Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday Dinner - Granny's Tetrazzini

As I've mentioned in the past, I love reliving family favorites for Sunday dinner. Dad and I have a wedding to attend today though, so we actually had Sunday Dinner last night. Temperatures the past couple of days have been ever so slightly cooler, hinting at the approach of autumn. This, of course, has me anxious to indulge in some richer flavors for dinner.

Nothing speaks better to that need for warming comfort food than my Granny's chicken tetrazzini. I remember when we were kids, this was my brother's favorite dish. He'd ask Granny to make it for him for his birthday dinner.

Like me, she doesn't follow recipes so much as methods. You just "doctor it up" until it tastes good. She uses evaporated milk in hers but I just use skim milk since that's what I have on hand. It would also taste great if you wanted to add in some mushrooms or peas but she made hers plain so that's how I do it.

1 whole chicken
1 package egg noodles
garlic or garlic powder
ground sage
ground thyme
ground nutmeg
salt & pepper
2 T flour
2 T olive oil
1 cup milk
1 cup grated parmesan

In a large stock pot, cover chicken with water. Season heavily with garlic, sage, thyme, nutmeg, salt & pepper. Boil gently until tender. Remove chicken from stock and set aside 2 cups of the stock. Add enough water to remaining stock in pot to boil the noodles. While stock returns to a boil, debone the chicken. Cook noodles according to package instructions and drain.

Return empty pot to burner then add olive oil and flour. Whisk over medium heat to make a roux. Gradually add in reserved stock and milk, whisking continuously. When slightly thickened, turn off heat, add parmesan and adjust seasoning to your taste. Mix together with noodles and deboned chicken.

Easy, peasy one-pot tetrazzini for serving up family style. Happy Sunday!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Boys on Bikes - Mom's Top 5

This cycling season is off and running. It's no great secret that I love watching dudes on bikes, but some stand out as most entertaining for one reason or another.

  1. Fabian Cancellara rocks my socks probably more than any other. What a hottie and sweet beyond words. Spartacus is just the yummiest, no comparison.
  2. Tom Boonen is precious but the way he powers over those cobbles in Paris-Roubais is super awesome. I was so disappointed he crashed out of Flanders this year because I was so looking forward to a Cancellara-Boonen top two podium. Get better sweetie-pie!
  3. Philippe Gilbert clearly has the power to be a contender and a bit of an edge that makes him great to watch. Loves me some Phil!
  4. Manuel Quinziato may not get as much camera time as some other guys but he's definitely a tall, dark & handsome drink of water. His rock star reputation is also fun enough to put him on my list. For some reason in my mind he's like a young Big George Hincapie, who isn't on my list only because he retired.
  5. Not only is Jens Voigt a badass on the road, he's an amazing family man. I dig a dude my age who kicks ass that hard & still has so much fun doing it. 
Pedal on boys, I'll be watching!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Gallbladders Are Overrated. Bring on the Onion Rings.

This has been a super sucktastic year to say the least. After totaling my car in the spring, I smashed my face in a cycling accident in the summer and wrapped it up with spending three days in the hospital getting my jacked up gallbladder removed in the fall. Just to really end the year on par, I had more oral reconstructive surgery done last week. Awesome.

Aside from enjoying a shit ton of quality pharmaceuticals, I have achieved precious little gratification lately. Now that my mouth is on the path to feeling better, after four months of fucked up teeth and a big-ass metal bar embedding itself into my gums, I'm ready to start enjoying some dinner.

If you've had your damned gallbladder out, you know how you're cautioned against eating fatty, fried or rich foods for fear of sudden explosive diarrhea and gut wrenching cramps. Since having mine out, I've done a little experimenting and I can tell you that "they" are full of shit and gallbladders are overrated.

Now, can I eat a mega order of greasy hash browns with fried eggs, bacon and gravy-laden biscuits for breakfast? No, not unless I want to spend the next two days in the shitter. But I can have some of each of those things and be just fine. And when I want a burger with onion rings, I can have some of that too and be just fine. The bottom line is folks, you can still enjoy tasty eats without having a gallbladder if you aren't a fucking glutton about it. I reckon everyone is different, some being more sensitive than others, but I certainly can enjoy rich, fatty or even fried foods in careful moderation on occasion without ill effects.

I'm still on holiday until next week and given this week's newfound dental freedom, I think some lunchtime nomming with the kidlets is in order. Stand back folks - we're hitting up Dairy-ette for some burgers and homemade root beer. Bring on the onion rings bitches!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mom's Cranberry Sauce

Simply put, I cannot deal with that canned crap that passes for cranberry sauce or it's ribbed cousin, cranberry jelly. Yuck and yuck.

Cranberry sauce is just too easy to make yourself. There are lots of variations out there, but we like ours with a hint of orange and cinnamon. This is what I use:

1 package fresh cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 naval orange - reserve the zest and juice separately
1 t. ground cinnamon

In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, dissolve the sugar in water and orange juice. Add cranberries and let it bubble away, stirring occasionally. When it has thickened and most of the berries have burst, after about 8 minutes, remove from heat. Stir in orange zest and cinnamon, then allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate at least a few hours - I leave it overnight.

In the event you have Thanksgiving leftovers, this chunky sauce is good on Black Friday brunch French toast or waffles. Served with mimosas, of course.

Happy Thanksgiving!

- MomNextDoor

Friday, September 28, 2012

Face First

Hey there neighbors, it's been a while. The past month or so has proven to be rather craptastic here at The HaciendaNextDoor. You know how DadNextDoor & I like to ride bicycles? Well we loaded everything up & headed out to the Hotter'N Hell Hundred again the last weekend in August. That's where it all went wrong.

Somewhere around mile 25 we were both cruising along at a nice 18 mph pace & feeling good to go the whole 100 mile route. Suddenly, just in front of us, some reflector-wheeled noob was overlapping wheels with the guy in front of him and ended up laying out all across the road. Dad's bicycle ninja skills came in handy & he dodged the wreck. I am generally a hot mess to begin with but this time I didn't have as much response time since the dude wiped out right in front of me so it was even messier.

In my mind I did some kind of bad-ass Charlie's Angels trick riding flip. That delusional image I keep in my mind is comforting since I didn't have to look at the ugly disaster. In reality, my front tire rode right over the guy but I couldn't keep my big ass down. When I felt my back end start to flip, I rolled it to the left. Unfortunately I was just going too fast & couldn't roll fast enough.

Face first friends, into the road at 18 mph. Actually most of my face was okay, thanks to my helmet & sunglasses. I ended up with somewhere around 40 stitches inside & outside the left side of my mouth. One bottom tooth came completely out, one top tooth was broken badly enough it will be replaced with a snazzy new implant and two were crunched enough to earn root canals & crowns. These are all my front teeth by the way. Even better - the alveolar bone holding those top teeth in my head was busted. I know everyone is jealous of the metal bling I get to wear in there holding my teeth in for 6 weeks, crossing my fingers it heals enough I won't need a bone graft when they take the metal bar off.

I did also smash my left hand into the road as I pushed my handlebars down on that side. Miraculously, no other bones are broken though. Aside from my face, I had a minor abrasion to my shoulder & knee. Not too bad considering the other guys in the ER were heading home for orthopedic surgery.

What's been really super awesome is trying to eat mushy vomit-textured food so the bone can heal. It takes me like a hundred years to eat anything significant. Basically, if a toothless toddler can eat it so can I. Oh, and I pretty much drink like a stroke victim. I know, pretty sexy.

One super cool thing that happened though was this group of like four guys riding behind me stopped to help. One of them was either an ER or ICU nurse that was a total rockstar who took care of me right up until I was loaded into the ambulance (thank god it was an ambulance & not a helicopter - I hate flying almost more than smashing my face). I think he told me his name was Brad. I was looking at his bib numbers upside down & I had just plowed my head into the pavement so I'm not clear but I think it was either 2141 or 4121. The group was wearing some sort of United Methodist kits that I think were mostly burgundy. If you're out there somewhere Brad, you made an amazing difference - thank you. My recovery will be a months-long journey & I still wear your bracelet on hard days.

It turned out I bent my frame so it's garbage. I actually cried more about that than I did my busted teeth. My bike's name was Sugar. She was a pink & white Dolce Elite with pink bling. I think she got broken so I didn't break any other bones. She hangs in the garage wearing my hospital bracelet.

The cool thing is that it's all fixable - a few more dental appointments & I'll be set. And now I know that I'm stronger than I ever thought I could be. I only took a week off of work & went right back to doing my thing. Dad bought me a new frame (it was a Dolce Sport that was only ridden like 10 times) & put all my components on it. It's a berry & white frame instead of pink & white so it's not just perfect but it looks nice. Sort of like me I think.

The very first rally I ever rode was the Cotton Patch Challenge in 2011 - I couldn't do the whole thing & Dad had to actually push me at the end. I had intended to ride again in 2012 as a personal milestone to see how far I'd come in a year & it was personally important to me. So 3 weeks after the wreck, 2 days after the root canals, I saddled up and rode the whole route ... without any pushing.

Life's short neighbors. Live like you mean it.


Why did I get back on a bike again after such an injury? Why did I do it so soon? Well ... I guess it's something you really have to live to understand. It's about learning to be a resilient person. It's about empowering yourself to be unbroken. I certainly won't participate in all the same events I might have before & I will do some things differently (better) than I did before, but I will still ride. I suppose I don't exactly have the words to tell you why. But I can tell you I am not the broken girl crying under the covers at the end of the day anymore.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Good Morning Sunshine!

The kids were up unusually early this fine summer morning. Likely due to the fact their band is performing on Saturday so the neighbors have been blessed with lots of rehearsal time. In any case, teenagers independently awake before noon calls for a special breakfast offering. Today it was cheddar polenta topped with a backyard-fresh, over-easy egg and accompanied by their favorite summertime fruit.

They loved the egg yolk stirred into this super easy polenta:

Bring 4 cups salted water to a boil. Whisk in 1 cup cornmeal very slowly and reduce heat. Continue to cook, stirring very frequently, for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper and stir in 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 cup milk and a handful of grated cheddar cheese until everything is melted and creamy.

Next time we think we'll try it with sauteed mushrooms and spinach or something.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How Mom Does Dinner: Stuffed Peppers

I used to sit down every Saturday morning and, with input from the whole fam, formulate a menu for our weekly meals. Then I would carefully make my grocery list based on the menu and any other depleted staples. Finally after all that I would head off to do my shopping. But I don't do that anymore because it just sucked.

The whole reason I gave it a go was that I kept hearing that it was a great strategy for minimizing grocery expenses. It made sense to me that if you had a well organized plan that you would be less apt to buy a lot of stuff you didn't really need. I reasoned that the time I invested would be rewarded with savings at the cash register and then I'd have more money to spend on fun family stuff. Time is important to me because I do work full-time, I have three school aged kids, I actively participate in their school and extracurricular activities, I have personal interests I like to pursue and Dad and I need time to nurture our relationship too.

As it turned out, I found that the more carefully I formulated my lists, the more I actually spent. So I ended up with less time and less money. I have since decided to just pick up general staples that I use all the time so there's always something I can put together for dinner. That's also the reason I am not such a recipe follower.

On any given night, I just sort of check out what protein I have thawed out and then build around it from whatever is on hand in the fridge and pantry. It's not always fancy pants, but it doesn't steal our family time either and that's a good thing.

Last night I had some ground sirloin that needed cooking and my pretty bell peppers were speaking to me so I decided to do a stuffed pepper variation. This is what I used because that's what was there - you use whatever you have:

  • 1 lb ground sirloin
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 2 t cumin
  • salt
  • 6 oz tomato sauce, because I had no paste
  • 3 t chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 1/2 cups corn, I used a can because I had no fresh
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cup grated cheese, I used 50/50 cheddar and mozzarella because I had no Monterey Jack
  • 3 bell peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Brown meat in a large skillet. Add onions, garlic and jalapeno then cook until softened. Add cumin, salt and tomato sauce then simmer until the tomato reduces and the mixture tightens up. Add corn, oregano, rice and water then cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

While that mixture is cooking, place peppers skin-side down in a baking dish. Add 1/4 cup water to bottom of the dish and bake for 15 minutes to soften peppers.

Stir cheese into stuffing mixture and fill peppers. Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Easy peasy. Stress-free shopping and cooking, kid friendly, healthy dinner.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Restaurant Week again? Oh hell no.

It's back. Again. The beat down that is KRLD Restaurant Week.

Today is reservation kick-off so y'all hop on over to OpenTable and get your name on the list if you must. We plan to send our donation on directly to the North Texas Food Bank, then enjoy our steaks and martinis in peace and quiet at the Hacienda in August.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sake Toro Frisco Date Night

So we were in Frisco Saturday night to see a friend's artwork on display. Naturally, we were thirsty and in need of a tasty bite to eat somewhere without a lot of kids. Sake Toro in Frisco Square seemed to fit the bill so we headed over.

We slipped in and immediately admired what appeared to be some original artwork in the entry. This is a cute, intimate spot with a modern vibe. The music is a little on the loud side so bring some earplugs if you're uptight about that sort of thing. We were promptly greeted and repeatedly checked on throughout the visit by genuinely nice staff. Overall, it feels like a nice place to be and we never felt rushed.

The martinis were solid which is always a plus for us. We started with some gyoza and miso soup, this being date night and all. Again, solid soup - nothing extraordinary in our estimation but a tasty bowl nonetheless. The dumplings were nice and crispy on the bottom with a delicate dough that wasn't too thick. Of the rolls we chose, we were surprised to enjoy the Ultimate Veggie Roll the most. Really nice flavor and texture with the tempura asparagus.

Is it super cheap sushi? No, but it's not going to break the bank either. So we're puzzled why such a fun, cute place with nice food and drinks wasn't very busy on a Saturday night.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mom's Chicken Enchiladas

If you're like us and end up with an entire beautifully roasted chicken left over from dinner because your kids' house-guests have an aversion to eating foodstuffs that don't come either prepackaged or out of a drive-thru window, you might need a re-purposing idea on occasion. Last night was one such occasion here at the Hacienda. After perusing the fridge, Mom decided it was enchilada night. 

Like most things around here, we work with what we have and go with the flow so there isn't so much of an exact recipe as an approach. There are two parts to our wannabe enchilada supper: the actual enchiladas and the corn relish.

For the enchiladas, we used:
  • one whole roasted chicken, deboned
  • one onion, chopped (we used purple since that's what was in the fridge)
  • couple of handfuls mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 handfuls fresh spinach
  • salt, crushed red pepper, cumin - put however much tastes good to you
  • 6 oz. goat cheese
  • corn tortillas
  • 32 oz green chile enchilada sauce
We sauteed the onions until nice and soft, then added in the mushrooms, garlic and seasoning. Once everything was soft and juicy, we piled on the spinach and cold chicken. When the spinach had begun to wilt, we turned off the heat and stirred in the cheese until it melted into creaminess.

We wrapped the filling in corn tortillas and crammed them into an oiled baking dish. After getting coated in the green chile sauce, the enchiladas baked uncovered at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, until bubbly and browned.

While they were baking, we whipped up a corn relish. This is what we used:
  • 1 can of corn, drained (The Hacienda was plumb out of fresh corn today)
  • an equal volume of quartered cherry tomatoes
  • one jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • half an onion, chopped
  • the juice of one lime and a drizzle of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

It would have been better with the addition of cilantro and avocado. This was just an ADD sort of cooking night so they got left out, oopsie. The relish chilled in the fridge until the enchiladas were baked and slightly cooled. They're easier to dish up if they aren't a hot sloppy mess.

And there you have it. Mom's enchiladas at TheHaciendaNextDoor.