Have you ever eaten a cloud?

Anitas Chicken and DumplingsAlmost everyone dreams of heaven and what it will be like. The old stereotype is that of an angel sitting on a cloud with his harp in hand and just singing to everyone’s heart’s content. Some think that it will be a taco bar with cigars and drinking or a glutton’s paradise. Others might think that it’s a hot night with supermodels, but makes you wonder if it would be heaven for “the supermodels.” In all reality though, heaven will be a wonderful place filled with joy and happiness, with no sickness, death, or trials and tribulations. To me it is a place that people will want to go because of the euphoria of just being there and being in the presence of a God and others who have gone before us.

So you might ask “Why all the talk of heaven?” Well I guess it comes back to the stereotype of the angel sitting on the clouds. I took some of Anita’s Chicken and Dumplings to work so that a coworker and friend of mine could try it and let me know what she thought about it. She said that it was like eating clouds. I thought that was a perfect analogy of what the dumplings were like. Done right, they have a perfect consistency for the soup. Clouds and heaven just seemed to fit with this recipe. There was a certain euphoria of a heavenly soup that tasted like you were eating clouds and at the same time was soothing to the soul.

It is easy to make. My sister-in-law helped prepare it. She has down-syndrome, and I enjoy getting the time to cook with her. She is so enthusiastic about the task at hand, and we had a wonderful time cooking together. Heaven will be like this, spending time with the ones that we love [maybe not cooking chicken or it might not be heaven for the chicken].
There will be peace and love.

My impression is that this is a great soup to make. A couple of things I might do different though would be to cut back the chicken and add some more of the spices.  There was too much chicken, and the soup could have used just a little more flavor. Over all it was a wonderful soup. Things like some extra poultry seasoning, rosemary, thyme or something to give it a little more of a kick in flavor would go a long way. Even trying to add some spinach for the last few seconds of it cooking might be interesting as well. Add some extra carrots and celery too, because it gives it a chunkier feel. Most of all, I would definitely say don’t stray from the instructions on the dumplings, because that was the part that truly made this recipe heavenly.

So remember, “Heaven is not a cloudy day, it is the euphoria of thyme well spent.”

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Simply Amazing Bourbon Flank Steak

Meet Flank. Flank is my new friend. Liquor him up, and he is the life of the party! Our party consisted of just a few friends and a wonderful night of good, ol’fashioned steak and potatoes.

Bourbon and Brown Sugar Flank Steak is one of those steaks that you have got to try. We had some friends over and they said that it was one of the best steaks that they have ever eaten. And “OH MY” the flavor is just irresistible. Have I got your mouth watering yet? Good because it should be, and I know mine is.

First of all you will have to get some bourbon. I used Ezra Brooks Bourbon Whiskey. The Liquor Shop attendant recommended it to me, as it is an inexpensive, good quality bourbon whiskey. Then, I went to the meat counter and asked for a 2 pound “trimmed” flank steak.

Be sure to give your dish some time. I recommend that you marinade this steak over night.The sides become easy to cook, and all you need to do is throw it on the grill.

Get a Ziploc bag or a Tupperware container and combine the first seven ingredients: Brown sugar, minced green onions, bourbon, soy-sauce, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire. DO NOT poke, prod, pinch, or do any thing else to tenderize the meat. Just stick it in the bag and refrigerate over night. Let the alcohol, sugar, and marinade all blend together and tenderize the meat on its own.

One day later, remove the steak, and stick it on the grill (5 minutes on each side approximately), depending on how you like your steak cooked. Add some cornstarch to the marinade and heat it up for a nice gravy. This steak was fast, easy, flavorful, pink in the middle, and moist.

Check out the recipe and remember, “Marinade, wait, and be the life of the party in a whole new way.”

Click on the links above for the recipe.

Tequila Orange Shrimp

Tequila Orange Shrimp“Yes, I like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain.” Well Jimmy Buffet sang this anyway. My Pina Coladas are generally of the virgin kind. I am not much of a drinker anymore, but I have found that alcohol can make some of the best cooked meals. For example, try roasting a pork tenderloin with a beer in a crock pot some time, and you will see what I mean. SOOOOO “Love Me Tender.”

Last Night I made for the first time Tequila Orange Shrimp. Between this and the Rasta Pasta, (coming next week) I had my hands pretty full.

I originally bought some shrimp deveined and with tails on, but didn’t think that they were big enough. If I am going to grill shrimp, then I want them to have some size to them. So I went back and got some fresh large shrimp from the meet counter at the grocery store. Then I had to figure out how to devein these things. The easiest way is to put the knife in the hole at the head of the shrimp and cut backwards. It was however a little time-consuming. I know, it seems like it should be obvious, but hey, I am still learning.

I first mixed the oil, jalapeno, garlic, salt and pepper, and lime zest together, and then I placed each shrimp in the marinade as it was ready. That was the easy part. Once they are in the mixture, they are supposed to set for 15 minutes to an hour. Of course it took me that long just to get them all in there, and this gave me the chance to work on the other recipe.

The hard part is the Tequila-Orange sauce. The recipe said to take the rest of the Jalapeno and garlic and mix it with the orange juice, tequila, and shallots. Bring this to a boil and cook until it is a syrupy consistency. The problem is that mine did not turn to syrup. I still don’t know what happened that it didn’t get to the right consistency, but I guess that will come with time and experimentation.

So the next time that you want to have a “Straight Tequila Night,” throw some in with some shrimp and orange juice, and you will find a tasty treat. So remember, “Stop worrying about whether ‘Tequila makes her clothes fall off;’ this dish will put a song in her step.”

You can Find the Recipe Here: Tequila Orange Shrimp.

Pizzaaaaaaaaa!!!!

Pizza

Pizza! I mean really what more can I say. Kids love them. Parents love them. Friends and family love them. My sister-in-law would probably live on them if we let her. She has Downs syndrome, and pizza is one of her favorite foods. There are thousands of ingredients, and a variety of countries have their own versions. Let us just face it; pizza is a way of life.

I decided to make one from scratch, well, with a Pillsbury Thin Crust dough anyway. The sauce is basically just tomato paste, dried rosemary, oregano, basil, fresh garlic, and some water. My recipe said to use 1 ¾ cups of water, which made it really runny. I ended up adding a can of tomato sauce to help thicken it some. This worked a bit, but the sauce was still fairly thin. Then, I put it in a jar to let it marinade for a couple of days, soaking in the flavor of the herbs.

Me Eating PizzaIt was wonderful. The crust was a golden brown. The fixin’s were just what I wanted them to be. It had to have been one of the best pizzas I have ever tasted. My wife even said that it beat out one of our favorite pizza places in Houston, “Spanky’s Pizza” off of 610. UMMMM their garlic and spinach pizza just makes my mouth water. I am going to have to try some other things as well. Maybe I’ll try some pesto, garlic sauce, or Alfredo sauce with chicken. There are so many things that can be done. I cannot wait to try something new.

Just Remember, “Some things are just made better at home!”

Here is what I used for the Pizza Sauce:
(1) 8oz can Tomato paste
(2) Garlic cloves minced
Dried Oregano to Taste
Dried Basil to Taste
Dried Rosemary to Taste
Pinch of salt
(1) cup of water
Optional (1) can of Tomato Sauce

Mix well and let sit for 1 to 2 days.

Salmon with Mustard Cream

Salmon with Mustard Cream and Pan Roasted PotatoesI have cooked many things since I started this blog. Some have been winners and others have been duds. The things that I put on here are generally what I would call successes or definite winners. This one was definitely a winner. My wife said that it had to be one of the best dinners that I have made so far.

This was one from the Cooking Light Superfast Suppers cook book that my wife got when she was doing Southern Living At Home. It is actually one of our favorite cookbooks. For one, it gives you parings like the one that I did that night. Salmon with Mustard Cream Sauce and Pan-Roasted Potates. If you can find this cookbook I would definately recommend it.

The potatoes were basically store bought potatoes wedges that you find in the freezer section of your grocery store (such as Simply Potatoes). Heat oil in a skillet, put the potatoes in it with some greek seasoning and some fresh ground pepper. It takes about 10-12 minutes to make.

The salmon is broiled and you will need a good broiler pan to make this work the best. Crack some pepper on top of it, and sprinkle it with a little lime or lemon juice. It doesn’t need very much juice to give it a little more of a ting. So don’t over do it. It says that it takes about 8 minutes, but I let it cook a little longer to make sure that it was fully cooked. I also made the potatoes and the cream sauce while it was broiling. This did in fact make it super fast and super easy.

I recommend having your Fishmonger cut the pieces to size and find some really fat pieces of meat as well. Because I did this in advance, I didn’t have to worry about size issues or trying to cut them to the weight myself. I also left the skin on the fish. I don’t know that it really helped or hurt any, but it did keep the fish nice and together when I pulled it off the pan.

This is not only a great evening dinner plan, but it is also Super Fast and Super Easy just like the cookbook says. Just remember, “The simple things in life, can be the most enjoyable.”

Salmon with Mustard Cream
4 (6-ounce) Skinless Salmon Fillets
Cooking Spray
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 Cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat broiler
2. Place fish on a broiler pan; coat fish with cooking spray, and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Broil about 8 minutes or until the fish flakes easily when tested with fork.
3. Combine sour cream and next 6 ingredients.
4. Place fillets on plates. Spoon sauce over fish.

Yield: 4 Servings (Serving Size: 1 Fillet and about 2 tablespoons sauce.)

Cooking Light Superfast Suppers, Oxmoor House 2003

Fire and Ice Creole Chicken with Asparagus

Creole Chicken and AsparagusI remember when I was a child watching a guy by the name of Justin Wilson cooking the Cajun way. “I Garontee!” He was notorious for putting wine in whatever he cooked and then taking a good swig of it. He was probably plastered before he got done with the show, but I loved it. He was one of the first experiences I had of a famous male cook. He made me interested in Cajun Cooking. So, here is to you Justin; you have been an inspiration.

I called this Fire and Ice Creole Chicken with Asparagus because it has some bite to it, but you can cool it down with the cheese sauce on the Asparagus. It is not inherently too spicy, but I thought it was a cool name. After all they say if something is spicy when you eat it, do not reach for the glass of water. Water will just enhance the burning sensation. Milk is what they say will help ease the burn in your throat.

It is amazing what you can do with Velveeta if you try. Basically I just combined some Velveeta Cheese, sour cream, half and half, and dried dill to make a cheese spread over the steamed asparagus. Be careful not to over cook the Asparagus. It will continue to cook even after you take it off the burner. I have done that plenty of times over the years. Timing is everything when it comes to cooking this vegetable. I love Asparagus! Cooked through with just a little bit of hardness, you can have a wonderful side dish to go with this Creole Chicken. (Broccoli would be great as well.) 

Just because it has some spice to it, doesn’t necessarily make it creole. This was however a wonderful and extremely easy dish to make. Throw some spices in a Ziploc bag, mix it with the chicken, and then throw it into a skillet. Add some mango salsa and you have a wonderfully simple and luxurious dinner. MMM, MMM!

Just Remember, “A little inspiration can go a long way. I Garontee!

Recipe: Creole Chicken

Banana Foster French Toast

Banana Foster French ToastThis weekend was one that I will never forget. My wife and I decided to host the middle school girls at our house for our church’s Disciple-Now weekend. That is 11 middle school girls, a female (College Student) group leader, my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, my wife, and then there was me – the Lone Ranger (man). It was going to be survival of the fittest in this wild jungle of estrogen. At least I have two male cats – who by the way were cowering beneath the table.

D-Now (as they call it) is basically a weekend slumber party for the different age groups with Bible study and group projects. They went to a Bhutanese Refugee camp, had worship, and enjoyed a quality Bible study time at the house. Joking aside, it was a wonderful experience, and I was impressed with the quality of our youth and their leader. The weekend was a blast!

I decided to find a French Toast recipe to make for the girls with some bacon and scrambled eggs. This way they could start the day with a nice meal. I thought only teenage boys ate like that. WOW!

I found a Betty Crocker recipe for Banana Foster French Toast. The title alone made my mouth water. The truth is that it was just alright though. There were definitely things that could have made it better.

First you spray a 13″x9″ glass dish with baking spray, cut the cinnamon bread into cubes, and place it in the dish. Then you mix the ingredients, (minus bananas, walnuts, some syrup, and the rum extract). These items will be used later – about 8 hours later. All in all, this is an easy dish to make.

As good as it sounds like it should be, it was just average. The bananas did not really add anything to it, and I am still trying to figure out the foster part. I guess that was the rum-extract mixed with the real maple syrup. The maple syrup (liquid gold) could have been cut in half as well.

My wife said that she loved just the French Toast part (no fruit), and my mother-in-law called it a glorified bread pudding. Most of the girls really enjoyed it, and our friend the college student wanted the recipe. I think that it was a hit for the most part. The best part is that it is really easy, and you make most of it the night before.

Instead of adding the bananas and rum-extract infused maple syrup (which cuts the cost in almost half), I think that a raspberry or blueberry sauce could have added a lot to this recipe. Either way it was worth the effort and the ease to make, but ultimately was just an average dish. 

The basic french toast portion of this dish, provides a great foundation for a different recipe. You need to try it for yourself to really know, and remember “Just because it sounds good, doesn’t make it any more special. It is the guests that make it special!”

Click here for Recipe: Banana Foster French Toast

Easy Salmon Croquettes (Salmon Cakes)

Salmon CroquettesOh so delicious. I can remember when my mom used to make salmon cakes when I was a kid. Coupled with some Kraft Mac and Cheese (the only real Mac and Cheese) was a highlight of the evening. I once called them the Poor Man’s Salmon Cakes. We didn’t always have very much, but my mom really could cook. That is where I get some of my passion for it.

My mom made sure that I would learn how to, so to speak, wine and dine if I wanted to. I have tried it a few different ways in the past, and I didn’t realize that I was missing some of the ingredients, like egg and lemon juice. This recipe is the closest that I have come to my mom’s croquettes, and they are AWESOME and easy to make.

I used three cans of “Chicken of the Sea” boneless skinless Salmon instead of the 15 oz can that the original recipe called for. I like it this way because I can open the can and drain the juices out of it before I use them. Basically I would just press the top of the can into it and get as much of the juice out before use. Then I put them in the bowl.

I used  Saltine Crackers and crushed them in a zip lock bag. About ½ of a row of crackers equals one cup, once crushed. Add a little bit of onion, salt, pepper, egg, and lemon juice. Then pack them into little patties. The recipe said that it makes 8 patties, but I made 6. They were about 3” in diameter after I pressed them onto some parchment paper.

I got the oil hot and placed them into the pan. With a little sizzle and pop, they started to brown. I made some Mac and Cheese, and I was in HOG HEAVEN. It brought me back to the good ol’ days.

Enjoy and remember, “It doesn’t have to be difficult to be delicious.”

Click here for the recipe: Salmon Croquettes

Mustard Beef Rolls

Mustard Beef RollsAwwww! There is nothing like a slab of meat that you roll bacon into before eating. After all bacon is man’s best friend, right?

I love to cook. Not everything that I make is a winner but I think this one is definitely a keeper. The MUSTARD BEEF ROLLS, garlic mashed potatoes, and corn took about 2 hours total to put together (50 minutes of that time was the beef in the oven). The dish was not necessarily difficult, and I would say that I would do it again in the future.

I think that the following things could have made it a little eaiser though:

  • The recipe called for crumbled bacon and making that upfront from breakfast or the night before might have made the process a little eaiser and cut back some of the cleanup. This could cause a problem if you want to use the bacon drippings, but you could use butter instead.
  • See if you can have the butcher cut the flank steaks into (5) 2″x5″ pieces ahead of time – pretenderized. This way you know that the size is all ready for you to add the mix too as soon as it is ready.

The hardest part really comes from trying to roll the beef and keep the stuffing intact, but once you get them together, there is not that much left to do. You put them into the flour, fry until they start to brown, add the wine, and then cook for 50 minutes.

My wife described them as tasting like little meatloafs. Which is probably a pretty fair description of what they tasted like. So if you are up for a little experiment, check out the recipe below, and remember to “Spice up your kitchen with something new.”

Click here for recipe: Mustard Beef Rolls