Friday, March 30, 2012

{ buffalo chicken tacos }

Talk about the best of both worlds -- tacos and chicken wings! It sounds like a strange combination, I know, but it really works. It's one of those things that I couldn't believe I'd never thought of myself.

The great taste in these tacos comes from the spicy kick from the chicken (and there's definitely a good kick!), contrasted with the cool avocado, lime and blue cheese. I really enjoyed it.

As with any taco, you can pretty much top yours with whatever floats your boat. I walked on the chicken wing side of things and added [light] blue cheese dressing (Ty opted for ranch), some [light] crumbled blue cheese, plus cubed avocado with lime and fresh cilantro.

This is a perfect, casual weekend meal. And talk about great for a tailgate menu (without all those gross, picked-over chicken bones piling up) -- just cook up the chicken ahead of time and set out the sides.

Buffalo Chicken Tacos
(adapted from

1 1/2 - 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken tenders, cut into 1 inch pieces
2/3 cup flour
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
salt and pepper, for seasoning
approximately 3/4 cup buffalo wing sauce (we prefer Frank’s); extra for garnishment
2 tablespoons canola oil
12 6-inch corn tortillas
Toppings:green leaf lettuce leaves
diced red (or green) onions
avocado, cubed and coated with fresh lime juice (to prevent browning)
blue cheese or ranch dressing

ProcessHeat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

In a large bowl, combine cornstarch, flour, cayenne, and garlic powder. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour mixture.

Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in Dutch oven. Add chicken and cook on both sides – about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Once the chicken is done, set it aside in a bowl and toss with buffalo wing sauce (enough to coat all the chicken pieces).

Roll chicken pieces in tortillas, along with desired sides.

Yield: about 10 servings, 2 tacos each.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

{ grilled ribeyes with onion and mushroom blue cheese sauce }

While it's fun to experiment with new recipes and venture into the culinary Great Unknown, the truth of the matter is that most often when I try something new from a cookbook or from Pinterest, it's unlikely that I'll make it again. Like most of us, I tend to stick with the tried and true family favorites.

But every once in a while, I'm fortunate enough to stumble across a recipe that becomes an instant classic on our household's list of 5-star menu items -- this past Friday was just such a night. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that Ty requested it again on Monday night. So in the past five days, we've already made and devoured it twice.

It's no surprise that the inspiration comes from the fabulously brilliant, Ree Drummond (THE Pioneer Woman). I tweaked it a bit, but as usual, her recipes are pretty perfect just as she presents them. I added mushrooms and substituted light cream for heavy, but honestly, you'd never know. It's amazingly rich and creamy. Ree is so great at creating simple, yet delicious food that's realistic for the rest of us to try and enjoy. Thank God for the Pioneer Woman and her willingness to share her talents with the rest of us.

Speaking of Ree's talents, I think her reaction to this particular "sublime" recipe is better than any description I could provide:

"Good grief.
Help me.
Help me now.
This was delicious."

I foresee steak with blue cheese sauce on next week's menu as well. Oh, and the week after ....

Grilled Ribeyes with Onion and Mushroom Blue Cheese Sauce
(adapted from thepioneerwoman)

  • 2 whole ribeye steaks
  • 4 tablespoons butter (if using grill pan)
  •  salt
  •  pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter (yes, more butter)
  • 1 whole very large yellow onion, sliced (I used 1/2 red, 1/2 yellow this time)
  • 6-8 oz sliced button mushrooms
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese


Salt and pepper both sides of steaks. Ideally, throw steaks on an outdoor grill and cook until medium rare. If cooking steaks indoors, use a grill pan and cook in 4 tablespoons butter until medium rare.

Saute onions in 4 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Cook for 7-10 minutes minutes, or until dark and caramelized, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms and cook until soft (about 5 more minutes), continuing to periodically stir.

Reduce heat to simmer and pour in cream. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until reduced by half. Once cream has taken on the caramel color of the onion and mushroom mixture, stir in blue cheese until melted.

Serve steaks on top of generous portion of sauce. Or, as my husband prefers it, ladle a heaping portion of sauce on top of steak.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

{ shrimp enchiladas }

My stunningly beautiful [identical] twin sister provided me with this recipe. She claims it's one of the best enchilada recipes she's ever made. And I whole-heartedly agree with her -- it's delicious.

A definite keeper with an endless amount of potential variety (lobster?).

Shrimp Enchiladas
adapted from melskitchencafe

Cheese Sauce:
½ cup sweet red pepper, finely-chopped
½ cup yellow onion, minced
½ cup green pepper, finely-chopped
1/4 cup butter
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon coursely-ground black pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup light whipping cream
1 ½ cups Monterrey Jack/Cheddar cheese mix (Mexican blend)
½ cup light sour cream

Shrimp Mixture:
2 tablespoons butter
1 ½ pounds shrimp, peeled, deveined and sliced down the middle, so shrimp pieces retain their "shrimp" shape (I thawed some frozen shrimp)
½ cup yellow onion, chopped
2 cups ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 ½ cups Monterrey Jack/Cheddar cheese mix (Mexican blend)
8 (9-inch) flour tortillas

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Lightly coat a 9 x 13" casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute red pepper, onion and green pepper in 1/4 cup butter until crisp-tender.

Add oregano, salt, garlic powder, pepper, cayenne pepper, and flour. Blend well and cook, stirring constantly for about a minute.

Whisk in the cream and continue cooking for 3 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Add 1½ cups cheese and stir until melted. Add sour cream, stir to blend. Set aside.

In another skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Saute shrimp and ½ cup onion until shrimp are pink, or, if using thawed-out frozen shrimp, cook until heated through (don’t overcook or the shrimp will be tough).

Add chopped tomatoes and ½ of the cheese sauce.

Spoon 1/3 cup shrimp mixture into each tortilla. Sprinkle a small amount of cheese on top of shrimp mixture. Roll the enchiladas up tightly. Arrange seam side down in baking dish. Spoon remaining cheese sauce over tortillas and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake until cheese is completely melted and bubbly, about 30-35 minutes.

I served the enchiladas with cilantro-lime rice and fresh pico de gallo.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

{ funky easter eggs }

I love Easter egg cookies. They're basically a blank canvas with no right or wrong way to decorate. Most however, come in the pastel variety, and I'm not really a pastel-type of cookie girl. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, the more color -- the brigher the color -- the better.

This batch of eggs started in a similar fashion as the fall leaves and Valentine's Day hearts I made several months ago. I created a tie-dye background effect with multiple colors of royal icing, then piped some detail on top.

What I had originally intended as an elegant swirl pattern sort of morphed into a groovy 60's thing. That happens a lot, by the way: I start out with a picture in my head, but the process sort of takes on a life of its own. The end result is often very different from the mental plan.

I made these to fill an auction basket for a local preschool here in Hampton. The school (and teachers) holds a special place in my heart, as it's where my cookie making "reason for being" basically started -- I set out to learn how to bake and decorate my own cookies for Aidan and his classmates and their various special occasions.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

{ leprechaun trap }

Aidan set out to snag himself a little green guy last night. He made a trap, set it with a chocolate lure, and was certain he'd wake up to find a leprechaun.

Instead, all that remained near his trap was a few chocolate gold coins, some glitter the mischievious imp left behind, and a letter from Lucky O'Reily himself.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

{ mcsorley's irish stew with cream cheese mashed potatoes }

St. Paddy's Day.

The O'Banion in me always feels the need to pay homage to my grandmother's people from the bonnie Emerald Isle; however, green beer and shamrock antenna-head bands aren't quite my thing.

Good food and drink is my thing.

On this beautiful spring day, Irish stew made from ale, and homemade cream cheese mashed potatoes was the menu of choice.

So friends, raise your glass, if you will ...

"May you always have a clean shirt, a clear conscience, and enough coins in your pocket to buy a pint!"

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Y'all. Sláinte!

McSorley's Irish Stew with Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons bacon grease (or oil)
1.5 to 2 pounds stew meat
1 bottle McSorley's Pale Ale
5 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
8-oz can tomato sauce
1 cup light cream (or heavy)
12-oz bag frozen peas
2 bay leaves
2 cups beef broth
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon Worcesteshire sauce
salt and pepper

Mashed Potatoes:
6-8 russet potatoes
1 stick butter
1/2 brick cream cheese
1 cup light (or heavy) cream, or milk
salt and pepper, to taste


Heat olive oil in heavy large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Lightly salt and pepper the beef pieces. Add beef to the pot (do not crowd the pan or the meat will steam and not brown) and cook, without stirring, until browned on one side, then use tongs to turn the pieces over.  Continue to cook until all sides are browned, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with Worcesteshire sauce.

Add beef broth and McSorley's Pale Ale to the beef and stir, making sure to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add bay leaves.

In a separate large pan, heat bacon grease over medium-high heat. Add carrots and sauté 3-4 minutes. Add onions, garlic, thyme and rosemary. Continue to sauté until vegetables begin to soften. 

Add tomato sauce, salt, and pepper to the vegetables and stir. 

Add vegetable mixture to beef and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, then cover and simmer 2-3 hours, or until meat is tender, stirring occasionally.

Once meat is tender, remove bay leaf.
Melt butter in a separate pan over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk until well-incorporated. Add cream and mix into butter and flour. Stir butter mixture into the stew with the frozen peas.

If desired, add cornstarch mixed with cold water to further thicken stew.

Serve hot over mashed potatoes.

Peel and quarter potatoes.

Boil until tender when poked with a fork or knife (about 10 minutes). Drain in a collander and return potatoes to pot.

Mash potatoes with a potato masher or pastry cutter. Do not whip potatoes with an electric mixer! It breaks down the starches and makes potatoes sticky!

Add cream cheese, butter, and cream. Mix well. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

{ boy stuff }

Spidey & Lightning McQueen -- both men of action.

Maybe it's the red?

{ swedish meatballs, on the lighter side }

Sometimes Fridays require Thai take-out or pizza delivery. Then there are the Friday nights when nothing but comfort food will do the trick.

Last night was one of those comfort food nights. Ty specifically threw out a request for Swedish Meatballs, so I set out to make a version of the classic dish, minus all the extra calories.

Even my son, the world's pickiest eater, enjoyed a meatball or two. And friends, you'll have to believe me when I tell you THAT'S saying something.

As I'm sharing this post, I'm eating the leftovers ... and they're just as good as the original. I only wish that I had doubled the recipe (made as is, it makes about 22 meatballs).

Swedish Meatballs, Lightened Up
(adapted from SkinnyTaste)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 celery stalk, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley (reserve a few leaves for garnish)
  • 1 lb 93% lean beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups reduced sodium beef stock
  • 1/3 cup light cream cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 bag NO YOLKS Egg Noodles
In a large, deep sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic; sauté until onions are translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add celery and parsley and continue to cook until soft, stirring often; about 3-4 more minutes. Let cool a few minutes.

In a large bowl, combine beef, egg, onion mixture, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper. Mix well with your hands and form 1/8 cup-sized meatballs (fill 1/4 cup then divide the meat in half).

Add beef stock to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and slowly place meatballs into the broth. Cover and cook about 20 minutes.

This is a good time to put the noodles on to boil. Cook according to package directions (about 11 minutes) and set aside.

Remove meatballs from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside in a serving bowl. Add remaining broth to blender with cream cheese and pulse until smooth.  

Return sauce to pan and simmer a few minutes to thicken. Pour sauce over meatballs in serving bowl. Serve meatballs and gravy over noodles in individual bowls, and garnish with parsley leaves.