Sunday, September 8, 2013

Buffalo Ranch Chicken

I live in central Ohio, which means that for ten weeks every Saturday, our afternoons (and occasionally evenings) are consumed by college football. The college football ritual involves lots of beer for those who drink it (I don't) and lots of food for those who like to eat (which I obviously do). The food part of it is complex - you need to have access to lots of food that you can eat ALL DAY LONG, grazing happily off things that you can just kind of pile on your plate while you park on the couch, cheering every time Braxton Miller gets his hands on a ball.

In other words, it's party food. Since the cool weather is starting to move in but hasn't quite committed yet, Ohio football party food is often stuff that you can start off warm, but still tastes really good cool, after it's been sitting on the coffee table for an hour because your husband decided to go to the auto parts store during halftime and you haven't seen him since.

This is a recipe I originally spotted on Pinterest, and I changed a couple of the measurements to make it less gloppy and more spready, but I can't really take credit for it. I can, however, tell you it's amazing, and if you have any left, it's really good for breakfast the next day.

BUFFALO RANCH CHICKEN

2 lbs chicken breasts, cooked and diced into chunks
1 small onion, diced
3/4 C buffalo wing sauce (I like this one from Texas Pete)
1/2 C ranch salad dressing
Salt and pepper
1 C shredded cheese (I used mozzarella, which was what was in the fridge)
1 8-oz block of cream cheese

Preheat your oven to around 375. Take your cooked chicken breasts, put them in a bowl with the onion, the buffalo sauce, and ranch dressing, and mix it all together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix in about 2/3 of the shredded cheese.

Soften the cream cheese in the microwave, and spread it around on the bottom of a 9x11 casserole dish. Really, just put the cream cheese IN the dish, warm it up for about 40 seconds, and smear it around. You don't have to grease the bottom of the dish. Just smear your cheese around.

Dump the chicken mixture on top of your cream cheese, and spread it around so the cream cheese is covered. Sprinkle the remaining third of your shredded cheese on top. Bake for about 25 minutes or until it's a nice golden brown. Let cool for about 5 - 10 minutes (because hot cream cheese is like eating a mouthful of molten lava and IT BURNS, MY PRECIOUS), and dig in. We like to eat this with tortilla chips, but you can also dip veggies in it, spread it on a wrap, or just eat it with a fork, which is what my thirteen year old son does.

Dig in, and if it ain't quite hot enough for you, add more buffalo sauce during half time!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bacon Wrapped Dates

This is one of my favorite things to make ever. Dates are delicious and sweet, and bacon... well, y'all know how I feel about bacon. It should be its own damn food group.

BACON WRAPPED DATES


You'll need:

1 package of bacon
A big bag of whole pitted dates

Preheat the oven to 350, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper - make sure it's a baking sheet that has raised edges, and not a flat one like your pizza pans, because the bacon grease is going to run off when it bakes, and you don't want that all over your oven, catching on fire and stuff.

Slice the bacon strips in half longways (it helps to use a pizza cutter), so you have a long skinny piece of bacon. Wrap each bacon strip around a date, and place it on the baking sheet. Bake for about 30 - 40 minutes, or until the bacon is nice and crisp. Cool for a few minutes before nomming on these, because biting into a searing hot date can ruin your whole day. Once they've cooled off, dig in! This makes a great side dish, or just a snack for the middle of the night when you need a bacon fix.

Amazing Easy Basil Pesto

I can't help it, I feel a need to grow basil in my garden every year. I do this every year with the intention of "Oh, yes, I shall use it in my cooking," and of course I *do* use it in my cooking, but then I also end up with WAAAAAYYYYY too much basil, because you can only feed your family so much of it before they're all "Um, maybe some other flavor would be nice?"

The whole problem would be resolved if I just put in one basil plant, but I can't do that, because one basil plant would be lonely. So I always put them in either pairs, so they have a friend, or threes, because I like things in threes. Thus, WAY TOO MUCH BASIL.

So, what do you do when you have WTMB syndrome in the garden? You make pesto. You make a lot of it. And because pesto is amazing, you can totally freeze it and use it later, so even when your family is going, "Sadface, no more pesto because it's February!" you can pull a glob of it out of the freezer and be a total pesto hero.

EASY BASIL PESTO

10 - 12 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
1 C grated Parmesan cheese
1 C olive oil
4 - 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 Tbs. lemon juice
A pinch of salt
Pine nuts (optional)

Short version: throw everything in your food processor and chop it until it's done.

Long version: It's hard to stuff twelve cups of basil into your food processor - believe me, I've tried, and even my trusty Ninja Chopper starts to get a little bitchy when I try to do it all at once. So the trick, at least for me, is to put about HALF the basil into the food processor, along with about half the olive oil and Parmesan, and all of the garlic and lemon juice and salt. Mix that part of it up until it's good and choppy looking, and then add the rest of the basil, Parm, and oil. Chop it until the basil is really well chunked up, and the whole thing looks grainy but even.

Pesto is kind of amazing, because you can put it on ANYTHING. Use it as a veggie dip or pasta topping, smear it on crackers, or just eat it with a spoon. My favorite thing to do with it, though, is to mix a tablespoon of pesto with a tablespoon of homemade mayo, and glop it onto a burger or a piece of fish.

As far as storage, a batch of pesto - and the above recipe will give you about a cup and a half to two cups of pesto - will last a couple of weeks in the fridge. It will darken as it's exposed to oxygen, but a quick stir will revive the bright green color. To freeze it, spoon a bit into the compartments of an ice cube tray, stick it in the freezer, and once they're good and solid, store them in a freezer-safe bag or container.

Dig in, make a batch, and never again listen to your family complain about how much basil you're feeding them!