Thursday, July 21, 2011

Super Nachos

When I was growing up, my mom used to make this recipe all the time.  Not only is it easy to make, but it's inexpensive, makes a lot, and it tastes AWESOME!  This was one of my sister's favorite dishes and the even better thing about it is that you can keep it in the fridge for days and just scoop out and microwave a serving whenever you want.
Here's the recipe:

1 lb. Ground Beef or Turkey
1 can Refried Beans (vegetarian)
1/2 - 1 cup salsa
1-2 cups shredded mexican blend or cheddar cheese
Sour Cream to garnish
Tortilla Chips

Sliced green chilis
Sliced black olives
Anything else you like on your nachos

First, brown the meat.

On a side note, this is my favorite cooking utensil.  It's the mix-n-chop from Pampered Chef and is amazing!  I use it for all sorts of stuff when I'm cooking and baking.

Next, spread the can of refried beans in the bottom of a pan (I've used both a 9x13 and an 8x8) - straight out of the can, no need to heat.

Drain the meat and add to the top of the beans.  Turkey doesn't have as much fat so you may not need to drain it, but if you don't drain the beef it can get really greasy and kind of gross - especially if you're cheap like me and by the 80/20 ground beef.

Now, spread any kind of salsa you like over the meat.  I used up a couple jars I had opened in my refrigerator.  The amount you use will depend on the size of your pan and/or how much you like.

Now spread the shredded cheese over the top of the salsa.  Use whatever you like.  I got a Mexican blend and it works well.  Use as much or as little as you like.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and it's heated all the way through.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream (or in my case a container of sour cream - kidding!) and tortilla chips.  I'm sure this would also taste good in soft tortillas as a burrito, but I've never tried it.  Note the super classy paper plates.

The Verdict:
This is a home run when it comes to Mr. Picky Pants.  He actually requests this quite often and it's so easy to make, I'm happy to oblige.  Mr. Picky Pants doesn't like spicy food, so we use mild salsa and he's pretty set on having the bite-size tortilla chips.  Other than that, he's pretty easy going with this recipe.  It almost always ends up tasting pretty much the same regardless of whether I use beef or turkey, the brand of salsa, or the kind of cheese.  This is definitely a go-to recipe in my house.  I usually have most of the ingredients on hand and it's a snap to make.  I recommend you try this for an easy dinner in your house.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My First Attempt at a Cherry Pie

My father's birthday was last week and I wanted to make him something special. Since it's cherry season, I decided to make him a cherry pie from fresh cherries. My grandmother was an excellent baker and used to make all sorts of desserts and pies from scratch so I had a lot to live up to.

I researched cherry pie recipes online to get an idea of the proportions and methods and got to work.

Here is the recipe:

4 cups fresh cherries, pitted
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons instant tapioca
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 pie crusts (I used Pillsbury)
2 Tablespoons butter
Sugar to sprinkle on top

Here's how I made it:

The first step was to pit all those cherries! I used a paring knife and my thumb which resulted in disgusting, brown stained fingers. It was quite lovely...

I put all those cherries into a saucepan, covered and heated until some of the liquid began to develop from the cherries. I then added the sugar, cornstarch and tapioca to the mixture and let simmer until it thickened up. I also added the extracts being careful to remove from the flame to avoid setting my kitchen on fire.

Once the cherries had thickened to the consistency I wanted, I placed it in a bowl and cooled it in the refrigerator. As it cooled, it continued to thicken.

Now comes the pie shell. I did not make my own pie crust due to the fact that I'm very impatient with pie crust. I had enough variables to go wrong without worrying about getting a pastry dough to come out right. Thus, Pillsbury is my friend and makes a fabulous pie shell.

The pie filling was mostly cooled by this time. I poured it into the pie shell that was placed in a normal pie dish.

I then dotted the top of the pie filling with butter. I'm not entirely sure why this is done, but every recipe I read had this step. Since butter makes everything better, I figured why not!

I then added the second pie crust to the top of the pie. I cut slits in the top to allow the steam to escape. As a sidebar - this is the best looking pie I've every constructed. I really took my time to construct this without destroying it in the process. I'm done tooting my own horn now.

I baked the pie at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes. After that I sprinkled the top with sugar and put it back in for about 10 minutes to brown the sugar.

Here is the final product:

The Verdict:

Mr. Picky Pants would not even try this pie. He stated that cherries remind him of cough syrup and he would not even take a bite.

But, this pie wasn't for Mr. Picky Pants, it was for my daddy. Needless to say both my mom and dad enjoyed the pie.

It was a delicious pie that had more texture and was not nearly as sweet as cherry pie made with canned cherry pie filling. Pillsbury came through for me, as usual, with a flaky, light pie crust. Overall, the pie was a success. I must say that the amount of time it took to pit all those cherries (about 30 minutes) was probably not the best use of my time and I don't know that I would take that on again in the near future, but it's nice to know that I can do it if I want. Overall, I was very pleased with my pie and I look forward to testing out more fruit pies as the fall approaches and more pie-friendly fruits come into season.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Who is Mr. Picky Pants?

Mr. Picky Pants has the taste buds of a four-year-old. If given the opportunity, he would eat cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets for every meal. The challenge for me, Mama Schquigs, is to find foods that Mr. Picky Pants will eat and not just push around on his plate.

As I try new recipes or techniques, I will post the recipes and step-by-step preparation. Additionally, I will post a verdict on each of the recipes. If Mr. Picky Pants readily ate it and requested that I make it again, it will be deemed "Mr. Picky Pants Approved" and will have the picture to the left. If it was not enjoyed by Mr. Picky Pants, there will be an alternate version of the picture.

Since I first started cooking for Mr. Picky Pants in 2004, we have made some big strides, but each day is a challenge to make healthy foods we both enjoy. Come share this journey with us as we explore yummy, healthy foods that are hopefully "Mr. Picky Pants Approved".