Chicken Nachos

Chicken Nachos with Squeeze Cheese

John and I are not very good about entertaining people in our home.  I say “John and I” so that he can shoulder part of the blame, that’s what husbands are for, even when they are blameless.  I get nervous about entertaining partly due to never realizing my unrealistic expectations of being the next Martha Stewart and partly due to the fact that anything I serve will probably include a liberal seasoning of cat hair.  If I could get all the cat hair under control…and if I could overcome my feelings of inadequacy…and if we had a football party…this is what I would serve.

The Squeeze Cheese is a recipe that I have shared before but I am so in love with it that I had to share it again!  It is so fast and easy to make!  I like to keep a bottle in the fridge for those moments when I really need to squeeze some cheese on something.  That happens a lot.

I made these nachos for my family a couple of times recently.  Something like this is easy for Sunday afternoon snacks, whether there’s a game on or not.  I kept the chicken in a crockpot set on warm and everything else in bowls nearby.  This would also work with a big bowl of lettuce for a taco salad, if you are in the mood for that, but I wasn’t.

Chicken Nachos

Squeeze Cheese

Start by pouring 1 cup of whole milk in a small saucepan and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of gelatin over it to soften.  Let it soften for about 5 minutes, then heat slowly over low heat until the gelatin dissolves and the milk start to steam.  Do not boil the gelatin or it will not set!

Dissolve gelatin in milk

 

Shred 6 ounces of Appel Farms Cheddar or Gouda in a food processor.  I used Jalapeno Gouda for one sauce and Sharp Cheddar for the second.  Depending on what you are making, there’s tons of flavor choices!

Grated Jalapeno Gouda

Turn the food processor on low and slowly drizzle the hot milk mixture into the cheese.  Keep it running until the cheese is melted and very smooth, about 30-60 seconds.

Pour warm milk onto Jalapeno Gouda

Blend Gouda and Milk

 

It is just that easy, can you believe it?  Immediately pour the mixture into two 8 ounce squeeze bottles.  The bottles are available at craft stores in the candy making section.  The sauce will start to set up right away, so you need to be quick!

Pour cheese sauce into bottles

The squeeze cheese will flow at room temperature, but is too stiff when chilled.  Trust me, I know.  Store in the refrigerator.

Chicken Mixture

Place 1 pound cooked shredded chicken breast in a large saucepan.  Confession time: I cook and shred chicken in large batches to keep in the freezer.  This chicken was previously frozen.  I’m not Martha Stewart.

Cooked shredded chicken

Sprinkle on one packet of your favorite taco seasoning.

Add taco seasoning to chicken

Pour on 8 ounces of tomato sauce and 1 cup water.

Add tomato sauce and water to the chicken.

Stir it all together and heat on low for 15-20 minutes.  Continue to heat and stir until the sauce thickens.  If it get too dry, add more water.

Stir and heat the taco mixture

While the taco mixture is simmering, go ahead and chop up your toppings.  Whatever you like on your nachos!  Go wild!  Have fun!  You can’t go wrong!

Chop up toppings

Now you can put the chicken mixture into a crockpot and let people make their own nachos, or make a big plate to share.  Throw on whatever you like.  Go wild! Have fun!  You can’t go wrong!  Unless you put avocado on mine, that’s wrong.

Building a plate of nachos. Step one: the chips

I know what you are thinking, those aren’t the right napkins for this year’s Super Bowl.  I’m not bitter at our team losing, those are the napkins that I happened to have in my cupboard.

Building a plate of nachos. Step two: toppings

Okay, maybe a little bitter.  I did have white napkins too.

Time for the Squeeze Cheese…

Building a plate of nachos. Step three: Squeeze Cheese

…and more Squeeze Cheese!

Building a plate of nachos. Step three: Squeeze Cheese

I thinned some sour cream with water and poured it in a squeeze bottle as well.  If I were smart, I would have labeled the bottles, but surprises can be fun too.  Sprinkle on cilantro if you like.

Building a plate of nachos. Step four: sour cream and cilantro

ENJOY!

Chicken Nachos with Squeeze Cheese

Whoopie Pies

Whoopie Pies

When Elizabeth and I decided to dedicate our September recipes to football season, I asked friends what they would want served at a football party.  I am surrounded by football fans of every age so the response was wonderful.  Friends shared their passion for the game, the camaraderie, and pride for their favorite team.  Best of all, I got some great ideas for what to serve at a football party.  They came with their bling and their appetites, these people are the best.football fan

Shyla's Hands

One suggestion was a sweet treat that is easy to grab and go so I decided to make Whoopie Pies.  I started with a classic recipe but added Quark for extra moisture. I also used Dutch process cocoa and coffee to increase the depth of the flavor and give the recipe a contemporary touch.

Whoopie pie with sprinkles
Adding a sprinkles makes it fun!

Whoopie Pies

  • 1/2 cup Dutch Process cocoa
  • 1/2 cup hot coffee
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Quark
  1. Whisk the cocoa and hot coffee together in a small bowl.  Set aside to cool.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluggy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and cocoa mixture.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients.  Gradually add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture.  Add the Quark, then the remainder of the dry ingredients.
  4. Spoon the batter into a large ziplock bag.  Cut off one corner and pipe the batter onto a parchment covered cookie sheet.  I piped it in a two inch line widening it in the center to form an oval.  This makes a about 2 dozen pies, but you can make them bigger or smaller.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until firm to the touch.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.
  6. Spread filling (recipe below) on half of the cookies.  Top with remaining cookies.  Decorate with royal icing if desired.  Store in the refrigerator.  The pies like to stick together so store them in a single layer on parchment paper.whoopie pies

Classic Marshmallow Filling

  • 1 (7 oz) container Marshmallow creme
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening*
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Beat the Marshmallow creme and shortening on medium speed until smooth and fluffy.  Reduce to low and add the sugar and vanilla.  Beat until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

*I don’t typically use that much shortening in a recipe but I tried numerous recipes and this is the only one that tasted like marshmallow filling.  Feel free to use a different recipe if you prefer a healthier choice.

Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Dressing

Buffalo Chicken Wings

I don’t know about you, but the cold crisp mornings here are so delightful to me.  I love the soft blanket of fog that covers the fields in the early morning.  I love the sun breaking through the fog in glorious rays.  I love the dew sparkling in the early morning sunshine.  I especially love the rain and I eagerly look forward to more.  I know I’m not alone:

It’s not simply the arrival of rain, but the transition to a different environment and way of life. The drear has a certain dark beauty; a low-contrast softness. There’s no need to squint or close the blinds. Even the sound of the rain on our house is music to my ears, a lullaby.  Excerpt from Ready for Rain: Why Seattleites Crave the End of Summer

Fall also makes me yearn for comfort foods and at our house, Buffalo Chicken Wings is in that category.  We pair them with a salad and homemade bread to make a meal.  I’ve been making them for some time now, but recently discovered Alton Brown’s recipe and I will never go back to the old way!  Alton Brown steams them before oven roasting and that keeps them moist and not as greasy.  This is why he is my hero!

For the dressing, I mixed my favorite blue cheese, Rogue River Caveman Blue, with our own yogurt.  I have been in love with Rogue River cheeses ever since we visited them a few years ago.

roastedwings

Elizabeth roasting chicken wings

A tower of chicken wings

Buffalo Chicken Wings

Ingredients

  • 12 whole chicken wings
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Place a 6-quart saucepan with a steamer basket and 1-inch of water in the bottom, over high heat, cover and bring to a boil.

Remove the tips of the wings and discard or save for making stock. Using kitchen shears, or a knife, separate the wings at the joint. Place the wings into the steamer basket, cover, reduce the heat to medium and steam for 10 minutes. Remove the wings from the basket and carefully pat dry. Lay the wings out on a cooling rack set in a half sheet pan lined with paper towels and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Replace the paper towels with parchment paper. Roast on the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Turn the wings over and cook another 20 minutes or until meat is cooked through and the skin is golden brown.

While the chicken is roasting, melt the butter in a small bowl along with the garlic. Pour this along with hot sauce and salt into a bowl large enough to hold all of the chicken and stir to combine.

Remove the wings from the oven and transfer to the bowl and toss with the sauce. Serve warm.

Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown, 2007

Blue Cheese Dressing

Blue Cheese Dressing

  • 1/2 cup Appel Farms Yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (I like Rogue River Smoky Blue)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Whisk the yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and cayenne in a bowl until smooth. Gently stir in the blue cheese. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors develop.

Recipe adapted from Food Network

Fried Cheese Bites

Eating the Beast Mode Bite

The kids in our area are headed back to school this week.  Even without young kids, you can feel the excitement electrifying the air.  Moments like this bring back so many memories, so many first days, so many changes, so much growth.  The time flits by so quickly that suddenly those days are gone.  We are in a new phase with adult children living their own lives.  I am so proud to see their growth and maturity, at the same time, I miss those special moments and exciting changes.

I get to have some fun moments with my friend’s children though.  I invited a friend over to help me with a recipe for Fried Cheese Bites.  This appetizer is so fun to make that I knew her kids would love to help, and they certainly did.Big brother is helping little sister with cutting the dough

Even the youngest, Grace, got into the mix with the help of her big brother Michael.  They used a pizza cutter and my quilting ruler to cut the dough into even squares.

Casey is wrapping the cheese in dough

Peyton and Casey working together

Casey and Peyton took pieces of cheese and carefully wrapped them in dough.  It’s important to make sure that the cheese is completely covered with no openings so the cheese doesn’t ooze out into the oil during frying.

Michael and Grace working together

These kids have the biggest appetites that I have ever seen and the energy to match.  We make lots and lots of bites, and none of them went to waste.

Fried Cheese Bites

  • 4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury™ refrigerated Crescent Dough Sheet
  • 8 oz Jalapeno Gouda, cut in 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes
  • Condiments, if desired.

In deep fryer or 3-quart heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium heat to 350°F.

Unroll dough, and cut lengthwise into 4 strips, then cut crosswise into 8 rows, making 32 squares.

Roll piece of dough around each Gouda Cube; stretch dough, and press to seal edges and completely cover the cheese.

Fry cheese bites a few at a time for about 1 minute, turning occasionally until dough is completely cooked through and deep golden brown. Drain on paper towels, and keep warm.

Serve warm with condiments.  We used pizza sauce and the kids loved it!

Grace serving the cheese

Recipe adapted from Pillsbury