Picture
    Roasted chicken is an easy meal that requires very little skill and effort, and delivers delicious results. And, when you roast the chicken on top of a bed of veggies, you've got a whole chicken dinner in one pan! Does it get any easier than that?






What you need:

For the Brine:
1-5 hours
1/2 c kosher salt
water
a big bowl that can hold the whole chicken, and still fit in the fridge

For the Chicken:
1 whole chicken (remember how much it weighs before you throw away the bag!)
1/2 stick butter, softened
4 cloves peeled garlic
1/2 lemon, sliced
12 inch sprig of rosemary, cut into 3 pieces
1 shallot, cut in half or quartered
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 onion, sliced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped, or baby carrots
garlic salt
pepper
Italian seasoning (optional)
red potatoes, quartered  or sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch cubes (optional)

For the gravy (you know you want it):
1/4 c flour
1/2 c water
ALL the drippings from the bottom of the roasting pan, without the vegetables

What you do:

Picture
     First, always ALWAYS brine the  chicken. Unless it says that it's kosher, then the brining has been done for you. The brine ensures that you will have a moist and flavorful chicken. In other words, it's mandatory! To brine the chicken, remove the insides, and rinse the chicken under cold water. Place the chicken in your brining bowl, add 1/2 cup of kosher salt, and cover the chicken completely with cold water. Put the bowl in the refrigerator for at least an hour, but no more than five hours.

Picture
   When the chicken is done brining, take it out, rinse it in
cool water, and pat it dry with paper towels. Then, for a crispy and delicious skin, put it back in the fridge and let it sit for at least an hour, or as long as overnight.

Picture
       Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

     Next, make a pile of veggies in the bottom of the roasting pan. Add the carrots, onions, celery, and potatoes, and make a nice delicious bed for the chicken to sit on. Place two of the rosemary sprigs on the veggies, and then put the chicken on top, breast side up. Cooking the chicken on top of the veggies enhances their flavor, and the veggies and rosemary lend their flavor to the drippings, which will result in a better gravy later.
    Cover the whole outside of the chicken in the softened butter. The top, bottom, and every little bit of it. Slather it on, and cover it completely. It's okay if it's not even, just get it all on there. This helps the skin get nice and crispy. Then, season the chicken all over with pepper, Italian seasoning, and just a little bit of garlic salt. Remember, the chicken soaked up some of the salt from the brine, so you don't want it to be too salty. 
    Next, fill the chicken with the shallot, garlic cloves, a sprig of rosemary, and the lemon slices. These flavors will spread throughout the chicken while it cooks, and will also add to the gravy later.
    Now, place the chicken in the preheated oven, and let it cook at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes. This will give you a nice crispy skin. Then, turn the oven down to 350 degrees, and cook it for 20 minutes per lb.
    This is really the only place that things can go wrong, because math is involved... I have made mistakes in this department before, so I made a handy little guide for our reference. 
    

Picture
    Check the chicken thigh with a meat thermometer, making sure not to touch a bone, and when it is 165 degrees, it's done. Take it out of the oven, and place it on a plate or carving board, covered with aluminum foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes while you make the gravy. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the chicken.
    Take the veggies out of the roasting pan, and cover them. Try not to eat them all in the process, and watch out for stray husbands and kids, too.



To make the gravy:

    You can make the gravy right in the metal roasting pan, or pour the drippings into a pan. Heat the drippings on the stove over medium high heat and bring to a boil. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup flour with 1/2 cup of water, and whisk into the pan of drippings, It won't need any more seasoning, because it will have all of the flavors of the chicken, veggies, butter, and herbs. Once the flour mixture is blended with the drippings, you've got yourself some gravy!

    How easy was that? 

    If you still need more delicious veggies, you can serve it with asparagus, or mashed cauliflower. And don't forget the bread! 

    After you carve and eat the chicken, you can make your own chicken stock for soup, or chili. I love to use mine in risotto. All you need to do is place the chicken carcass in a large pot, and cover it with water. Add a small chopped onion, a few chopped carrots, a couple of chopped stalks of celery, and a few cloves of garlic. Bring it to a boil, and then let it simmer, covered for a few hours. Strain out the veggies and chicken, and the liquid you have left is your stock.

Top image courtesy of Apolonia / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 
Picture
    Holy deliciousness, Batman! These are the best tamales I have ever had, so I had to share the recipe! I made them with the chicken from my Chicken Taco recipe in the slow cooker, and they were phenomenal. You can also use seasoned ground or shredded beef or pork. Either way, with this masa, your tamales will be amazing!

Makes about 10 tamales

Ingredients:
For the Masa:
Corn Husks
2 c masa harina
10 oz chicken or beef stock
1/2 c shortening or lard
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

For the filling:
1/2 packet taco seasoning
1 c salsa
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Directions:

    Place chicken, taco seasoning, and salsa to the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. When that's ready, soak corn husks in warm water for 10-20 minutes while preparing masa.

    In a large bowl, mix masa harina, stock, shortening, baking powder, and salt thoroughly, until a soft, crumbly dough forms.  This is the masa. I like to use my stand mixer because I can, but you can mix it by hand, too. 

    When the masa is both soft and crumbly, it's ready to go. Take out a softened corn husk, and flatten a handful of masa out on it.  Then, put a couple of tablespoons of chicken in the middle. Fold the sides of the corn husk in, and then fold in the top and bottom. You can tie it off with butcher's twine if you've got it, but I just peel off part of one of the corn husks and tie it around like you are wrapping a delicious little package. 

    Steam the tamales for an hour, and top with sour cream, salsa, cotija cheese, whatever you like; or just eat them plain because they are perfect, just the way they are.
    

 
Picture
    I had forgotten how good pesto can be. That is, until I had more basil in my garden than I knew what to do with. Then, it was tortelloni with pesto, pesto chicken pizza, pesto on bread, pesto in everything! It all starts with a great pesto.

Ingredients:
3 c basil leaves
4 cloves garlic
1/4 c pine nuts (toast 'em if you  like)
1 c grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c olive oil

Directions:

    Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until they form a paste. 

    If you're not going to use all of it at once, make sure you pour a little olive oil on the top before you put it in the refrigerator, because the basil will turn brown when it's exposed to air. 

    For a fantastic Pesto Chicken Pizza, top your favorite pizza dough with pesto, a cut up cooked chicken breast, some artichoke hearts, and some shredded mozzarella.

 
Picture
    This is a super simple marinade, made from things you probably already have. What makes it magic, though, is that you save the marinade after you take the salmon out, and once you cook it on the stove, it becomes a savory sauce to serve over the salmon.  





Ingredients:

1/3 c brown sugar
1/3 c soy sauce
1/3 c water
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 lemon, juice only
1 t cornstarch (for the sauce)
1 T butter (for the sauce)

Directions:

    Mix together everything but the cornstarch and butter in a bowl or food safe ziplock bag, add the salmon (skin side up so the meat is in the marinade), and let it sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

    Remove the salmon from the marinade, and cook it according to your preference. I prefer to grill it on the charcoal grill, but baked or broiled would be great, too! While the salmon is cooking, pour the marinade into a saucepan, add the butter, and bring it to a boil. Let the marinade boil and reduce, stirring occasionally, for at least 5 minutes. Wisk in the teaspoon of cornstarch, mix it completely, and remove from heat.

    Pour the sauce over the cooked salmon, and serve.

    I like to serve this with rice to soak up all the extra sauce. Mmm...


Image courtesy of [image creator name] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 
Picture
    You know how some nights all of a sudden it's 5pm and the kids are hungry, you haven't had time to go to the grocery store yet this week, and you're not about to eat another fast food burger? One night like this, I raided the pantry and the freezer in the hopes that SOMETHING in there had to be edible, and this is how Tuna Tater Tot Casserole was born! It went over so well that now I make it by request.





Ingredients:
1 bag of frozen tater tots, about 16 oz.
1/4 c butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 c milk
10 oz canned tuna, drained (2 small cans)
1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
got any vegetables? frozen peas, carrots, corn, green onions, spinach...
salt and pepper, to taste
parmesan cheese

Directions:

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

    Put the tater tots in a casserole or baking dish, and bake them for about 20 minutes, stirring them up halfway through. 

    Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat, and saute the onions for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic and saute for another couple of minutes. Add the milk, bring to a boil, and remove from heat.

    When the tater tots are done, pour the butter, milk, onions, and garlic into the baking dish (watch out, it's hot). Add the tuna, shredded cheddar cheese, salt, pepper, and any cooked vegetables, and mix it all together, chopping up the tater tots. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top, and throw it all back in the oven for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees.

    

 
Picture
    This is another inexpensive, easy meal with a big payoff. Chicken and cheese are stuffed into large shells, and drizzled with a creamy alfredo sauce. I added spinach and basil, and we all loved it.








Ingredients:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 stick of butter
1 lemon, juice only
1 packet dry Italian Dressing mix
2 c chopped fresh spinach
2 T chopped fresh basil
1 c ricotta cheese
1 c shredded mozzarella
1 box large shell pasta
1 jar alfredo sauce (I used Classico's Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo and it was AMAZING!)
parmesan cheese

Directions:

Place butter, chicken, lemon juice, and Italian dressing mix in the slow cooker, and let it cook on low for about 8 hours. When the chicken is fall-apart tender, shred it with forks, and stir in the spinach, basil, ricotta, and mozzarella.

Heat a pot of salted water, and boil the shell pasta according to the directions on the package, and heat the alfredo sauce in a saucepan until it's ready to serve.

When the shells are soft, drain them, and fill them with the cheesy chicken stuffing. Pour alfredo sauce on top, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serve hot, and enjoy!

You could also use marinara or vodka sauce, or mix the alfredo sauce in with the cheesy chicken, and serve it over spagetti or macaroni noodles.

 
Picture
    Fish and Chips was always one of my favorite things to order at a restaurant because I love it, but I felt like was such a hassle to get out the fryer and make it myself. However, now that I have this recipe, I find myself making it much more often because this seasoned batter is so awesome, it tastes better at home than in the restaurant! It's become one of our favorite meals, and I hope your family enjoys it as much as we do!



Ingredients:
2 lbs fish fillets, cod and tillapia are my favorites
1 c flour
1 T paprika
1 T garlic powder
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 egg
1 beer (I prefer Hefeweizen for this)
Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

If you have a fryer, heat the oil to about 365 degrees. If you're frying in a pan, set it to medium-high.

Mix together the flour, paprika, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and egg, and slowly add the beer, mixing it together slowly until the batter is smooth.

Dip one fish fillet in the batter, covering it completely, and then CAREFULLY drop it in the hot oil. I can usually fit three fillets in at a time. Make sure they aren't touching, and turn the fillets over once to ensure thye are cooked completely. It usually takes about five minutes to cook each piece to a nice crispy golden brown. Remove fish from the hot oil, and dry them off on paper towels. Serve while hot.

I like to serve them with sweet potato fries. They're baked, so they won't compete with the fish for space in the fryer.


 
Picture
    Shut the front door! I just made these for the first time today, and they tasted so INCREDIBLE that as soon as I was so full that I couldn't eat another bite, I ran to the computer to share the recipe. If these tacos were any easier, they'd do the dishes themselves. I can't even handle how easy and delicious they are. They should be illegal or something.











Ingredients:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts. They can even still be frozen (so freakin easy).
1 8oz jar of salsa. I used Mild Pace Picante
1 packet of taco seasoning

Taco Shells
Guacamole
Cotija Cheese
Anything else you want on your tacos...

Directions:
    First, put the chicken in the slow cooker, and cover it with the taco seasoning and salsa. Let it cook all day on low, for up to 9 hours. When the chicken is ready, shred it with a fork, and mix it up with the sauce.  

    I put mine on taco shells and topped it with guacamole and cotija cheese, and was blown away by how good they were. 

    You could also use the chicken for taco pasta, in chili, enchiladas, burritos, nachos, taco salad... The possibilities are endless!

 
Picture
    It's a spaghetti sandwich. On garlic bread. And it tastes AMAZING. Honestly, I don't even bother cooking the noodles anymore. And neither will you, once you try it.





Ingredients:

For the Sauce
1 T olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped or diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 jar of spaghetti sauce
Parmesan cheese

For the Bread
1 baguette, any loaf of bread, rolls, or buns (depending on how fancy you want to be)
butter (about 2 T per sandwich)
minced garlic (about 1 clove per sandwich)

Directions:
    Preheat the oven. If you like to live dangerously, turn the broiler on high. If you'd like to leave room for error, just set it to bake at about 375.

    Now, make the sauce. First, heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Then, when the olive oil shimmers, add the onion and stir. When the onion starts to become translucent, toss in the garlic, and stir continuously. In about 30 second to a minute, it will become fragrant; add the ground beef or turkey and cook until it has browned completely. I also like to add mushrooms, grated zucchini, or any other vegetable I can find that might go unnoticed. Then, pour in the sauce, and reduce heat to low once it boils. Let it simmer, covered, while you make the bread. 

    Cut the bread into your desired sandwich shape. Sometimes I like to slice it, and other times it's better when you just cut it in half like a hot dog bun (this can also be made with hot dog buns).

    In a small pan, melt 2 T butter and saute one clove of minced garlic for about 30 seconds. Then, take two pieces of bread and sop up all the butter and garlic in the pan. Repeat this process until you have enough bread for all of the sandwiches. Place all pieces of garlic bread butter side up on a baking pan, and put them in the oven until they're toasty. In a broiler, they go from raw to burnt if you take your eyes off of them for a second, so I prefer to let them sit in the oven at 375 for about 5 minutes; but I don't know how vigilant you are. 

    Once the bread is toasted, take it out of the oven, and add the meat sauce to make a delicious sandwich. Don't forget the parmesan cheese to maximize the deliciousness, and serve it while it's hot.


 
    The first time I ever had manicotti, I made it myself, so I really had no idea what it was supposed to look or taste like. I didn't have much experience cooking, so I was hoping it was going to be easy. All of the recipes I could find wanted me to cook the noodles, and then spoon- fill the floppy tubes with cheese, which sounded like a disaster waiting to happen. So, over the years, I have combined a bunch of different recipes, taking the easy technique from one, and adjusting the flavors to make a dish that everybody loves!

Ingredients:
1 package uncooked manicotti
15 oz ricotta
2 and 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella, separated
1/2 c parmesan cheese
1 t garlic powder
1 egg
2 t dried Italian seasonings, or 1 t oregano and 1 t basil
1 c water
1 jar spaghetti sauce

Directions:
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

    Mix the ricotta, 2 cups of the mozzarella, parmesan, garlic powder, egg, and herbs in a large bowl. When it's well mixed, put it in a zip-lock bag, and seal it. Then, cut one of the corners off the bag, and pipe the cheese mixture into the uncooked manicotti noodles, and place them in a 9x13 baking dish.

     Mix the water and spaghetti sauce together,  pour over the filled manacotti, and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 c of mozzarella on the top. 

     Cover, and bake the manicotti for 35-40 minutes. Remove the cover, and bake for
10 more minutes. Watch out, it's hot!