Archives for category: Contemporary American

Searching for Wow is back! We took a long break because Wing and I just bought a house! So we’ve been incredibly busy moving and working on it to make it ours. We’ve finally come to a point where we can relax some, so that means better meals and blogging about them again.

During our move, Wing and I made the decision to start eating healthier. That means I’m planning to incorporate one vegetarian meal a week and reducing the amount of red meat. I had started putting this plan into action, but I hadn’t really thought about the blogging side of it until recently when I went onto Paul McCartney’s official site to check out concert information. I was clicking around and discovered Meatless Mondays

(Side note: Paul McCartney’s coming to San Diego for the first time in over 30 years! Woot! Too bad I won’t be going since I just bought a house and am now too poor. Oh well. Mars and I saw him live in Vegas so I’ll survive.)

Granted, I’m not becoming vegetarian. I’m simply too picky of an eater. Those so-called “replacements” for meat – eggplant parmesan, tofu “chicken,” Portobello mushroom burgers – all disgusting to me. Give me the meat over the vegetables. I may die earlier from the fat content, but I’m pretty sure the horrible taste factor would shave days off my life too, so I think I’m about even there. Anyway, in an attempt to be healthier, I’ve decided to jump on the band wagon with this “Meatless Monday” thing. And I’ll post my attempts on the blog as a recurring Monday theme.

This week’s “Meatless Monday” recipe is vegetarian stuffed bell peppers. These stuffed bells are reminiscent of Southern California’s love for Mexican cuisine. They’re delicious as the recipe is written, but they’re also incredibly versatile. Next time, I plan to try different cheeses such as cotija, maybe add some Mexican spices such as cumin, chipotle chile powder, or as a garnish cilantro. Mix and match according to your own taste!

Vegetarian Stuffed Bells

Vegetarian Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • 2 Large bell peppers (we used orange, but you can use your favorite)
  • 1 cup Mexican rice (we purchased ours pre-made, but watch out if you’re a true vegetarian. You might want to make your own to ensure that it’s not made with chicken broth)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup chunky salsa
  • 1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed (I only used about half the can and saved the rest)
  • 1 (15-oz) can green enchilada sauce, divided
  • 1/2 cup water

Cut off the tops of the bell peppers. Remove the seeds and membranes. In a bowl, stir together the rice, cheese, salsa, and beans. Stuff each pepper with the mixture. Place in a slow cooker. Add 1/2 the can of enchilada sauce and the water to the slow cooker, so the bells are sitting in about an inch of liquid (depending on the size of your slow cooker, you may need to adjust the amount of sauce and water you use). Cover and cook on high for 2 hours.

After the bell peppers are tender, cover the peppers with the remaining enchilada sauce. Cover and cook for another 10-20 minutes.

Who doesn’t love macaroni and cheese? Especially when you’re a kid and it’s from that wonderful blue box, right? Well, not if you’re Wing. Wing claims he’s always disliked macaroni and cheese and it makes me very sad because I personally love the stuff whether it’s from the ever-famous blue box or homemade. Even though Wing doesn’t eat it, I always keep a box or two of Kraft macaroni and cheese because I grew up eating it and will still get the hankering for it nowadays.

Thankfully that little blue box was in the cupboard one day when Wing and I had no plans for dinner. The box seemed to jump from its shelf and say, “eat me.” We also wanted to use up some frozen meatballs, and I then remembered that I have a recipe that calls for ground beef and macaroni and cheese. So we used that recipe as a base but enhanced it by using the meatballs instead of the beef and adding a few ingredients of our own.

After one bite of this recipe, Wing was a new macaroni and cheese convert. He loved it! He even went so far as to ask me why macaroni and cheese hadn’t been in his life when he was a kid. I can’t exactly help him with his deprived past, but I can help his future become enriched with the cheesy goodness. And so we have had a few macaroni and cheese dinners since then, all rather non-conventional, but very tasty and Wing was impressed that he was actually loving the mac and cheese.

So for this Themed Thursday, I present to you the Wing-approved macaroni and cheese recipes. But we are far from finished with experimenting in the kitchen. Oh, and these recipes are beyond easy to make!

Mac_and_cheese

Macaroni and cheese with meatballs

  • 1 package macaroni and cheese dinner
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 5-6 store-bought meatballs, diced  (I used Aidells)
  • 1 can (roughly 4 oz) tomato sauce
  • Dash of salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder

Prepare dinner as directed. Lightly sauté pepper and onion. Add meatballs. Stir in remaining ingredients. Add macaroni and cheese. Simmer 5-10 minutes.

Southwestern macaroni and cheese

  • 1 package macaroni and cheese dinner
  • 1 cup cooked pollo asado (I used Del Real)
  • 1 can (4 oz) diced green chiles
  • 1/2 cup pepper jack cheese

Prepare dinner as directed. Heat chicken as directed. Mix all ingredients together until cheese melts.

Buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese

  • 1 package macaroni and cheese dinner
  • 1 cup cooked chicken
  • 1 cup buffalo wing sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery (optional)

Prepare dinner as directed. Heat chicken. Mix all ingredients together.

 

Every so often, I like to indulge in a bit of artisan bread. My favorite is jalapeño cheese. Well, Wing and I bought a loaf of the jalapeño cheese, but we weren’t able to finish it before it became stale. My solution was to bake it in a strata. We now needed flavors to complement the jalapeños. After digging around in our cupboards, I pulled out a can of green chiles, some tomato sauce (thinking that it could make our strata reminiscent of chilaquiles), onion and garlic powders, and an almost forgotten seasoning blend by Desert Gardens that we bought when we’d visited Arizona last. This particular seasoning blend’s main ingredient is habanero. It claims it’s “Hot! Hot!! Hot!!!” but we like spice and we don’t think that it’s really that hot. (Since most people probably don’t have the habanero seasoning, chipotle or cayenne powders will work, too.) The strata tasted good straight out of the oven, but heated up the next day, it was even better!

Southwestern Strata

Southwestern Strata

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt & black pepper
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Habanero seasoning (or chipotle powder or cayenne)
  • 1 can (5 oz) green chiles
  • ¼ cup tomato sauce
  • Cooking spray
  • ½  loaf jalapeño cheese bread, sliced
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Jack cheese

In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Add milk, all seasonings, green chiles, and tomato sauce. Grease a medium casserole dish with cooking spray. Lay half of the bread slices in bottom of dish. Top with half the egg mixture. Sprinkle with cheeses. Repeat layers. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Uncover and bake for 40-50 minutes or until eggs are set and golden brown. Top with salsa if desired.

Welcome to Themed Thursday — every third Thursday of the month, I post a themed blog. This month, it’s all about Alfredo sauce. I made a batch of it and there was a lot left over! I don’t like to waste food, so I  had to figure out how to use it all. Below are the recipes I came up with using the sauce.

What are your favorite dishes using Alfredo sauce?

Alfredo sauce (from allrecipes.com. Click here to view original)

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
  • 2 tsp garlic powder (I sometimes use fresh, minced)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 oz grated Parmesan cheese
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a medium, non-stick saucepan over medium heat. Add cream cheese and garlic powder, stirring until smooth. Add milk, a little at a time, stirring to smooth out lumps. Stir in Parmesan and pepper. Remove from heat when sauce reaches desired consistency. Sauce will thicken rapidly. Thin with milk if cooked too long.

alfredo sauce

Cajun style pasta

  • Your favorite type of pasta such as spaghetti, angel hair, macaroni, or spiral (I used spaghetti)
  • Alfredo sauce
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Red bell pepper, diced
  • Tomato, diced
  • Spinach
  • Pre-cooked, Cajun-seasoned chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces

Cook pasta according to package directions. Heat Alfredo sauce, adding Cajun seasoning to taste. When pasta is cooked, toss all ingredients together. Add extra Cajun seasoning to taste.

Alfredo pizza This is based on the ingredients I had on hand that day. Feel free to add your favorite pizza ingredients.

  • Alfredo sauce
  • Your favorite pizza crust (I used Boboli)
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Spinach
  • Red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • Store-bought meatballs, diced (I used Aidells)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Spread Alfredo sauce on the crust. Layer with cheese and top with remaining ingredients. Bake in oven 8-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Alfredo and meatballs

  • Your favorite type of pasta such as spaghetti, angel hair, vermicelli, or fettuccine (I used spaghetti)
  • Alfredo sauce
  • Store-bought meatballs (I used Aidells)
  • Broccoli, chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions. Heat Alfredo sauce. Over med-low heat, in a small non-stick pan, heat meatballs, turning to evenly brown. When pasta is cooked and meatballs are heated through, toss all ingredients together.

Over the mountains and through the dunes, to grandmother’s house we go… Welcome to Themed Thursday! This post is all about our adventures in Phoenix, Arizona.

Mars and I spent a few days in Phoenix where we visited our Arizona family members. And, of course, we stopped by some wow-worthy places in the area to share on the blog. After six hours or so of travel, Mars and I decided to stop by a restaurant called The White Chocolate Grill. Its interior was so elegant that I was even impressed by the elegance of their bathrooms! To start our lunch, Mars and I split a caprese salad. Then we split the BBQ bacon burger with a side of couscous (topped with golden raisins and roasted pistachios). All of it was very tasty so we weren’t very hungry by the time we finished, but we were at the White Chocolate Grill! How could we pass up dessert? So we ordered the brownie, which was great, but we couldn’t finish. We boxed it up and took it to Grandma (who ended up eating it for lunch the next day declaring it one of the best brownies she’d had from a restaurant). Next time we’re in town and end up here, I want to try their AZ egg rolls and their bread pudding!

WCG 1

WCG 2

One morning, Mars and I decided to do some Christmas shopping and hit up breakfast while we were out. We found a bakery nearby called the Wildflower Bread Company. It has a charming feel and the menu was extensive. Mars tried a sausage egg sandwich and I ordered lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry and maple syrups. For those who are particular about their maple syrup being warmed, let me tell you, they warm theirs at this place! I had to use my napkin as an oven mitt/pot holder to pick it up. That was a pleasant surprise. Their food was very good and fresh. We were tempted to go back the next day, but we decided against that as we’re both the type to be easily embarrassed if we’re recognized. But while there, I bought Wing a present of their own green (iced) tea with guava. He hasn’t brewed any yet, but the leaves smell delicious and refreshing.

Wildflower 2

That same day, Grandpa took us to the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge to see their display of gingerbread houses. They had built a small town where all of the buildings were about four feet high, using gingerbread “bricks” that were a bit larger than a sheet of graham cracker. Their gingerbread houses were impressive, but more impressive than that was the resort itself. If we ever need a place to stay in Phoenix (aside from the grandma & grandpa inn), this will be our spot. They have three or four restaurants inside, a small shopping area, golfing, tennis, fire pits, and a fancy pool with a lazy river. All Mars needed to hear was “lazy river” and he was sold!

Marriott 2

Marriott 1

This week, Wing and I were busy so we didn’t cook. We either ate out or ate leftovers. (There will be restaurant posts soon.) So this Friday Failure is about a customer who assumed. And you know what they say about assume: it makes an a** out of you and me.

Saturday morning Wing suggested going to Busters Beach House in Seaport Village. We’d been there once before, and we really liked it, so I was game. Last time I ordered their Down-Island French Toast: “thick egg bread hand dipped in cinnamon ginger batter and grilled to a golden brown, topped with sliced banana, and toasted coconut” which was beautiful tropical island sunshine in your mouth. I planned to order that again, but when I saw the Griddle Combination and saw that I could have the French Toast with eggs and my choice of meat, I went for that.

You see, I assumed that it would be the same French Toast since that’s the only type listed on their menu. But when the waiter put the plate in front of me, I saw that it was plain old, regular French Toast that I could have made at home. (Disclaimer: their French Toast is so much better than my French Toast… I was trying my hand at a hyperbole.) I was sorely disappointed. But it was my fault for assuming. I should have asked so I could have had the amazing and exotic French Toast as opposed to the good but normal French Toast. Well, next time I know.

Wing and I were planning to make something out of some chicken breast we’d thawed out, but we weren’t sure what to do with it yet. Then we saw a huge bag, almost full, of nacho cheese Doritos® that KlyRad had bought. They’d been sitting there for a while so we figured we’d use some for a dish we’d tried once before. The recipe came from the Taste of Home Simple and Delicious Cookbook. It’s called Nacho Chicken Pitas and was decent as the recipe stands, but it was lacking something (I had noted this on the recipe itself). So this time, inspired by two things, we decided to change it up just a bit. The first inspiration hit when we realized we didn’t have pita bread and neither of us felt like going to the store. But we always keep tortillas as a staple item so we decided to make wraps instead. The next bit of inspiration hit when I told Wing that the first time we ate it, we just thought the recipe was ok and that we thought it needed something to push it over that “OK” status. So we thought about it, and I’m not sure who suggested it, but we decided on lemon cayenne aioli. We had heard about this specific aioli from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives when Guy went to Show Dogs in San Francisco where they use it on a chicken sandwich. We looked up the aioli recipe online and modified a recipe from Prevention RD.

Nacho chicken prep

The combination of the nacho-cheese-chip-covered chicken plus the aioli all wrapped in a warm tortilla was great! We definitely pushed this recipe into the “wow” category. At first, I felt a little guilty about using KlyRad’s chips without asking, but when he and Avalanche tasted the wraps, they ate them up so my guilt subsided. There were no leftovers even though it made a ton of chicken strips.

Nacho chicken wraps

Nacho Chicken Wraps

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups crushed nacho cheese tortilla chips
  • Salt, pepper, cayenne
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-in strips
  • Flour tortillas, warmed but not crisp
  • Lettuce, tomato, cheese, jalapeno, any other condiments

Aioli

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Cayenne to taste (we put in enough to turn the aioli pink)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. In a shallow bowl, beat eggs. Place crushed chips in another shallow bowl. Season chicken with salt, pepper, cayenne. Dip chicken in eggs, then coat with crushed chips. Place chicken strips in a single layer in a greased baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes or until juices run clear.

Meanwhile, in a shallow bowl, mix thoroughly all aioli ingredients and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

Spread aioli on one half of the tortilla, add any desired condiments (as suggested above), add chicken, and roll the tortilla.