The Opinionated Foodie: The Love (or Not) of Food and Everything That Goes with It


Facebook Food Porn Strikes Again: Ranch Potatoes
January 7, 2014, 1:58 am
Filed under: Food I Make, Food Made by Other Food Folks | Tags: , ,

I ask you: Does the world need another potato recipe? Another potato casserole recipe? With bacon? And cheese? And the cliché can of cream of mushroom soup?

I declare that the world does not.

However, here’s one I am sharing with you that is so eloquently called Ranch Potatoes. It popped up on my newsfeed on Facebook last week when its recipe and convincing picture were liked or shared with at least four of my friends. Feeling the peer pressure that I had to try it since so many of my friends were trying it and I didn’t want to be the weird friend, I made it for supper.
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The recipe was easy enough to follow-this is Facebook, not Julia Child. I had all the ingredients on hand (and I think I usually do) so that was no problem either.
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Everyone at my table (who just so happened to be my closest of all my friends) liked it. I apparently was the only one who found a twang in several of my bites. I thought with those that my face was going to draw inside out. Whew. It was rough, but these potatoes were a hit with everyone else.
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So here it is, Foodie Friends. Yet another way to serve potatoes that may or may not make your face draw up. You’re welcome.

Ranch Potatoes:
Six large potatoes, washed, peeled, cubed
One packet of dry ranch dressing mix
One can of undiluted cream of mushroom soup
1 1/4 cups of milk
1 1/2 cups of shredded Cheddar cheese
One packet of real bacon bits-I didn’t use the whole package.

In a large pot, cover the potatoes with water and boil until they are just soft-about fifteen minutes. When they are done, butter or grease a large casserole dish and pour the potatoes in the dish. Mix the dressing mix, soup, milk, and one cup of the cheese together. Pour over the potatoes. Top the casserole with the rest of the cheese and the bacon bits.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.



The Feast of the Seven (Give or Take) Fishes: Our Family’s Progressive Dinner 2013

Ah, the annual Christmas progressive dinner. The dinner in which my two older sisters and I get to make food for our families and each other in an attempt to make a merrier Christmas while traveling around the countryside and trying not to overeat at the first stop.

It is tougher than it sounds.
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This year, our progressive dinner was at one stop only and the theme was seafood. We transformed my living room into a dining room and the dining room into the living room so all eighteen of us could sit at one table. Other than rearranging most of my house, I was the appetizer, so my job was easy.

The appetizer sister gets to sit back, serve small bites, and relax. Meanwhile, the other two sisters worry about something burning and/or not being cooked right at her house and the thought that everyone might eat too much at the first stop thus leaving a lot of food at her house with no one to eat it.

Again, tougher than it sounds.

An issue for me was that we went out of town the day before the party for Christmas with my husband’s family, and I arrived home four hours before the party started. Yikes.

Luckily, my food was easy enough to get a lot done ahead of time.
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I served shrimp with a spicy homemade cocktail sauce and pickled okra. I liked it a lot, and it was pretty festive with the red and green in a little glass. It was also dang easy. The only thing I had to do was boil water for the shrimp, mix the sauce, and assemble the little boogers.
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We also had Miss Kay Robertson’s shrimp salad from her Duck Commander cookbook. Since I was low on time, I made the decision to save all the shrimp I had for my other dishes and supplement the salad with two bags of frozen crawfish tails that I warmed up in butter before I added it to the salad as Miss Kay said to do. It was pretty good. It was creamy and crunchy.
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The last thing we passed around was The Pioneer Woman’s Skewers of Glory. Glorious might be a stretch, though. I precooked the bacon a little, used canned pineapple to make things easier, and I assembled the skewers when I got home.
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I was disappointed in the marinade, which was mostly at the bottom of the pan and not on the skewers, and the time it took to get the dish done. I cooked my skewers at least twenty minutes longer than PW said to and that’s even with the fact that I had precooked the bacon. Not fun when people are waiting for their first course.

Still, it was another memorable miracle of a dinner. Our main course was salmon served with a dill sauce that I will think about for ages, roasted vegetables, and rice. Devine. Dessert was an angel food cake.

Everyone ate too much, and we laughed too hard.

A good time was had by all.

Homemade Shrimp Cocktail
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup pickle relish
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce

Combine all and chill. In a small glass (I used tasting cups), layer the cocktail sauce, then the okra, then fill to the top with small shrimp.



Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Snow Weekend Eating and Cooking

This has been the best weekend ever. The last time I was outside of my house was Thursday at 3:45. It is now Sunday afternoon. So, so lovely.

We have worn almost the same clothes since arriving home from school. I have just about finished two books, watched hours of Say Yes to the Dress, played games, watched Christmas movies, and cooked.

It has all been lots of fun.
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Our first snow-weekend meal was fondue. We were in Nashville for Thanksgiving, and we stopped by Trader Joe’s on our way out of town to mingle with the yuppies and grab some unique eats. I tried to hang like a yuppie, but all my clothes matched and I left my sunglasses in the car so I couldn’t wear them in the store. So embarrassing.

I got some kale, seaweed, and a bag of almonds as big as my head for my brother-in-law; I am sure it is a gift that will keep on giving. (Shout out there to Mark and Cousin Eddie!) I also got all sorts of weird cheeses, so peppermint pretzels that I didn’t share, and this tub of fondue which we ate with leftover Conecuh sausage and some crunchy bread. Delish!
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After we ate, I made the usual joke about how we were now fondone. Mr. Picky just rolled his eyes at me.

Tough crowd.

For dessert, we had the necessary snow cake. It was the reason for the snow, I am sure. It just melts like snow in your mouth and lasts the whole snow weekend.
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I also made a potato soup that was a recipe of a friend’s friend. To. Die. For. I didn’t have Velveeta, so I used four cups of shredded Cheddar instead, and it was still fabulous. We ate it twice, and then I threw the rest out so I could use my large pot for chili. That did not go over very well when Mr. Opinionated went looking for it. I thought I was going to be thrown out in the snow. Yikes.
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I was spared when I promised to make it again someday. Whew.

The chili was okay, but it was beanless. Beanless chili is unheard of around here, but apparently I am expected to have beans even when the road looks like a mirror because it has so much ice on it.

Again, tough crowd.
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Today I made Grandma’s chicken and dumplins. This is the food that should be made for anyone who has to get out in weather like this. I promise you that a bowl could put hair on your chest and keep you warm for a month. It made up for the beanless chili.

Next, I am going to try to make buckeyes. Depending on if we have school tomorrow or not, who knows what else is coming out of my kitchen.

One thing’s for sure, it better have beans in it if it is supposed to.

The potato soup recipe which I halved:
10 cups cubed and peeled potatoes
3 cans of chicken broth
2 cans of water
1 stick of butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 T chives
1 T parsley flakes
1 1/2 t both salt and pepper
1 package real bacon bits

1 cup flour
2 cups milk

1 pound Velveeta, cubed
16 oz sour cream

In a large pot, combine all of the first eleven ingredients. Cook until the potatoes are tender-about fifteen minutes. Combine the flour and milk. Add flour and milk to the soup and bring to a boil. Stir often. Remove the pot from the heat, add the Velveeta, and allow to sit with the lid on for several minutes for the cheese to melt. Add the sour cream and stir to incorporate the cheese and sour cream.



The Sandwich King’s BLD Sandwich

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It took me months to make this one. The short ribs in this BLD are not an every day thing around here, and they may not be an every day thing anywhere for all I know.
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All I know is that I saw the episode where Jeff Mauro makes this sandwich, and I had to try it, but the short ribs were dang hard to find.
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I tried this recipe once with pork ribs. It was good, but by the reviews I read about this sandwich, I knew it could be better.
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One day at Sam’s while I was perusing the meat, I found them-beef short ribs. I wanted to shout, “Look! I found them! Beef short ribs!” I restrained myself, believe it or not.
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It was exciting, though.
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So I bought them up and brought them home. I followed Mauro’s recipe almost exactly, but I still had to add some beef broth during the cooking since I thought they looked a little dry. I never did get my gravy thick like his, I didn’t have any horseradish mayo, and I thought that the meat tasted a little too bayleafy.
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Still, with an egg on top on a toasted bun, it was the best sandwich ever.
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Ever.
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I can only hope that it doesn’t take me another series of months to taste this sandwich again. It was too, too good.
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Thanks, Sandwich King.
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Blue Cheese Tomatoes on the Grill

Inspired by our recent meal at McGuire’s Irish Pub, the hubs and I decided to try to recreate their tomatoes.
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Not having a clue or a recipe, we improvised. We sliced four tomatoes in half around the middle and scooped out the insides.
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Then, we drizzled olive oil across the tops and stuffed each one with blue cheese.

Actually, it was gorgonzola, but who would ever notice, right?
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We grilled them for just a few minutes over my sister’s charcoal grill. They could have used a few more minutes, but we took them off when the cheese melted and the tomatoes were just starting to turn on the bottom.
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They were good, but the crowd consensus was that they were for blue cheese lovers only.



Defending Jacob with Fruit!

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Bookclub! One of my favorite things ever.

Last night, we met to discuss William Landay’s book Defending Jacob. The book was twisted. I think I was the only one who didn’t love it, but I did like it. I enjoyed the curves in the story and the way it left so much to think about. We had a great discussion about it, and we realized that there are lots of ways to interpret the story and what happened to the family. It was a great book to talk about, but I would not want to read it without a group of friends to bounce ideas off of. Thank goodness for bookclub friends.

We also, of course, ate great food.

My mom made her now famous asparagus via Trisha Yearwood. We also had homemade pimento cheese, chicken salad from Sam’s, and lots of fresh fruit. Devine.

Dessert by our hostess was lemon ice box pie ice cream from Southern Living. Amazing.

I made a few new dishes since I had the time to try something new. Another reason to love summer, I say.
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First, I made Rachael Ray’s Cherry-Mozzarella Crisps since I found good looking fresh cherries at Wal-Mart. The recipe was easy. The cherries turned into this beautiful color and sweet sauce.
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Next time, I would flip the bread before I topped them with the cheese, because the bottoms were a great golden brown color while the tops looked kind of greasy from the olive oil.
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Too bad I figured that out too late. When I took them to dinner, they were not as good as when I tested them at home while they were hot. They were still interesting, though.
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I also made a Monte Cristo Strata from Food and Wine. It was a hit, and it was easy. I got everything I needed from Kroger’s deli counter and used smoked Gouda. Easy. I assembled the dish then let it sit in the refrigerator to absorb all the juices for about an hour. I also adjusted my baking time to about 45 minutes to make sure the middle was done.
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A good time was had by all.



For More Than Just Popcorn: Basil Chicken Pasta

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To me, there is just something unnatural about using the microwave to cook. My microwave is on the counter by the refrigerator, but we only use it for defrosting, Easy Mac, and popcorn.

 

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So, when a friend shared this recipe for chicken and pasta in the microwave, I thought she was kidding. This friend is trustworthy and a great cook, but microwave pasta? Blech.

Then she shared a sample. Yum.

The recipe:

4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
3 c uncooked penne pasta
3 c chicken broth
2 c grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 t salt
1 oz. parmesan
1 c fresh basil, cut into ribbons or 1 t of dry basil-I used dry.
3/4 c white wine
1/2 c heavy cream
2 c diced grilled chicken-I bought a bag of frozen grilled chicken, and it worked out fine.
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Put the olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes in a large glass casserole dish with a lid. I used my largest Corning Ware bowl. Cover and cook in the microwave on high for five minutes. The tomatoes should pop.
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Add the chicken broth and pasta to the tomatoes, as well as the wine. Stir. Cook and cover again in the microwave for 10 minutes. Stir it again and microwave again for another 8 minutes.

Stir in the basil, chicken, and the cheese. Cover and heat in the microwave for another 3 minutes. Top with extra cheese if you wish.

I like this a lot. It’s got vegetables, pasta, protein, wine, and cheese-all the things needed for a happy life and shiny coat.

This recipe is easy enough for a novice to do well and anywhere there is a microwave. Thinking that, I gave my niece all these ingredients for her to make this meal in her dorm room at college. I thought I was doing a good deed. Later she texted me and reminded me that if someone found the wine in her dorm, she would kicked out of school and her future would be ruined.

My bad!




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