Egg Salad Hedonism – a little bachelorette-night indulgence

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I’m flying solo here in the mountains while my Fireman is off fighting the big and yucky (those are technical terms) King Fire.  If you’re in northern California, you probably can’t turn on the local news with out hearing about that bad boy.  Hopefully, they’ll lick it soon.

Now onward to what you came here for, the food.  When I’m just cooking for me, I like to treat myself to things that I don’t get that often, which tend to be breakfast and lunch foods.  While my hubby is around I’ll make us whatever sort of dinner food we’re craving, but we’re so busy during the day I rarely cook traditional breakfast or lunch fare!  On a quite similar note, my sweetie just said in his last phone call that one of the few perks of working the night shift on the fire is that he gets breakfast for dinner every day.  :)

I just love egg salad, it’s one of the first things my Daddy taught me how to prepare when I was a little girl.  Now that I’m a culinary professional, I felt like I had to jazz it up a bit: home baked bread and hand whipped mayo.  Whaaaaat!?!?  Egg salad is nothing complicated but home made takes this to the next level.

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Egg Salad Hedonism

Makes 3-4 sandwiches – cost approx $.88 per sandwich

Ingredients

  • 6 hard boiled eggs, diced – I used a pastry cutter and it made me feel like a kitchen lifehack genius when in reality I’m just a lazy person who doesn’t own an egg slicer. ($.90)
  • 1/2 cup home made or prepared mayo – I’m not the best teacher for this one, mayo and I have a ‘complicated’ relationship, I’m sure there’s lotsa good advice on the interwebs if you want to learn to make your own. ($.50)
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • pinch smoked paprika – I think this is the secret ingredient, I used a Spanish pimenton
  • 1/2 loaf fresh bread – The bread recipe I use is “Pam’s Country Crust” from Southern Living Magazine, it’s a workhorse that I use for everything: monkey bread, sandwich bread, cinnamon rolls…  ($1)

Mix up everything, taste it to adjust the seasonings and smear it on your bread!  Easy money.

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Fresh Herb Tagliatelle – on fresh pasta and why you should make some today!

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Hi there everyone, look at my new toy!  I saved up a little bit from each paycheck all summer and bought this bad-ass, butcher block kitchen cart!  I worked on Boos Block brand in a bakery while I was in college and really liked it; and now I really love my own butcher block island!

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What I don’t love is the 80’s linoleum floor my kitchen has…

Anyway, on to the yummies.  Now that I have a nice work surface, I’m going to try to make more fresh pastas.  I just love how much better a fresh pasta tastes for those fancy times when you want to go all out and make something really amazing.  It’s got simple ingredients and is simple enough, you just have to put in a little elbow grease.  On today’s docket was a fresh herb pasta with some amazing herbs from my Daddy’s garden.

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Fresh Herb Tagliatelle 

Serves 6 as a ‘primo’ appetizer portion or serves 4 as an entre portion

Cost approx $1.25 per batch

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh herbs ($0 for home grown!)
  • 4 cups flour ($.45)
  • 2 eggs ($.30)
  • 4 Tbs olive oil ($.25)
  • pinch salt

So, here’s the procedure for a fresh pasta.  (Omit the herbs for a basic, plain pasta.)  For the fresh herb part, pull the leaves off the herbs and puree them up in about 2/3 cup water.  A light puree will make a pasta with more flecks while a longer puree will make a more uniform, green pasta.  Let your heart decide.

Before you start, get all your ingredients together on a large work surface and also have a cup or two of water on hand.

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Make a well in the center of the flour and crack the eggs inside, pour in the olive oil, a hearty pinch of salt and the herb puree.

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Start to gently stir the goodies in the center and incorporate a little flour, while still keeping the well shape intact.

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Now’s the time to get in there with you hands and start to knead.  Knead until a ball of dough starts to form.  Add water as necessary, a tablespoon or so at a time.  I find it easier to start with a drier dough and add water as needed than to add a lot of water at the beginning and add flour as needed.  You’ll know the consistency is right when a firm but kinda lumpy ball of pasta dough forms.

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See, kinda lumpy…

 

This is the not-so-fun part.  Now you knead away for 15-25 minutes.  I like to knead by hand; but I’ve never tried it in a mixer so if you want to give it a go, let me know how it turns out for you!  I find that kneading by hand helps me feel in touch with my Italian heritage and gives me a little bit of an arm work-out while I watch a bit of TV.

The day we were doing pasta by hand (using this very method) in culinary school was quite a memorable one.  All the little kids, fresh from high school, were complaining about how long it took and how hard it was.  I had a nice time joking with them about how in Italy there are hundreds upon hundreds of 90-year-old grandmas doing this very thing and not complaining one little bit.  As the minutes ticked by, the kids got more and more whiny, wondering when their pasta would ever be done.  It was about then when one of my friends, who we all called X.O. (he was a military vet who was in culinary school to put a bow on his life-long love of cooking), spouted some of the best advice when it comes to kneading that I’ve ever heard.  He said “You just keep kneading it until it’s as smooth as an 18-year-old girl’s butt!”  Glancing down at the ball of pasta that the student next to him was working on, he added “That girl looks about 25, you still got some kneading to go.”  Every time I make pasta at home I think of this little exchange and how the ball of pasta starts out looking like the worst sort of cottage cheese thighs on a 45-year-old, out of shape, mother of six.  The trick is to keep working it until it looks like something you wouldn’t be ashamed of if it was your own backside.

Once you’ve had enough of kneading, wrap it up in a little plastic and let it rest on the counter top for an hour.  This lets the pasta smooth out even more and relax.

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See, nice, smooth and well rested!

Next, roll out the pasta (in a pasta machine preferably, I’ve used a rolling pin before, it’s a lot of work!) into long, thin sheets.  Dust each sheet with flour so it doesn’t stick to other pasta or your work surface.  Lay a few sheets on top of each other.

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Cut the pasta lengthwise, into long strips and toss with a little more flour.

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Now, pat yourself on the back, because you just made fresh pasta!  From here you can freeze it or drop it in some boiling water and toss with your favorite sauce.

Cream sauce with mushrooms and bacon, yes please!

Cream sauce with mushrooms and bacon, yes please!

Creamy Braised Chicken and Mushrooms with Rice – Oops, I did it again…

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Winter is coming.  Seriously, it’s hailing like the world is ending right now.

It’s still nice out on the lake in the day time, but summer is clearly winding down.  There’s a chill in the air at night and both of our little apples are ripening on the tree.  (Don’t judge, they’re baby apple trees yet!)  As much as I love summer’s bounty of corn and tomatoes and herbs, I might just prefer autumn’s root vegetables and squashes.

The promise of colder weather is making me want to braise more things, and what better than another batch of braised chicken following my 5-step method?  This one is creamy and earthy; and when it’s matched up with some rice pilaf it’s like the classy, older sister of your mamma’s chicken and rice casserole.

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Creamy Braised Chicken and Mushrooms – with rice pilaf

Serves 4 – cost approx $1.52 per serving including rice

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 4 – 6 pieces chicken thighs – ($2.50)
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 onion, sliced ($.25)
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced ($.25)
  • 1-2 cups mushrooms, sliced ($1)
  • 1 tsp dry thyme
  • 1 tsp dry sage
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup white wine ($.25)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock ($0 if homemade!)
  • 1 cup sour cream ($.50 – look for pints to go on sale for $1!)
  • 2 Tbs parsley, minced ($.10)

#1) Brown the meat and veggies – Start off by heating up the olive oil and butter over medium high heat in a large pot.  Season both sides of the chicken and dredge in the flour.  Brown thoroughly on both sides then remove.

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Next, toss in your onion, celery and mushrooms and cook until nice and browned up too, 5-8 minutes.  A nice brown, crud should be forming on the bottom of your pot.

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#2) Build strong flavors – Add in the dry thyme, sage and nutmeg.  Stir 1-2 minutes more.  Putting a little heat on your dry herbs and spices helps to bring out their flavors.

#3) Deglaze and build the sauce – Pour in the white wine and scrape up all those lovely, brown bits on the bottom of the pot.  Next, add in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

#4) Simmer away – Simmer, partially covered for 30 min to 2 hours.  Whatever you have the time for.  Stir occasionally.

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#5) Adjust and finish – Taste your pot of yum and add any salt and pepper you find lacking.  Lastly, stir in the sour cream and parsley and give it a final taste test.

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You’re done, spoon it’s deliciousness over rice and enjoy!

 

Creole Braised Chicken – and grits!

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If you’re looking for a flavorful, simple, one-pot meal that’s low fat to boot, well then you’ve come to the right place.  For realsies, no added fat! This was just a weeknight meal that turned out to be especially tasty, thank goodness I decided to take pictures!

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The technique for braising chicken is a good one to have in your repertoire because with the same method, you can change the flavor profiles to suit any sort of cuisine.  Seriously, everyone in the world likes braised chicken!  Some tomatoes and herbs and you can go Mediterranean with it, some curry paste and coconut milk and you have a Thai flavored pot of goodness, cumin and a variety of fresh or dried chilis and you have some Latin flair…

Chicken braises are also versatile when it comes to your starches too, you can serve this yummy southern/creole braise with grits like I did, or mashed potatoes, or noodles, or rice.  Super easy-peasy.

Creole Braised Chicken – served with grits

Serves 4 – cost approx $1.47 per serving

Ingredients

  • 5 pieces chicken – I prefer thighs ($2.50)
  • 3-5 Tbs blackening spice – I’ve got one here: http://fullbellyfullwallet.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/black-macks-heres-to-summer/
  • 1-2 onions, large dice ($1)
  • 2 ribs celery, large dice ($.25)
  • 2 carrots, large dice ($.25)
  • 1/2 bell pepper, large dice ($.25)
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 can (3oz) tomato paste ($.25)
  • 2 cups chicken stock ($0 for home made)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 Tbs minced parsley ($.12)
  • Starchy side of your choice – about $1 for my grits!

Alright, your basic methodology for braised chicken is just a few simple steps:  #1 Brown your chicken and veggies. #2 Build you flavors.  #3  Deglaze the pot and build the sauce.  #4 Simmer away.  #5 Adjust and finish.

#1) First, season you chicken pieces with the blackening spice and sear with the skin side down over medium high heat in a large pot.  Sear the backside too.  Since there’s some fat in the chicken skin, I didn’t need to add any to the pot.  If you want to use a leaner meat or skinless chicken, add a tablespoon or two of your vegetable oil of choice at the get go.

Don’t be afraid to get it nice and truly brown.  Remove from the pot and set aside.

Really brown it up!

Really brown it up!

Next, toss in your veggies and brown them too, it should take 5-10 minutes.

IMG_0770#2) This is the flavor building step.  With this particular braise there’s a lot of flavor in the blackening spice still left in the pot, so just add the tomato paste and cook it 3-5 minutes or until it gets nice and really brown too.  If it were any other braise here is where I would add any curry paste or dry herbs and spices.

#3) Deglazing is the fun part.  Add in the chicken stock and bring to a boil while scraping up all the yummy brown bits on the bottom.  The stock provides the body of the sauce.  You could deglaze with a up to 1/2 cup of your alcoholic beverage of choice, but use stock for the majority of your liquid.

#4) Simmer down! Once your pot has come to a happy bubble, knock it down to a simmer and return the chicken to the pot.  Add in the bay leaf too.  Let the pot simmer for at least 30 minutes and up to a few hours, partially covered.  Stir every half hour or so.  Honestly though, I put on an episode of Doctor Who and forgot about it entirely for an hour and it was just fine.

See? Just fine.

See? Just fine.

#5) Finishing it up.  Take a taste of your delicious concoction and add salt and pepper as necessary.  Stir in the parsley.  At the very end is the time to add any fresh herbs or dairy products (like maybe sour cream or cheese?)  You’re only limited by your imagination.

Caribbean Marinade – Grilled Chicken and Veggie Skewers

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Hullo internet friends!  I’m here to share a quick and tasty recipe in this quick and tasty post.

This Caribbean flavored marinade is largely inspired by one we make and put on beef skewers at the fancy, waterfront restaurant where I work.  The sous chef that I work under knows that those spicy beef satays are one of my favorite things and he almost always gives me a little ‘quality control’ snack whenever we serve this one up at a banquet.

My version was quite tasty on some grilled chicken and vegetable skewers served up with some rice!  These skewers would be great with any sort of picnic sides like potato or macaroni salad too.

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Caribbean Marinade – Grilled Chicken and Veggie Skewers

Serves 4 – Cost approx $1.43 per serving, including rice

Ingredients

  • 1 can coconut milk ($.99)
  • 1 jalapeno, take out the seeds if you’re a sissy ($.25)
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro ($.25)
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 1 Tbs curry powder
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes or strips ($1.49)
  • 1/4 lb mushrooms, large dice ($1)
  • 1 red onion, large dice ($.50)
  • 1 bell pepper, large dice ($.50)

Sooooo, this recipe is very complicated so pay attention!  Just kidding, it’s easier than taking candy from babies.  First, you blend up all the marinade ingredients in the first list.

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Second, you marinade all your goodies anywhere from 2 hours to overnight.  You can pre-skewer and pour over the marinade or marinade the goodies and skewer later.  I did it the later way because I was running late for work and didn’t have the time to assemble the skewers…

IMG_0750Third, you grill them up!

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Holy Steak Seasoning Batman!

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Hello lovlies! It’s nice to have some time for interneting, it’s been crazy here in the mountains but it’s good to make that hay while the sun is shining.  Here’s a quick post to alleviate my guilt at ignoring my little blog.

Anyway, I got a free sample of ‘Steakhouse Steak Seasoning’ from Raley’s as part of their ‘Something Extra Try-It’ program, and I’ve been putting it on just about everything.  I’ve been really surprised about how versatile it is.

Of course it’s good on any sort of beef, I’ve mixed it into some burgers and rubbed it on a grilled tri-tip; which were both a hit with the Fireman in my life.  Off the beaten path a little bit, I also used it to season some oven fries and it was delicious!  It was also really yummy sprinkled on the top of some fresh bread.  In addition to salt, pepper and onion flavors, this spice mix has some caraway and dill flavors in it too and makes bread taste like an ‘everything bagel.’

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Last night I used this steak seasoning rub on another tri-tip I got on sale, but I dressed it up with a few additional spices to make it have a little Middle-Eastern/North African flair to it.  I toasted up a tablespoon of corriander and teaspoon each of mustard seeds and cumin and coarsely ground all three.  I rubbed the toasted spices and the ‘Steakhouse’ seasonings on my happy little tri-tip and let it sit in the refrigerator for most of the afternoon.  When my fireman came home, I fired up the grill and slapped on the meat (and also some onions and lemons for my side of tabbouleh!) and dinner was had.

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Wet Hot American Summer Risotto – Just a quickie…

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I guess with the afternoon showers and muggy, blanket-like clouds it has been a little bit of a ‘Wet Hot American Summer’ here in Tahoe, but nothing like being at an epic summer camp ;)  If you’re in the mood for a silly summer (for grown ups only) comedy, I highly recommend it…

Anyway, I made this little summery risotto and I thought it was tasty enough to share.  I made it using my ‘Kitchen Sink’ method of throwing in all the little bits of things needing to be used up in my kitchen.  Today it was chicken stock, bacon, green onions and some cheeses that needed to go and so a risotto was born.

On a side note: how do you tell if you’ve married into the right family?  One good clue is when your in-laws send over little baggies of home-made bacon!  Thank you to Mr. W for this tasty treat.  It was subtly smoky, very lean and meaty, like the bastard child of Canadian bacon and American bacon.

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American Summer Risotto

Serves 4 – cost approx $1.34 per serving

Ingredients

  • 6 slices bacon, thinly sliced ($0 thanks to my awesome Father in Law!  But about $.75 if store bought)
  • 1 small red or white onion, small diced ($.30)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced – optional ($.25)
  • 1 lb arborio rice ($1.75)
  • 1/2 cup white wine ($.25)
  • 4-6 cups chicken or veg stock
  • 1 cup corn kernels, frozen or fresh, roasted would be delicious! ($.30)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese ($.50)
  • 2 Tbs butter ($.12)
  • 1/4 cup fun cheese, crumbled – I used mozzarella, but feta or goat cheese would be awesome too ($.50)
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced ($.15)

Start by crisping up the bacon in a large pot or large saute pan.  Remove the bacon and leave a few tablespoons of fat in the pan.  Saute the onion, garlic and jalapeno 5 minutes or so.  Toss in the rice and saute 2-3 minutes or until the grains are opaque with little white centers.  Deglaze with the white wine.  Start adding the chicken or vegetable stock, 1 cup at at time and stirring regularly and adding more liquid when the rice has absorbed all of the last batch.  When the rice is done to your liking (I like mine a little al dente) stir in the corn, reserved bacon and parmesan cheese.  Next add the butter and stir quickly until it’s all incorporated.  Mix in your fun cheese and add salt to taste.  Garnish with the green onions.

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South East Asian Grilled Chicken – Cool Summer Spring Rolls

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There’s nothing better than a summer dinner where you don’t have to heat up your kitchen one little bit!  I cooked up some marinaded chicken thighs outside on the grill and served them with a smattering of cold ingredients.  This one was both easy and so fun to eat, my fireman and I had a blast making ourselves little spring rolls and dipping them to our hearts’ content.

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This chicken would be great as a component of a noodle bowl or grilled on a stick as either kebaps or satays too.  I just love spring rolls with all my tiny, little heart though.  Any of those options would be great as a main course or as appetizers.

While the main recipe here is the marinaded and grilled chicken, I’m also sharing some little recipes for some Vietnamese-inspired dipping sauces too.  The recipe for the peanut sauce comes from my college friend, Mai.  In our senior year, our little study group started doing small dinner parties where we showed each other our specialty recipes.  It started with just us girls, but then ended up growing bigger and bigger as our boyfriends (which are all now our husbands!) and friends caught on to the fact that we are all awesome cooks.

Being from a Vietnamese family, one particularly memorable night Mai made us a huge pot of pho and all the fixin’s for spring rolls and a perfectly simple peanut sauce for dipping.  I wish I could say I remembered all her wonderful recipes, but it was a BYOB sort of dinner party involving everyone’s boyfriends and a smattering of roommates, and the only one I remember is her peanut sauce…

South East Asian Grilled Chicken - served in spring rolls

Serves 4 – cost approx $1.85 per serving for whole meal, including sauces

  • 4-6 pieces boneless chicken – whatever is on sale or you like best, I got some delicious thighs for $.99 per lb and took out the bones myself ($1.75)
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 lime, quartered and squeezed ($.18)
  • 1″ piece ginger, rough chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 Tbs palm sugar* or brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs fish sauce
  • 2 Tbs sambal olek chili paste

Just mix everything together and let marinade in the fridge for 2-6 hours.

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When you’re ready to eat, just grill up your chicken!  (If you don’t feel like grilling, I’m sure you could roast or saute it too…)  Let the chicken rest 5 minutes or so then slice into strips of you’re doing spring rolls.

[*If you're wondering what palm sugar is, it's a type of compacted sugar that comes in little domes and is available in most Asian markets.  Wikipedia tells me that it comes from the sap of a variety of different types of palm trees.  You just grate or chop off what you need.]

Here’s what I used for the rest of the spring rolls:

  • 10 oz package of vermicelli/mung bean noodles – they come in little bundles, to prepare them you just pour over hot water, let set 5 minutes to ‘cook/soften’ the noodles, drain them, toss with a little veg oil and chill for later ($1.50)
  • 1/4 head shredded cabbage or lettuce ($.40)
  • 3 shredded carrots ($.20)
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro leaves ($.25)
  • 1/2 bunch sliced scallions ($.25)
  • 1 package rice paper wrappers ($1.50)

Here’s how to assemble your wonderful little spring rolls:  First, set out a shallow bowl of lukewarm water.  Get a sheet of rice paper and dunk it for 30 seconds or so.  Set it on your plate and pile on whatever fixin’s you like.

IMG_0693Next, wrap it up like a little burrito!  That’s all folks.  (Pardon the horrible, shadowy picture)

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Mai’s Peanut Sauce

  • 1/2 cup peanut sauce ($.50)
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce ($.50)
  • 1/2 cup pho broth or other stock

Mix all ingredients and dip away!

Lazy Nuoc Cham

  • 1/2 lime, zest and juice ($.10)
  • sambal olek chili paste, to taste
  • 2 Tbs rice vinegar

Mix all ingredients and dip away!

Black Macks! – Here’s to summer!

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Sadly, these aren’t my fishies.  Ooooh how I wish they were.  I had to cut off their heads to fit them in a 9×13 pan! The brave hunter who slayed these mighty Mackinaw was none other than Fireman Mikey (and a few of the other guys from the crew) with whom I have a standing agreement: if he catches enough fish to share with my and my sweetie I’ll cook them up and make us all a feast.

On tonight’s menu was blackened fillets and oven fries with a sour cream and herb dipping sauce.  It was so funny, of course the firemen loved the fish, but the thing that they both raved about was that I threw in some carrots with the oven fries.  I think it was the combination of the spicy fish, the naturally sweet carrots and the creamy dipping sauce.

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Fireman Mikey has promised me that he’ll show me his fishing spot where he lands these awesome Mackinaw (for that matter, I promised to take him paddle-boarding too!), but it seems like we’re not going to have a day off in common in the foreseeable future.  Oh well, the time will come.

Simple Blackening Spice Rub

Makes enough for about 2-3 lbs of meat – you could use fish fillets, chicken cutlets or breasts, shrimp or even pork

  • 2 Tbs Cajun seasoning
  • 2 Tbs mild chili powder
  • 2 Tbs paprika
  • 1 Tbs dried thyme or 2 Tbs fresh thyme

You could easily increase or decrease the amount of blackening spice to suit however much meat you’re planning on cooking!  Just mix all the spices together and coat your fillets and pan fry!  Easy peasy, lemon-squeezy.

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Look at that bountiful plate or blackened fish!

Sour cream Dipping Sauce

Makes about 1 cup – cost approx $1.37 per batch – since I got the fish for free, it was the most expensive part of my dinner!

  • 1/2 cup sour cream ($.25, pints go on sale for $1 all the time when it’s close to the expiration date.)
  • 1/2 cup mayo ($.12)
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest ($.50)
  • 2 Tbs whatever mustard you like best, I used dijon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbs whatever fresh herbs you like best, I had scallions on hand this go around.  ($.25)

Just mix everything together and find something to dip in its wonderfulness!  I think the lemon compliments the blackened fish really nicely.

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Luby’s-Style Mac’n’Cheese – I know it’s wrong but it feels so right!

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There’s just something magical about a well done, Southern-style, greasy-spoon, all night diner, type of macaroni and cheese.  It’s impossibly creamy, super cheesy and is just the perfect foil for some meat and veggies.  The side-dish of the Gods.

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For me, that perfect mac’n’cheese always came from Luby’s.  When I was a little girl, growing up in the suburbs of Houston, my family would often go out to dinner with some family friends to Luby’s.  (It’s a kid-friendly, cafeteria-style restaurant, for those of you so unfortunate to never have spent time in the South.)  In my memories, it was always so amazing; both the smorgasbord of tasty foods to choose from and getting to play with my friends.  What more could a little kiddo want?  Two things were a must for me when my parents took me to Luby’s: the macaroni and cheese because it was just so perfect and “Lello Jello” because I really loved to say it even though I was saying it wrong.  My Dad was always a fan of the liver and onions that they served there, but that was way beyond my immature palate.  In all reality, Luby’s is probably a pretty average restaurant, but it will always have a special place in my heart and in my childhood.

Because I now live in California, when I saw a copy-cat recipe online for Luby’s Mac’n’Cheese it started a dangerous obsession.  I researched several copy-cat recipes and tested out more than one, trying to get the perfect taste and consistency; then came the adjustments to get the cooking method just right.  My poor fireman has been eating a lot of mac’n’cheese in the past few weeks.  On the other hand, I have a friend, who went to high school in the Austin area and who is quite the macaroni and cheese aficionado, and she was more than happy to help me taste test all my versions.  Two Texans agree, this recipe is damn tasty.

Luby’s Style Mac’n’Cheese

Serves 4 as a side dish – cost approx $.70 per serving

*Note: This recipe can be doubled quite easily if you need to feed more hungry mouths*

Two Firemen to feed means two pounds of pasta!  Boy can they eat!!!

Two Firemen to feed means two pounds of pasta! Boy can they eat!!!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb elbow pasta ($.75)
  • 2 Tbs butter ($.16)
  • 2 Tbs margarine
  • 3 Tbs powdered milk – the secret ingredient I never would have guessed!
  • 3 Tbs flour
  • 12 oz Velveeta or other ‘cheese product’ cut in small cubes – don’t judge ($1 on a good sale)
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar, shredded ($.63)

Start by putting a pot on to boil the pasta in and preheating the oven to 350F.

When the water is boiling, salt it with some verve and toss in the pasta.  While the pasta cooks, melt the butter and margarine together over medium-low heat in a large, oven-safe pot.  Stir together the flour and milk powder then whisk them into the melted butter and margarine.  Let cook, while whisking constantly 1-2 minutes, making something like a roux.  Measure out 1 1/2 cups hot, boiling pasta water (I used a ladle and a Pyrex measuring cup and it worked quite well.) and whisk it in, still stirring constantly.

Keeping the pot over low heat, stir in the Velveeta and half of the cheddar until it’s all melted and slightly bubbly.  This may take about 5 minutes.  By now the pasta is probably done, so drain it and mix it into the cheese sauce.  Right about now, your mouth will probably begin to water profusely.  Sprinkle over the remaining cheddar cheese and pop it all into the oven for 5-10 minutes to melt the cheese on top and meld the flavors.

This is the perfect side dish to bring to a pot-luck or barbecue.  Or you could just add some sauteed onions, broccoli and bacon for a quick and easy weeknight meal, like I did!

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