Monday, May 10, 2010

Life Happens

Ok, so I know I promised you an oven baked fish recipe and a lower calorie mac and cheese recipe. Here’s what happened, it didn’t happen. Friday, the day I had planned to make these delicacies, was A. much to hot for extended oven baking and B. Tyler was supposed to be home at 6pm and he was, but then there was catastrophic failure at work and he had to go back in. So, we had pigs in a blanket because they were fast and didn’t require extended oven usage. Then this weekend was super busy, and it really didn’t happen. What can I say, life happens.

Oh by the way, a shout out to all mothers… Happy Mother’s Day! I would especially like to thank my mother. If you want to know where my love for cooking and creativity in the kitchen comes from, it is most definitely from my mother.

Speaking of life happens, I’m still out of work. Bah humbug. My parents are redoing their kitchen and wanted to repaint… basically the whole house. The problem, dad decided he really didn’t want to paint it himself. So, he asked me if I wanted to paint for a little extra cash. Ok… I’m not sure if I ever mentioned that I do not paint for a living and have never painted for a living. As a matter of fact, I’ve only ever had a few major home décor painting projects and I’ve never painted crown molding (eek, a ladder!). Perhaps I should also mention that my dad is a paint perfectionist. (Perhaps being a second generation in the paint industry has something to do with it). So to say that I was a little nervous getting started today is an understatement. While I don’t mind painting, I think I’d like a real job. Preferably not one an hour an a half away (the commute to my parent’s). Not that I'm not grateful to my excellent parents for enabling me to pay the rent... I'm just fairly sure that I want a real job at a desk not on top of a tall ladder painting crown molding.

The good news is I did come up with a new recipe this weekend. I made some Chicken Fajita Quesadillas. They turned out fabulous. I made them in the oven, which I think is an ingenious way to make quesadillas especially when you want to make several. They crisp up nicely and you only have to turn them once so there’s no worry about everything falling out. There’s also no need to get a silly quesadilla machine. Serve these with a little sour cream, guacamole and a margarita.

Chicken Fajita Quesadillas
Serves 4

1 lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into thin strips
3 cups Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese, divided
8-10 6-inch Tortillas
1 cup Bell Pepper (any color or a mix of colors) cut into strips
1 cup Onion, cut into thin strips
1 medium Tomato, cut into thin wedges
Fajita Mix (use store bought or you can make your own with the recipe below)
Vegetable Oil
Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbs of oil over medium-high heat. Add the peppers and onions and sauté until onion is tender. Remove the vegetables from skillet and add a little extra oil. Brown chicken until cooked through. Add vegetables back into the pan along with the fajita mix and 3 tbs of water. Add in tomato wedges and simmer, uncovered for 3-5 minutes or until water is mostly evaporated. Spray the one side of each of the tortillas with cooking spray and arrange half of them, sprayed side down, on a greased cookie sheet. Using half of the cheese, spread equal amounts of cheese on each of the tortillas. Arrange a layer of chicken and vegetables on each tortilla (try to keep the layers as flat as possible to make for easier handling). Sprinkle the remaining cheese on the top of the chicken and vegetables and top with the remaining tortillas, sprayed side up. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, turning once halfway through.

Fajita Seasoning Mix
Note: I never seem to have a packet of taco or fajita seasoning on hand when I want it. But with the help of a little internet research, I found that I usually have all the ingredients I need for a good seasoning mix already in my cupboard, plus then I can control how spicy or salty the mix is.
This mix is the equivalent of one spice packet… seasons one pound of meat

1 ½ tsp Chili Powder (I used Chipotle Chili Powder for a smoky kick)
1 tsp Salt
½ tsp Ground Cumin
¼ tsp Onion Powder
½ tsp Garlic Powder
¼ tsp Black Pepper
A pinch of Ground Cayenne Pepper (Optional)
1 tbs Cornstarch

Mix ingredients together and use as you would a packet of fajita seasoning

Thursday, May 6, 2010

This Is The Blog That Doesn't End...

So, things are going to change a little here at Adventures in Gourmand Cooking. Yesterday was my last day working at the fraternity for the semester, and I’m not due back until late August (if I choose to go back). So, for the summer, it’ll be just you and me, and possibly all of Newton County, Georgia. My darling hubby, the web guy at The Covington News and offered me up to be the “food blogger” for their website. His department recently doubled (as in there was one and now there are two), and this new lady has worked for several larger publications and wanted to put into practice at The Covington News what had worked for some of the larger publications. Namely, several different blogs that would appeal to different ages and interest groups. Sadly, the position wouldn’t be paid… exactly. The food would be paid for, so we have the potential of getting one to two meals for free a week. I’m perfectly alright with that. The part that makes me nervous is they want to go high tech with it. Tyler’s boss wanted to have video of me cooking. Ummm, that might be the worst idea ever. First, we have a small, rather ugly kitchen. The countertops are probably as old as my grandparents and the washer and dryer are right next to the stove. Plus I have no desire to be on video. I would have to dress nicely and wear make up. At home I usually cook in oversized pajama pants, one of Tyler’s t-shirts and puppy slippers. Also, I’m a messy cook, and there could be no do-overs. I wouldn’t mind photos, you can crop and edit things out of photos. You can stage photos so you can’t see the laundry basket full of underpants and socks. I don’t have to be in the photos. I can still wear puppy slippers. I would also have to scour the local Goodwill and Salvation army to find some interesting dishes to use in the photographs. Well, the idea has me nervous, but it has potential.

For final frat boys news until next fall:
I made homemade cinnamon rolls for the guys Wednesday. I used the recipe from Mmmm… these cinnamon rolls really are the best. They take a little time to make, but are well worth the wait. The minute I walked in the door on Wednesday, I was accosted by a frat boy, “Cinnamon rolls!?”. That was all he could say. I think he was worried he wouldn’t be able to get one before he had to take some evil GA Tech final. He started talking about analyzing cinnamon rolls in some sort of unheard of mathematic way. I think he may have lost his mind somewhere between over studying for his final and anticipation of cinnamon rolls. Shortly thereafter another frat boy came in and demanded to know when they would be done. I was up to my elbows in dough and flour and threatened to throw wads of dough at him. When I did start putting out the pans, the boys came trickling down. I saw two boys take a couple of forks and one whole pan of cinnamon rolls and head back upstairs. The poor sausage patties I put out were sadly ignored. There’s something about pan after pan of warm fragrant cinnamon rolls that just makes a tray of sausage patties seem a little pathetic. I had brought some of my own ingredients and had made some dough specifically for Tyler and I. Last time I made cinnamon rolls for the guys, Tyler was upset that I didn’t make any for us, so this time I wasn’t going to make that mistake.

An update on the landlord situation: Our old landlord finally got us our check. In the end, Tyler had to go and get it. I wasn’t able to do it because I had to take the bus to work and wouldn’t be able to get back (as we’re down to one car for the moment). He (Tyler) wasn’t particularly happy about this arrangement; he hates confrontation of any sort and has some sort of phobia of landlords. I would imagine if I had gone, I would have said something nasty as a parting thought because, while I don’t like conflict, if you get me riled up enough it takes me a while to settle down. So, perhaps it’s all for the best that Tyler went.

I am making Spicy Breaded Baked Fish for tomorrow and Lower Fat Mac and Cheese tomorrow, so I will give you those recipes (and possibly pictures) tomorrow.

I'm going to go have a cinnamon roll and some milk.

P.S. Can you guess what song I referenced in this post's title?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Lunch: Chicken Quesadillas, Chips and Salsa
Dinner: Chicken Parmesan, Spaghetti and Salad

UPDATE: So, when I arrived at my old landlord’s office yesterday just before 3:30pm, he wasn’t there. Apparently he goes home every day between 2 and 3. Urgh! He said he would call us and let us know when he was available. Well, there’s no way I could leave work early today (I have cinnamon rolls to prep), and I certainly wouldn’t be able to make it from downtown Atlanta all the way out to Conyers (where his office is located) at the drop of a hat. So, poor Tyler had to wake up early and take me to the bus. I must admit, I really don’t feel that bad for Tyler. He completely balked at the idea of having to wake up early, and I had to kindly point out that not only was this a one time deal, but that I have to get up that early every morning (and he’s always poking fun at me because I want to go to bed before 11pm). I hate only having one car.

In other news, the frat boys have run amuck. Apparently the stress of finals and the upcoming, relative freedom of summer has made them take leave of what little brains and civility they had. They completely cleaned out the fridge over the weekend, and by cleaned I mean ate everything they could find like a bunch of Hoover vacuums. So, if they’re short on chicken quesadillas today because those buttheads ate the tortillas and cheese (again with the cheese!), then I really don’t care. I’m feeling a bit of the end of semester lassez-faire as well. They want to eat the cheese and tortillas? Ok, I’ll put out a big bowl of canned chicken with taco seasoning and call it lunch. They also took an entire gallon of whole milk that was needed for cinnamon rolls. I sent the steward a quick e-mail letting him know I would be unable to make cinnamon rolls because we had no milk. Unsurprisingly, he went out and bought a gallon of milk right away. Ahh the power of cinnamon rolls! In order to discourage any further thieving, I left a note on the whiteboard: “Dear Lodge Inhabitants, If you remove or “borrow” any of the following ingredients, it will result in my being unable to make cinnamon rolls for tomorrow: sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, cinnamon, flour, butter, milk, maple and vanilla” Hopefully, that will deter them. I’m serious about not making cinnamon rolls if any of it’s missing, even if they only wanted a glass of milk.

Today’s recipe is oven-baked chicken parmesan. Tyler’s favorite “Italian” dish is chicken parmesan. I would bet anyone any amount of money that, no matter what Italian restaurant we go to, so long as they have chicken parmesan on the menu, that’s what he’s ordering. I wanted to make it for the guys, sautéing it in oil on the stove would take waaay to long. So I came up with this version. I adapted the coating from my chicken cordon bleu recipe. Dipping the chicken in butter and then in the breading makes the bread crumbs turn crispy (rather than soggy) in the oven. As a plus, because this recipe is done in the oven (rather than on the stove, dripping with oil) it’s also a little healthier. (Note: I said healthier, not calorie free, it still has butter and parmesan cheese). I used chicken tenders, but you can use chicken breasts. If you are using chicken breasts, I would pound them a little to make them thinner so the breading doesn’t burn while you’re waiting for the chicken to get done. This is also an excellent breading recipe for fish (you’ll have to adjust the time though).

Oven Baked Parmesan Cheese
Serves 6

1 ½ lbs Chicken Tenders
1 1/4 cups Bread Crumbs
1 ¼ cups Parmesan
2 ½ tbs Italian Seasoning
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 cup Butter or Margarine, melted
Salt and Pepper to taste (you’ll only need a little salt because the cheese is salty)

Preheat oven to 350; lightly spray a shallow baking pan (or cookie sheet with sides) with cooking spray. Combine bread crumbs, parmesan, italian seasoning, garlic powder and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Dip chicken in butter and shake off excess. Roll chicken in bread crumb mixture being sure to thoroughly coat with bread crumbs and place on pan in a single layer. Bake for approx 20 minutes turning midway through. Serve with spaghetti and marinara sauce.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lessons Learned

Lunch: Cheesy Pigs In A Blanket and Chips
Dinner: Brunswick Stew and Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

I hate getting duped, and I really hate that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when someone you believed to be a generally nice person turns out to be a complete scumbag. And boy did both happen in abundance this weekend. I may have mentioned that we moved… right? Well, I’m not sure if I mentioned that our lease was not up on the old house. It is not technically up until the end of this month. We were alright with that. We figured we would give the landlord plenty of time (60 days notice) to find someone else, and that we would have plenty of time to move our stuff (and save money by not renting a moving van). Well, he had a few people go through the house and a relative of our neighbors decided to rent the house. The landlord called us Thursday afternoon and asked if we could get the rest of our stuff out by the 1st of May. Ok… no problem. Friday night while loading up our stuff at the old house, the new tenants stopped over to look at some things around the house. While they were looking at things we chatted, and they mentioned that they had already signed the lease and it went into effect on the first. Well, Tyler and I thought that was excellent because it should have meant that we would not owe any rent for May and that we should be getting back our deposit. We called the landlord Saturday morning… he informed us we would not be getting back anything because we broke the lease…


I tried to argue that we didn’t break the lease, that I’d never told him we had any intention of breaking the lease, and that I had specifically said that we would see the lease through until the end of this month. I even pointed out that he had the place rented already (and had a lease signed that went into effect before our lease was up). He started to talk in circles about how I hadn’t given him any notice and whether or not he had a new tenant was none of my concern, but that I broke the lease and would not be receiving any of our $800. I was completely flabbergasted. The man went from what I thought was a nice old man to a completely sketchy jerk. He was actually laughing! I hung up on him and called my dad. I love my dad; he’s a great guy. He always seems to know what to do when I get into a situation where I’m in over my head (or if I can’t get the weed eater started). In true protective father style, dad wanted to get on the phone with this guy. I gave him the number and a little while later, I got a call back. “Kid, I think you’re hosed. This guy is a real jerk” (although I think dad might have used a moniker a little stronger than jerk). After much conversation and much enraged pacing, we decided that this was most likely going to have to go to small claims court and that it would be a toss-up as to whether or not I would win. The problem, this guy wanted to fight dirty. He accused us of not keeping up the yard, of not telling him about our pets, of giving him no notice before moving etc etc. All of which were not true, but hard to prove. It would have been an enormous case of he-said/she-said. Though, in my mind, the cold hard facts were he broke the lease by signing a new lease that started a month before ours ended and he had not given us the required (by law) 30 days notice nor did he have anything from us stating an intention to leave early.

Well, just about the time that Tyler and I were getting all fired up to take this guy’s butt to court (ok, maybe more me than Tyler), the guy called my dad back. I guess he realized that this could end very badly for him. While Tyler and I stood to lose a possible $800, he could lose much more. He’s a real estate agent. His career could be hurt by losing a case in court like this not to mention the potential of having his name dragged in the mud. Hey, there are advantages to having a husband who works at the local newspaper. He said he would be willing to offer us $400 in exchange for a letter stating that we forfeited the rest of the deposit because we “broke the lease”. Well, here’s the classic double or nothing scenario, or as Tyler called it, the Cash Cab choice. We could either walk with $400 or we could go to court and get either $800 or nothing. I really didn’t want to have to deal with the anger and the pain in the butt it would be to taking this jerk to court, and Tyler decided some money in hand was better than none and a uncontrollably angry wife (a potential outcome). Here’s the catch, I have to hand deliver the letter. Which means that this afternoon, I’m going to have to be face to face with this (insert expletive here). I’m terrified he’s going to bully me or go back on his word and say there was no such arrangement or what have you. I couldn’t sleep last night and my stomach has been all in knots today. I can deal with confrontation, but I don’t like it. I’m not a nasty person and I don’t like dealing with nasty people, and I most certainly don’t like the way nasty people make me want to act.

Oh… and if all that weren’t enough for one weekend, our car decided to overheat. So now we have to get it fixed. All I have to say is, I better win the lottery next weekend (or at the very least land a really good job this week). That’s about the only thing that can make up for the horrible weekend I had. So to recap, lessons learned for this weekend: 1. always always get everything in writing, even if it seems silly and trivial. 2. people that seem nice, even if they give you cookies for Christmas, might be really nasty jerks. and 3. my dad is great (and plays a mean saxaphone)

P.S. I promise I’ll post a recipe tomorrow, I’m just a little to keyed up to do it today.