Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

When I first saw this recipe on Pinterest, I was a little unsure about it. I repinned it to revisit later. What I wasn’t sure about was how the bacon and the ranch would taste with pasta and cheddar cheese. Well, in my house, it was a hit. My hunny LOVED it. I know this because he went back for seconds. And then told me he would eat leftovers (Shock and amazement abounds)! What I really like about this recipe is that it used a majority of the remainder of the rotisserie chicken that I had bought in hopes of putting it on salads all week. Obviously my plan didn’t quite work out. And it’s a one pot meal!

Oh yes, the other thing that i really enjoyed about this pasta is that it was cheap. I’m all about the low cost meals these days. Rachel Ray could totally feature this on thirty minute meals. So final thought, yay for a Pinterest meal turning out awesome!

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Ingredients:
2 cups chicken, chopped -leftover rotisserie is great
5-7 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 tbsps ranch seasoning mix – works out to be about 1/2 a packet (for those of you who have never used this before, you can find it in the dressing aisle, NOT with the onion soup mix.)
Pasta of your choice, about half a pound, which is half a box – I would suggest using a pasta like penne rigate that has ridges for the sauce to stick to
2 cups of milk
1 1/2 tbsps flour
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese – or more if you’re a cheese hound like me.

Directions:
1. Prep your ingredients, aka chop the chicken and cook the bacon. And yes, you can cook the bacon in the microwave, I totally did. Thats the prep. Awesome, right?
2. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water. Once it’s cooked, drain and set aside.
3. In that pot you cooked the water in, add the butter and melt. Then add 1 tbsp of the flour. Whisk… for you more experienced cooks, you’re making a roux here. Once everything is in a dough-y consistency, slowly add in your milk, whisking in to your doughy stuff. Make sure you break up all the clumps, that is what makes the sauce thicker. And here is where that other half a tbsp of flour comes in to play. The original recipe called for only 1 tbsp but I found that wasnt enough. Add it here and whisk. Let this cook for a few minutes on medium heat until it thickens a little bit… probably about 5 minutes.
4. Once you have a sauce coming together, add in the ranch seasoning, and the cheese. Stir it all together. You will find that you have a fantastically thick sauce now. Once the cheese is mostly melted, add in your chicken and bacon and toss to coat. Let this cook a couple minutes to heat up the chicken.
5. Add in your pasta, coat it with the delicious sauce, and let it warm back up for about 2 minutes. Serve with garlic bread and a salad to help balance out the meal.

Final thoughts: this isn’t the healthiest meal we have ever had. But it is delicious, and everything in moderation, right? Sometimes you have to jump off the health food bandwagon for some good comfort food. And I’m betting this would be really good with some chopped broccoli added in.

Tropical Rum Glazed Porkchops

Oh the wonders of cooking with alcohol. If I really enjoy the flavor of liquor in a cocktail, then why in the world would I NOT enjoy that flavor in a home cooked meal? The major benefit is that I can enjoy the flavor without the hangover the next morning. Kitchen experimentation is one of my favorite pastimes.

So I knew that I wanted to make a Captain Morgan glaze for pork chops. Try googling rum glaze and the first and most common thing that comes up is pineapple rum glaze. And yet I feel like no one has tried it with spiced rum. Why is that? It was delicious! I used the black Tattoo spiced rum, and I used a mix of pineapple juice and mandarin orange juice because I didnt have enough pineapple juice. But I definitely would like to try it again with the classic spiced rum and straight pineapple juice. Flavor combinations are bouncing around in my mind. What about rum lime on chicken? Does cranberry and rum go together? What if I mixed orange and pineapple? Or how would it turn out if I used a juice with a thicker consistency?

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So the process was relatively simple. Although a little time consuming and exhausting. The worst part about making a glaze is that it has to boil and be whisked for like TEN minutes! My arm wanted to fall off. It’s like making a meringue without an electric mixer. Definiteky worth it though. This glaze has a half-cup of the rum, 12 ounces of fruit juice, two-thirds of a cup of dark brown sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon. It ends up being a thick syrupy texture with very bold and prominent flavor.

When I worked with my pork chops, I put some AP flour on a paper plate, sprinkled some seasoning salt on top, and the put the porkchop in the flour on bkth siees. Then I put it in a preheated pan with about two tabelspoons of olive oil. This helps create a nice crust on the pork chop and gives the glaze something to stick to. Let it cook a couple more minutes each side before spooning some of the glaze that has cooled slightly over the top. As it’s cooking it will create even more of a syrup that you may just want to pour over a waffle because it smells that good. Flip only twice, as you dont want to lose any of that yummy crust, and baste each time with a spoonful of glaze. You will have leftovers to cook with that chicken for your salad tomorrow, I promise.

I served it with rice and may have licked the plate. Try it, you wont be dissapointed.

To make the glaze:
● 1/2 c rum (spiced, dark, dark spiced – your choice)
● 12 oz fruit juice (pineapple preferably at this point.)
● 1/2 c butter
● 2/3 c dark brown sugar
● 1 tsp cinnamon

1. Pour the rum and the fruit juice in a pot at room temp. Whisk together and turn on the heat to low. Add the butter and sugar. Keep on low and whisk frequently until the sugar is completely dissolved and tbe butter is completely melted. Have patience, this will take about 7-10 minutes on low.
2. Bring the heat up so that you get a rapid boil. Let boil for 7-10 minutes, whisking constantly to cook off the alcohol. BE CAREFUL! Alcohol is highly flammable.
3. Pull off the heat, and let sit for approximately 10 minutes while you get your meat ready and begin cooking it.
4. Baste the meat approximately twice a side, and serve. So far, this has been tested on pork by me, and on chicken and salmon by the person who wrote the recipe originally. (It was in a forum)

Comfort Foods

Rachel Ray gave me a new twist on one of my favorite comfort foods – mac and cheese. I saw on her newest show where she made a crab cake mac and cheese, and I knew that’s what I was having for dinner the next night.

The final review: It was great, and it’s still in my fridge because it makes a HUGE portion! There were a couple things I will tweak the next time I make it though. Instead of Gruyere cheese, I’m thinking Havarti, and instead of dollar store hot sauce – definitely going to just use spices and some ketchup with vinegar. Same effect, different flavor. But overall pretty tasty, and good for multiple rounds.

So my other comfort meal of the week, was a new one actually. Steak. But with Gaelic Sauce. I have learned that I have been cooking steak entirely wrong forever! I’ve always put the steak in a dry pan to sear it, and it’s come out chewy and somewhat dry.

This time, I seasoned the steaks – really well – and then when I put them into the pan, I put in a little bit of butter and some oil. So now the steaks have something to hold in the juices. And it makes a fantastically crispy shell to hold in the yumminess.

The gaelic sauce was a mix of the pan juices, whiskey, and cream, and then I added in some onions and mushrooms – because onions and mushrooms taste good on steak. It simmers until it thickens, and then the sauce goes over the steak. And it tastes really good with seasoned french fries!

Finally cooking two nights in a row…

So I got a new job, and it means that I might actually be able to come home and cook more often! Go figure! I’m really excited, and I got an almost sneak peek this week, when I got to cook two nights in a row for the first time in months!

So night one. I got this seafood mix from an oriental store that a friend of mine introduced me to, hoping to make a dish reminiscent of the frutta di mare (fruit of the sea) that we had gotten in Italy. But of course, I can’t remember exactly what went into it, so I just threw some stuff together and called it good. Well the sauce rocked. The fish…well that left a little to be desired. This particular mixture had crab meat in it…I mean, imitation crab meat. Soft and gushy did not mix well with the other textures, and frankly was a little sickening. Unfortunately, the squid/octopus was chewy, but the clams were good! I think the same sauce with fresh seafood would be significantly much tastier.

The sauce though. The sauce was amazing. I used oil with garlic, tomato paste, tomato sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano and hot sauce and let it simmer with the seafood. It was so so good! I think it would be good on really any kind of protein.

For my second night, I made a chicken kebab. Now this wasn’t just any chicken kebab…this had Korean BBQ sauce on it that I got at that same oriental market. I used some of the veggies from our Halloween get-together to make these that much more scrumptious, and added some very flavorful rice along with it. These kebabs had piece of bell pepper, then a pineapple chunk, and then a very sturdy carrot, and that pattern sandwich some marinated chicken tenders. Then the skewers were put in to the rotisserie and cooked for approximately 40 minutes or so. The tenders weren’t very thick, so they didn’t take long at all to cook. Let me just say, I added a little bit of chicken broth to the rice with the water, and that gave it such a good flavor! I should have cooked it just a tad bit longer though…It became like this sticky sushi rice almost. But I tend to like rice like that better. It just seems like it almost goes down smoother.

Can’t wait to keep up my cooking spree 🙂

Stir-Fry Experiment

Stir Fry

It looks all pretty and turned out really tasty.

So this was last week, but I just haven’t had time to post it. I decided that I wanted a stir-fry. The catch is that I’ve never made stir-fry. So it’s time for some experimentation. Everything I used was fresh, which made a good start. I used chicken breast that I cubed up and sauted with some teriyaki sauce (not a lot though). I set that to the side and then started adding in vegetables, which were mainly cut into ribbons (for presentation’s sake – and thanks to my boyfriend). So in goes the onion, zucchini, yellow squash, green and yellow bell pepper and mushrooms, in that order, since things cook slower. I poured half of my previously made sauce over it so that it had something to cook in, as well as a little bit of olive oil. Sauted it all together, and at the last minute, threw in the baby corn to warm it up a bit, as well as the chicken to heat it back up. Toward the end of the cooking process, I made some ten-minute rice to put the stuff on top of as well. And topped it all with the remaining sauce and water chestnuts (I needed the crunchy texture).

As for the sauce, that was a total experiment, more so than the meal itself. The goal was a spicy sweet sauce. After some tweaking it was pretty much perfect. I used teriyaki sauce and oil as the base and then I added: minced garlic, mango preserves, zest/juice of one lime, zest of an orange, red pepper flakes, pinch of cayenne pepper, cumin, and thyme. Mixed it all together and added half to the cooking process and the other half over the top of the finished product. I also added some apple cider vinegar to the mix, but that didn’t taste right, so I don’t think I would do that again. I ended up adding in more teriyaki to overpower the taste of the vinegar.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Fingers, Tempe, AZ

This place is a little mom-and-pop kind of establishment, but it is so good! The atmosphere is quaint and very rock and roll, considering LP’s act as a border for the room, there are pictures of Elvis, Jim Morrison and U2 on the walls, and let’s not forget their logo, the rock and roll chicken. He reminds me of Rockadoodle.

This is a map to their location. They are on the SE corner of Broadway and Rural, sitting next to the FYE.

This is a map to their location. They are on the SE corner of Broadway and Rural, sitting next to the FYE.

We went there just because I had seen it from across the street, and I’m in love. They make a special mayo-based sauce for their chicken, homemade Texas Toast,  and a tasty spice on their french fries. And the best part, you can get enough chicken for a hearty lunch for less than $10. Yay!!

An update on homemade BBQ sauce

So I tried making more BBQ recently, it really is that good! Well the first time I made it, I had forgotten to add the apple cider vinegar until about halfway through and my barbeque sauce was a little thick. This time, I added all the ingredients when you’re supposed to add them in the beginning, and it turned out a lot more like a sauce! Go figure, do it right and it comes out right…