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Shop the Sale: Beefy Cheesy Quesadillas


Beefy Cheesy QuesadillasI’m in full-on comfort food mode!

I want anything that’s warm, cheesy, easy and that my whole family loves because nothing destroys comfort food mojo like complaining at the kitchen table.

This dish fulfills all my comfort food requirements.

I would have to double this recipe to feed my hungry family, but that’s easy (and economical) to do as well.

This is the perfect meal for a cool, fall night.

Beefy Cheesy Quesadillas

Ingredients:
1 Tbs butter
1/3 cup white onions, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 lb Angus ground chuck
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1/2 packet taco seasoning
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
8 (10-inch) flour tortillas
4 cups cheddar cheese/Monterey Jack cheese, grated
butter, for cooking

Directions:
Melt butter in a large cast-iron skillet until it begins to bubble. Add onions; cook until translucent. Add ground beef and salt, breaking up ground meat as it cooks and browns. Drain grease.

Mix taco seasoning into the tomato sauce. Add sauce to beef and onions, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

In a large nonstick skillet, melt more butter over medium heat. Place a tortilla in the skillet. Sprinkle with about 1/2 cup cheese (enough to cover tortilla) and about 3/4 cup of meat mixture.  Spread butter on top of a second tortilla, and place over meat mixture, pressing to help seal. Cook until golden on one side. Flip and cook until golden-brown on the second side. Remove from pan and let cool. Repeat with remaining tortillas and meat mixture. Slice into triangles. Serve with sour cream, guacamole and fresh cilantro.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 832, Calories from Fat: 448, Fat: 50 g (29 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 230 mg, Sodium: 1731 mg, Carbohydrates: 29 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 68 g.

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Dine In: Cajun Chicken & Rice


Cajun Chicken & RiceI need dinner tonight to be easy. Super easy.

It’s been a week; you know what I’m talking about. Two nighttime events for work. One nighttime event for school. After-school play rehearsals for one child; early morning training workouts for the other. Add in carpool, homework times two and a full work week, and Friday-night dinner has to come together quickly and easily and be delicious and filling.

Anything with rice qualifies as comfort food in my book, and if you start the rice a few minutes before the chicken, everything will come together perfectly when the chicken and vegetables are finished cooking. We like spicy, so I add quite a bit of Cajun seasoning. However, you can adjust the amount for your family’s tastes. I also prefer to use broth instead of water, as it just deepens the flavor.

Cajun Chicken and Rice

Ingredients:
1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups water or chicken broth
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbs Cajun or Creole seasoning
2 Tbs olive oil
4 cups diced onions and bell peppers
1 (10 oz) can Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Louisiana Hot Sauce, for serving

Directions:
Combine rice and water (or broth) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 14 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside, leaving the cover alone. (This is always the mistake I make with rice. Don’t. Touch. The. Lid.)

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, and season with a Cajun or Creole seasoning like Tony Chachere’s. Add half of the olive oil to a large pot and set heat to medium-high. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken without overcrowding the pan. Brown on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes, and then brown on the other side. Remove chicken to a plate to rest.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan; increase heat to high. When the oil is hot, add the onions, bell peppers and more seasoning; sauté until the vegetables become soft and browned.

Add the tomatoes, and then add the chicken back in, along with any juices that may have collected on the plate. Add the cooked rice and stir until well-combined. Add the cheese if desired and stir well to combine.

Serve with Louisiana Hot Sauce.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 610, Calories from Fat: 227, Fat: 25.3 g (9.4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 131 mg, Sodium: 495 mg, Potassium: 662 mg, Carbohydrates: 48.3 g, Fiber: 3.4 g, Sugar: 6.3 g, Protein: 44.8 g.

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Shop the Sale: Volcano Potatoes


Volcano PotatoesWe have potato wars in my house.

I like a nice, fluffy baked potato with butter and sour cream. My older son likes mashed potatoes. My younger son likes “potatoes you can chew.” (ie, a roasted potato). My boyfriend likes french fries.

So, it’s not always easy to find a recipe we can all agree on, until it came to this one. It has baked, mashed, chewable and kind of fried (basting these potatoes with butter and baking them in bacon grease puts it in the same category as frying it, in my opinion).

Then, of course, there is bacon. Lots and lots of bacon. John Morrell Bacon adds a crispy, salty flavor to the otherwise bland potato and really takes this recipe to the next level.

Volcano Potatoes

Ingredients:
12 slices John Morrell Bacon
4 large baking potatoes
4 Tbs butter, melted
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 Tbs hot sauce
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Wash and dry potatoes thoroughly. Piece potatoes with a knife in several places. Cut a slice off one of the potatoes so it can stand firmly on its end.

Wrap three slices of uncooked bacon around each potato, overlapping slightly and covering as much of the potato as you can. Secure with a toothpick. Leave about 1 inch from the top of the potato.

Place potatoes on baking sheet, and brush with melted butter. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until potatoes are fork-tender and bacon is beginning to crisp. Baste potatoes with melted butter during baking process.

In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream and hot sauce; chill until ready to serve.

Remove potatoes from the oven; allow to cool, about 5 to 10 minutes. Slice the inch not covered by bacon off the top of potatoes, and scoop out the cooked potato inside, leaving about a 1/4-inch shell of bacon-wrapped potato.

Place the scooped potato into a bowl with 1/4 cup butter. Add diced onions, sour cream, crumbled bacon and cheeses to the potato mixture. Mash or blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place potato mash into a pastry bag or plastic zip-top bag with a corner snipped off. Pipe potato mash back into baked potato shells. Press shredded cheese on top, and place potatoes back into the oven. Broil on high until cheese is melted. Remove from oven; drizzle with sour cream and hot sauce mixture. Top with green onions, and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 1412, Calories from Fat: 968, Fat: 107 g (53 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 291 mg, Sodium: 3631 mg, Carbohydrates: 41 g, Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 71 g.

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Dine In: Haunted Halloween “Stuffed Intestines”


Haunted Halloween "Stuffed Intestines"There are so many fun ways to fix your food for Halloween that even Dr. Frankenstein would be suitably impressed with the experimentation going on in your spooky kitchen.

You can serve dollops of mashed potatoes piped onto a plate to look like ghosts. You can add black olives to deviled eggs to look like a spider nested on top. You can make individual meatloaves swimming in tomato sauce, striped with bacon to look like zombie heads. The options are endless.

This recipe totally made my kids laugh, after the initial shock wore off. It would be great to serve on Halloween night, before you go out trick-or-treating.

“Stuffed Intestines”

Ingredients:
1 box frozen Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets (includes 2 sheets)
3 to 3 1/2 cups Italian sausage, casings removed
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1 egg with splash of water, beaten

Directions:
Thaw the puff pastry according to the directions on the package. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 400° F.

Remove sausage from casings and cook through. Drain all fat. Add 1/2 cup of tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese to sausage; stir well.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the two sheets of puff pastry to be about the size of the baking sheet. Cut each sheet into 3 strips length-wise or 4 strips width-wise (either way works). Brush a small amount of water on the short end of a strip of dough to help it to stick the short end of the next strip. Continue to create two long strips with all of the dough.

Spoon the sausage mixture evenly down the center of each strip of dough. Bring the sides of the dough up and around the filling, and pinch together to close.

Start with one end of dough. Arrange it winding around the pan in a way that reminds you of an intestine, using all pieces of dough.

Place the pan in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes, or the freezer for 5 minutes, to chill the dough. Then, brush egg wash over the dough.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until dough is golden-brown. Drizzle with the remaining tomato sauce to resemble “blood.” Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 538, Calories from Fat: 354, Fat: 39 g (11 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 77 mg, Sodium: 818 mg, Carbohydrates: 28 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 18 g.

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Shop the Sale: Pressure-Cooked Pork Chops in Gravy


Pressure-Cooked Pork Chops in GravyI got an electric pressure cooker for my birthday recently, and I’m equal parts fascinated and frightened of it.

When I was growing up, my mom had a pressure cooker that she’d use on the stovetop, with a metal bell affixed to the top that would chatter insanely as pressure built inside the pot. It was scary when she released the valve and steam whooshed from the vessel with incredible pressure and heat.

Mine is a bit more modern, of course, with one-button touch start and a release valve that doesn’t clatter.

I’ve only made a few things in it so far, but the fact that it can cook a stew or roast in a fraction of the time is amazing.

Pressure-Cooked Pork Chops in Gravy

Ingredients:
6 assorted pork chops
1 tsp cracked black pepper
3 Tbs canola oil
2 tsp chicken bouillon granules
1 (10.5) oz can cream of mushroom soup
1 1/2 cups sour cream

Directions:
In the pressure cooker, heat oil over medium heat on the “brown” setting until hot.

Pepper both sides of the pork chops and brown, a few at a time; set aside.

Add water and chicken bouillon to the pot, scraping to deglaze the pan.

Add pork chops back into the pressure cooker.

Secure the lid on the pressure cooker, and set timer for 8 minutes. Start the pot. When time runs out, release the pressure.

When there’s no more steam, open the pressure cooker. Add sour cream and cream of mushroom soup; stir. Leave on warm until heated through. Serve immediately with hot noodles or rice.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 560, Calories from Fat: 333, Fat: 35 g (13 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 151 mg, Sodium: 675 mg, Carbohydrates: 26 g, Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 47 g.

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Shop the Sale: Pork and Pasta Stew


Pork and Pasta Stew“Hey Mom, what are you writing about?” my younger son just asked me.

“Pork butt,” I replied.

He collapsed into fits of raucous laughter only a teenage boy could produce at the mention of the word “butt.” Boys never really grow up.

Teenage boys do, however, eat me out of house and home. That’s why it’s important to be able to make them a meal that is filling, nutritious and economical.

Enter Brookshire’s Boston butt roast.

This is one of my favorite things to cook because one roast will feed a small army (aka, teenage boys), and the pork gets so much flavor from the fat.

This meal is super easy because you make it in the slow cooker, so it’s ready when you walk in the door at night.

Pork and Pasta Stew

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs pork butt roast (Boston butt), cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cups chicken broth
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, chopped (liquid reserved)
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 Tbs crushed red pepper
1 Tbs oregano
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
6 oz small shaped pasta, uncooked
4 oz baby spinach
2 oz parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:
Combine the pork roast, broth, tomatoes and the liquid, garlic, red pepper, oregano and salt in a large slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours.

Just before serving, add the pasta. Cover and cook for 10 more minutes. Stir in the spinach. Cover and cook until the pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately topped with parmesan cheese.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 400, Calories from Fat: 104, Fat: 12 g (4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 132 mg, Sodium: 1175 mg, Carbohydrates: 26 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 47 g.

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Shop the Sale: Sunday Roast


Sunday RoastMy mom always made the BEST roast beef.

However, it seems like in my adult years that when I try a roast beef recipe, I get shredded beef or more of a pot roast instead of a piece of meat I can slice and serve with a sprinkling of pan gravy.

Tonight, I’m going to try another new roast beef recipe, and I think this one is going to be a winner. Of course, I’m already starting out winning with rump roast from Brookshire’s.

Use rump roast. Not chuck roast. Chuck roast tends to “shred” and we want to slice, remember?

Be sure to bring your meat to room temperature before you sear it. You’ll get the most beautiful sear that way, I promise.

When you take the meat out of the oven and let it rest, whisk about a tablespoon of flour into the pan juices on the stove over medium-high heat (if you cook in cast-iron, you can just set the skillet on the stove and not dirty another pan). Cook, stirring often, until thickened and bubbly for a brown pan gravy.

Perfect Roast Beef

Ingredients:
2 Tbs canola oil
2 1/2 lbs rump roast, room temperature
2 white onions, chopped
1 cup baby carrots
1 cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 300° F.

In a heavy cast-iron skillet, heat oil over heat. Season the room temperature rump roast with salt, pepper and garlic, massaging spices into meat.

Sear in the hot oil, turning so each side gets browned.

Remove from heat and add onions, carrots and water.

Roast for 20 minutes per pound for rare or 30 minutes per pound for medium-rare.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 407, Calories from Fat: 145, Fat: 16 g (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 16 mg, Carbohydrates: 6 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 59 g.

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Dine In: Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole


Chicken Cordon Bleu CasseroleGrowing up, the gold standard for a fancy meal was Chicken Cordon Bleu.

I figured if we were having that dish, it was a special occasion. This all stems from my parents taking me to a French restaurant for an early birthday, at age 10 maybe, and that clearly made a huge impression on me. Also, that was the first time I had Chicken Cordon Bleu, and I think I requested it for every birthday after that.

Chicken Cordon Bleu is still a pretty snazzy meal in my book, but it’s faster to make in casserole form!

You can purchase a rotisserie chicken to make this dish quickly as a great date night dish for a Friday night.

Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Ingredients:
6 cups cooked chicken, shredded (from 2 lb chicken)
6 oz ham, diced
4 oz butter, melted
6 oz cream cheese, softened
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 Tbs white wine, optional
2 oz lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
5 oz Swiss cheese, sliced

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place chicken in the bottom of the pan, and top with pieces of ham.

In a food processor, combine butter, cream cheese, white wine (optional), mustard, lemon juice and salt. Blend until thickened. Pour over chicken and ham in the baking dish, and top with slices of Swiss cheese.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until hot and bubbly.

If desired, broil under high heat for 2 minutes to get cheese golden.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 605, Fat: 39 g (22 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 226 mg, Sodium: 928 mg, Carbohydrates: 4 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 57 g.

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Shop the Sale: Smoked Whole Fryer Chicken


Smoked Whole Fryer ChickenRight now, right this very minute, I have a whole fryer on the smoker.

It’s kind of a misnomer, isn’t it, when you say you are going to smoke a “fryer,” but a whole fryer chicken was originally intended to be processed and fried!

However, as I’m sure you know, they’re delicious smoked or roasted, as well.

Not only are they delicious and deliciously easy to cook, but they smell good, too. Really good. In fact, I’m moving my laptop out onto the back porch so I can work downwind of the smoker.

Be right back.

There. Oh my. This is amazing.

The scent of the smoker always reminds me of fall, even when it’s still hitting 95 degrees down here in the South.

I’m going to love how this smells all day long!

Grab a fryer (or two, or three) at Brookshire’s. Fry it if you want. Smoke it if you want. Roast it if you want. Any way you cook it, it will be delicious!

Smoked Whole Fryer Chicken

Ingredients:
1 whole fryer, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup Twisted Q Crazy Chic Seasoning, or your favorite spice rub

Directions:
Preheat smoker to 250° F. Sprinkle hickory wood chips near the heat source.

After chicken is rinsed and patted dry, rub with butter, and then sprinkle with seasonings, patting firmly to adhere seasonings to butter.

Place chicken in smoker and close lid. Do not open the lid during the cooking process to maintain proper temperature.

Smoke chicken until meat thermometer reads 165° F and juices run clear, about 1 hour per pound.

Remove from smoker and serve immediately.

Serves 8

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 615, Fat: 22 g (10 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 292 mg, Sodium: 296 mg, Carbohydrates: 0 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g, Protein: 98 g.

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Healthy Living: Autumn in a Skillet


Autumn in a SkilletLast week, my aunt from Maine flew down to visit my mom in Virginia.

I was a little jealous. My aunt is one of the most amazing people I know and certainly one of the strongest women (aside from my mom) in my life.

They had four days filled with fun sister time (again, I was a little jealous). They walked through a designer house, took in the sights and sounds of Richmond, and finally went to western Virginia to visit some historical sites and go apple picking.

Going apple picking is one of my favorite memories from this time of year in Virginia. We did it as a family growing up, but I even went a few times in college, since the picturesque mountain where the orchard was located was also close to the school I attended.

The cool air, crisp fruits and distinctly fall aromas made for the perfect day. There’s nothing like apple picking in the fresh air except maybe turning those apples into delicious treats. This dish combines protein, good fiber, and a ton of vitamins and nutrients in one quick and easy skillet dinner.

Autumn in a Skillet

Ingredients:
1 Tbs olive oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tsp kosher salt, divided
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 slices bacon, chopped
3 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken stock, divided

Directions:
Heat olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet until fragrant and shimmering. Add chicken, salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned and cooked through. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium. Add the bacon; cook until the bacon is crisp. Remove from the skillet with a slotted spoon, and add to the same plate as the chicken.

Turn the heat to medium-high. Add Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and onions. Cook and stir until the vegetables are crisp-tender and the onions are translucent. Stir in the apples, garlic, thyme and cinnamon. Stir in 1/2 cup of the broth. Bring the broth to a boil, stirring often, and cook down until the broth has evaporated. Add in chicken, bacon and the remaining 1/2 cup of broth. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 425, Fat: 20 g (6 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 106 mg, Sodium: 1250 mg, Carbohydrates: 25 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 10 g, Protein: 38 g.

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