Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Grilled Chicken Ranch Pasta Salad


1 lb grilled chicken breast, flavored with your favorite marinade (about 4 breasts)
9 oz Gluten Free Fusilli or your favorite pasta
1.5-2 tablespooon dry Ranch dressing mix
3 tablespoons Hellmann's mayonnaise
3 tablespoon skim milk
1.25 cup of frozen peas
2-3 carrots finely chopped
4-5 slices of Bacon, chopped


Marinate chicken breast in your favorite seasoning.  I like to use a Mesquite flavor by McCormick, it comes in a jar.

Grill chicken either inside or out. 

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Stir in Fusilli pasta and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until al dente; drain. After about 5 minutes of cooking, add in frozen peas and chopped carrots.

Place bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook until evenly brown. Drain and chop.

In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise, ranch dressing mix, garlic powder, and garlic pepper. Stir in milk until smooth.  I prefer to use Penzey's Buttermilk Ranch Dressing mix.  There's no weird ingredients in there.

Once pasta is done, combine dressing, chicken and bacon in large bowl.  I like to serve immediately.

Feel free to add olives, tomatoes and green onions if you like.  My picky guys like it just like the recipe states.

You can cover and chill for an hour in the refrigerator if you'd like. Toss with additional milk or mayo if the salad seems a little dry.

I'll be adding photos this week!

Pastalaya, with gluten free options

Pastalaya is jambalaya cooked with pasta instead of rice. My version leans toward the Cajun variety, although I do add a very small amount of tomatoes.

When a jambalaya has a "red sauce" it is considered Creole and not Cajun. And yes, there is a difference.  Creole cooking is influenced by Spanish, African, Carribbean, and some French and often has a tomato base in many of the dishes and Cajun is more French/Acadian influenced, which is more about the often glorified brown roux traditionally made with lard and flour.

While my Pastalaya doesn't have a roux base per se, if you've ever made a roux you wil see that the color and flavor comes in a similar cooking process.

Since going gluten free, I've been using Gluten Free pasta with much success.  My favorite brand is by Archer Farms, Target.  It's a sturdy noodle, that cooks much the same way as regular pasta.

If you are using wheat based pasta, you still need to use a pasta that is fairly sturdy. My favorite brand used to be Barilla in a shape called Piccolini, Mini Fusilli, a rotini will work, but try to find one that's not too large.  The larger the shape, the more likely it is to come "unraveled" if you over cook your pasta.

Okay, now that we've discussed the right pasta, let's get to how it's done.

First, brown your sausage and remove from pot.  I use a heavy porcelien enameled cast iron pot.  You want a very heavy, heat holding pot for the best results.  You can make Pastalaya with a regular pot, but you might have to cook the pasta longer.

I forgot to take a photo, of the sausage, but here's the chicken browning.  You can see the brown bits left in the pot from the sausage.

Once the chicken has browned, then move to the bowl with sausage and add the cubbed pork.  Brown it a little and then you will be able to scrape up all that brown goodness when you add the trinity-onions, celery and bell peppers.

You can leave the pork in with the addition of the trinity.  It generally benefits from some extra stewing.

You'll notice I use a flat, bamboo spoon/spatula to scrape the brown bits in the water created by the tritinty.  I am a big fan of the frozen prepared onions and trinity.  I get mine from a local Gerbes/Kroger grocery store and they call it "Miropaux mix".   Be careful when you select these as one variety has a traditional French mixture of onions, carrots and celery instead of bell peppers.

Once the onions have cooked down, then add minced garlic and the tiny bit of tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.

Then you will begin to add all the other ingredients and meat back into the pot.  Bring it to a good boil.  Taste the broth and make sure it's pretty salty and spicy if you'd like.  You want it to be saltier than you'd like at this point because the pasta is going to absorb the salt and the spice.

After you've got a good boil going on about medium high, add the pasta and stir it around.

At this point, I often add the lid and let it cook for about three minutes.  If you are concerned about how this is all going to work out, you can keep the lid off until the pasta starts to absorb the broth and just begins to get just a little bit tender.

 What you see above is the pasta at the right stage to move to the lidded step.  You can see the noodles have sucked up the juices because they have turned a little brown.

Here's where you need to have some patience and some faith.  And it may take a little trial and error on your part depending on the pot you use.

Traditionally, you would turn your fire off and place the lid on tight and let it set.  But I'm more comfortable with setting it on the lowest setting on my gas cook top for the first 10 minutes.

Then I lift the lid, see that it's nearly done and then turn the heat off and keep covered for 3 minutes.

If you find your pot is not holding heat necessary, your pasta will need to cook longer.  The one thing you do want to avoid though is your pasta getting soggy cooked instead of al dente.

Gather your friends and enjoy!!


1 1/2 Lbs. - Boneless Skinless Chicken Thigh Meat, Chopped
2 Lbs. - Andouille, (or your favorite) smoked Pork Sausage - Sliced
1 1/2 Lbs. - Boneless Pork chops,  Cubed
1 bag chopped Onions, frozen if you'd like
1/2 bag chopped onion, bell pepper, celery, frozen
3 Tablespoons of Fresh Garlic - Minced, about 5 cloves
1/2  (14.5 oz) Can Of Rotel or diced tomatoes
5 stalks Of Green Onions, Chopped
3 tablespoons Parsley Flakes
1  Tablespoons of Sweet Basil
3  Bay Leave
1 Lbs Pasta, Fusilli
5 1/2 Cups - Water or chicken stock
Dash of your Favorite Hot Sauce (Crystal or Louisiana Hot Sauce)
2 tblsp kitchen Bouquet
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon marjoram
Ms. Dash, to cover the top of the pot
Black Pepper, to taste
Cayenne Pepper, to taste
Kosher Salt, to taste
Good Dash of Tony Chachere's


Brown Sausage. Remove to bowl on side.

Brown the chicken sprinkled with Tony's seasonings then remove from pot. Place in bowl and chop once cooled.

Brown pork next. If not a tender cut, then boil down with some water till tender (about 30 minutes) and most of the water has reduced.

Next add onions, bell pepper, celery and dash of hot sauce. Let cook down on medium heat while carefully stirring to prevent sticking. Vegetables will make extra water and you can scrape the brown bits from the meats up at this time.

When almost cooked thoroughly add garlic and tomatoes and continue to cook until vegetables are wilted, add the water (4-1/2 cups) and return chicken and other meats to the pot.

Next season mixture with Tony's, bay leaves, basil, parsley flakes, pepper, garlic powder, Kitchen Bouquet and salt if necessary.

Remember that pasta will absorb the seasonings, so make sure the water tastes just a little more salty and peppery than you would like. Next, raise the heat to medium high, so water starts boiling.

Be careful that pasta does not stick together and clump. When all the pasta has softened and absorbs most of the water, lower heat to medium low and add the green onions. Stir carefully; place lid on pot for 3 minutes.

Next lift the lid, stir pot completely then replace the lid. Lower heat to very, very low and cook covered for 10 minutes.

Finally, turn the heat off, do not remove the lid, and let sit for 3 minutes. After this, lift the lid, stir the pot over, and your dish is ready to serve…………………………..Enjoy !!!

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Baby Back Ribs

Delicious, slow cooked ribs done up to perfection on the grill.  I don't have the original source for this recipe.  I know I've been making changes along the way.

Prep Time: 10 mins | Cook Time: About 4 hrs

Dry rub

3 tsp sugar
3 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp. salt, kosher salt is best
2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 good dashes cayenne pepper
1 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp ginger, ground
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 tsp BBQ 3000 from Penzey's
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper


Cooking low and slow at about 225°F, so allow 5 to 6 hours for St. Louis Cut ribs and 3 to 4 hours for baby back ribs. Thicker, meatier slabs take longer.

On our grill I turned on the outside burners to medium and the center ones off. I had two racks and I cut each in half. I cooked for about 3 hours and they were perfect.

Here's a tip from the source I had: Set up your grill for a meatless trial run so you can learn how to tweak the dials and vents to get it to 225°F. If you have a gas grill, use only one burner as described in my article setup for a gas grill. Put a disposable aluminum pan with water on top of the hot burner(s). Moisture and combustion gases in a propane grill combine to create a seductive, bacon-like flavor in the meat. If it has only one burner, put the water pan between the meat and the burner. If you have a charcoal grill, start a full chimney, about 80 briquets, push the coals all the way to one side as in the photo and as described in best setup for a charcoal grill. You can use a water pan, but it is not necessary.

These come out excellent everytime!

Curried Chicken on the Grill

A great marinade for grilled chicken. Always comes out super moist and a nice change of pace from bbq chicken.


8-10 boneless skinless thighs


1 tbsp olive oil
lemon juice from one half
Or 4 tsp rice vinegar
1 cup greek yogurt
1 tsp garlic powder or fresh garlic
1/4 tsp ginger, powdered
1/2 tsp Greek seasoning, from Penzey's
1/2 tbsp sweet curry powder from Penzey's
1 T. dried cilantro or 2 T fresh cilantro, finely minced (optional)
2 dashes Lousiana hot sauce
Salt and pepper

Mix marinade ingredients and pour marinade over chicken, then seal bag and marinate for 4-12 hours in the refrigerator. Turn the bag over a few times if you can.

To cook, spray or oil grill and then preheat grill to medium high. Grill chicken about 10-15 minutes, or until each piece is slightly browned turning about half way.

As you can tell, I'm a big fan of Penzey's Spices.  This is a variation on a recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sundried Tomato Risotto and Chicken

This photo is without chicken. Yes, you can have this as a side as well.

This recipe for Sundried Tomato Risotto and Chicken is a twist on a Risotto recipe from Pampered Chef which uses a great technique for microwaving the risotto in the Covered Baker.  If you have a piece of stoneware or casserole with a lid this is a great, quick and easy way to prepare risotto.  Trust me, I was a complete skeptic that risotto could be this easy.

2 cups diced grilled chicken breast (see marinade below)
1 cup chopped onion, medium onion
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice (see Cook’s Tip)
1 tbsp olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white wine or cooking wine
3 tablespoon sun dried tomato pesto (from Classico)
1/2 tsp each salt and coarsely ground black pepper

2 oz (60 g) cream cheese
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Chicken Marinade
3-4 lbs chicken breasts
1 tbsp sun dried tomato pesto
2-3 sun dried tomatoes
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper

Marinate chicken breasts for as long as you have; the longer the better. Grill chicken using the Grill Pan and Press or outdoor grill.

Coarsely chop onion using Food Chopper. Combine garlic, onion, rice and oil in Deep Covered Baker.

Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 2–4 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add stock, wine, salt and black pepper; microwave, covered, on HIGH 13 minutes or until rice is still slightly firm, stirring once halfway through adding sun dried tomato pesto.

Meanwhile, cut cream cheese into cubes. Grate cheese and chop chicken.

Carefully remove baker from microwave using oven mitts. Add chicken to baker; stir. Microwave, covered, on HIGH 3–5 minutes or until rice is tender and risotto appears creamy.
Carefully remove baker from microwave. Add cream cheese, basil and half of the Parmesan cheese; stir until cheese is fully incorporated. Top with rest of cheese and a bit of basil if desired.

Cook's Tips: Arborio rice is an Italian short grain rice that can be found in the rice or ethnic section of most grocery stores.

Use leftover chicken breasts to make Chicken Alfredo Pizza or other Italian dish.

If you don't have access to a Covered Baker or other covered dish, you might try this recipe using a similar technique and ingredients.

Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

This is a very traditional Cajun style recipe for Red Beans and Rice, inspired by the “cooking directions” on the bag of Camellia Red Kidney Beans from Harahan, Louisiana.

Traditionally, Red Beans were prepared on Mondays as that was wash day. Once you get them going they don’t require much attention, plenty of time to get your wash done. :)

1 lb. red kidney beans, preferably Camellia
1/2 lb. ham, pickled pork or 2 lb ham hock (not sweet ham)
1 lb. smoked sausage or Andouille, sliced
8-10 cups water
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1 toe garlic, or about 5 cloves
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 large bay leaf
Salt to taste, about 1 tablespoon
Pepper to taste, about 1 tablespoon (less if desired)
Cajun Seasoning to taste, like Tony Chacherie's


Soak beans in 8 cups of water overnight. When ready to prepare, rinse and sort beans, removing discolored beans. Brown sausage in pot. Remove meat. Saute onion, garlic, celery in fat in the pot.

Once cooked down, add beans to the pot with rest of ingredients except sausage. Boil gently, stirring occasionally for about 1 hour, add sausage and cook for another 1/2 hour or until tender. Scoop out 1 cup of beans and mash to make thicker once beans have softened. Add water while cooking if needed.

Serve over hot rice and top with Louisiana Hot Sauce if desired. Serves about 8 to 10

Chicken Cacciatore & Creamy Polenta

This recipe is basically from Giada De Laurentiis, but finishes in oven like a Martha Stewart recipe.  Finishing in the oven makes it an easy dish to prepare on busy nights and really adds to the richness in flavor.

I ended up making it like this because I needed to be able to leave the pot cooking while I ran to pick up my daughter from practice.  (Although, I also had a husband who was home to remove from the oven in case I didn't make it back in time.)  I found though, that the extra time in the oven brought out a richness in flavors that wasn't there in the stove top version.

Chicken Cacciatore and Creamy Polenta

5-6 chicken thighs, I prefer using bonless
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 cup gluten free all-purpose flour, for dredging
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons drained capers
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves


Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, gluten free if desired,  to coat lightly.

In a large heavy saute pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, saute it in 2 batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. You can lower this if you need to leave the dish going longer. (Like running to pick a child up from practice.)

Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 1 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers and oregano.

Return the chicken pieces to the dutch oven and turn them to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Then place in oven and cook for 30 to 45 minutes.

Serve with polenta or pasta. I pretty much have converted my family to the Polenta.

Creamy Polenta

2 tbsp olive oil (optional)
1 cup polenta
2 cups chicken broth or stock
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated


If using garlic, heat olive oil in sauce pan, over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 1 or 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and milk and raise temperature to high. Once at a boil add polenta. Continually whisk until bubbly and then reduce heat to medium low. Cook until creamy, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add Parmesan cheese.

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