheese Dressing
from Ellie Krieger’s The Food You Crave
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Mix the oil and hot sauce in a bowl. If you’ve got tenders, put them in and toss with the sauce until coated. If you’ve got breasts, pound them into thinner slab and cut into strips. Then toss with the sauce.
Make up the salad plates with the ingredients above.
Make the blue cheese dressing. If you make Ellie’s be aware that you should strain the yogurt for 30 minutes (put a paper towel over a small bowl to act as a strainer and then spoon the yogurt on top to get rid of the excess liquid). I did not do this and my dressing while tasty was a little more liquidy than I like my blue cheese dressing. After the yogurt is strained, whisk all the ingredients together.
When you’re ready to eat, grill the chicken, place on top of the salad, add the dressing and you’re good to go.