‘Mater Pie

Nothing screams SOUTHERN! and SUMMER! louder than a fresh baked tomato pie. Whether you grow your own, have good friends that like to share their harvest, or enjoy trips to the Farmer’s Market – a great tomato pie recipe should be in your repertoire. Ironically, after my mom brought over these about-to-burst-from-ripe-juicy-goodness tomatoes, I realized I didn’t have a tomato pie recipe….because I had never actually made a tomato pie.

tomatoes

So I go where any searching chef (ok, so I’m not a chef, I’m a home cook…but I like the alliteration, so I’m rolling with it) goes for new recipes – the Interwebs. A quick Google* search for “tomato pie” yields a ton of recipes….where to begin? First on the list was a Paula Deen recipe – a ton of basil, but otherwise didn’t look too exciting. Next up, Simply Recipes – similar to the first, but with the addition of onions, and hot sauce. Getting better! Moving down the line, Taste of Home introduced bacon – now that’s what I’m talking about!

But then this search came to a screeching halt. I was looking for differences and uniqueness among the recipes, and I wasn’t expecting this gleaming commonality. I’d only looked at 3 recipes, but so far all three included my arch-nemesis – Mayonnaise! You’ve GOT to be kidding me….please don’t tell me the goopy grossness is a key ingredient to a good tomato pie. I’ve never detected it’s presence in any savory slice (apparently I’m on an alliteration kick….) of ‘mater pie I’d previously consumed…. So I went straight to a reliable source – Southern Living. And there it was….mayonnaise…. Alright, I concede…mayo will be an ingredient in this pie. But I will make damn sure that not one of my taste buds will ever know! Mayo aside, the SL recipe looked the best.

Tomato Pie

It started with a bacon and sour cream whole wheat crust. Yes, they actually crumbled 8 slices of bacon and put it in the crust. I reserved my bacon (and only 3 slices) for the filling. The choice is yours on that one. But the sour cream (in lieu of water) was appealing. Despite being a slightly temperamental dough to work with (just work slowly while rolling and transferring to your pie plate), the result was ideal – light, flaky and full of flavor.

The filling looked pretty good too – sliced tomatoes, a blend of fresh herbs, and a mayonnaise and cheese spread. With the addition of the bacon and some lightly caramelized onions, this was rounding out to be my ideal tomato pie. Also, SL had a unique addition – apple cider vinegar to the mayo/cheese mixture. Perfect! Exchange that for a little balsamic, and I knew that mayo taste would be obliterated.

After almost an hour in the oven, the kitchen aromas were intense. The Man came home and instantly started drooling over the cooling pie. Then I dropped the bomb – we have to wait at least two hours. Like any pie, cutting in too soon will result in a soupy mess. It was hard, but we held out! And it was absolutely worth the wait! Enjoy :)

Tomato Pie2

*Google is used as a verb here. I actually use Yahoo! for searching.

Sour Cream Crust

  • 1 1/4 C. whole wheat flour
  • 1 C. self-rising flour
  • 1 C. butter, cubed
  • 3/4 C. sour cream

In a food processor, pulse flours until combined. Add in butter, pulse until consistency of small peas. Add in sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, until thoroughly incorporated. Do not over work. Wrap in plastic wrap, form into a disk, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into a 13 inch round. Transfer to a lightly greased pie plate, and crimp the edges. Refrigerate until needed (at least 30 minutes).

‘Mater Pie

  • Sour cream crust
  • 2 1/4 lb. tomatoes (divided)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 onions, sliced into rings
  • 1/2 C. mayonnaise
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 C. cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 C. mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 C. parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 – 4 T. fresh chopped herbs (parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, chives)
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 T. cornmeal

Cut 2 lb. tomatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and remove seeds. Place tomatoes in a single layer on paper towels; sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt. Let stand 30 minutes.

Brown bacon in a skillet. Remove and set aside. Pour off most of bacon fat, and saute onions until soft and lightly caramelized (about 10 minutes).

In a small bowl, combine mayo, egg, cheeses, herbs, salt and pepper.

To assemble : Remove formed pie dough from fridge. Sprinkle dough with cornmeal. Layer in 1/2 of tomatoes, slightly overlapping. Spoon in half of onions and half of the bacon. Spread 1/2 of cheese mixture evenly over tomatoes. Repeat layers. Top with remaining 1/4 pound of tomatoes (that have not been salted). Season with fresh cracked pepper.

Bake at 425F for 40-45 minutes. Cover edges with foil, if needed to protect crust. Allow pie to cool for 1-2 hours before serving.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living Tomato, Cheddar and Bacon Pie

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Whole Wheat & Seed Bread

I was in dire need of some good whole wheat bread yesterday – and the grocery store bakery just wasn’t delivering on all my cravings. I wanted rich and nutty aromas, a bread chock full of nutrients, and deliciously guilt-free. So to the kitchen I went, to concoct the bread my mouth was watering for.

Whole Wheat & Seed BreadYes, this is healthy bread that’s full of bird seed  flax and sesame seeds. But it’s also good bread. It can side a bowl of soup, goes great with butter and honey, or can be the ideal ends (and middle…) to a fantastic Club Sandwich. Something a little like this :club Sandwich

Whole Wheat & Seed Bread

  • 1 1/2 C. warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 C. rolled oats
  • 1/4 C. flax seeds
  • 1/4 C. sunflower seeds (roasted)
  • 1/4 C. sliced almonds
  • 2 – 3 C. whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. olive oil

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine water, yeast and honey. Allow to proof for 5 minutes. Add in salt, oats, flax, sunflower seeds, and almonds. Mix on low with the dough hook for 1 minute. Add in 2 cups of flour and stir on low until combined (scrape down sides of the bowl as needed). If needed, add in more flour 1/4 cup at a time. Dough will be tacky, but should form a ball and pull away from the sides of the bowl. Pour in oil while mixer is running. With the mixer on medium-low, knead for 7 to 10 minutes.

Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours. Punch down dough, lightly knead in the bowl for 2 to 3 minutes. Place dough into an oiled loaf pan, and  allow to rise until dough crowns over pan by 1 inch (about 1 hour).

Bake bread at 375F for 30 – 35 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes on a rack before removing from pan.

Club Sandwich

Layer, from bottom to top :

  • Toasted bread
  • 1 slice cheddar cheese
  • 2 slices deli meat (rotisserie-style chicken)
  • Bibb lettuce
  • Tomato, thick sliced
  • Toasted bread with mayonnaise
  • 1 slice Swiss cheese
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 egg, over easy
  • Toasted bread with whole grain mustard

Corned Beef & Cabbage

Here in Savannah, St. Patrick’s Day is kind of a big deal. The city boasts the largest parade in the country, and people flood this town by the thousands. If you don’t mind a crowd, enjoy people watching, lot’s of bagpipes, and lax open container laws, then you should add Savannah St. Pat’s Parade to your bucket list. However, if you are daunted by overt drunkeness, lack of parking, and over priced hotel rooms….this may not be the scene for you!

Corned Beef & Cabbage

The handful of times I’ve cooked corned beef, I started with pre-brined meat – you know, the shrink wrapped cut of brisket that’s swimming in red slime and comes with a convenient flavor pack? Have you read the ingredients list on that packaging? If not, then don’t…it’s disgusting. This year I decided to step up my corned beef game by doing my own pickling brine. So on Friday morning I started looking at recipes, most of which want you to brine the meat for up to ten days. Ten days!? Damn, and I thought I was planning ahead…

Brined Brisket

Tyler Florence to the rescue with a 5-star recipe whose brining instructions are “overnight or as long as 10 days.” Perfect.  I’ve got a few hours to spare now… My brisket choices were slim – I could choose between a 10 pound full cut of meat, or small 1.5 pound portions. I went with two of the smaller pieces and picked one flat end (leaner, tougher) and one point (fattier, more tender) for a total of 2 and 3/4 pounds of meat.

Get your brine and meat in a large ziplock bag, and forget about it in the fridge. The longer you can marinate the meat, the more pickled and flavorful it will be. Before you are ready to start cooking, drain and rinse the meat.

Braising Brisket

Since I’ve previously used the pre-brined brisket, I’ve always used the package cooking instructions (and the pitiful flavor pouch….). Typically the package wants you to do everything on the stove top – but Tyler says to put it in the oven. I’m going with the oven – just put the lid on, pop it in, and come back in 3 hours. No baby sitting to make sure the simmer is correct, and no temptation to peak at it (I get paranoid and feel the need to look every half hour…) I was a little disappointed that Tyler added only water to the braising liquid. Come on, it’s St. Patrick’s Day – a can of Guinness needs to be present in this meal (and no, I’m not counting the one I’m drinking…)

Corned Beef

As for serving this beefy goodness, cabbage is a must. The original recipe wants you to cook the cabbage along with the meat – but I am not into mushy cabbage. So instead I went with a quick saute of bacon, garlic and a full head of green cabbage. And then I made French Potato Salad. Yep, I did. And I received multiple scowls of disapproval from my English Father-in-Law who requested boiled potatoes. I did boil them….then I slathered them in a vinegar-mustard-caper-green onion vinaigrette.  And then everybody forgot that I had bastardized this Irish dinner with a French side dish :)

Corned Beef Brisket Brine

  • Water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole coriander
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole allspice
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (2 1/2 to 3 pound) brisket

Combine 1 cup water, salt and brown sugar. Whisk until sugar and salt have dissolved. Put water mixture and all remaining ingredients into a large ziplock bag. Add enough cold water to cover meat. Brine in the refrigerator overnight or up to 10 days (I did 2 and a half days).

Corned Beef Brisket

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, halved
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. whole peppercorns
  • 2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • Brined brisket
  • 1 can Guinness (16 oz.)
  • water to cover

Heat oil in a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot. Add in vegetables and seasonings, saute until softened (about 10 minutes). Place meat over vegetables. Pour in Guinness and enough water to cover meat. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes. Then cook in a 300F preheated oven for 3 hours. Remove meat from cooking liquid and allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving. Slice meat against the grain.

Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence’s Corned Beef and Cabbage

B.L.(A)T.

Whether for a filling lunch or a quick supper, a BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato) sandwich is good to have in your repertoire. Juicy ripe tomatoes, thick-cut bacon, and crisp greens on a crusty baguette. Adding a little garlic herb butter (in lieu of mayonnaise) and some sliced avocado takes this classic up a notch.

BLT with Avocado

Slice your bread almost in half (this makes for easier eating) and spread the inside with garlic herb butter. Put the bread butter-side down in a heated nonstick pan (you could also grill the bread or use the broiler in the oven). Press it down some, to make sure it gets evenly toasted.

garlic herb butterGarlic Bread

Now it’s just a matter of layering in the B, L, A, and T. This is easier said than done. That freshly grilled bread smells real good, and it’s tempting at this point to abandon sandwich and just eat garlic bread for dinner….if you decide to go down this path of garlicky good-ness, I suggest you serve your bread with a nice side salad. Crisp greens, tomato, avocado and crumbled bacon maybe?

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Pancakes

I’ve had a bottle of champagne hanging out in the fridge since New Year’s – and I’m tired of it taking up space. So I think breakfast for dinner (with Mimosas!) is in order. Yes, I just formed my dinner plan as an excuse to open a bottle of bubbly….but whatever….

peanut butter oatmeal pancakes

Everybody loves pancakes – right? Well everybody in this house loves pancakes! And breakfast-for-dinner nights are always a big hit. Tonight, I’m thinking pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon! But not just plain old pancakes – Peanut Butter Oatmeal Pancakes! Made with buttermilk and served with warm raspberry jam….Mmmm…..

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Pancakes

  • 1/2 C. self-rising flour
  • 1/2 C. rolled oats
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 C. peanut butter
  • 1 C. buttermilk

Combine flour, oats, sugar and set aside. In a small bowl, microwave buttermilk and peanut butter until warm (about 45 seconds). Whisk peanut butter into buttermilk until smooth. Add buttermilk mixture and egg to flour mixture. Stir until just combined.

Heat up a skillet and spray it lightly with cooking spray. Pour out pancakes making sure they do not touch. When bubbles start to form and the edges look dry, flip the pancakes. Allow to cook for 2 – 3 minutes or until cooked through.

Scrambled Eggs

  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 C. milk
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1/4 C. shredded cheese (if desired)

Warm up a non-stick pan on medium heat. Whip all ingredients until thoroughly combined, and lightened in color. Melt butter in preheated pan, and swirl to coat the pan. Pour in egg mixture. Allow them to cook for one minute before stirring. Stir gently, so as not to break up the curds too much. When the eggs are almost cooked through, remove them from the heat. Add in cheese, gently stir to combine.

Mimosa

  • 1 part Orange Juice, chilled
  • 2 parts Sparkling wine, chilled

In a champagne flute, pour in orange juice until 1/3 full. Slowly pour in champagne. Stop and allow bubbles to settle if needed.

Shrimp & Grits

Shrimp & Grits

I moved to Savannah, Georgia 12 years ago. I had lived in the South my whole life – South Louisiana, South Arkansas, even a stint in Southern England (that counts, right?) – and at 17 I moved to South Georgia.

The complete recipe, with measurements can be found at the bottom of the post

 If there is one thing I’ve learned about the South by being in the South, it’s that the food (like the accents) is purely regional. In South Arkansas you see a lot of catfish, BBQ, fresh game, and a decent amount of spice and heat. Here in the Low Country, they serve up a lot of fresh catch fish and seafood (it ain’t Fall until you’ve been to an oyster roast), alot of rice dishes and they go real light on the spice. Arkansans take their iced tea with a little sugar and lemon; Georgians take their sugar with a little tea and lemon!

Something I first encountered here in Georgia was Shrimp & Grits. I like shrimp. And I like grits (for breakfast, typically). But I wasn’t quite sure what to think about this Coastal Georgia concoction. But after the first bite, things start to come into perspective. Marinated and pan seared shrimp over a bed of rich, creamy grits, topped with a savory pan sauce….what’s not to love!?

seasoned shrimp

Coastal Georgia has some great local shrimp. They are a dark grey color with an almost sweet tasting meat. Any type of shrimp will work well in this dish – just make sure you get the freshest shrimp you can find. I understand this may be a challenge if you live in land….but shop around until you find something good. Once you get your shrimp peeled and deveined, you will want to season them up. Toss them in a mixture of Cajun spice, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Leave them uncovered in the fridge while you start the grits.

grits

I’ve come to realize that outside of the South, grits have a bad rap. Or no rap at all? Apparently there are some places where you can’t even find grits at the store….ya’ll are really missing out! The problem with grits is that alone, they are bland and boring. You can’t just boil water, add grits, and expect something spectacular to happen. Grits are good when you add a little butter and spices. Grits are great when you add a little more butter and a lot more spice!

The type of grits you use is not nearly as important as the additions and cooking method. I really like stone-ground, coarse yellow grits. But plain old white grits (just make sure they are NOT instant) work good too. Start by boiling chicken stock and butter. When the stock starts to boil, slowly pour in the grits while constantly whisking. This makes sure you don’t get lumps (nobody likes lumpy grits!). Add in the milk, salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning. Turn the heat down to low and put a lid on it. Keep an eye on them – you will need to give them a stir every 5 minutes or so. When you stir, make sure you scrape the bottom of the pan. How do you know when the grits are done? They will be thick, and most of the liquid will have evaporated. When you scrape your wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan, it should take a few seconds for the grits to fill it back in. Likewise, when you stir real hard, the grits will pull away from the side. Take them off the heat and add in a little cheese.

While your grits are going, we should start the shrimp and sauce. I’m starting with a nice dry-aged, cherry smoked bacon. You can use any type of bacon that you want – but keep in mind there aren’t many ingredients here….so make sure it has good flavor. Dice up the bacon and saute it in a non-stick skillet. Once it’s brown and crispy, transfer it to a plate. Pour off any excess fat (keep a little, and keep what you pour off – you may need it later!) and brown up the shrimp. Shrimp cook quick, and your pan is already hot. Let them cook on one side for about 3 minutes, then flip them. They shouldn’t need to cook longer than 2 or 3 more minutes. If you bought really small shrimp (or big ones, for that matter) you will have to adjust your time accordingly. Just know that once they are almost completely pink, take them off the heat. They will continue to cook through while they are resting.

roux

After you pull out the shrimp, saute the garlic and white parts of the scallion. Just for a minute, until it’s nice and fragrant. Then whisk in the flour to make the roux. You want a light tan roux – cook the flour and stir continuously until you get to the right color. Whisk in some chicken stock and let it come to a simmer. Whisk in the milk, and do the same. Now add in Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and about half of the bacon (the rest we can use as garnish). Turn the heat to low and let it simmer until thickened up (about 5 minutes).

Now it’s eating time! Scoop out a generous helping of grits onto each dinner plate. Divide the shrimp, and divide them between each plate. Next spoon over a Tablespoon or two of the sauce (pour the rest into a gravy boat – some people want more sauce) then sprinkle the top with green scallion tops, bacon and a little parsley. A dash of Tabasco, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper are optional, but highly recommended. This recipe makes dinner-sized portions.

Shrimp & Grits2

Shrimp

  • 3/4 Lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 T. Cajun spice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • salt & pepper

Mix seasonings together in a small bowl. Coat shrimp in seasoning, leave in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

Grits

  • 1 C. chicken stock
  • 1 – 2 T. butter
  • 1/2 C. grits
  • 1/2 C. milk
  • 1 tsp. Cajun spice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 2 Oz. extra sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded

Bring stock and butter to a boil. Whisk and slowly pour in grits. Add in milk and spices. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Stir regularly until cooked through (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in cheese.

Pan Sauce

  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 scallions (green onions), whites and greens separated
  • 2 T. flour
  • 1 c. chicken stock
  • 1/4 C. milk
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • few sprigs of parsley, chopped

Saute the bacon until crispy. Remove from pan, reserve bacon fat. Saute shrimp. Cook for 4 – 6 minutes, until almost cooked through. Remove from pan. Make sure 1 T. of bacon fat is in the pan. Saute garlic and scallion whites for one minute. Whisk in flour, cook to a light tan color. Whisk in stock, and bring to a simmer. Whisk in milk, and bring back to a simmer. Add in W’shire sauce, Tabasco, 1/2 of the bacon. Allow to simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.

To assemble, spoon grits onto plate. Top with shrimp, and spoon over sauce. Garnish with bacon, parsley and scallion greens. Season with Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste

Chipotle Burger

Chipotle Burger

Just a quick Monday night post….

I love a great burger. And I think the best burgers are the ones you make at home. Tonight we had Chipotle Burgers – and man, were they good! A spicy twist on a classic.

For 4 burgers

  • 1 1/4 Lb. ground beef (80/20 fat ratio)
  • 3 oz. chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (half a small can)
  • 1/4 tsp. each salt, pepper, cumin

Combine all ingredients, and form into 4 patties. Grill to desired temperature.

Garlic Mayo

  • 1/4 C. mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • chives, thinly sliced
  • salt, pepper, cumin to taste

Combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Assembly

  • 4 Italian style hamburger buns (I use Arnold brand)
  • 4 burgers, cooked
  • garlic mayo
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 4 Oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • onion, thinly sliced
  • cilantro leaves (4 – 5 per burger)

Top each burger with 1 oz. of cheese, leave in grill for 1 minute to melt. Toast hamburger buns on the grill, 2 – 3 minutes. Spread garlic mayo onto bottom buns. Top with burger, followed by bacon, onion, then cilantro. Cover with top bun.

BBQ Chicken Macaroni & Cheese

While grilling beer can chickens on Sunday, I made it a point to have leftovers (which means I cooked 2 birds). There are countless dishes you can make with perfectly cooked chicken – enchiladas,  chicken salad, pot pie….or even BBQ Chicken Macaroni and Cheese. The ultimate comfort food mixed with succulent chicken, your favorite BBQ sauce, and enough vegetables to call it a one pot meal. Top it off with garlic breadcrumbs and now we’re getting ridiculous….

The complete recipe, with measurements can be found at the bottom of the post

hot beer

First you need the leftovers from Sunday’s Beer Can Chicken. Oh, you don’t follow my blog and cook every one of my recipes? Ok….here are some suitable alternatives then : a rotisserie chicken from your grocery store (remove the skin and de-bone), or boneless skinless chicken breasts (season and grill or pan sear). Shred the meat and toss in your favorite BBQ sauce.

Next we need to caramelize some onions. There is a big difference between onions that have been sauteed and onions that are caramelized  Both have their time and place, but today we are looking for melt in your mouth sweetness that takes a little time and patience. I like to start with a butter and olive oil blend on medium high. Slice your onions in half then into thin-ish rings (1/4 inch). Saute the onions until the edges start to color. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue to cook (stirring regularly) until the onions have turned that beautiful golden color. This should take no less than 30 minutes. When they are to your ideal done-ness, take the pan off the heat and cover with a lid. The trapped steam will help release the layer of sweet onion glaze that is clinging stingily to the bottom of the pan.

onions1onions2onions3

The topping for this dish is garlic bread crumbs. You can use any leftover bread to make bread crumbs. My favorite way to make these crumbs is with leftover garlic bread. Cut it into large cubes, pulse in a food processor, and call it done. The garlic, oil, and toasting is already taken care of! Unfortunately, I don’t have any garlic bread handy today…. not a problem, just a few extra steps. Start by lightly toasting your choice of bread. Cube and put it in the food processor with a small clove of garlic. Pulse until you get fine crumbs. Then toss the crumbs in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt & pepper.

bread crumbs

As far as cheese goes, I prefer a blend (usually of what I have on hand). Today I have extra sharp cheddar, colby jack, and pepper jack. I also prefer my cheese to be freshly shredded – conveniently I already have the food processor out. The best way to get creamy mac & cheese is with sour cream. While the pasta is still hot, toss it with a bit of butter and a cup of sour cream – just enough to coat. I like to add the spinach now too, so the heat will wilt it down some. Then add in the cheese and spices.

pasta and spinachchicken

Fold in the onions and tomatoes. Last but not least the chicken. Once everything is evenly distributed, pour it into a lightly greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and bake until Browning and bubbly.

assembled

As you can see, this recipe makes a ton of food! If you don’t intend on eating this much, ether halve the recipe or freeze a portion. Just leave off the bread crumbs until you are ready to bake. If you feel like changing things up, some good additions would be green peas, bacon, mushrooms, red bell pepper, leftover baked beans, or broccoli.

BBQ Chicken Mac n Cheese

  • beer can chicken (about 2 cups meat)
  • 1 lb. pasta, cooked and drained
  • 2 large onions, caramelized
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • fresh spinach (1/2 a 9 oz bag)
  • 1/4 Cup BBQ sauce
  • garlic bread crumbs
  • 1 Cup sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 16 ounces shredded cheese
  • 1 teaspoon each Cajun seasoning, mustard powder, black pepper

In a large skillet, heat 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil over medium heat. Saute onions until starting to brown. Lower heat and continue to cook and stir until onions are golden and cooked down.

Toss chicken in BBQ sauce and set aside.

Toss pasta with 2 Tablespoons of butter and 1/2 cup sour cream. Fold in spinach. Add in cheese, salt, pepper, and mustard powder – stir until pasta is coated. Carefully fold in chicken, tomatoes, onions and spinach. Pour mac n cheese in a greased baking dish, evenly sprinkle over bread crumbs.

Bake at 350 for 45 – 55 minutes (or until breadcrumbs are golden and filling is bubbly)

Not Your Kids’ Grilled Cheese

When you think grilled cheese, what comes to mind? White sandwich bread? A little butter? Processed American cheese? Oh good – then your expectations are real low. And do I have a treat for you – I add bacon! Ok, it’s a little better than that…

The complete recipe, with measurements can be found at the bottom of the post

What makes a plain grilled cheese sandwich a good grilled cheese sandwich is shredded cheese and fresh bread. The possibilities of cheesy combos is endless, but the foundation is the same – good bread, good cheese. Tonight we are having avocado, bacon, and tomato on country white bread.

On a whim, I decided to dehydrate the tomatoes. I already had the oven on low (I was making spicy Chex mix to take to a friend’s party) and decided to pop in the sliced tomatoes. I can’t tell you exactly how long they cooked for….about an hour on 300F. Could you skip this step? Of course. You could also peel open a slice of plastic cheese and be halfway done ;)
dehydrated tomatoes

Choose your favorite cheeses to shred. I used equal parts sharp white cheddar and pepper jack, and a handful of fresh parmesan. Colby jack, mozzarella, gouda, Swiss – all would work well here. You will need 2 to 4 ounces per sandwich, depending on how cheesy you want it.

For ease of turning and eating, I like to mash the avocado and spread it on the bread like butter. Add a little lime to keep it fresh, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

avocado

Slice your bread about 3/4 inch thick, and get all your ingredients prepared. I slather a generous amount of avocado on each slice, followed by the tomatoes, bacon, and finally the mound of cheese. Remember that this will melt down – so don’t be shy. If you are reading this post in advance, it’s best to wrap assembled sandwiches in plastic, and keep them in the fridge for an hour (or more). This will help the ingredients mingle and hold together during the cooking process. If you don’t have extra time, add more cheese….because you are likely to lose some to the frying pan.

assembly

Preheat a nonstick skillet on medium, and spray lightly with cooking spray (or just use the same pan that you cooked the bacon in, like I did. Drained of most of the fat, of course). Coat one side of the sandwich (the one closest to the cheese) with a thin layer of softened butter, and put it butter side down into the skillet. Check your bread often, you want it golden and crisp. Coat the top side with butter, so that it’s ready for flipping.

grilling

Once your bottom bread is to the desired color, flip your sandwich over. Now just wait patiently….but if the sandwich seems to be cooking too quickly (bread is browning, cheese isn’t melting) lower the heat and put a loose fitting lid over the sandwich for a few minutes.

grilled cheese

  • 4 slices bread, cut 3/4 inch thick
  • 4 – 8 ounces cheese, grated
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, cooked
  • One avocado, mashed
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Freshest tomato, sliced and dehydrated (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter

Spread mashed avocado onto each slice of bread. Layer tomato, bacon, and cheese onto one slice of bread per sandwich. Top with second slice of bread. Coat top slice of bread (closest to cheese) with thin layer of butter. Grill in a preheated non-stick pan until golden. Butter second slice of bread and flip. Remove from heat once both sides are golden and cheese is melted through.