November 18, 2009

T's Favorite Chicken and Rice

Sunday was a wonderful, relaxing day here at Final Cookdown HQ. I suppose our relaxation carried straight on through into the work week, since Ramon we have been remiss in posting that day's recipe.

This is my mom's favorite (peep the title) chicken and rice recipe from her childhood, way back in the 1870s. It's simple and just as delicious today. After Ramon conned one of our football-watching guests into helping him learn the art of cutting up a whole chicken, we were ready to go.
  • 1 frying chicken, skin removed and cut up into serving pieces
  • 1½ cups rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 pkg. dry onion soup mix
  • 1 stick margarine or enough Butter Buds and hot water to make ½ cup - used unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Mix rice, soup mix, and water in a 9X13 inch baking pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Clip margarine over rice or pour Butter Buds all over the rice. Place chicken parts on rice. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 1½ hours. Do not remove foil while baking.

This was delicious! I have to give Ramon props, because this dish tasted just as good as it does every time my grandpa makes it. The chicken turns out SO moist and finger-lickin' good. Proof? NO leftovers this time. The four of us watching the Cowboys go down in flames :( polished off the chicken. The rice was especially popular. It soaks up the onion flavor and the natural chicken flavor and cooks pretty perfectly.

I'd have to give this an A+ for simplicity and deliciousness. Would cook again. So long as someone else cuts up the chicken.

November 7, 2009

Cookies and Cream Pie

Interested in a tasty chocolate pie that requires no baking? Um, yes! Me too.

This is one of my favorite desserts that my grandpa makes. Okay, untrue, I love them all! But this ranks pretty highly among PP's desserts that I like when I make them. It's pretty tough to screw this up. And even if you do, the result will probably still be chocolatey & therefore delicious. Win-win.
  • 1 6½ oz. pkg. sugar free chocolate sandwich cookies - totally didn't use sugar free. I'm all about real Oreos.
  • 1 cup fat free, or low fat, milk
  • 1 1½ oz. pkg. vanilla sugar free, fat free instant pudding
  • 4 cups sugar free Cool Whip, thawed
  • 1 6 oz. graham cracker crust
Place cookies in a heavy duty zip top plastic bag, seal bag and crush cookies with a rolling pin or the bottom of a heavy skillet. Combine milk and pudding mix in a large bowl; stir with a wire whisk until blended. Fold in 3 cups Cool Whip and crushed cookies except for ¼ cup reserved for topping. Spoon mixture into pie crust. Cover and freeze 4 to 6 hours or until firm. Top each serving with 1½ Tbsp. Cool Whip. Sprinkle with reserved crushed cookies.

There's a chance I did something silly this go-around, like get a regular pie crust instead of a graham cracker crust. So I did have to bake that, but it was my own fault! It was still scrumptious but I definitely prefer the graham cracker crust for this guy.

November 3, 2009

A Bed Bath & Beyond Commercial. Also, Recipes.

Taking a note from my dear husband's playbook, I went the easy route when choosing what to prepare for dinner last night.

Taking a note from my own playbook, I prematurely mitigated this somewhat passive-aggressive move by making not one, not two, but THREE easy recipes. (Wait... does that just make it worse, since I stole three of the easiest recipes we have to make? ...Nah! I think it means I tried three times as hard to make dinner totally yummy.)

First up: the entree. I chose inarguably the easiest meat recipe in the book,

Taco Meat Loaf
  • 2 lbs. lean ground meat
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 pkgs. taco seasoning mix
  • ¾ cup oatmeal
  • ¾ cup water
Mix all ingredients. Bake in a 9X9 inch pan for 1¼ hours at 350.

And... the end. Seriously, that concludes the directions. After a quick trip to the grocery store for some (or all) of these ingredients -- stop judging, our fridge was very empty -- I threw this together, stuck it in the oven, and watched Oprah. Oh, er, that's right, before that I also made

Pastel Pasta Sauce Which Has Received International Acclaim
  • 1 Jar Ragu Alfredo sauce
  • 1 Jar Barilla Marinara sauce
Mix sauces in a saucepan over medium heat until warm. Serve over hot pasta.

Yeah... that was exhausting. I think I might have missed half an Oprah segment while whipping this up. PP's pink sauce is really amazingly good despite being so easy. Cooked the pasta and may have missed another half segment of Oprah. I am DEDICATED, people.

Once Ramon got home from work, we broke in one of our new wedding gifts from my BFF (thank you!). She and I had gone gift shopping & discussed my love for the entire Lenox Chirp collection, and the fact that SOMEONE was not a fan of the frou-frou birdie plates when I pointed them out as we registered. Still, our casual, mix-and-match Noritake raspberry place settings plus our Quadro set from Target look just as lovely with our new gorgeous runner (color is way more fab in person). And in my head I pretend we do have the frou-frou birdie plates, and I name each birdie.

We both enjoyed each of these recipes. The meat loaf looked a little unappetizing coming out of the oven. For some reason, some of the water and spices kinda... pooled up at the top and looked gross. I got rid of most of that and then cut around this weirdness when plating our meals. The meat loaf tasted good so long as I didn't think about how it had looked! Ramon is a big carnivore and he really loved it. It was really juicy and melted in your mouth. I used extra lean beef so it was fairly healthy.

The sauce was divine and so easy. I cooked whole wheat pasta just a little softer than al dente and tossed it in the sauce. Scrumptious.

We dug in before I had a chance to take a photo.

I know you're waiting with bated breath to hear about my third recipe of the night. Well, dear friends, that story is for another day. Turns out it needed to set for 4 to 6 hours before serving (who reads recipes ahead of time?), which it is doing now, so I'll report later (tonight? in a month? who knows) on the results of my mysterious dessert. Aren't you intrigued?

October 27, 2009

Quick Quiche

When two people consistently prepare recipes that serve eight, well, you get gobs of leftovers.
Such is the first major road block on our cooking countdown: stuffing the fridge with dishes and coming back to spaghetti carbonara five days in a row. We've been consuming and accepting pumpkin themed drinks, network television (“The Office” may have peaked during season three, but it’s still far and away the best sitcom on any major station*), and visiting Cowboys Stadium.

Saturday morning, got back to grind mode. Sorta.
During the quiche prep, which is really really really easy by any honest appraisal, Victoria voiced dissent: why do you get all the easy recipes? A fair point of concern and one worth addressing.
It boils down to the fact that, until a few weeks ago, I couldn't differentiate boil from bake or make pasta. Now that these life skills are in my life satchel, I'll turn it up a notch and tackle bigger fish.

The quiche itself was and is delicious. There's still about half of it left. How long is quiche good for?

And while we're on the subject of baseball, I just have to say that it's wonderful to see Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera back in the World Series. I've been a big Yankees fan since I thought their logo was cool in 1996, and despite all the negative sentiment tied to this franchise (an obscenely expensive new stadium citizens of the Bronx get to pay for, Alex Rodriguez, the vast contributions to John McCain's presidential bid), I'll continue to back these guys as long as in-house talent I've followed forever keeps slugging. Bombers in six.
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup half and half
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • ⅓ cup minced onions
  • Salt and garlic powder/granules, to taste
  • 8 oz. shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and liquid squeezed out
  • 1 9 inch unbaked frozen, deep dish pie shell
Preheat oven to 350. Whisk eggs, half and half, mayonnaise and flour in a mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients except pie shell. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Cover exposed pie crust edge with strips of aluminum foil before baking to prevent burning. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until top is golden brown. Remove aluminum strips last 5 minutes of baking to brown exposed crust.

*The opinions of Ramon Ramirez do not necessarily reflect those of the Final Cookdown staff, many of whom are partial to the decidedly less funny, "30 Rock."

October 23, 2009

Forgive Me

Suddenly, it's been 11 days since our last blog. I'm terribly sorry. We spent a lot of time clearing out tons of leftovers from the fridge, and then I got some kind of weird bug, and we've been treading water lately and reverting back to old habits! But fear not: Ramon is getting back into the kitchen this weekend, and I'm sure I'll be not far behind. Get ready, world.

We'll be back.

October 12, 2009

Crispy Potato Wedges

October weekends are rolling.

We had barbeque on three separate occasions and kicked off the latte season with a blowout. Football, family gatherings, good vibes, cool weather, pumpkin-themed beverages, miniature pumpkins at every corner. It’s, hands down, the best month of the year. On Saturday, we likewise drove out to Dripping Springs to see Victoria’s little brother, Jackson, play some touch pigskin.

When I played pee-wee football during the fall of 1996, I was a chubby sixth grader who rarely got the ball. This experience taught me how to take a blow to the head and not immediately well up but rather hold back tears until coaches weren’t looking and sulk solemnly on the sidelines. It taught me how to throw a punch. It taught me how to get kicked out of blowout losses by throwing punches at stronger kids.

There was this kid, Adrian, who stabbed another kid at Bailey Middle School and made local headlines. He was our team’s best player and served no suspension. Adrian could hit the gaps like a 14 year-old, cut up the field like a monster. I remember being elated that Adrian was still in our starting lineup after the stabbing incident.

Like the time our entire class celebrated the O.J. trial’s live verdict, this is a childhood feel good memory that seems liberal to a deranged degree.

I guess my bigger point is that I detested playing tackle football. When I was 11, the league weight limit was 105 lbs. Jackson is not even in middle school and playing enormous chubsters with a 140-pound ceiling. During his game, the line of scrimmage was dominated by the other team’s fat kids. At this age there are rarely passes and the Silver Tigers were able to crush Jackson’s thinner, smaller Black Tigers with relative ease.

The ordeal was fun and family-friendly, but I left pissed that in such a short span of time, American kids have gotten so fat that tackle football regulations allow for 140-pound horse-kids to play alongside normal, 80-pound children. Patently unfair and I was really taken by Jackson’s mature, sportsman, post-game attitude.

Tying the above anecdote to a no-brainer statement about food, it feels good to control consumed ingredients.

During our third weekend barbeque with Victoria’s grandparents, the duty fell on me to bake potato wedges. Like the Denver Broncos 2009 offense, the process was simple, efficient, hugely successful. The resulting wedges were so good, we forgot to take pictures. Crispy, light, well-seasoned.

Again, all glory to Peepaw’s generous measurements. No homo.
  • 4 medium Russet potatoes, cut into large wedges or ½ inch slices
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅛ tsp. salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
Place potatoes in a large bowl; add cold water to cover. Let stand 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 425. Spray a foil lined baking sheet with cooking spray. Drain potatoes in a colander. Spread on a double layer of paper towels. Cover with a second layer of paper towels. Press down to dry potatoes. Transfer potatoes to a clean, large bowl. Sprinkle with oil, salt and pepper; toss gently to combine. Arrange seasoned potatoes in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Using a spatula, turn potatoes; sprinkle with garlic. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes, turning baking sheet after 10 minutes for even browning. Serve immediately with ketchup if desired.

October 10, 2009

Mexican Chicken Soup

I type this post sitting on my cozy couch, wrapped up in a blanket. This is remarkable because normally by the afternoon, our A/C is blasting and it's a sauna outside and it couldn't be further from blanket weather. Today, however, is the first Saturday in recent memory I've been able to open the windows, watch some seriously good football, curl up and enjoy the high 50s (!) outside.

In honor of the weather, and in an attempt to woo it to stay for more than a few hours, I made a comforting chicken soup for lunch. It was a lot more labor intensive on the prep side than I expected, but it was more than worth it. The soup is really good and yielded 12 to 15 servings - enough for several meals. And we all know soup just gets better when it's reheated!

My only OOPS moment happened when I forgot to read the "bring to a boil" part before simmering. After about 10 minutes of simmering, I was not happy with how the broth looked and how the chicken was so... raw. Then I realized I am an idiot and forgot to read the boil part. So, I brought the soup to a boil, then simmered for a few more minutes, and all was well.
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 2 ½ lbs. skinless & boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 ½ cups thinly sliced onion (1 large) - Skipped because onions are vile
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 ½ cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups chopped zucchini
  • 1 ½ cups frozen whole kernal corn, thawed
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. dried oregano
  • One 14 oz. can whole tomatoes with liquid, coarsely chopped
  • Shredded Monterey Jack cheese for garnish
Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl; stir well. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add cumin mixture, chicken, onion and garlic and saute 5 minutes. Add broth and next 5 ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle into soup bowls and top with cheese.