Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cool Weather = Comfort Food

So we've had a slight cold snap, which prompted me to want another of my favorite comfort meals - an easy, minimized version of our Christmas and Easter dinners.

 Best ever ham, loaded mashed potatoes with ham "gravy", and green beans.

Now, I didn't realize until last year that you could cook ham steaks for something other than breakfast. When a coworker enlightened me, I saw my chance.  I could have this amazing meal more than twice a year.

Again, I didn't think to take pictures as I cooked this last night, while trying to navigate a new phone, take a 3 year old to the library and then to his grandmother's, get him bathed without flooding the bathroom (I forgot I turned the water on and got distracted loading the dishwasher), etc...

You Will Need:

1 large ham steak, or 2 small ham steaks
1 can/ 12 oz. Diet Dr. Whatever (or regular... as long as it is a Dr. Pepper-esque beverage, it will do)
Brown sugar, light or dark - enough to coat the ham

Potatoes - I used 6 small baking potatoes but redskins work wonderfully- washed and dried, LEFT WHOLE
Shredded sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese
Sour cream, to taste
Chicken broth or milk
1/2 stick butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Green onions and bacon (optional)

1 bag of steamable frozen green beans (cheating, yes, I know - but I'm all about shortcuts)

Preheat your oven to 375°.  Spray two baking/casserole dishes with nonstick spray.  Score one side of the ham and place in one of the dishes.  Coat ham with brown sugar and pour Dr. Whatever on top of ham to cover, reserve the rest.  Bake for at least 45 minutes - add remaining Dr. Whatever and turn oven down to 250°.

While ham is baking, bake your potatoes in the microwave (I had to do 3 at a time and threw the first back in the oven, no foil, while the second batch cooked.).  Make sure you've poked a hole in each potato before cooking.  I usually use the setting for one more potato than I am actually cooking, especially when using this method to make mashed potatoes - for example, in each of my 3 potato batches, I used the setting for 4 potatoes.

When potatoes are finished "baking," let them cool enough to quarter, or just wear an oven mit like I did.  Quarter potatoes and toss all pieces into a bowl.  Add salt and pepper, broth or milk, and butter.  Mash with a hand masher (since the skin is left on these potatoes it is easier to mash with this than with a mixer as the skins could tangle in the beaters).  Use a rubber spatula to fold in sour cream and cheese.  Put mixture into the second baking dish and put in oven to heat through and get a soft crust - no additional color - on the top of the potatoes.

Follow directions on bag for green beans. :)

To serve:
Portion off ham (I cut my small ham steaks in half, making each a 4 oz. portion) and serve with potatoes with the Dr. Whatever/Brown Sugar "gravy" and green beans.

You can use this to make a full size ham as well, just up the amounts of brown sugar and Dr. Whatever - and make sure you score the outer parts of the ham, then bake as directed.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Go-To Comfort Food

I was never really "taught" to cook.  I watched my mom and grandmother and other women in our family (because our family was that traditional with gender roles) and have taught myself from those observations and from being OCD and following recipes to the letter.  In the last couple of years I've become more comfortable with substituting ingredients and tailoring things to suit my tastes.  While I love to experiment and find new favorites, this meal is one of my all time favorites.  It was much easier to make when I had my mother's cast iron skillets, but I refuse to use mine until we are blessed with a gas stove.  In the meantime, I definitely opt toward a non-stick pan and convince my husband to do the dishes.

Full disclosure - I also fall into a "semi-homemade" category.  I understand that the last thing anyone wants to do is make everything from scratch after working, but I also hate that I have fallen into the drive-thru/deli crowd too often and feel a need to change that.

So... after all that introductory babble, let's make Tequila-Lime Chicken with Gravy, Brown Rice and Quinoa Medley, and Green Bean Casserole.

Tequila-Lime Chicken
4 average chicken breasts (if you have the very large ones, feel free to cut them in half; also feel free to substitute chicken thighs if you prefer dark meat)
1 bottle of tequila-lime marinade (I use Kroger brand, but Lowry's is the original I tried... I can't tell a difference)
1-2 limes (to taste), sliced in circles
Minced garlic (to taste)

1. Place chicken breasts, one at a time, between pieces of parchment paper.  Take a mallet (or your husband's hammer... just make sure it's clean) and whack the mess out of it until it is a uniform thickness - don't let it get too thin, or it will dry out.
2. Place chicken breasts in a gallon-sized baggie.  Pour 1/2-3/4 of the marinade into the bag, along with your minced garlic and lime slices.
3. Seal bag, squeezing out any excess air, and place in the refrigerator for AT LEAST 30 minutes; this will keep for up to a day.
4. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray pan with non-stick spray or olive oil.  Heat pan to med-high heat and add chicken breasts, reserving remaining marinade.  Sear chicken breasts on either side, then place in an oven-safe dish and cover with aluminum foil.  Continue cooking in oven while you make the rest of your meal.

Tequila-Lime Gravy
Remaining marinade from chicken and remainder of bottle.
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 small or 1 large can of sliced mushrooms, drained
Lime juice (to taste)
Sugar (to taste)

1. Use remaining marinade in bottle to deglaze the pan.  Add all marinade from the bag, cream of mushroom soup, and lime juice.  Blend with a whisk, then add the sliced mushrooms.  Cook on medium heat until the remainder of meal is finished, tasting periodically.  Add more lime juice or sugar to taste.

Green Bean Casserole
2 cans sliced (not cut) green beans, drained and rinsed
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk (more or less as needed)
Salt and Pepper, to taste
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
French's Fried Onions (I've used other brands and none are as good)

1. Mix cream of mushroom soup with1/4 cup milk, salt, and pepper.  Add remaining milk but do not let mixture become runny.
2. Fold in green beans.
3. Pour mixture into a sprayed casserole dish.  Microwave on high for 10 minutes.
4. Remove from microwave and cover with cheese.  Place in oven, alongside chicken, until cheese is bubbly.
5. Cover casserole with fried onions and bake until onions brown but don't burn.

Brown Rice and Quinoa Medley
Cheat Sheet:
Use this.  I get mine at Costco, six packets for around $11.  The only other place I have seen it sold is Earth Fare, where it is significantly more expensive.  Follow directions on packet.

I serve with gravy over top of rice medley and in a side ramekin for dipping the chicken in.  This is truly one of my favorite go-to comfort meals.  It has a lot of steps, but isn't at all difficult.

I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Welcome to my new blog! You can always find me at the original here, but on THIS blog you will find all sorts of domestic-themed posts, from cooking and cleaning to crafts and DIY.  Even fix-its that I do when I'm tired of bugging my overworked husband about.  I am teaching myself to sew on my inherited Singer, and will explore some other needlework.  I do my best to cook at home as much as possible and want to share successful recipes and miserable failures.  Given my husband's redneck side (he has an inner Robertson brother trapped inside him and would eat completely off his land and hunting/gathering if I let him), it will most likely include some unusual recipes (mainly venison).

Welcome to my new hobby - I hope we can share and give each other ideas.

Mrs. Preppy in Pearls