Contrary to widely held belief, searing meat doesn’t actually seal moisture inside the cut of meat or result in a juicier finished dish. It does, however, give meat dishes an incredible depth of flavor. Additionally, it gives meat an appetizing color and kills off any bacteria that might be hanging out on the surface of the meat.Searing over high heat caramelizes the surface of the meat, which enhances the savory ‘meat’ flavor and fills the finished dish with complex layers of nutty caramel and coffee-like bitterness. In technical terms, this is called a Maillard reaction and it’s a flavor profile we omnivores happen to find quite delicious. Without searing, meat dishes can taste flat and boring.
I love Mexican food. I love everything about it – the spice, the flavor, the simplicity and it’s uniqueness. My small town community is pretty lucky to have the Hispanic influences that we do. We have several great restaurants that serve delicious, authentic Mexican food. Not only that, we have ladies that will sell you the best tamales you’ve ever tasted right out of their home. It’s pretty cool that you can find such authentic cuisine from another country, here in little Arcadia.
Before you get all excited, today’s recipe is not Mexican. It’s really not even close (sorry) but it is still tasty! Its form mimics the popular Mexican enchilada dish that some restaurants serve though, hence why call it “enchiladas”. [A shout out to all my hometown amigos who may be reading this! Anytime you’d like to help a sister out, you’re welcome to teach me some real Mexican cooking: mi casa es tu casa -some better Spanish skills probably wouldn’t hurt either.]
I was a little sheltered when it came to Mexican food growing up. Really though, it was my own fault. I’m a recovering texture-phobe; so all the onions, peppers and spice just wasn’t appealing to me as a ten year-old. Little by little, my taste buds matured and fear of textures resolved (for the most part) and I fell in love with real Mexican food. Before I reached this glorious point in my life, my idea of “Mexican food” was the two things my mom fixed for us: tacos from an Old El Paso dinner kit and these sour cream enchiladas.Everyone has to start somewhere.
There was something about these enchiladas that were just comforting because let’s face it, anything Mom cooks just tastes like home. She actually got the recipe from my Great Aunt Carol who is famous for this and her macaroni & cheese. The creamy, cheesy goodness mixed with the right amount of heat and hearty beef makes you just want to wish that calories didn’t exist -and for this recipe, we are pretending that they don’t!
To begin we will make the sauce. Now when my mom reads this she’s going to say, “This is not the way I do it.” She also likes to tell me this when I don’t clean up after myself or turn my laundry right side out before washing it and when I let my babies be in public without shoes on. This is what mom’s are for though, right? Thank God they love us unconditionally, despite our sloppiness and bad habits.
Today Mom, I’m not being lazy though. The original recipe calls for a can of cream of mushroom soup and a can of cream of celery. Instead, I wanted to take mine to the next level with my own homemade soups just do something creative and fun. I’m totally kidding. I was out of both because twin moms don’t go to grocery stores very often. I had to make my own, but the extra effort was way worth it!
Start by dicing your celery and mushrooms, and style them perfectly for a picture on your newest rooster cutting board that your sister-in-love gifted you.
Next you’ll get them sauteing in a skillet in melted butter. Add in your minced or pressed garlic clove. Your house is going to smell delicious!
Once the celery is tender, sprinkle in the flour and continue cooking for an additional minute for your flour to brown as it soaks in that butter. Remove it from the heat and slowly stir in milk and broth until it’s all well combined with no lumps. Your soup will thicken as it stands. (A little note about the broth: I always use bullion cubes to make mine. For this I put double the cubes in so it would be more concentrated and flavorful.)
Stir in cilantro and black pepper. This cilantro is straight out of my garden! Read how I dry and preserve my herbs for cooking here.
Pour your soup into a saucepan and return to heat. (If you are doing it Mom’s way, start here with any canned cream of mushroom and cream of celery) Add sour cream and jalapeno juice. If you don’t like spice, just stick with the juice. It will give you the flavor of the peppers at least, but it’d be fine to leave it out altogether if you so choose. If you’re game for a spicy kick, pile on the jalapenos until your heart’s content!
Stir up your sauce and bring it to a low simmer while you preparing your meat for the filling.
Brown a pound of ground beef and diced onion seasoned with salt and pepper. When meat is cooked and onions are translucent, drain then return to skillet.
Pour one half of the sour cream sauce mixture into the meat mixture and stir to combine. Begin filling tortillas with about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of meat mixture and top with cheese.
Roll the tortillas with edges folded in and lay them in a well-greased baking dish with sides touching.
Pour your remaining sauce over top….
…..the pile on more cheese and cilantro. You really can’t have too much of either in this recipe in my humble opinion.
Bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and cheese is slightly browned.
Serve it warm and enjoy!
It happened again. Five o’clock came and I had made zero plans for my dinner menu. I find myself in this situation a lot lately; being a mom of twins is a constant reminder of my lack of great planning skills. So where do I turn from here? – to my never failing Plan B: Breakfast for Dinner.
At the Campbell household, we are not morning people. Weldon told me when we first got married that if I wanted him to actively listen and respond in important conversations, don’t have any with him until 9 am or later. And now that our babies have us up early, we function just enough to count scoops: scoops of coffee grounds going into the pot’s filter and scoops of formula going into bottles.
Hot breakfasts just don’t happen early enough around here to make them a daily occurrence. We do love hot breakfast foods so if they are showing up on our table, it’s 11:00 on a Saturday or dinner time. I usually keep the main staples like eggs, grits, sausage and bacon on hand. Then I normally have the ingredients to whip up a quick batch of pancakes or biscuits.
My favorite go-to breakfast dish will always be sausage gravy and biscuits. It was a Christmas morning tradition for us but also any other time we gathered the entire family for breakfasts. Sausage gravy and biscuits are most popular in the Southern and Mid-Western regions of the United States, but still no stranger to our friends on the West Coast or in the North East. You could just call it an American classic comfort breakfast food.
Weldon’s family also enjoyed this dish on their tables often but until we met, he never got to experience the full fledged glory of what I was used to. They weren’t just any biscuits with any type of gravy. They were moist, buttery, steamy homemade biscuits with spicy, hearty and creamy gravy. If you were eating with my Hall side of the family, you usually weren’t eating just a store bought breakfast sausage either. It was Pawpaw’s sausage that he made with his venison and pork from his most recent hunting season. Talk about good.
I’ve already shared with you my Nanny’s Biscuit Recipe so starting with that is a must. Those biscuits are my absolute favorite! Last night when we had them in our Breakfast for Dinner, I made enough to have leftovers for breakfast at well, breakfast! Pop that thing in the micro, smother it with plenty of butter and jelly, and you’ll have a ready made treat to wake up to.
When I’m making sausage gravy and biscuits together, I always start by preparing my biscuits first. Preheat the oven, mix them, shape them and get them going. In the 10-12 minutes they’ll need to bake, you can work on your sausage gravy.
Making sausage gravy is very simple. But I’ve learned through the generations of women who’ve taught me things about the kitchen, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean everyone knows how to do it.
Start by browning and crumbling 1 lb. of ground sausage. You can use any type of sausage you prefer: spicy, seasoned, or sweet. I’m using sausage from the hog we bought at our local county fair processed by my favorite hometown butcher, Fussell’s Meats.
Once your sausage is browned, do not drain it. We need that grease! Oh and I never claimed that my favorite breakfast was healthy by the way…
Add in 1/4 cup of flour and saute for about a minute until your flour is well incorporated. You shouldn’t see any grease in the pan after this because the flour will have soaked it all up. However, if you do just add more flour.
From here, gradually stir in milk until your desired consistency of gravy is reached. As you add and stir, the mixture will thicken. Do this in stages though -you can always add more. I prefer my gravy thick and meaty, so I add in the minimum amount of milk. If you prefer it thinner, just increase your milk. This is a great way to stretch it out too if you are feeding a crowd.
Once you have it looking good, give it a taste and season it up. I wait to season until this point because every sausage is different. With my awesome Fussell’s medium pork sausage, I don’t have to add any seasonings to my gravy. With other store bought sausage, I usually add in salt to taste.
Serve it warm, spread over an opened biscuit and enjoy!
There’s an old proverb that claims that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I can tell you that for my man, this has to be true.
You know, I had a lot to go up against in the beginning. As a southern raised young lady, I was taught early on how to put out big hearty spreads for your men with some irresistible desserts to follow them. But y’all…I picked a man who grew up eating from the kitchens of the epitome of home-made, comforting marry-me-now cooking. To say I was slightly intimidated to even try to get to his heart through his stomach is an understatement!
I knew what I was up against during my first meal at Mr. & Mrs. Campbell’s table. I thought I was in heaven! But there was no competition necessary. My man loves his Momma’s cookin and he loves mine too. So the way to my man’s heart was going to have to be from both.
Weldon has lots of favorite recipes from his heritage. I love hearing his stories of when his mom would be making things and how she would involve her children in helping -it gave him such sweet memories of his childhood. Being the youngest boy in the family, Weldon had older brothers to help with outside work which allowed Mrs. Velma to elect his help in the kitchen. I could never thank her enough for that either, we really do love being in the kitchen together and learning what the other one knows.
Moms, listen up: teach your boys how to love being in the kitchen too -their wife will thank you one day and you’ll be equipping them both with a gift to use to spend quality time together.
So today, it’s my privilege to share with you one of Weldon’s favorites: Pork Roll Sandwiches.
Pork Roll is a type of specialty deli meat that is very popular in the north eastern United States. According to my research, it has it’s origins in New Jersey. Believe it or not, the supposed founder of pork roll created quite a debacle and I thought it was kind of funny -you can read more about it here. The pork roll I’ll be using for this recipe came straight from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We actually bought it from Martins Country Market in Ephrata, PA when we were in the area for our Christmas vacation. John F. Martin & Sons is the only brand of pork roll I can personally attest for it’s flavor and quality.
PORK ROLL SANDWICHES
A pork roll sandwich made like Weldon loves is much more than just a slice of this deli meat with cheese on bread. [Although as I’m writing this, I’m enjoying a slice of warmed pork roll and Gouda cheese on some homemade bread (also my mother-in-love’s recipe which will be coming soon) and it’s quite delicious]. The pork roll recipe for you today will be more like a sandwich spread that includes pork roll, cheese, eggs, onions, then some mayo and ketchup to hold it all together with flavor.
What I love about this recipe is not only its taste but that it’s freezer friendly, great for crowds, company or cookouts, easy for quick simple dinners or lunches and it’s inexpensive. It makes plenty of sandwiches to keep on hand for a while. Not to mention that my husband is absolutely in love with it!
To begin, we will prep our ingredients and set up our work space.
We took advantage of our beautiful sunny and breezy Florida weather and made our sandwiches in our little outdoor kitchen. To grind everything together, I’ll be using my Kitchen Aid mixer with my meat grinder attachment.
Start by boiling a dozen eggs, let cool then peel. Aren’t these fresh brown eggs just some beauties? Compliments of my Gran and Pop’s Chicken Coop.
You will need 4.5 lbs of pork roll. Slice it, weigh it and cut it into strips that will easily fit into the grinder.
Next you’ll need your onions. I pulled mine straight out of the garden. For the right proportions you’ll need 6 small white onions or you can use the white parts of 12 good size spring onions like I did. Cut them into pieces that will be manageable for your grinder.
Then you’ll need 4.5 lbs of processed cheese. Yes that’s right…we are pound for pound of pork and cheese. Now you’re seeing why this is gonna be so good.
Once everything is prepped, measured and cut, send it through your grinder. It helps to alternate all four ingredients especially after the cheese runs through and leaves your chamber grimy. Sending pork roll right after the cheese seemed to help us.
Add in the ketchup and mayonnaise and mix well – using your hands of course. You can freeze this mixture as it is now for later use in freezer-safe containers or bags until you are ready to use it…
…Or you can keep going and prepare to be entranced by the wonder of a pork roll sandwich. Spread the love between some of our favorite Martin’s Sandwich Potato Rolls.
To let all the flavors weld together in the mightiest of ways, wrap your sandwiches in foil and warm in a 400’F oven for 10 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!
***Foil-wrapped sandwiches can be frozen as is. When ready to use, thaw completely and bake as directed above.
Oven Fried. Whenever I see that word before a recipe I usually cringe, thinking back to all the times I’ve attempted to make things like french fries or egg rolls in the oven and end up with nothing but soggy mush. But this recipe my friends, I promise you, won’t be a let down.
Oven frying always appeals to me because it is less mess and seems healthier. Plus I’ll be real, I’m scared of hot grease and deep frying. Every time I try it, I burn myself. Maybe one day I’ll overcome my struggle.
My inspiration for this recipe came from two places. One is my personal mission for 2017: to simplify. I’m working to simplify things around my home by de-cluttering, creating workable routines as a twin mom and simplifying in the kitchen, particularly our meals.
You know, not every dinner has to be Pinterest inspired and have ingredients that will cost you $80 for one meal. I have to fight the urge to over-complicate my meals and realize simple is okay. Extravagance every once and a while can be a treat. Plus raising twins and all hasn’t exactly freed up any extra time for me to be slaving away in the kitchen every night.
The rest of my inspiration came from this little treasure I picked up at Goodwill:
Some of the best recipes I know are found on the back of a package somewhere. The thing I love about them is that they work! Think about it, a company wouldn’t boast over a recipe and have it printed on all of their products if it wasn’t any good. This book is a collection of those types of recipes. The recipes that we mean to clip out and save when we empty that can or bottle but we forget. Or when you ask your grandma where she learned how to make something and she says, “I think it used to be on the back of the box of (insert food here), but I can’t remember dear.” Well, Ceil Dyer did it all the hard work for us and now we can have several decades worth of those down home, old fashioned recipes from test kitchen of some of America’s best food manufacturers. Get yours here.
Now on to this chicken….
I started out with 3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts and filleted them in half so that each piece was between 3/4 – 1 inch thick.This recipe is set up to generously coat six breasts so adjust yours accordingly.
(Side note for my cooking 101 peeps: filleting meats to a uniformed thickness ensures a faster and even cooking time.)
The original version of this recipe for oven fried chicken came from the package of Pepperidge Farms’ Herb Seasoned Stuffing. My bag did not have this recipe on it any more though. So thanks to Ceil, we are covered.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Grab a shallow rimmed baking sheet and place your butter in the oven to melt. For best results and perfect crisp, use a stoneware pan like this one. Otherwise, try lining a metal pan with foil.
Once your chicken is filleted, add stuffing cubes and salt to a large plastic bag and use a rolling pin to crush.
Not every piece of stuffing has to be uniform here but make sure you break it down pretty well so it sticks to your chicken.
Next you’ll beat two eggs with a little pepper, garlic powder and water, together in a small bowl.
Then you’ll dip each chicken breast first in the egg mixture then drop into bag and shake it around to coat. Hopefully by now, you haven’t forgotten that there is butter melted in the oven. If you just did, it’s okay…I didn’t see anything. Lay your chicken down in the butter, in a single layer.
Bake for 10-12 minutes on each side until breasts are firm and cooked all the way through.
This oven fried chicken is great served on its own with a few sides or by using a few other simple ingredients (and I mean as simple as opening up a salad kit) make a Chicken Ceasar Salad like I did! A practical way that I’m implementing my goal of simplifying dinners in 2017 is to make at least one meal each week a salad, soup, sandwich, or pizza using ingredients I already have in my refrigerator or pantry. Since I had a bagged ceasar salad kit and some chicken breasts on hand, salad it was!
I also tossed in some of these b-e-a-utiful cherry tomatoes fresh from our garden in there too! Nothing beats a vine-ripened sweet and juicy tomato I tell ya.
What are you waiting for? Go eat some chicken!
Have you ever noticed that most of your favorite foods…and I’m talking those down-home, take-me-back-to-the-good-ole-days favorites usually are very simple and made from very little ingredients? A simple, no frill egg salad sandwich on white bread is one of those things for me. There was no better way for my mom to make my day than when she would pack one in my lunch at school. All I needed was some eggs, mayo, and a little salt & pepper to make me feel like the most-loved child on the planet. It’s the little things.
Since I’m older and have developed a more mature pallet now, I like to kick mine up a notch with some lettuce and tomato -I’m quite the risk-taker. Or, like in the picture above, when the only lettuce you find in the refrigerator is brown and producing it’s own soup, pieces of Nappa Cabbage do work well for a crunchy substitute and pretty picture.
Recently, I was making egg salad while my friend Mart was over and I asked her how she likes hers. She said she always has to have some crunch in her egg salad -onions and celery are her favorite add-ins. I told her sorry not sorry, we ain’t messing up the salad like that today.
After doing some very extensive research, I learned that Mart is not alone. It turns out that egg salad is a perfect vehicle for many mix-ins and flares. If you would’ve told that to my elementary-school self, I probably would’ve barfed. And then later my middle-school-drama-queen self would’ve held a grudge against you for ruining my it’s-just-fine-like-it-is sandwich. Thankfully though, time changes things like our attitudes, emotions, taste buds, and even our preferences for eating egg salad.
So without further ado, I give you my favorite way to prepare egg salad:
First, we must start with the obvious -eggs.
There are many methods to boiling eggs. I cover mine with water in a saucepan, bring it to a boil and time it for 10 minutes. After that, let them cool, peel them and chop them.
Add your mayonnaise, salt and pepper, stir to combine then voila -perfect and comforting just-like-mom-makes-it egg salad!
And now that you have that down, I suppose since we all are grown-ups here, it’s time to venture out from our ordinary egg salad sandwiches (you win Mart) and start throwin’ them down like a boss!
To Make Egg Salad Like a Boss:
Sprinkle in Seasonings
- Everglades Seasoning
- Lemon Pepper
- Fresh Herbs (Dill, Parsley, Chives, Lemon Thyme)
- Cayenne Pepper or Red Pepper Flakes
- Smoked Paprika
- Celery Salt
- Ground Mustard
- Curry Powder
- Mrs. Dash’s Italian Herb Medley
Stir in a Few Mix-ins
- Chopped Bacon
- Chopped Vidalia, Yellow, or Purple Onions
- Green Onions (or Scallions)
- Black Olives
- Green Olives
- Chopped Pickles
- Toasted Walnuts or Pecans
- Roasted Sun Flower Seeds
- Sprouts or Micro-Greens
With a Dash Of:
- Greek Yogurt (you can sub all the mayo for this)
- Spicy Mayo
- Yellow Mustard
- Spicy or Brown Mustard
- Crystal Hot Sauce
Then Don’t Just Serve it on Bread, Try These:
- Pile it on Tomato Slices or Avocado Halves
- Lettuce Boats
- Add it to a BLT Sandwich
- Use it as a Salad Topper
- Roll it in Meat for a Low Carb Appetizer (Smoked Salmon, Deli Ham, etc.)
What about you, what are some ways that you’ve #bossedup your egg salad sandwiches? Share with me your favorite ideas and combinations in the comments below!
Fresh, hot, just out of the oven, buttered biscuits. I mean really, can life be any better than that? In the South, a biscuit is an accompaniment to any and all meals, not just breakfast. I usually prefer mine with just good ole’ salted butter as does my dad. But others insist on adding some sweet to it too. My mom and brother have always loved to drizzle warm cane syrup over theirs. My husband loves to load his with jelly or jams. No matter how you eat them, they are pretty irresistible.
I’ll give you a little background on biscuit making in my family. This style and method of making hand-rolled biscuits comes from Nanny, my father’s mother. Nanny has always been a fabulous cook. She has a knack for taking very simple and sometimes very little ingredients and turning them into a feast! Biscuits, cornbread, and hoe cake were the main types of breads you would find served on her table. Naturally, my dad became a biscuit fanatic.
The first time Dad brought Mom over to his parents’ house for supper, Pawpaw (grandpa) asked Mom, “So, do ya know how to make biscuits?” She said, “No sir.” My Pawpaw, known for having a rough around the edges type of humor then exclaimed, “BOY! What are you thinkin’, bringin’ home a girl that don’t know how to make no biscuits!?” My mom made it her mission from that moment on that she was going to have to learn how Nanny made her biscuits!
There’s just one problem with the way my Nanny cooks, she never uses recipes. In her raspy southern-draw high pitched voice, I can remember all the times she said, “Baby, I don’t know, you just add your flour, milk and oil together till it looks right”.
Thanks to my dad, we finally have a written recipe of Nanny’s biscuits. He went on a baking spree one weekend and sought to create the most perfect biscuit. To him, it’s one that’s crusty on the outside, but soft and moist on the inside. I still remember laughing so hard when the man that never cooks, brought me a piping hot buttery biscuit to try in bed at about 6:30 in the morning. “I’m a biscuit connoisseur now”, he said, “and I’ve found the perfect one”.
These biscuits really are a snap to make. They require no rolling pin or biscuit cutter although they will leave your hands a little messy. The dough is comprised of four simple ingredients: self-rising flour, oil, milk, and a key ingredient to getting that moisture; mayonnaise.
(Side Note: Nanny did not add mayonnaise to her biscuits because she is allergic to eggs; so if you want to skip it, adjust your flour accordingly.)
The best way I know how to describe a dollop is a heaping soup spoon full. Think about the size of a ping-pong ball in volume. So add your three little dollops of mayo…
Now stir that baby up and give it the rubber spatula test. You’ll want your spatula to be able to stay standing upright in your dough when you jiggle your bowl back and fourth. If it falls, sprinkle in a little more flour until you get it right. Remember, this dough is not to be rolled out with a pin so it will be wet and sticky.
Next you’ll need to prepare a second small bowl to shape your biscuits in. Pour in about 1-2 cups of self-rising flour. My mom always likes to use a bowl with a lid so she can reuse her biscuit shaping flour, since you will have some leftover.
Now, plop a spoon full of your dough straight into your flour. The more you make biscuits, the better you’ll be at estimating what size they will turn out to be. For starters, try using a one-third measuring cup as your scoop.
Once your dough is down, throw some of that biscuit-shaping flour on top of it, roll it around to catch more flour, and shape it in your hands to make the most perfect little hand-rolled biscuit you ever did see.
Then lay each of your biscuits down (touching each other) in a well greased pan, dish, baking sheet, cast iron skillet, or whatever you prefer. Look at you go, you little biscuit making machine…
Pop them in the oven, and just before they’re done take them out and brush on every southerner’s best kitchen accessory: butter. Return these beautiful mounds of glory back into the oven for just another minute or two so they can reach perfection – buttery, crusty goodness.
Finally, my friend you take these biscuits out, serve them hot and be prepared to have your socks knocked off – if you’re wearing any.
And while you are mistakenly thinking that you’ve died and gone to heaven, remember my story…don’t you ever be the one who brought home someone *or the one who went home with someone* who “don’t know how to make no biscuits!”