Confetti Chicken, that’s what’s for dinner

Earlier this week it hit 70+ degrees here in Missouri, which needless to say was welcome and wonderful. It made me long for summer vegetables and grilled meat. I thought of making burgers for dinner, but decided against them. Ribs? Nah, too much work. Fish? I wasn’t in the mood for it. Another perk of being the cook is if you aren’t in the mood, then you don’t have to make it. So chicken it was. Confetti chicken to be exact.

Confetti chicken is easy to make and not very expensive, a great combination in my house. Two chicken breasts can feed the three of us, add in a few baked potatoes and voila, we have a meal. I find that my son will eat chicken most any way I fix it, so long as it’s not too spicy. This recipe has a nice amount of heat which is tempered by the cheese and veggies on top. I hope you’ll give this one a try, I’ll bet you’ll add it to your rotation as well.

Confetti Chicken

  • 2 chicken breasts, boneless skinless
  • 1 tablespoon jerk seasoning
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/4 salsa
  • 1 cup colby-jack cheese, shredded
  • Tortilla strips

Rinse and pat dry chicken breasts. Add the jerk seasoning on both sides of the breasts. Add them to a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, add the corn, beans, red onion and salsa to a bowl.

Once cooked through, divide the cheese in half and put it over each piece of chicken. Place the chicken back in the oven for 3-5 minutes until it melts. Bring it out of the oven and place each piece on a dinner plate. Divide the corn and bean mixture, adding it to the chicken.  Garnish with tortilla strips.

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Chocolate Pound Cake, Ganache, Cream, Strawberries…Oh My!

I’ve never been a cake lover. I enjoy them, but seem to prefer pies, ice cream, creme brulee, tarts, well … you get the picture. Just about any other sweet confection over plain, boring cake. However, my latest baking venture has completely changed my mind about this dessert. It’s not a plain, boring cake like those box mixes in the baking aisle at the grocery store. This is a wonderfully moist, decadent, chocolately perfection on a plate. As if it wasn’t good enough, I stepped it up by adding a rich ganache, fluffly whipped cream and chocolate-dipped strawberries. D-i-v-i-n-e.

So, how did I get from box mix to homemade goodness? Three, well four words: My son and Southern Living. This past weekend my husband, son and I decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home. We opted to grill steaks and seafood over being stressed by overpriced and busy restaurants. What celebration wouldn’t be complete without a dessert? I had a strawberry shortcake in mind. My son had a different idea. He went to the grocery with me and every few minutes he’d say, “I want chocolate cake.” I’d grumble and complain about how much I really didn’t want cake. He won. How can I turn down the most adorable little boy with one simple wish–chocolate cake? BUT I refused to buy a mix. Just couldn’t do it. So I pulled out my trusty Southern Living cookbook and there it was, a great recipe for chocolate pound cake. This isn’t just perfect for Valentine’s Day, it’s great year ’round. Go ahead, give it a try. Who knows, you may just discover you, too, now love cake.

Recipe for cake and ganache from The All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook

Chocolate Velvet Pound Cake

  • 1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 16 oz. light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • Chocolate Ganache (see recipe below)

Melt semisweet chocolate morsels in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH for 30-second intervals until melted (about 1 1/2 minutes total time). Stir until smooth.

Beat butter and brown sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer, beating about 5 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add melted chocolate, beating just until blended.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to chocolate mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Gradually add 1 cup hot water in a slow, steady stream, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in vanilla.

Pour batter into a greaased and floured 1-inch tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack. Sift powdered sugar over top of cake. Serve with Chocolate Ganache and chocolate- dipped strawberries.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Microwave morsels and cream in a glass bowl on medium for 1-2 minutes.Whisk from center of bowl until the mixture comes together thick, smoothe. Whisk in butter and let stand 30 minutes. Yields 1-1/2 cups. Drizzle ganache over cake.

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Caramel Cake, courtesy of The Help

A couple of months ago, the bookclub to which I belong read The Help. It is an excellent book by Kathryn Stockett set in the 1960s about Mississippi maids. It’s told from their perspective and has some wonderful characters which are easily loved, hated and pitied. The month we read this book, it was my turn to host. Now when people are invited into my home, my first goal is to ensure they are comfortable. The second is to make sure they are fed and the third, well, is that they leave happy and eager to come to back.

With those goals in mind, I chose foods that were mentioned in the book. I also asked the ladies coming to the meeting to bring Southern-inspired dishes. It was a great spread of bourbon brownies, pimento cheese on celery sticks, caramel cake and more. To wash it all down, we enjoyed some sweet tea–not flavored with Splenda or any other alternative, as any Southern girl will vouch, real sweet tea is only made with plenty of sugar.

My friend Mel happened to miss this meeting and therefore, missed out on the goods. Sorry for her! She asked me to post the recipe for the caramel cake, which I am more than happy to do. So Theresa and Mel, here’s to you girls! Enjoy!

Caramel Cake

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 oz. sour cream, full fat
  •  2 -2/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, and then add sour cream. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Butter and flour three cake pans. Add batter evenly to the three pans and bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before icing. See recipe below.

Caramel Icing

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar

Melt butter and brown sugar in a saucepan. Add evaporated milk. Cook over medium for two minutes. Add vanilla and remove from heat. Add powdered sugar and mix until smooth.

Melissa’s Note:

I usually dip my knife in water each time I spread this icing as it can be sticky and this makes it easier. 

I used two deep, 8-inch cake pans for this recipe. When they came out of the oven, I let them cool and froze one of the cakes. I took the other cake from its pan and sliced it in two, spreading iciing between the layers. It’s nice to have the frozen cake ready when I have unexpected guests or just want something sweet on a day when I don’t feel like baking!

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Southern Fried Catfish, delish!

When I think of Southern things, fried food is usually at the top of the list. Fried chicken, fried okra, and my personal favorite fried catfish. It’s been a while since I’ve fried anything, so when I spied some catfish filets at the fish counter of my grocery, I was inspired.

I was excited about cutting them up into “nuggets” when I got home. Oh heck, I was almost giddy. You see I’ve been in workout mode for past few weeks and diet mode for much longer than that. So, anything fried feels like a luxury I’ve not been able to afford. There I am giddy at the fish counter when I decided to add some fried chicken to my menu too. I mean, really, if I’m going for it, why not go big?

At home, ready to whip up dinner, I’m reminded of all the many church potlucks and fish frys of my youth. I’m sure it had something to do with my inspecting my cast iron skillets to decide on just the right one. The women in my family cook with cast iron and if you’re lucky you’ll get a skillet as a wedding gift. It might even be one handed down from someone else in the family. Those are the best because they are already seasoned. I believe cast iron is the only way to go when frying, simply because it sustains high temperatures and cooks evenly.

So if I’m frying catfish and chicken, why not add some green beans cooked in pork fat, freezer corn and mashed potatoes? If I had one last meal, this would have to be it. Simple, yet delicious and soul satisfying.

Fried Catfish

  • 2 filets fresh catfish
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • Oil to coat about an inch of the pan

Rinse the fish and pat it dry. Cut the castfish into 3-inch pieces. Add them to the buttermilk in a large bowl with lid. Place in refrigerator for at least an hour. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, salt, peppers and paprika. Take out the catfish and dredge the pieces in the flour mixture. Pour the oil in a cast iron skillet and bring it up to a medium heat. Once warm, add the fish pieces in and be prepared for the sizzle. When one side is browned, flip the fish over only once. It should be white and flaky inside.

Melissa’s Notes:

I use buttermilk because it makes the fish moist and gives it a tangy flavor. I fry chicken the same way, with the same seasonings but exclude the cornmeal.

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Chicken and Rice Soup, perfect on a cold day

We’ve had a lot of snow here in Mid-Missouri this winter. A lot, to say the least. Just last week we had 18 inches of snow, drifts up to 4-5 feet and several days off work and school. During these cold days, I crave comfort food like pregnant women crave pickles and ice cream. To get my fix, I usually end up with soup, stew or chili. Today, it’s soup.

With a young child, chicken noodle soup is always a safe bet. However, my husband vetoed the noodles and asked for something different. Lucky for him, I just bought a great rice blend at the grocery. It has brown and wild rice, an easy way to snazz up any meal. So, 45 minutes later (much longer than noodles would have taken) the rice was finished and I could add it to the soup.

Saltines would go great with this soup, as would a nice thick piece of banana bread for dessert. So if you have a craving for a warm, gratifying meal, give this recipe a shot.

Chicken and Rice Soup

  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 2 cans Campbell’s chicken gravy
  • 2 (26 oz. ea.) containers chicken stock
  • 2 cups brown and wild rice blend, cooked

In a saucepan, add 2 cups chicken stock to 1 cup uncooked rice, this yields 2 cups cooked. Bring to a boil, stir and then lower the heat and add a lid. This will take about 45 minutes to cook through and absorb all the liquid. In the meantime, add the remaining chicken stock, chicken, vegetables, seasoning and gravy to a stock pot. Let this simmer while the rice cooks. By the time the rice is ready, the veggies will be soft. Once the rice is finished, add it to the soup and you’re ready to eat.

Melissa’s Notes:

I add canned gravy because it’s already seasoned and it adds body and flavor to this soup.

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