Chicken Ranch Potatoes

I am alive! I’m afraid between Thanksgiving, Christmas and getting stuck up north in this epic winter for longer than planned alongside a pretty big project going down at work, this blog was pushed off to the side. However, in an effort to start cooking again and getting back onto some sort of schedule that involves more than me coming back to my apartment and warming up leftovers while I stare at the TV, I thought blogging about dishes again would inspire me. So, I picked a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks and got to work. And while it was delicious, it was also a dish that the leftovers proved to be very boring after the first two nights.

I had most of the ingredients for this dish already which was why I’d picked it out of the book. There had been a sale on microwavable baked potatoes not too long ago so I had those in the fridge already. This was a very simple dish and tasty. I think though I would, rather than mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, mix them on top of the potatoes in the future. There is almost a little too much ranch dressing with this recipe. I’d also make it when I’m sharing a meal with someone so I don’t have quite so much leftover next time so definitely one to share with people!

Having this with a salad made a very filling meal!

From Taste of Home’s Fast Fixes with Mixes:

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 package (10 oz.) frozen mixed vegetables
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup ranch salad dressing
4 hot baked potatoes

Directions:
1) Place chicken and vegetables in a 2-qt. microwave safe dish; cover and microwave on high for 6-7 minutes, stirring once
2) Add salt and pepper and let stand for 2 minutes
3) Fold in the salad dressing
4) With a sharp knife, cut an X in the top of each potato; fluff pulp with fork
5) Top with chicken mixture

Food Stories (and a recipe!)

I’ve been watching, slowly but surely, the lectures from Edible Education 103, a class held at UC Berkeley last fall and headed up by Michael Pollan. I love to eat so a class looking at food and our relationship with it seemed like a good place to start looking into what MOOCs are but also, the class has just been fascinating. The one I watched last night was with NPR’s The Kitchen Sisters who presented on collecting stories about the “hidden kitchens” in communities all over the country. One of their tenets of storytelling is that “Food is the New Music” – everyone has an opinion, a story, a song they want to share and food, like music, can trigger all sorts of memories.

Food is important in my family. We like to get together and eat. Most of my happiest memories involve food in some way. We have certain meals we eat at certain times of the year, we have certain foods we like to share with people, foods we hope our friends like when we bring them to parties. I’ve always loved sharing my family’s recipes over the years with friends or being asked for them as my friends have scattered all over the world on their own adventures. I know my box and folders of recipes with titles like Grammy’s Goulash  Jodi’s Pumpkin Bread, Uncle Gary’s Meatballs always meant I took a little piece of home with me no matter where I went.

Come summer, I pull out all the recipes for cold salads, dips and grilling. Recently, I made a batch of my Aunt Marcia’s spaghetti salad. This was a dish I insisted I wanted for a grad school graduation cook-out to not only have as one of my favorite dishes, but also to share the dish with some of my best friends from school. Word of advice to the singles, this recipe makes a TON of food so halving the recipe means you still have leftovers but just not so much that you’re sick of the dish by the time you are done. And hey, if you’re invited to a potluck BBQ this summer, this recipe is a unique and delicious one to take along!

Perfect summer meal in my book! Burger and spaghetti salad

Aunt Marcia’s Spaghetti Salad

Ingredients:
1 lb. cooked spaghetti
1 large green pepper – chopped fine
1 red onion – chopped fine
8 oz. Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing (1 small bottle or half a larger bottle)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 bottle McCormick Salad Supreme

Directions:

1) Prepare spaghetti as noted on box. Mix together with all ingredients in large bowl.
2) Let chill for 24 hours before serving
3) Still well before serving as the vegetables tend to settle towards the bottle of the bowl over night.

Turkey Chili Mac

I kept seeing commercials for this dish and it sounded tasty so I put it on my list to try at some point. Then, two Sundays ago, the recipe was also in the newspaper so I gave in and made it sooner than planned. I am always wary of anything with chili in its title because 1) that usually involved beans in some fashion and I find beans gross and 2) it usually is also spicy and I don’t really do much spice. I don’t find pleasure in burning my taste buds out for some reason, call me crazy. However, I am glad I tried this dish.

In many ways, it is a lot like my Grammy’s goulash – just ground turkey instead of beef and a kick of chili powder rather than oregano. The recipe makes just as much – in fact, I didn’t make this at the best time. I was leaving for a trip to the Mouse three days after making this which meant I had to eat it for lunch and dinner for three days to make sure none went to waste. I sadly did not have room in the freezer at the time to put some in tupperware to freeze. It could be a very plain dish but I cooked some green peppers and onions up and put them in there and that added to the heartiness of the dish. I also, full disclosure did not put the full amount of chili powder, but the amount I put in was just right for me. I recommend this for a cold, damp, grey day when you just want to curl up with tea and a book.

You could also top this with sour cream – yum!

Turkey Chili Mac

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground turkey
1 jar Ragu Old World Style Pasta Sauce
1 Tbsp. chili powder
8 oz. macaroni, cooked and drained
1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
1 medium onion, chopped (optional)
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Directions:

1) Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-heat heat and cook ground turkey, stirring occasionally until done.
2) At the same time, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook the green peppers and onions together until softened.
3) Once turkey and vegetables are done, stir into a single pot with pasta sauce and chili powder. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered 10 minutes. Prepare macaroni at this time.
4) Stir in drained macaroni and heat through.
5) Serve topped with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Shells with Tomato and Basil

I am a fan of mixes. It should come as no surprise to you that one of my favorite cookbooks is Fast Fixes with Mixes. I like the convenience of mixes as a base to a recipe. It allows me to come home from work and create a meal that looks like it took me a lot longer than it actually did. So I am always on the lookout for new recipes that start from a mix.

This particular recipe is not new. In fact, I’ve had it for a long time; I think before graduate school even. My grandmother was getting rid of tons of cooking magazines so I stole them all and went through and cut out lots of recipes from them. You will not be surprised that I have rarely made any of them. But on my year long (some what stalled but getting back into it) trek through my own recipes, I decided it was time to make a few. Shells with Tomato and Basil was, I think, pilfered from a Kraft cooking magazine. I guess this only because its base mix is Velveeta Shells and Cheese – the brand is even included in the recipe.

I kind of adored this recipe actually for two reasons. One, it makes a ton of food so I had it for leftovers for three days after I originally made it. Two, it works as a main course or a side dish. The first night I had it with salad and fresh French bread. The second night I had it with baked chicken and peas. The third on its own again. A dish that I can have as leftovers but still add and subtract other dishes to keep it fresh and not repetitive is always a good thing in my book. Bonus? This dish is just…pretty. I do like it when my food is not only tasty but appetizing to look at as well!

See? Pretty and tasty!

Shells with Tomato and Basil
Serves: 6

Ingredients:
1 package Velveeta Shells and Cheese
1 medium tomato, chopped (I also took out the seed parts)
2 Tbsp thinly sliced basil leaves
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

1) Prepared shells and cheese as package instructs
2) Add remaining ingredients; cook until heated through thoroughly, stirring occasionally