Nachos, not just chips and cheese

Recently my mother- and brother-in-law came for a visit. Usually during these visits I break out 3-4 dishes and a big breakfast or two. For some reason, that didn't happen this trip. We ate out several times and slept in most mornings. But one evening my wife decided we needed to have nachos for supper. She is convinced her brother thought we were serving chips with cheese sauce. Oh how wrong he was. See, we have nachos at least twice a month in our house. We know how to make a meal out of them. He must have enjoyed them beyond the clean plate as my mother-in-law asked for the recipe!

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Easy 20 Minute Chicken and Dumplings

Tonight was chicken and dumplings for supper. I mentioned this to a friend who had a simple reply: "I want the recipe". I thought surly I had blogged it already but apparently not. So here I give you my EASY 20 min chicken and dumpling recipe.

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Taco Soup Recipe

As the temperature begins to drop one of our go-to dishes for a quick, tasty meal has become taco soup. It's one of those 1 pot meals that really warms you up and only take about 45 minutes from start to finish. This recipe feeds 10, but we typically scale it back a little.

  • 2lbs ground sirloin, browned and drained
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 can green chilies
  • 1 can whole kernel corn
  • 1 package Ranch dressing mix
  • 1 package Taco seasoning
  • 3 cans diced tomatoes (I like at least 1 can of fire-roasted tomatoes)
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can hot chili beans
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups of water

Mix all the ingredients together and simmer for about 30 minutes or until you can no longer resist the aroma emanating from the kitchen.

It doesn't get much simpler than that!

Even though this recipe includes green chilies and chili beans, it's pretty mild. So, here's some suggestions to take care of that:

  • Use "hot" taco seasoning (really, this should be a given)
  • just like when making chili, adding a diced chili pepper or 3 is never a bad thing
  • add some red pepper flakes
  • a dash of Sriracha sauce (ok maybe 2 dashes)
  • a couple tablespoons of hot salsa

I like my bowl with a plate of tortilla chips and a cold beer.

Chili Time!

It's starting to get cooler and football season has begun. Just like simple math everyone knows those two things add up to equal CHILI. I made my first batch last weekend and promised a friend I would share my recipe. Being a man of my word, here it is.

Of course, there is no end to the ways to make chili. Some people have a no beans policy. Some use a ketchup base. Some insist on adding spaghetti. The good thing is there is no wrong way to make chili, only better ways. So, let define MY chili so that we are on the same page from the outset:

  • MY Chili must have beans and ground beef.
  • MY Chili must have some peppers in it.
  • MY Chili must be thick and hearty, not watery like soup.
  • MY Chili must have some kick. It doesn't have to be able to peel paint, but it should certainly let my tongue know it is there.

With that established, let's make with the cookin'!

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages of McCormick Chili mix (I prefer hot, but mild is available)
  • 1 lb ground Chuck (80/20)
  • 1 32oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 can dark kidney beans
  • 1 can light kidney beans
  • 1 can chili beans (I like Bush's in hot sauce)
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper
  • mix of spicy peppers depending on your own preference
  • kosher salt
  • pepper
  • chili powder
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • red cayenne pepper
  • cumin

This chili could not be simpler. Start by browning the ground beef over a medium heat. I like a good angus chuck (80/20). You want some fat to bring out the flavor. While the beef is browning, let's get the base simmering.

Into a large pot (I use a 6 quart stock pot) over a low-medium heat pour a 32oz can of plain tomato sauce (not spaghetti sauce). Fill the can just under half-full with water and add it. This sauce will thicken quite a bit as it cooks. This is good as it will help concentrate the flavors. If the chili is too thick for your liking, you can always add a little water AFTER it is finished to thin it out.

Now I add the 3 cans of beans, including the liquid.

Now come the spices. Honestly, I eyeball it, but you want at least a tablespoon of the onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and chili powder. Also add both packets of McCormick's chili mix. Don't forget a hefty pinch of kosher salt and some fresh cracked pepper. Give it a good stir and get it will mixed.

Now for the veggies. Wash and finely chop all the peppers and onion and add them to the pot. If you opted to include spicier peppers or chilis, take the necessary precautions! If you end up in the hospital because you rubbed your eye with habanero juice on your fingers you will miss out on the chili! I typically use a couple of habeneros, a couple of jalepenos, a couple of serranos, a couple of anaheims and a couple of poblanos. They not only provide a nice flavor and kick but all the green makes for a better looking bowl! If you are one of those people that likes tomatoes in their chili, now would be the time to add your tomato chunks.

Once you beef is cooked through add it into the pot as well.

Now comes the hardest part. For the next 3 hours, let it simmer but not boil with the lid mostly covering the pot, and stir it every few minutes to keep it from burning to the bottom of the pot. I leave the lid off enough to let some steam escape, thus reducing the water and concentrating the flavors. When that 3 hour bell dings, your chili is ready.

Like I said, if it is too thick for your liking, you can through a cup of water into the microwave for a couple of minutes and then pour it in slowly, while stirring, to loosen it up. Don't pour a cup of cold water in! It won't mix right and will bring down the temperature of your fresh chili.

I always serve my chili with oyster crackers and a shredded "mexican" cheese blend on top. They act as a cooling agent so you get the heat, but you won't die from it.

Now that my secret is out, if you try it, let me know what you think!

New favorite breakfast

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Still, I used to skip it regularly. Until I started making my ultimate breakfast sandwich. It's basically an egg mcmuffin, only healthier. It takes less than 5 minutes to make and I can even get it going and walk away for a couple of minutes without worrying.

What's in it: English muffin, split and toasted 1 egg 1 slice Swiss cheese 2 slices Canadian bacon

How simple is this? Fry the egg over medium heat to your personal preference of wellness. I usually prefer my yolks firm. While the egg is frying, slip the Canadian bacon into the same pan to heat. When you are ready to flip your egg, flip the meat.

Assemble by placing 1 slice of Canadian bacon on the bottom of the English muffin. Place the cheese slice on top, then the egg, then the other bacon slice and finally the toasted top. By sandwiching (pun intended) the cheese between the warm bacon and egg, it should start to melt on its own.

This version is healthier than the McVersion because the ingredients are fresh and contain no fillers or by-products. But also Swiss cheese is a healthier alternative to processed American cheese. A leaner version could use a turkey-based alternative like turkey-bacon in place of the Canadian bacon.

Here are a couple of alternative versions that would be just as delicious: -instead of Canadian bacon, use regular bacon or sausage -instead of a fried egg, use scrambled -add veggies to the scrambled egg, like an omelet -experiment with various cheeses

If you don't care about "healthier" double the meat and add a helping of Hollandaise sauce or gravy!

Whatever the variation, this breakfast will hit the spot. Oh, and the cost per sandwich is less than hitting the drive-thru.

Beef Tips and Noodles

Last night I cooked a delicious meal: Beef Tips and Noodles. It was so good, I have to write about it!

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Simple Ham and Potato Casserole

Yesterday's Christmas feast included, among other things, a huge Clifty Farm country ham (prepared by my mom). After serving about 20 people for supper (2 people's snacking while it was sliced) and 3 more for breakfast there was still at least 3 pounds left. Before I made the drive home I made sure to snag a plateful to bring with me. I just used a small portion of it to make a very delicious ham and potato casserole.

Here's how I made it!

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Supper Tonight

I love to cook. This goes hand-in-hand with my love of eating! At the grocery this morning I saw a turkey roast and immediately thought: HOT BROWN. If you've never heard of it, it's like a cheesy, open-faced turkey sandwich and was made legendary by the Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY.

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