Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sometimes I pretend I'm Egyptian: Macaroni Béchamel

Today was very productive. I did a lot of things. One thing I did not do was go grocery shopping. I poked around to see what I could make with stuff I already had, and I decided to make Macaroni Béchamel. I somehow forgot that milk is a key ingredient in béchamel sauce, but luckily the roomie had exactly 2 cups of milk left. Stolen!

Macaroni Béchamel is an Egyptian dish similar to Greek Pastitsio: seasoned meat between two layers of noodles, topped with Béchamel sauce. My boyfriend is Egyptian and this was one of the first Egyptian dishes I ever tried...I started making it myself because his mom couldn't keep up with my macaroni béchamel cravings. I'm sure my method is not at all traditional, but I like it!

1 box Penne pasta
1lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk, room temperature


Prepare pasta according to directions on package. Preheat oven to 350. Preheat a medium pan.

  Add beef and onions to hot pan.  Cook until onions soften and meat is cooked through. Drain and return to pan.

Season with pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, to taste (I use about 1 tsp of each)

PS how cute are my Halloween towels?

To Make Bechamel (because apparently I didn't take any pictures...maybe I should have focused less on my Halloween towels)
Melt butter over medium heat.
Whisk in flour and cook for about 2 minutes
Add milk and whisk until there are no lumps
Season with salt and pepper, to taste
Season with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, to taste (I use about 1 tsp of nutmeg and allspice and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon)

Mix a heaping tablespoon of béchamel sauce into meat and onions

Layer ingredients in pan: noodles, meat, more noodles. Top with remaining béchamel sauce.

 Cook at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until top is brown and edges are bubbly

This is a heavy, dense dish. This is by no means diet food. It is delicious.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Chicken Soup and Buffalo Joes

So the boyfriend has been hearing about all of my buffalo chicken adventures, but he hasn't had the opportunity to taste any of my creations because he lives a few hours away from me. I was visiting him this weekend and I decided to make him a few things that he can eat throughout the week. He's an anatomy instructor at the University of Illinois AND at a community college so he runs back and forth between campuses all day and usually just ends up grabbing fast food or something. So sad.

He requested buffalo chicken, but his oven was broken so I was pretty limited. He wanted something quick, easy, and mobile so I decided to make it Sloppy Joes style and he can pile it in a bun and eat on the go. I started calling them Buffalo Joes. I assume the name and idea already exists somewhere else on the internet, if not: dibs.

Buffalo Joes

3 Chicken Breasts, poached and shredded
1-2 Cups hot sauce
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium bell peppers, diced
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
Hamburger Buns


While the chicken is poaching, combine onions, peppers, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a pre-heated pan. 
Cook until just softened. I cooked until the onions started to caramelize because the boyfriend loves grilled onions so I wanted to add that taste into the mix.


Combine shredded chicken with hot sauce. (shout out to the bf for taking over the chicken shredding duties when my delicate lady hands got tired!)

Ideally, you would add the buffalo chicken to the onions and peppers and cook it together for a couple of minutes, but his biggest pan barely fit the onions and peppers so I just mixed it in a big plastic container.

Pile it on a bun and enjoy! Some blue cheese crumbles or cheddar might be a nice addition, if you're so inclined.

Chicken Noodle Soup

The boyfriend also requested some of my "famous chicken soup." There's nothing really famous about it, especially because his oven is broken so I had to use rotisserie chicken instead of making my own. It's basic chicken noodle soup. 

Rotisserie Chicken (store-bought or make it yourself!)
64 Ounces Chicken Stock (again, store-bought or homemade)
1 bag of carrots, washed and chopped
1 bag of celery, washed and chopped
1 large onion, diced
1 large bag of egg noodles
Garlic Powder


Add stock and vegetables to a large pot. Add chicken and bring to a simmer. Season to taste. Add noodles and simmer until noodles are cooked.


The boyfriend likes to squeeze a lime wedge over his soup. I've never done it, but if you enjoy citrus it's probably a refreshing addition!

If you want to play with the wishbone, make sure you dry it out first. I just set it on the surface of the stove while the soup is heating.

Okay, after this I PROMISE to take a break from buffalo chicken recipes.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Hi Friends!

I know I've been MIA, but my life gets back on track TODAY because my friends in Pawnee will finally return to my life.

My weekends have been busy so I haven't really had time to cook anything impressive recently, plus I'm trying to find recipes that do not include buffalo chicken. It's a tall task but I'm up to it. Now all I have to do is go grocery shopping (which I HATE) and hunker down in the kitchen.

Spoiler Alert: It's been cooling down in Chicagoland so my good friend, the crockpot, will be making many appearances soon. I AM SO EXCITED. I love my crockpot. I have 10 recipes that I plan on making and 5 of them are slow cooker recipes. I'm LITERALLY shaking with excitement.

Double Spoiler Alert: I have at least SIX Parks and Recreation "theme meals" on the horizon. I don't have cable but NBC is awesomely perfect so I can watch episodes online the day after they air. Translation: most fall/winter Fridays will consist of me coming home from work, putting on some PJS, cooking a theme meal, and then eating said theme meal WHILE WATCHING Parks and Rec. Yep. I'm the coolest person I know.

Stay Tuned!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Are You Ready For Some...Buffalo Chicken Dip?!?

It appears as though the boyfriend was right...I'm eating entirely too much buffalo chicken.

"Well I guess we don't see our patterns until they're all laid out in front of us..." -Dean Craig Pelton


So sports in Chicago are kind of a big deal (read: a huge deal) and a Bears/Packers game is like the Oscars times the Grammys plus the Super Bowl. A Week 2 Thursday Night Bears@Lambeau game = jersey day and potluck at work, so I decided to bring buffalo chicken dip. I was inspired by this recipe that I found on Pinterest. I like the idea of it, but I'm not a fan of layered dips where all of the ingredients are so segmented. What if your chip breaks before you get to the bottom layer?! Too risky.

No, I mixed everything together and plopped it in a baking dish because I'm a classy lady, and nothing is classier than the word "plopped." I also didn't want to drizzle ranch on top before baking because I feel like the ranch would get crusty. Plus, since I'm bringing this to work and will have to reheat it (somehow...) I don't want to double bake the ranch. My solution: ranch packet (dried herbs and ranch flavoring)! But I didn't use it because I forgot. If you choose to use a ranch packet, PLEASE only use half because even a cursory glance at the ingredients is enough to make you retain water (First ingredient: Maltodextrin. Easily digested as glucose. That's sugar, people! Also, 135mg of sodium in a 1/2 teaspoon!?!) But I digress...

8oz cream cheese, softened
3 cups shredded buffalo chicken
[1 packet dry ranch dressing mix]
1 cup Mexican blend or cheddar cheese
Hot sauce 
Chips and Veggies to dip

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. 

Combine cream cheese [and 1/2 of the ranch mix packet, if you choose to use it]. Add chicken and cheese. 

Mix well and spread in a baking dish. 

Drizzle with more hot sauce. Bake for 20 minutes or until top is light brown and bubbly.

It looked pretty ugly in that picture, so I decorated it with some broccoli slaw mix. Some might say "garnished" but I'm no snob...I decorate my dishes.

I didn't want to go to the grocery store, so I stole tortilla chips from my roommate to bring to work as dippers, but I'm sure carrots, celery, or pita chips would be delicious as well!

I'll let you know how the dip goes over at work and...


Monday, September 10, 2012

"What's With You and Buffalo Chicken Lately?" : Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Peppers

The boyfriend asked me that recently: "What's with you and buffalo chicken?" It's a fair question; I've been making  tons of stuff with buffalo chicken lately. But it's so easy to make and great to have on hand because it's so versatile and relatively healthy (just poached chicken and hot sauce!). I had 2 cups of shredded buffalo chicken left over from another recipe and I was trying to decide to do with it when I remembered that I had a few green peppers that needed to be used. I ate stuffed peppers a lot growing up, but my mom always made them the same way. I decided to take that method and make a few changes to accommodate my buffalo chicken.

2 cups cooked brown rice (1/2 cup dry will yield about 2 cups cooked)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups shredded buffalo chicken (poach 3 chicken breasts, shred, mix in hot sauce to taste)
2 cups broccoli or cabbage slaw
3 or 4 medium/large bell peppers

1 small onion, grated
3-4 tbsp cider or balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp hot sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees.

 Preheat olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add garlic and onions and cook for about 20 minutes until onion is soft and translucent.

 While the onions are cooking, prepare your peppers. I cut off the tops and removed the ribs and seeds. You could also cut them in half top-to-bottom and hollow them out to make little boats.

When the onions are soft, add chicken and rice. Mix well and remove from heat. Add slaw mix and set chicken mixture aside.

Now I would like to welcome you to the "Tracy Tossed Random Things in a Pot" portion of this post:     
Start making your glaze by grating your other onion directly into a saucepan 
(yummm onion juice...bonus tip: add a tablespoon of this to your next batch of Bloody Mary's)

 Add the rest of your ingredients to the grated onion and whisk well. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn heat to medium-low and let your glaze reduce.

Place peppers in a baking dish and fill with the chicken mixture. Top with your glaze and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until peppers start to soften.

This is a delicious and filling meal that can be adapted to suit your tastes. I made up the glaze as I went along, working out the ratios based on my taste. A glaze isn't really necessary, but I like sauce so I went for it. You only live once, right?

**Note** It is important to use fresh rice for this because it acts as a binder. Using moist, fluffy rice ensures that your chicken mixture stays together and won't crumble as soon as you cut into your pepper.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Beer Cheese Dip...Yummm

Remember that I’m obsessed with dip? Well I recently made Buffalo Chicken Rolls again, and I decided that they would be delicious dipped in a Beer and Cheese dip that a friend brought to a party earlier this summer. I demanded the recipe, she obliged. The best part about this recipe is that is requires about ½ bottle of beer. What you choose to do with the rest is really up to you (I chose to drink mine.) 

This dip is seriously so easy to make that I only took a picture of the end result.

1 block cream cheese, softened
1 bottle of beer (a dark beer is best, you want to taste it!)
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped green onions

Whip together the softened cream cheese and half of the beer, so it gets light and fluffy. Add cheese and onions. Mix. Eat.

Okay, so maybe you should taste it and see if you want to add more beer, but as the dip sits the beer flavor gets a little bit stronger so practice restraint.

I dipped my buffalo rolls in this. It was amazing. Pita chips, tortilla chips, celery, your hand, pretzels, carrots…really anything would be delicious dipped in this.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Chicken Fried Rice

Fried rice is a filling and super affordable way to use up leftovers or to save for a week of lunches (which is what I did). It's so versatile that you can pretty much change any aspect of this recipe (though I recommend keeping the rice) and it will still be delicious. I used brown rice because I always have it on hand and it bumps up the nutritional value. The texture is a little bit different from white rice, but with everything else going on, you won't even notice! My favorite part of fried rice is the soft, sweet onion with the little caramelized bits so I used a HUGE onion in this recipe. I also opted to add chicken, carrots, and peas.

3-4 Cups cooked rice (day old rice works best because it's drier and less fluffy)
2-3 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 medium to large onion, diced
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup frozen carrots, thawed
2 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp sesame oil
1/4-1/2 cup soy sauce


Assemble Ingredients

 I made this rice the day before so it would be ready to use!

 Pre-heat a large pan over medium-high heat; add olive oil. Once olive oil starts to "ripple" add chicken.

 Once chicken is cooked and lightly browned, add 2 tbsp of sesame oil, onions and garlic. The sesame oil is what makes this rice taste authentic and your whole kitchen will smell wonderful instantly!

 Once onions are caramelized, add the last tablespoon of sesame oil and mix in peas and carrots

 Once peas and carrots are soft (it should only take a minute) add two whole eggs (unscrambled!) in the center of your pan. Let the eggs set up for a couple of seconds then quickly scramble and distribute throughout the meat and veggies.

It moves pretty quickly from this point, so I couldn't take anymore pictures: Once the egg is mixed in, add rice and soy sauce and mix well!
I had the perfect amount for my container plus my mug to take to work the next day!

This is a super basic recipe and the variations are practically endless.

If you are using a vegetable with the tendency to get mushy (I'm looking at you, peas and carrots) I recommend using frozen instead of fresh, especially if you plan on reheating.

 I'd love to know some of your favorite variations...I'm always looking to change things up!