Southwestern Chopped Chicken Salad

If there were an official membership in the “I Hate Cilantro” club, my husband would pay lifelong dues.  A few years ago, we were invited to a friend’s house for cocktails.  I brought along marinated shrimp to add to the munchies.  My better half tore into the bowl, heaping his plate with the shrimp, for there aren’t many things better to him than shrimp of most any variety.  As he began to eat them one at a time, I noticed a strange look on his face.  With each shrimp, the pace became slower and the look became stranger.  When we got home that evening, he asked what in the world I put in that shrimp.  “I hope I don’t get sick off of those things.  I mean they were bad.”  He meant bad in the “spoiled” sense of the word, not just that they tasted bad, which happened to also be the case.  After some thought, we realized that it was the cilantro.  At the time, he had never eaten the very pungent leaf before.  Though generally not a person who enjoys drama, I have seen him break out in a very dramatic Shakespearian-ish monologue over his distaste for the plant.  Searching the Internet for any information he could find about why he hated it so, considering that he will eat most anything else, my trooper husband found a website that made him feel validated.  He would never again be alone.  If you are one of those cilantro haters, go to www.ihatecilantro.com and join the club!  If you love the stuff, then by all means add it to this crunchy, refreshing, and super-easy-to-make Southwestern Salad.

Prep Time:     15 minutes

Serves:     8

Salad:

  • 2 cups shredded chicken (for speed, I use the breast meat of a rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 can whole kernel corn
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1 head iceberg or 2 heads romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • 2 ripe avocados, diced
  • 1 cup crushed tortilla chips

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon ranch dressing
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning

In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients together, excluding the tortilla chips.  In a small bowl stir all dressing ingredients together.  Pour dressing over salad, starting with about half of the dressing, then continue adding until salad consistency is to your liking. Top with crushed tortilla chips.  If you will have leftovers, add chips to individual servings.

Advertisements

Seafood Pasta in a Foil Package

This combination of real cream, fresh basil, and tomatoes, makes for a melt-in-your-mouth pasta dish that feeds a crowd.  If you are lucky enough to live in a city, with access to good, fresh seafood, this dish is unbeatable.  Living here in Podunk, I had to use frozen shrimp and bay scallops, but I do have fresh basil in my back yard, and this week our grocery store even carried linguine and canned tomatoes!  I didn’t figure it would be great without all fresh ingredients, but even with frozen seafood, this dish was excellent!  As soon as I can get to Joe Patti’s Seafood in downtown Pensacola, I intend to make this again.  As a best friend used to say, “This’ll make your tongue slap out your brains!”

Prep Time:     20 minutes

Serves:     8 very hungry people

(Recipe from The Pioneer Woman)

Sauce:

  • 1 pound linguine
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Three 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes (I used the chunkier kind)
  • salt and pepper
  • red pepper flakes

Seafood:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound medium to large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound scallops

To Serve:

  • Warm cream
  • fresh basil leaves, torn

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook the pasta for half the recommended time. The pasta should still be VERY firm.  In a skillet cook the garlic in the butter and olive oil for a few minutes, and then pour in the wine.  Allow this to reduce for a couple of minutes, and then pour in the tomatoes.  Stir the mixture together, season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, and allow to cook for 10 minutes.  In a separate skillet, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Sear the scallops, then the shrimp, until they’re nice and black/brown.  Meanwhile, grab 2 large sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil and overlap them in a dish with some depth (I used a lasagna dish).  Mix the drained pasta with the sauce and tip it onto the foil.  Then arrange the sautéed seafood on top.  Tightly wrap the foil into a package.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and keep warm until serving.  To serve, open the foil package and plate the dish.  Pour about a tablespoon of warm, whole cream over each serving and garnish with torn basil.

Ham and Bacon Quiche

In 1982 a man named Bruce Feirstein wrote a book entitled, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche and subtitled, “A Guidebook to All That Is Truly Masculine.”  It was a spoof, of course, which satirized stereotypes of masculinity.  According to Feirstein’s humorous look at the expected roles of the sexes, a man who eats quiche is a follower of fashion, one who actually cares about how he looks and what other people think.  Real men would eat eggs and bacon by the platefuls, belching loudly upon completion, and would definitely steer clear of anything with a French name.  Reading about this book brings to mind a story about pumping gas, real masculinity, respecting women, and loving quiche.

My husband and I raised two boys, both grown now, both of whose faces still light up when quiche is served.  We raised them to be fiercely independent, a choice of ours that has become both a blessing and a curse at times, although we have always known it was the right thing to do.  One Saturday about six years ago, my younger son (who was probably 17 at the time), and I pulled into a gas station.  I promptly got out of the car and began pumping gas.  Picture this – a very rotund man, wild-haired, free of the majority of his teeth, spitting tobacco, and sporting a wife-beater tee shirt, says to me in an angry voice, “..at boy oughta get outta … that car and pump (th)at gas!!”  Presumably, he was prepared to tell me a few things about raising a real man.  I looked at him curiously.  I am perfectly capable, I thought to myself, of pumping my own gas.  I am not a weak woman, unable to perform simple tasks.  I enjoy having men in my life, but thankfully I do not depend on them for survival.  All of this I kept to myself, of course, for these days such a response might have one staring down the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun.  At that point I got in the car and thanked God that not only am I an able, strong woman, but my husband and I together raised able, strong boys who credit women for their abilities and strengths as well, two boys who respect the unique capabilities and talents of every person, including women.

Feirstein eventually makes the point that real men do a lot of “unmanly” things that stereotypes have kept them from admitting.  In fact, those men in touch with their feminine sides are more secure and manly that those who are not.  And real men do eat quiche.  I am madly in love with three of them.

Prep Time:     31 minutes

Serves:     8 real men or women

  • 2 regular frozen pie crusts (not deep dish)
  • 6 bacon slices
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 and 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup chopped, cooked ham (the already diced kind if you are looking for speed)
  • 6 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (or regular)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour

Pierce crusts with a fork a few times and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Chop raw bacon, with a knife or kitchen shearers, into a pan and cook. Remove bacon pieces and set aside.  Discard all but two tablespoons of the bacon grease.  Sauté chopped onion and mushrooms in hot drippings 5 minutes or until tender.  Stir together bacon, onion mixture, half-and-half, and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour mixture evenly into the two crusts.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Greek Chicken Salad

Down here on the Gulf Coast, the summers can get blazing hot, like an oven.  That Southern heat slaps me in the face and takes me down.  Most of us just stay inside on those days, sucking on air conditioning while we can.  During those times, salads come to mind – crispy, cold, and refreshing. If you are as crazy as I am about Greek food, you will love this crunchy, delicious main-dish salad.  The original recipe calls for a homemade lemon-herb dressing, but I used Ken’s Steak House Greek Dressing.  It is perfect….and FAST!

Prep Time:     10 minutes

Serves:     8-10

  • 5-6 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
  • 3 cups chopped, cooked chicken
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans, drained
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • 6 ounces Feta cheese, crumbled (Reserve 1 ounce to dress the top)
  • Ken’s Steak House Greek Dressing

Combine first six ingredients in a large bowl.  Toss with just enough dressing to coat.  Garnish with remaining cheese. Serve with toasted pita bread triangles or pita crackers.

White Chili

Chili is a Fall staple around our house, and I am always looking for ways to break up the monotony of the ground beef and tomato variety.  Cook a box of Jiffy cornbread (or make your own from scratch) and this meal will be ready in no time.  If you have cooked, chopped, and frozen your chicken breasts ahead of time, then bring out about 3 or 4 cups to thaw.  This recipe will warm you from your head to your toes!

Prep Time:     10 minutes

Cook Time:     30 minutes

Serves:     8-10

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, white if you have it
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 can great northern beans, undrained
  • 2 cans navy beans, undrained
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (remove seeds)
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Greek seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups shredded Colby/Monterey Jack cheese

Chop the chicken breasts and onion.  Saute with the olive oil in a dutch oven.  Add all remaining ingredients except the cheese.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes.  Add cheese, mix well, and serve.

Cowboy Soup

Every now and then, if ground beef is on sale or if I have a little extra time, I’ll buy 5 pounds of the stuff and cook it.   Then I place it in 5 zipper bags and freeze.  That makes several soup recipes and cuts down drastically on time.  The same goes for chicken breasts.  Boil up a bunch of those, debone, chop, freeze in bags, and you are ready for your meals to be even faster on those weekdays when you don’t otherwise have the time.  About 2 cups of chopped chicken equals a pound.

Cowboy Soup may be the easiest ever! It is fresh, healthy, and changeable.  Pretty much any vegetable you like can be substituted or added.  You can also omit those you don’t like.  The original recipe calls for a can of Spanish rice.  Because I wanted to cut the carbs, I deleted the rice and added a can of green beans.  This soup, like all soups, is fantastic reheated.

Prep Time:     13 minutes

Cook Time:     30 minutes

Serves:     8-10

  • 1 can cream style corn
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1 can Veg-Al, drained
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large can tomato sauce
  • 1 large can green beans, drained
  • 2 cups water

Brown meat and drain.  Add remaining ingredients, salt and pepper to taste, and simmer 30 minutes.

Awesome and Easy Creamy Corn Casserole

My daughter-in-law, like me, believes in speed in the kitchen.  This recipe, one of her favorites, is exactly what it says – awesome, easy, and creamy. The combination of crunchy cornbread and creamy corn, not to mention butter and sour cream, make this a dish to remember.  The prep is 8 minutes flat.  It’s a perfect choice for those pot luck dinners when there is no time for anything complicated or for a Thanksgiving meal when everything else IS complicated.  It is definitely not for those watching their waistlines!

Prep Time:     8 minutes

Cook Time:     45 minutes

Serves:     8

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 package Jiffy cornbread mix
  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (14.75 ounce) can creamed corn
  • 1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9 x 9 baking dish.  In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and spoon into prepared dish.  Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the top is golden brown.

Note:  This dish can be doubled.  Just use a large pan.