Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quick & Easy Chicken (Or Turkey) Tetrazinni

Chicken Tetrazinni has been a favorite at our house for many years. Now that the children are gone, I get to make several casseroles from one batch, which allows me to have a few nights off from cooking now and then. For some reason, the flavors in this casserole are irresistible to me. Also, since the pet food contamination scare, I buy one roasted chicken per week to feed to my cat, which, along with her dry food, satisfies my finicky feline. Since she's not a huge eater, I can usually manage to get a meal or two out of the chicken before handing the rest of it over to her. It's all very economical, really!

At any rate, this is my favorite dish for leftover chicken (or turkey) aside from King Ranch Casserole:


-->8 oz. spaghetti

1/4 stick (2 oz.) butter 

2 T. flour 

1 1/2 C chicken stock

2 T. dry sherry 

1 C. light cream or half and half 

1/2 C. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated if possible 

About a pound of cooked chicken 

1/2 lb. button mushrooms, sliced and lightly sautéed in a bit of butter

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced or chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can of sliced black olives 


1.Cook the spaghetti al dente according to the package. Dice the chicken. 

2. In a sauté pan, melt the butter, add the flour and mix well. Add the stock gradually, while stirring. Cook over medium heat. Stir in sherry, cream and remove from heat. Add the chicken, cheese, olives and mushrooms. Add the spaghetti and mix well.

3. Check seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Pour in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle fresh grated parmesan over the top, and bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes until hot and golden brown.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Divine Intervention Mandarin Salad With Hearts of Palm, Toasted Pine Nuts & A Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

When our (now) grown children were growing up, we spent every summer at our lake house on Lake Buchanan, in the Texas Hill Country. It had been in my hubby's family since the lake and Dam were first built back in the 1940's. The wonderful *Austin chalk* rambling ranch style house with 4 bedrooms & 3 baths was built by his maternal grandparents in one the first private gated communities ever. Our boat docks were within yards of the house & there was an outdoor sink area to clean fish and keep bait buckets full of minnows in the water. Summers there were always magical.

Every year the excitement about the lake started even before school was out, each of us planning what we'd be taking with us and by the time we did actually make our road trip to the lake, we very much resembled the Beverly Hillbillys. With hubby and I, there were also our two kids (usually each with a friend in tow), our Cairn Terrier Lulu, an unfortunate a fortunate teenager to be my *Mother's Helper* for the summer and our two cats, along with so much stuff  that the Suburban was literally about 5 inches off the ground. It rather resembled a circus to those who witnessed us en route, especially with the full luggage rack on top of the car and animals and kids hanging out the windows amidst the happy chaos.

Anyway, I always had the worst time trying to remember what I already had in the pantry and freezers at the lake, as I was preparing to head there or whether we were going in the direction of home and I was trying to remember the same about home. Of course, this was in the days before cell phones and personal computers and iPods, so we actually had to rely on the hand written lists we made, then good luck finding that list when it was the next time to go to the lake. I could never find mine. So, I began stocking canned items that I could use to throw together a quick side dish or two, which saved me from having to make the 1 hour round trip drive into town (Burnet, TX) the minute we arrived and got the car unloaded. You see, we always brought beef, chicken & pork from home, but knowing we'd get better veggies there, we seldom took them with us. Besides, we also had a veggie garden that our caretaker started for us every year.

The canned items I kept were mandarin oranges, pine nuts (in a jar), hearts of palm, and some other less unusual items, which really made my life a bit easier, like tomato soup, crackers, broth, pasta & sauce, etc. Since we had butter lettuce and spring onions growing at the lake, we almost always had this salad with dinner upon every arrival. That way, I could get us all settled in, making a list as I went, then make the long trip into town and the store the next morning. This is why I called it the Divine Intervention Mandarin Salad.

I don't believe I know anyone who hasn't adored this salad. The combination of all the ingredients, along with the dressing, never fails to leave a parade of flavors exploding in your mouth. So, let's get after it, shall we?

Divine Intervention Mandarin Salad With Hearts of Palm & Toasted Pine Nuts:


1 head of butter lettuce (torn to your size preference)

1 head of red leaf lettuce (torn to your preferred size)

1 can of Hearts of Palm, drained & thinly sliced

1 can of Mandarin orange slices, drained

1/2 cup of pine nuts, toasted

1-2 bunches of green onions, thinly sliced (with some darker green too)

Gorgonzola cheese (or bleu cheese), crumbled (Sometimes I even use Feta cheese or Parmesan, depending on what I have available.)


Assemble ingredients and toss with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette. Recipe is below.

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette:


Larado's Sweet & Hot Oriental Fire & Lace Mustard ~ OR ~ your favorite honey mustard

fresh extra virgin olive oil

your favorite balsamic or red wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste


I wish I could give you actual measurements, but that just isn't the way I roll when making homemade salad dressings. It's all about your taste, baby! Actually, I think I use like six parts olive oil, 2 parts vinegar, and 8 parts honey mustard. I put all the ingredients in a canning jar and shake, then taste, but don't trust me on that. I can barely remember my name half of the time.

Just do a little experimenting to decide how you prefer it. You can always store the extra dressing in the lidded jar, in the fridge.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Burning Mandarin Martinis... I Clearly Suck At Being A Mixologist

In celebration of our upcoming trip to visit our daughter In L.A. (we're staying in Santa Monica on the beach this time), I decided to try making the divine *Burning Mandarin Martinis* made at Katsuya Hollywood, when we visited last year. Last time we stayed downtown at The Omni and it involved waaay too much driving. I was so disappointed with the outcome of my mixology efforts that I could barely drink it, but I did anyway. I wouldn't want to waste good vodka! Heaven forbid! Perhaps you can do a better job of it, so here's the recipe: Burning Mandarin Martinis:

2 slices of serrano chile pepper

1 1/2 ounces Absolut Mandarin Vodka

3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

1/2 ounce orange juice

1/2 ounce simple syrup

1/2 ounce cranberry juice

Muddle the chili slices. Add the rest of the ingredients and ice. Shake and strain into a glass. Garnish with peppers. Oh - And I expect you to send me a sample of your efforts, virtually, that is. I'd love to see someone make it like it was at Katsuya. Have fun with it. I did, even though it turned out too tart...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

BLAT On Lightly Toasted Wheat Bread With Wasabi Mustard & Light Mayonnaise Served With Soy & Flaxseed Tortilla Chips

Occasionally, I just get weary of making *fabulous meals*, so when I need a break, I resort to sandwiches. Sometimes it's soup & sandwiches but in the summer we tend to eat much lighter, so it's sandwiches served with our favorite healthy tortilla chips.

At our house, we think bacon is truly a perfect food, so we use it often. But, our favorite is BLAT (Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado & Tomato) sandwiches and they just got more fun! It seems all the super markets are now carrying a wide variety of flavored mustards and I love the wasabi with a BLAT.

Ingredients You'll Need:

2 Slices of your favorite wheat bread (per person)

4 to 5 slices of jalopeno cured bacon (p/p)

2 to 3 leaves of butter lettuce (per person)

3 to 4 thin slices of fresh tomato (p/p)

5 to 6 thin slices of fresh avocado (p/p)

Wasabi mustard, to taste

Mayonnaise, if desired

Salt & pepper to taste, if desired


1. Assemble sandwiches in any way you find pleasing and serve with healthy chips like these soy & flaxseed tortilla chips.

2. You need not be concerned with leftovers, as there won't be any.

3. In the winter, this pairs nicely with a hearty tortilla soup or a tomato basil soup.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Went... I Saw... But, I Didn't Conquer

Yes, it's true. My hot sauce didn't win this year, but I'm always hopeful for next year. However, the hot sauce festival itself, was better than ever! The crowd was bigger than expected, proving that salsa rules in Austin, Texas.

They had some great bands that played throughout the day, as people stood in line to taste the many salsas. There were also commercial vendors and local restaurants offering tastings of their various salsas.

As I stood in line waiting to enter my two salsas, I met several 20-something girls who had canned their own hot sauce and were there to enter them. It warmed my heart to know that the younger generation is getting into this, as it looked like it was becoming a dying art at one point. With the economic recession, I think more people are gardening and canning than ever.

It was unbearably hot, to go along with the hot sauce theme of the festival, so I was fairly miserable in the heat. Thus, I was only able to remember to take a couple of shots. My mind turns to sheer mush in the heat, rendering me completely useless. At any rate, I will return next year and try again...

Later that night, I took my son and his roommate to dinner at Sullivan's, one of our family favorites. We're never disappointed with our meals at Sullivan's and this night was no exception.

We had the Calamari and the Escargot for starters, then I had The Wedge salad and their salmon, which was cooked to perfection.

My son had a steak, as always, and his roomie had the Sea Bass. For dessert we shared two, with one being their New York cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce and the other was Key Lime Pie with Raspberry Sauce & Mint.

I just love Austin and all that it has to offer. If there was any way I could get my hubby to move there, I would. In a red hot second...