Easy Shrimp Scampi

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It’s hard to believe I have been MIA for a month. I’ve been under the weather, and just not up to trying new recipes. I suppose I could have re-blogged a few “oldies but goodies” to fill the void, but it seems as though I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Kiddo has been appointed the task of preparing the evening meal, while I supervised as much as  possible. It was all I could do this past month to drag my behind into the office each day. I’ve always been prone to blinding headaches, especially when it rains, but this has been down right paralyzing.

I am one of those people who believes in pushing through the pain and making the best of the situation. My guys have been great. Even Hubby had moved out of his comfort zone to lend a hand in the kitchen. Grill-Master is his thing, and that would have been fine had this year been another drought riddled winter. A year ago we were still cooking on the grill. Not this year. California has turned into one big swamp – lakes, rivers, creeks and streams all reaching their limits. The rain just keeps coming. Any low-laying area has turned into a pond. The cranes have enjoyed their newly formed wet lands, as have the ducks, river otters and even the beavers have had a field day with this much rain. However; the not-too-bright wild turkeys have been running about in the streets, looking up to see what the heck is hitting their heads, (rain drops, you silly birds!) with looks of complete confusion.

For Valentine’s Day, I wanted something “romantic” for supper. At the same time, it had to be something simple that my guys could whip up with very little supervision. Start with something from a box in the freezer section of your supermarket, add a few fresh ingredients and there you have it – Super Easy Scampi. Yum!

Super Easy Shrimp Scampi
2 boxes Gorton Shrimp Scampi
1/2 lb Angel Hair Pasta
3 tablespoons Butter
1 1/2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Roasted Garlic
1 Lemon, cut into wedges

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Maintain rolling boil in pot.

Prepare Scampi according to box directions.

Cook Angel Hair pasta al dente – about 4 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, add butter, lemon juice and garlic to scampi sauce. Pour shrimp scampi over pasta. Toss to blend. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.
Shrimp Scampi with Smokey Pan Seared Asparagus makes for a simple, quick and oh so delicious supper.

Almost Like Home Made

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sacramento-weir-opens-for-first-time-in-decadeWe have had our share of rain lately. And I do mean rain – as in roads closed, flood gates opened – some for the first time in a decade. As a result, planning a hardy meal and getting the timing right is almost impossible. The beauty of canned soups are that you can stock up for these crazy-rainy days and everyone gets their soup-fix on, even when we are all craving something different. Oh so convenient! I know, home-made soup isn’t difficult. When made in a crock pot the soup just sits there waiting, becoming more intense and delicious as each hour of the clock ticks away. The down-side of home-made soup is that I haven’t learned how to make a single serving. It’s a giant pot that can feed us for days . . . and days. While canned soup offers variety in a single serving.

Hubby had a hankering for Baked Potato Soup. Kiddo was in the mood for Tomato Soup with a grilled cheese sandwich, while I had my heart set on a big bowl of Cream of Mushroom Soup. Canned soup to the rescue! With a few added ingredients; off the shelf soup can become your best friend.

To make Potato Soup even better, fry up some bacon to add to your soup. Don’t forget to garnish with a handful of green onions.

For that “from scratch” goodness for your tomato soup, fire-roasted tomatoes will do the trick. Just add to the pot while the sandwiches are grilling.

And for a nutty twist to a can of Cream of Mushroom soup, reduce the milk to 2/3 of a can, then garnish your soup with chopped walnuts.

Keep warm and enjoy!

Wedge Cut Garlic Fries

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Hey, I’m back. I know it’s been a while. I’ve been under the weather. Speaking of weather – Northern California has been hit hard with rain, snow and a lot of flooding. Each day, it’s been an adventure to pick our way to and from the office. Our home is fine. It’s the streets that have been at issue. And traffic – while our route might be flood-free; the amount of traffic diverting to dry land has been amazing.

We had a break in the storms yesterday and took full advantage to barbecues up some unbelievable Porterhouse steaks.  Hubby was in the mood to barbecue despite the cold, gloomy gray day. And that was fine by me. He’s my man when it comes to grilling. The steaks were on sale, nice and thick with just the right amount of marbling to make them oh so delicious. We kept everything simple, giving these Porterhouse a rub of salt and pepper – nothing else – just a little salt and pepper.  Hubby wanted the side to be as simple as the steaks themselves and suggested French Fries. Really? Okay, we were going to forgo the usual baked potatoes with the works, but a bag of frozen French Fries – oh no!porterhouse-magic-1

Steaks deserved large, wedge cut potatoes roasted in the oven and seasoned just right with buttery garlic. Think of them as strips of baked potato. It’s been a while since I last made up a batch of my Wedge Cut Garlic Fries – I had forgotten just how yummy these potatoes truly are. So awesome, they are almost a meal in themselves – or a starter to a terrific backyard barbecue. Or, in this case, the perfect side to some rockin’ steaks.

Wedge Cut Garlic Fries
4-6 Large Baking Potatoes (Russet are best)
2 tablespoons Olive Oil for drizzling
Salt & Pepper to Taste
4 Tablespoons Butter
3 or 4 Garlic cloves, chopped
A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons Smoked Paprika
1/2 Cup Sour Cream, if desired

Preheat oven to 425-degrees. Scrub, dry and cut potatoes into “wedge” style potatoes (6-8 wedges per potato, depending on size).

Line a baking sheet with foil. (A second baking sheet may be necessary to keep potatoes in a single layer). Arrange the potato wedges on baking sheet and toss to coat lightly in olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper and roast for 40-45 minutes, until deeply golden and crisp, turning once half way through. (Depending upon how thick the cut, another 10 minutes might be necessary. You want the outside golden like a French Fry, the inside soft like a baked potato).

When the fries are done, melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat until it foams. Add the chopped garlic and swirl it around for a minute or two to infuse the butter. Toss the fries in large bowl with the garlic, butter, parsley and paprika. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve. Potatoes can be held in warm oven.

When serving, dollop with a little sour cream if desired.

Tis the Season of Pot Luck Parties

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It’s been a while since we last had a pot-luck at work. So glad to see that we are getting back to the old ways now that we are under new management. Just wish we were doing our Christmas Pot-Luck on a Monday rather than a Friday. It’s so much easier when you have all day Sunday to prepare. After a long day at the office, to come home and “cook” for the whole gang at work is a real drag. I’m grateful that I have kiddo around. He can do the prep while I concentrate on the finishing touches and presentation.

Like most office pot-luck parties; there are certain challenges that need to be met and overcome. For example, our office “kitchen” consists of two very small microwaves and one toaster oven. We are equally limited in accessible outlets, most utilized by the small appliances in place; the water cooler, refrigerator and break room soda machine. That leaves one (count ’em – one) outlet. Too bad – I have at my disposal a portable roasting oven (large enough to roast a fat turkey), a two-burner stove top, several electric skillets and a multitude of crock pots in various shapes and sizes. When we moved from our big house with its gourmet kitchen to our tiny house with a single stove/oven; I “expanded” my kitchen with an array of portable appliances. It was the only way I could survive in my tiny world. Since “cooking” and serving warm dishes was nearly out of the question, my search became more concentrated on things that could be served cold. All the while, reminding myself not to go crazy – I am NOT catering the party but rather contributing. Just one or two dishes will do – keep it simple, that’s the key.

Now this first recipe, I’ve shared before. The beauty of it is that everything ferments in a zip-lock bag overnight. Then it’s just a matter of placing it on a serving platter, a few last-minute touches and away we go. Pretty as you please. A lot of variety on a single platter.

Antipasto Platter (6)Antipasto Platter
Mixture Ingredients
1 jar (24 oz) pepperoncini, drained
1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups marinated mushrooms
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes, seeds remove
1/2 pound provolone cheese, cubed
1 package (4 oz) marinated Mozzarella balls, oil drained
1 can (6 oz) pitted ripe olives, drained
1 package (3 oz) sliced pepperoni, cut into quarters
2 jars (3 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 bottle (8 oz) Italian Dressing, Robust and Zesty variety

In a large bowl, combine antipasto ingredients. Toss with your hands to blend well. Pour Italian dressing over mixture; toss again to coat. Spoon mixture into a zip-lock bag. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Platter Liner
1 package (3 oz) Uncured Salami or similar deli meat, slice thin
1 Head Green Lettuce, leafy part only

Line a serving platter with lettuce leaves, leaving center of platter open. Arrange salami or similar deli meat around platter overlapping ends of lettuce leaves. Spoon antipasto mixture onto center of platter and arrange. Salad tongs for serving, with cocktail picks for “eating”.

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I’m not sure why, but Smoked Salmon Spread and Christmas holiday parties just seem to go hand in hand in my mind. Growing up, it was something that only appeared at holiday parties. Sometimes my mom used a fish-shaped copper jello mold to make it even extra special, other times it came in the form of a ball rolled in pecans. Smoked salmon anything was a luxury reserved for special occasions. Even if you have oodles of money, reserving certain things for “special occasions” is what separates special from ordinary in the first place.

smoked-salmon-ballSmoked Salmon Ball with Pecans
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 can (7.5 oz) Pink Salmon, drained, flaked and cartilage removed
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
2 Teaspoons Lemon Juice
1 Teaspoon Horseradish
½ Teaspoon Liquid Smoke
½ Cup Chopped Pecans
Sprigs of Parsley for garnish
Choice of crackers

In a bowl, combine cream cheese, salmon, parsley, green pepper, red bell pepper, lemon juice, horseradish and liquid smoke. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Form salmon mixture into a ball, roll in chopped pecans. Slightly flatten one end to prevent salmon ball from rolling about and place in the center of a serving tray. Tuck sprigs of parsley around salmon and ring with crackers.

Hot Cocoa – Mama’s Brew

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At first I was going to write an introduction to the whole history of cocoa/chocolate – just spouting off a bunch of internet facts and myths all jumbled together. Dry  – boring and not at all personal. This recipe is personal.

Growing up I can remember coming home from school on those cold rainy days, and Mom had a cup of hot cocoa waiting. Milk was warmed in a pot, Nestles powder added and there ya go – everyday hot cocoa. Add mini marshmallows and you were in kiddie-heaven, all warm to your toes. That was every-day cocoa.

Twice each year, Mom made a hot cup of chocolate that was thick – with the consistency of runny pudding. It was slow-brewed on the stove top, needing attention so that the milk neither scalded nor boiled. This thick drink was served on Halloween night, upon our return from trick or treating. It was a diversion from our bags. We would plop down at the table, all warm and cozy in the kitchen and Mom would pour each of us a cup of her thick brew. We would wrap our hands around the warm cup, forgetting all about that heavy sack of  sweets. The candy was dumped into a giant jar and over the next several weeks our combined haul was carefully dispensed, avoiding the whole sugar coma thing on Halloween night. No ordinary cup of hot cocoa would do as a fitting distraction.

The only other time I can recall Mom’s rich, thick hot cocoa being served was when the neighbors came calling at Christmas time, singing songs of the season. Mom had her brew ready (usually a double or triple batch) and served it up in Styrofoam cups. Often our house was the last stop of the night. Cocoa, and big  plates of Dad’s home-baked cookies. A spontaneous party – those are often the best kind.

Nothing brings back those sweet childhood memories like a cup of Mama’s Brew. This recipe is a combination of Mom and Dad. In the Philippines, canned milk – evaporated – was common. Dad grew up on cow’s milk – as in fresh from the cow.

Hot Cocoa – Mama’s Brew
4 Cups of Milk
3 Large Cans of Evaporated Milk
1/2 Cup Coco Powder (unsweetened)
Sugar to taste, about 6-8 tablespoons
Mini-Marshmallows, if desired

Place milk, evaporated milk and ½ cup coco powder into a large saucepan. Whisk until well blended. Taste for chocolate consistency (it will be somewhat bitter until the sugar is added). If more chocolate flavor is desired, add more – about ¼ cup at a time.

Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time until desired “sweetness” is reached. Place over low heat, stirring occasionally until it is hot and has thickened to the consistency of runny pudding. Pour into small coffee cups and top with mini-marshmallows, if desired.

Chicken Adobo – Kiddo’s Spin

Chicken Adobo

Recently, Kiddo was in charge of cooking the family meal. On the menu was Chicken Adobo, using our family recipe and the crock pot method –Chicken Adobo – Crock Pot Style. The beauty of Adobo is that you can start out with FROZEN chicken. If you start early in the morning, this is fine in a Crock Pot. Start later in the day, and the Stove Top method is great – sort of a “rush job” if you will. Kiddo isn’t an early riser on the weekend, so he used the quick Dutch Oven on the stove top method, with frozen bone-in thighs. It was awesome – some of the best Adobo I’ve ever eaten. Hats off to Kiddo . . . the chicken broth gave the sauce another dimension of flavor.

You can use any kind of dark meat – thighs, legs. It makes no difference . . .

Chicken Adobo – Kiddo Style
1 Large package Chicken Thighs, bone-in frozen
2 Cups Soy sauce
1 Cup Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 Cup White or Rice Vinegar
2 Cups Water
1 Cup Chicken Broth (more if necessary)
1 Tablespoon crushed Garlic (from a jar)
Black Pepper to taste
1/2 large onion, cut into slivers

Place soy sauce, Worcestershire Sauce and rice vinegar in a large pot on the stove. Add water. Stir to blend.

Break up FROZEN chicken thighs (or legs or combination) into sections that will fit into pot. Bring to a boil. Add chicken broth to cover chicken (approximately 1 cup, more if necessary).

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot and allow to gently “boil” for about 2 hours.

Add garlic and onion slivers. Let simmer about 20 minutes longer, until onions are tender.

Serve with sticky-steamed rice.

Election Night Chili Dogs with Chili-Cheese Fries

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Am I behind in my postings? Oh, you bet! This was originally scheduled for Election Night – just never got around to hitting the “publish” . . .

Throughout the day, Hubby, Kiddo and I avoided the internet, CNN and Fox – living in California, we did not want to hear any of the early returns from the east. We wanted to wait until the polls closed in our State.

Hubby predicted a landslide for Hillary Clinton, I thought it was going to be a close call with Hillary pulling out at the end and Kiddo said he just couldn’t figure out which way it would go. The one thing we all agreed upon was a little party – not so much a victory party as a celebration of the end of this whole roller coaster ride of an election.  Like so many Americans, we just wanted it all to come to an end already. And what better way to celebrate something so crazy than with chili dogs and French Fries? No matter the results, you’ve got your comfort food and can blame any indigestion not on the election results but the chili. Yeah, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

chili-cheese-dogSmokey Chili-Cheese Dogs
1 Package Good Quality Hot Dogs (Nathans or Hebrew National)
1 Package Good Quality Hot Dog Buns
1 Medium Onion, chopped
1 Large Can Favorite Chili (Dennison’s Hot)
Mayonnaise, about 1 tablespoon per bun
Fresh Grated Smoked Gouda Cheese

Heat griddle to about medium-high. Split hot dogs in half length-wise.

While griddle warms, heat chili in a heavy-bottom pot over medium heat, stirring as needed to prevent burning or scorching.

Chop onion, set aside until ready to use.

Grate Smoked Gouda, about a handful per dog. Set aside until ready to use.

When griddle is hot, cook dogs, cut side down until nice and browned. Turn dogs and allow skin to blister nicely without burning.

Split hot dog bun. Smear with mayonnaise.

Place grilled dog on bun. Top with chili, then freshly grated cheese. Top with chopped onion.

chili-cheese-friesChili-Cheese French Fries
1/2 Bag Frozen French Fries
Cooking Spray
Sea Salt to Taste
1 small Can Dennison’s HOT Chili, warmed on the stove
1/2 Cup Grated Smoked Cheese or Sharp Cheddar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly spray a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick spray.

Spread French Fries in a single layer on baking sheet. Spray fries with cooking spray.

Season as desired. Bake in oven for 20 minutes. Turn oven off, let continue to warm another 5 minutes or so. While fries are baking in the oven, warm chili in a sauce pot.

Remove French Fries from oven. Place in a large rimmed serving platter, spreading out. Ladle chili over fries. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

Heat broiler element in oven. Pop fries under broiler and let cheese melt. Remove from oven and serve.