Tag Archives: recipe

A quiet, but enjoyable Christmas

Happy Boxing Day, as they might say in the UK!

We had a simple and quiet Christmas here at Casa Poolman. I am about half way through a week-and-a-half long holiday break. Within the University System, we bunch several holidays in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day and close down the institute for a week. I added a couple of  vacation days to that run, so I will have off from the Saturday before Christmas through New Year’s Day. I love it.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Poolman is not so lucky. This was the year she was scheduled to work 12-hour shifts both Christmas Eve and Christmas. It stinks, but what can you do?

I spent the first half of Tuesday putzin’ around and taking care of last-minute Christmas preps. My CCD class provided the readers for a short Christmas Pageant during the 4 o’clock Mass. Everyone we were expecting showed up, and more-or-less on time. Yea! Last year, we had one child who missed all but one practice, but we agreed to let him participate after his mother called up and practically begged us to do so. Then “mom” failed to deliver him on time. We rearranged the readers to cover his slot, but he came running up just as we were walking into church for the start of Mass. I don’t blame the child, but the mom taught us a lesson we won’t forget.

No such drama this year. Our students all did great. After constant encouragement, they all read loud enough that the congregation could actually here them. Yea again!

Our reader team.

Our reader team.

Mrs. P got home around 8 o’clock and we split a pizza for dinner. Very fancy.

On Christmas morning, I got up and drove about 45 minutes out in the country to my daughter’s in-laws. Brad and Annie are great. It was very nice of them to invite me out for Christmas brunch. Writer Princess is very lucky (and so are we) that she has such a great set of in-laws. They a house on several acres out in the boonies. Annie has taken to raising livestock. She has turkeys, chickens, “runner ducks,” guinea fowl and goats. The highlight of yesterday’s visit were two week-old baby goats.  Very cute!

"Well, Tom. We made it through another holiday. Whew!

“Well, Tom. We made it through another holiday. Whew!”

Inquisitive goat.

“So what did you get for me?”

Back home in the early afternoon and started preps for dinner. I planned on a boneless rib-eye roast, twice-baked potatoes, green bean bundles and creamed pearl onions (Mrs. P’s creation ahead of time.) Everything went well, even the green-bean bundles, which were a little more effort than I originally planned.

Mrs. P got home around 7:30 pm and I handed her a vodka and tonic. The rest of our dinner guests included son, girlfriend, daughter, son-in-law, and son-in-law’s brother. I planned to take a picture of the meal, but, frankly, I was so wrapped up in getting it all together when it was time to serve, I just forgot.

Some friends/neighbors walked down as we were finishing dinner. We all gathered in the family room to open presents and visit.

Gathered around

Gathered around

...visiting.

…visiting.

I wish Mrs. P had been around for more of the activities, but given the circumstances, it was a pretty nice holiday.

Bombs away!

I ran across this recipe courtesy of a friend on Facebook. Mrs. Poolman and I tried it out last weekend and, let me tell you, WOW! It was really great!

Chicken bombs

Chicken Bombs

*Makes 10 Chicken Bombs

5 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
5 jalapeño peppers
20 strips of bacon
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup grated cheddar
cheese ( use low fat if you wish)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup BBQ sauce (find something with low sugar)

Directions:
1.) Slice chicken breasts in half WIDTH wise (Each half will make 1 Chicken
Bomb). Place between two pieces of wax paper and pound to 1/4 inch
thickness. *A rolling pin also does the trick. Season each with salt a pepper.

2.) Slice jalapeños in half LENGTH wise and remove seeds, ribs, and the end
with the stem.

3.) In a small bowl, mix your softened  cream cheese with your grated colby
jack.

4.) Fill each jalapeño half with about 1 Tbs cheese mixture. (Sometimes I use
more)

5.) Place 1 jalapeño half at the end of each pounded breast piece. Roll over and together. *It doesn’t always close the way you think it should. No worries! The bacon will pull it all together.

6.) Wrap each breast piece with 2 slices of bacon. I do 1 at a time (obviously), and just sort of wrap tightly and tuck the ends of the bacon under the strips. It all comes together in the cooking process. I promise you do not need toothpicks!

7.) Preheat your grill to 350 degrees. Cook over indirect heat for 20-25 minutes; turning every 4-5 minutes. Baste chicken with BBQ sauce each time you turn it. Giving it one final basting right before it’s done. Chicken is ready when it reaches an internal temp of 165 degrees. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, pierce chicken with a fork. If juices run clear, it’s done!

Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Basting with BBQ sauce a few times during cooking. Baste once again when finished, and place under broil setting for a few
minutes so bacon can crisp.

A plate of spaghetti on a winter day

Our Sunday was all about running some errands, doing stuff around the house, a movie and making a big pot of spaghetti.

spaghetti 1

I make a decent spaghetti sauce, at least Mrs. P thinks so. When we were growing up in Wheeling, West Virginia, there was a neighborhood Italian restaurant, Figarettis. It was a classic Italian family restaurant. (I believe they are still in business but in a new location.) The family’s children went to school with us. Their sauce was so good, my mother was always trying to duplicate it. Her recipe is the basis for mine. The one unusual ingredient in the Figaretti sauce was anise. That’s the spice with a little liquorice taste you usually encounter in Italian sausage. I’m not a big liquorice fan, but just a hint of underlying flavor in the sauce makes a tremendous difference.

I start with Ragu, Prego or whatever other pre-made sauce is on sale and then go from there. I add a ton of garlic, and additional spices. The “secret ingredient” is sugar. It takes a little of the bite from the tomato sauce. Here is the basic recipe for a beginner.

BASIC SPAGHETTI

Brown a pound of ground beef and a pound of some Italian sausage together.  (Slice open the sausages and brown it along with the ground beef.)

Drain the fat

Add one jar of Ragu or Prego meatless spaghetti sauce, and a good handful of chopped onions and sliced mushrooms, as you will.

The key is in the spices.  Add…

  • At least two garlic cloves, either sliced thin or minced. Feel free to add more.
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Crushed hot pepper, as you wish.
  • A small amount of Anise, if you have it.
  • Salt to taste.

Simmer for about an hour (Or longer. The longer the better.).  When it is almost done, taste. If it is bitter, add a little sugar.  It will take the tang off the tomatoes and bring out the other flavors.

Enjoy!

An absent-minded priest and a moist turkey

We’re in the middle of a very nice four-day Thanksgiving weekend, at least for me, that is. This is Mrs. Poolman’s year to work the Thanksgiving holiday and to be off for Christmas. She was at the hospital  on Thursday and today (Saturday.)

With Mrs. P taking care of babies and both our children doing the day-side of the holiday with their husband’s and girlfriend’s families, I had a quiet day to myself.  I went to 9 o’clock Mass where I was scheduled to lector. That is usually an adventure, especially when Monsignor C is celebrating. I really like the Monsignor. He is a 70+ year old Irishman with a dry sense of humor. We get along very well. However, he tends to change things and not tell the other members of his team. On Thursday, we couldn’t find any copy of a “Prayers of the Faithful” for that date. When I asked Monsignor about it, he said, “Oh, they are in a special booklet. I’ll have to give them to you at the altar.”

Oh, great, that meant a “cold read.” That’s not usually a problem unless there are some difficult names in the petitions for the deceased, sick, etc. Then Monsignor decided to skip the Creed, which is normally my cue to go to the podium to read the Prayers. As it turned out, as I walked up to the altar, our other priest, Father John, met me half way and handed me the booklet. No problem, after all.

Actually, I have been doing the lectoring long enough that I can roll with the action pretty well. Just about everything that can go wrong has done so for me at one time or another. I do become a little concerned about some of our younger lectors, many of whom are some of my former CCD students who I have recruited and coached. They are significantly less confident about handling some of Monsignor’s curve-balls.

I spent the rest of the day hanging out, working on some photos from a friend’s daughter’s wedding I shot a couple of weeks ago and finishing preps for the Thanksgiving meal. My main responsibility was the turkey. At Mrs. P’s suggestion, I tried a radically different roasting technique. I have cooked holiday turkeys more times than I can count. Usually, I roast it covered with foil at 325 for about 4-5 hours,, uncovering for the last hour and periodically basting. I may never do that again. Here is a great method that produced a fantastic, very moist bird.

1. Prepare the bird as usual, seasoning it and placing an apple, celery and a bay leaf in the cavity.

2. Place in a covered roasting pan and put it into a cold oven.

3. Turn the oven to 450 degrees and when it pre-heats to that temperature (about 15 minutes) set your timer for one hour.

4. When the timer goes off, turn the oven off and just let it sit for five hours. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN!

I was a skeptic. I didn’t think it would work, but it sure did. Our turkey was a little over 15 pounds. You might need to adjust a little for a larger bird. I really don’t know. The key was the white meat was very moist, which I can’t say is always the case with my more traditional roasting technique.

Another advantage of this technique is that it would work very well to cook overnight.

The rest of the family came over in the evening and Mrs. P got home around 7:30 pm. So our holiday dinner was at 8:30 pm, but it was a great one anyway.

As easy as (blackberry) pie!

I know my faithful readers have been waiting with great anticipation for the results of my second effort at making a blackberry pie. I took another shot at it this past weekend, and the results were outstanding, if I do say so myself.

Blackberry Pie

Here is a recipe. As with anything I cook, it’s real easy.

What you’ll need.

  • One quart of blackberries (fresh or frozen*)
  • ½ to one cup sugar (depending on taste)
  • A pinch of salt
  • ½ cup of flour
  • A tablespoon of lemon or lime juice
  • One package (two pieces) pre-made pie crust dough
  • One tablespoon of butter

*The produce stand was out of fresh blackberries, so I used two 12 oz packages of frozen blackberries for my most recent pie. Thaw and drain well. If using fresh blackberries, rinse and also allow to drain well.

–Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

–Spray butter-based Pam on one pie pan.

–Press one of the dough pieces into the pan.

–Mix the blackberries, sugar, salt, lemon-juice and salt in a large mixing bowl.

–Spoon the mixture into the pie pan.

— Dot the top of the pie with small pieces of the butter.

–Cut the second piece of pie dough into narrow (1/2 inch) strips and create lattice topping. (See below.)

–Use a fork to press the top and bottom pieces together around the edge of the pan. Trim off an overhang with a knife.

–Bake at 450 degrees for ten minutes and then reduce heat to 350. Continue cooking for 30 additional minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the blackberry mixture is bubbling.

–Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Notes:

1.) Helpful hint to create a better lattice work topping than shown in the photo above. Lay out the pie all the strips going in one direction, but do not attach them to the edge of the pan. Then starting with the middle and working out to the sides, place the intersecting strips on the pie. Create the lattice effect by weaving the second layer over and under the stips of the original layer.

2.) The filling can easily spill over and make a mess in the bottom of your oven. When I turn the oven down to 350, I usually, place a piece of aluminum foil under the pie pan, on the rack below the one the pie sits on. If you do this, it will extend the baking time. Adjust accordingly.

My, oh my! What a pot pie!

Mrs. Poolman and I share separate, but similar bad childhood memories of pot pies. Both our mothers cooked (if you can call it that) and served the pre-made Banquet or Swanson pies. My recollection is of an aluminum foil mini-pie pan with only a top-crust and filled with nasty, oozing, yellow gravy, a few peas and carrots and maybe a little meat. The pot pies made those old-style TV dinners look like gourmet feasts. That experience left me with a deep seated aversion to pot pies – until recently.

In an effort to convert me, last winter, Mrs. P made a very good chicken pot pie. She constructed and baked it in a casserole-size baking dish. The filling was full of meat and the whole thing tasted great.

On Wednesday, it was my turn to make dinner, using some left-over grilled steak from earlier in the week. Usually, we will put the steak on a salad or make quesadillas or fajitas. I thought I would try something new.

How about a steak pie?

This was brand, new culinary territory for me. So you can imagine my excitement when it turned out really good. Here is what I did.

Steak Pie

What I used.

  • App. 1 lb (0r more) of cooked steak, sliced into small pieces.
  • One package of pre-made pie dough (2 pieces, top and bottom)
  • One onion – chopped
  • ½ stick butter or margarine
  • One “scoop” of flour
  • 2 cups of beef broth (bouillon crystals or cubes dissolved in hot water)
  • ½ cup of milk (because that was all that was in the carton) The milk is optional.
  • One small can of mushroom stems and pieces
  • App. one cup of leftover green beans (because I had them.)

 The Crust

In a small, ungreased casserole (8×8” or 7×9”) dish, spread one of the pie dough pieces, lining the bottom and sides. The pie dough is probably fitted for a round pie pan, so you’ll have to cut and patch to make it fit. Save the second piece for the top.

The Filling

In a large sauce pan, saute the chopped onion in the butter until the onion is soft.

Add the “scoop” (approximately two tablespoons) of flour to the onion-butter mixture. Mix well and allow it to cook for about a minute or two.

Add the beef broth/bouillon and milk and stir until it is a smooth gravy. Add the bouillon a little at a time, and adjust the amount according to the thickness of the gravy. You want it fairly thick.

The filling -- before adding the meat.

Add the meat and vegetables and mix well.

This is how much meat I had to work with.

Pour the mixture into the dough-lined casserole dish.

Before the top crust was added.

Spread the second dough piece over the top, once again, cutting and patching to completely cover the pie. Try to get the bottom and top pieces to meet and use a fork to crimp them together along the edge of the dish.

Ready for the oven.

Use a knife to put a couple of cross-shaped slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape during the baking. You may have to check on those “vents” during the baking. As the crust bakes, the holes may close up.

Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

...and ready to eat.

Note: I used green beans last night, because that is what I had in the refrigerator. You can add whatever vegetables you like, or skip the veggies all together.

Bon appetite!

End to procrastination

I got a call from my youngest sister late last week that gave me the nudge to finish up a project that I have been procrastinating about for months. Kel said that she was giving her copy of “my cookbook” to a young guy who works with her. She wanted to put in an order for another copy.

It all started back in 2001 when my daughter, Writer Princess, was moving into her first apartment. For the first time in her life, she could no longer rely on Mom and Dad or the college food plan to feed her. She asked me for some simple recipes.

What started as a few recipes ended up as a small cookbook, entitled “College Cooking: A Survival Manual.”  Subtitle: “A beginners guide to fending for yourself in the kitchen and living off of what you cook!”

It’s not really a cookbook. The recipes are all pretty simple. It really is intended to be a “start-up manual” for someone faced with cooking for themselves for the first time. It included some simple instructions, lists of necessary kitchen utensils, basic food stuffs you should always have on hand, etc. There are also some recipes, mostly such basics as baked chicken, spaghetti, chili, meatloaf, saute’d fish, and so on. .

It ran around 25 pages (8.5 x 11). I printed an initial dozen copies and have gone back and printed around 25 or so additional ones over the years. I have been meaning to print another run, but I wanted to update it first. Hence, the procrastination.

Well, today Mrs. Poolman had to work a Sunday shift, so I had the day on my own. I spent several hours this afternoon adding some recipes, including several that are included in this blog.

Chicken Enchiladas

I’ll get it proofed this week and send it off for its fourth printing…of about a dozen copies.

Chicken Enchiladas

We had chicken enchiladas last night, and as promised, here is the recipe. This recipe was stolen from a flier on the top of a can of El Paso green chiles and modified a little. It is simple, quick and delicious.

Notes:

This recipe is based on using one whole chicken. It will make two medium sized (9×13”) casseroles.  You can feed a fairly large group, or you can cook one and cover the other with aluminum foil and freeze to use another day.

Also, this recipe uses corn tortillas, not the flour kind. You can use the flour, but the corn variety works better with this. Like their cousins, you should wrap a bunch of the corn tortillas in a paper towel and warm in the microwave to soften them. They are a lot easier to use when they are soft.

What you will need:

  • One cooked chicken (I almost always buy a rotisserie chicken from the deli section of the grocery store!)
  • 1.5 lb (6 cups) of shredded cheese (any type – to your taste)
  • 1.5 cups of sour cream.
  • 2 or 3 (depending on taste) small cans of chopped green chiles
  • A package of small (six-inch) CORN tortillas
  • 2 14 oz (or one 28 oz) can of enchilada sauce (any flavor, but we prefer the green sauce)
  • A can of cooking spray

Preparation:

Remove the chicken from the bones and chop into small pieces. Place in large mixing bowl.

Add the sour cream, 2 cups of cheese and the two cans of chiles. Mix well.

Spray two casserole dishes with the cooking spray. Add a little enchilada sauce and spread around to coat the bottom of the casserole dish.

Place a spoonful of the chicken mixture into each tortilla. Wrap it up and place it with the folds “down” in the casserole dish.

Pour the rest of one can of sauce on top of the enchiladas.

Spread more cheese on top of the packed enchiladas. (Be sure to leave about half your cheese for the second casserole.)

Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with the cooking spray and cover the casseroles with the spray-side “down” (to prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil).

This will use up about half of your ingredients. Repeat the process for the second casserole.

Cook one dish in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour until it is hot and bubbly.

Place the other in the freezer and pull it out to eat in two weeks or give it to a neighbor. They’ll love you for it.

Politics, Hotel Indigo, Superbowl and a great chili

It’s been a few days since I’ve had the chance to sit down and actually write something. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot to write about.

I took a trip to Atlanta last week with my boss and our business officer to schmooze with politicians. This is an annual Chamber of Commerce “kiss up to the state legislature” event. We drove up one morning and spent the day tracking down various state legislators, shaking many hands and asking them not to forget about us (or, even worse, cut us out of the budget.) The day ended with a big seafood-barbecue feast with multiple open bars. I stuck to Diet Coke though. I say enough stupid things when I’m sober, I don’t need my tongue loosened when someone may actually be listening.

We stayed at a Hotel Indigo in midtown Atlanta. I had not stayed there before, although it is part of the Holiday Inn family. I usually stay in HI’s because I’m a member of their points program. In any case, the Hotel Indigo was nice, if somewhat different from your standard business hotel. It’s a smaller, “European style” (not that I’ve actually stayed in a hotel in Europe) hotel. The rooms were smaller, but quite stylish.

From the hotel Web site, but a pretty accurate depiction of my room.

The bathroom was very small. I could have handled my “business” while shaving and brushing my teeth if I had wanted to do so. Altogether though, I liked it, and I’ll be back.

On Sunday morning, Mrs. P and I did something we almost never do; we went out for a nice Sunday brunch. We should really do this more often. On a Sunday morning or mid-day, we may go to our favorite Mexican restaurant or to a breakfast place, but almost never to someplace where, for instance, you might actually think about ordering a mimosa or a Bloody Mary. We went to our favorite seafood restaurant. I ordered the shrimp and grits and was disappointed. It was good for what it was, but it was very mild and creamy. I definitely prefer it with a little kick to it. (See the recipe in the Food tab above.) Next time, I’ll stick with my favorite, fried shrimp.

Over the rest of the weekend, we ran errands and continued the clean up and clean out process around the house. We finally got all the boxes and extra furniture out of our family room.

To celebrate, we had a few folks over to watch the Superbowl. It wasn’t a big event, just some of our close friends. However, everyone brought food and we had enough to feed a small African country.

Mrs. P made here white bean chili, which is fantastic.

White Bean Chili

I have trouble getting my imagination and taste buds around a chicken-based “chili.” However, if I think of it as just a spicy, chicken based bean soup, it’s easier to handle.  The recipe comes straight from a Southern Living Cookbook and I’ve added it to the “Food” tab at the top of the page. Give it a shot. You will not be disappointed. Be sure to make sure you include the shredded jalapeno-jack cheese when you serve it. That is an essential step that is not to be omitted.

Shrimp ‘n Grits

By popular demand, I finally extracted the shrimp ‘n grits recipe from Mrs. Poolman. I have posted it under the “Food” page above.

So, Terri, how about that recipe for the ham, wild rice and cheese soup you wrote about last winter???  Fair is fair.