Category Archives: cooking

what I cooked today

I really Clarked it all up.

To Clark something up is to dream up an improbable fantasy situation for an event of special importance and then, when it doesn’t work out the way you fantasized, you do not accept the reality but put even more effort into it to try to achieve the fantasy at all costs until multiple disasters have transpired as unintended consequences of the overboard actions. The special event that would have probably been very enjoyable if left as was has now been ruined or at least made to be much less enjoyable than it would have been.

I have named this after Clark W. Griswold from the National Lampoon’s Vacation series of movies, of course. We’ve seen him do it to vacations and holidays. It probably would have been great until he tried to make it perfect. And now, it’s not exactly ruined, it’s just… all Clarked up.

I find myself guilty of this behavior frequently. So often, in fact, that I’ve thought of this expression for it. Common uses are as follows…
“I’m Clarking this whole day.”
“No, baby, I’m not gonna Clark it up this time.”
“Well, I’ve Clarked this whole situation beyond repair.”

Today, it was the special dinner I wanted to make for Terra’s birthday.
I decided to make her favorite – chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and green beans. I’ve never made chicken fried steak before. And I’ve never pan fried anything breaded that came out good. That should have stopped me. But, rather than back down to reasonable expectations, I wanted to give her a GREAT birthday. She even suggested we go out. But, no.

With that attitude, I had taken the first step in Clarking it all up.

What followed is typical of what I described above…
I waited until little more than an hour before dinner to read the recipe, realized this was going to be much more difficult than I thought and I didn’t even have the cookware to pull it off right. But, I had a dream and would not be discouraged by reality. My baby would not have to settle for anything less than my best.
All the pans didn’t even fit all at once on the stove. But, I tried to work with that.
Then there were fresh green beans. I don’t think I’ve ever even eaten anything but canned or frozen, let alone ever cooked them. When I saw the trouble I was in, I should have just cooked them in water. But, no, it’s my true love’s birthday! I said I’d sautee fresh green beans in butter and garlic and that’s what I’m gonna do! Wait, I don’t have another pan. Well, I’ll use a pot. It doesn’t fit on the stove because it’s already too crowded? Rubbish, I’ll make it work somehow.
Btw, she also has probably never eaten fresh either. And she likes the canned or frozen. Especially the way I always make them. What she thought of as best wasn’t good enough for me in full Clark W. Griswold mode.

Et cetera, et cetera…

I’m still kind of clueless about cooking and this was one of my most ambitious meals I’ve ever tried. (I’m not even gonna talk about the gravy – also a first attempt ever.) The idea of trying such a feat FOR A SPECIAL OCCASION should have sounded like a bad idea. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that I should cook what I am good at for special occasions. I should try new recipes on a regular day. Especially when I’ve never successfully cooked anything similar.

Dinner wasn’t totally ruined. I did a lot of angry yelling at myself and the food and the grease splatters and burned food and stuff stuck in the pan. So, the mood wasn’t exactly festive when I finally served it. And it was better than just edible. But, it wasn’t great. It wasn’t worth the huge greasy kitchen mess I now have to clean up. It wasn’t a total disaster. It was just… all Clarked up.

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Baked chicken, chiles, matos, etc. on corn tortillas

If I’d known how good this would turn out (it was a thrown together thing), I’d have taken better notes of amounts and such. So, this post will be mainly for my own future reference…

I laid corn tortillas in the bottom of a 4qt casserole (six stacks of two, overlapped).
I drained a package (a pound?) of Young Guns brand mild green chiles (got it at Albertsons), two cans of diced fire roasted tomatoes, and then poured that in.
I diced a whole yellow onion and added that.
Then, I laid thin chicken tenderloins over all that and poured a jar of 505 brand green chile sauce over it.
I then generously sprinkled chili powder, garlic powder, and cumin.
Finally, I liberally topped it with Walmart Fiesta Blend cheese.

I covered it with foil and baked it at 400 for what must have been an hour.

It was tha bomb.
And I must make it for guests.

Btw, wine is a rarity anymore but I served it with something new we found…


… and the pairing was extraordinary!

Baked burritos

This is great for feeding many people, feeding a few people a few times, or to freeze to have on hand.


Simple as it sounds…

Firstly, I boil the chicken, drain it, shred it, season it, throw it back in the pot.
Then, I add whatever sounds good – diced tomatoes, green chiles, corn, black beans, pinto beans, onion, whatevs – and let that simmer a while.
Showing here…


If I accidentally make it too liquidy, I just add some brown rice and cover it on low for a half hour or so. Or, I might add precooked rice anyway, just to stretch it further.

Put some on a flour tortilla, add some shredded cheese, some bell peppers, roll it up, put it on a cookie sheet.
Bake 25 mins or so @ 400.

They’re crunchy and amazing.
The mix the way I make it is pretty mild for my culinary constituency but I add some crushed red pepper to the ones I roll for myself.

I throw the mix in the fridge and roll ’em up the next night for leftovers or even easy lunch. Also, I put some in a gallon freezer bag, flattened, in the freezer for a quick-thaw emergency meal. All you need is cheese or whatever toppings and, here in New Mexico, we always have tortillas on hand :)

We call it Mexi-fish


This is one I’ve been making for awhile but have recently changed a couple things. It’s maybe the simplest thing I make and it’s great so results-to-effort ratio is high :) I thought this up myself a few years ago but make no claim to originality. There may well be better recipes out there.

First, I get some brown rice started cooking. I usually add nothing more than salt – the seasoning for this dish is all in the fish.

Then, I make a salad/relish/hmm of bell peppers, cucumber, onion, tomato, cilantro, whatever sounds good. Sometimes I add some lemon or lime juice. Then I stick that in the freezer.
(If I’m really lazy, I use store bought pico de gallo instead.)

I lay some tilapia filets out on a foiled baking sheet and brush with garlic butter.
Then I cover them with a lot of  seasonings… S&P, cumin, chili powder, etc.. I used to put all that in the butter but found it’s better to put it on top.
10mins later at 400 and they’re ready so I time it with the rice being done.

I put a bed of rice on the plate, lay the fish on top, cover with vegetables and put some chips on the side. I’ve been loving the Over The Border Cafe Style tortilla chips with this rather than lighter, crispier style chips.

I’ve even postulated that it would make a great party food – skip the rice, crumble up the fish, stir it up and then just scoop it up with tortilla chips :)

Chicken, broccoli, stuffing casserole

I cooked a pound or more of chicken breast tenders in a pan with olive oil, garlic, etc. – nothing exotic.
I added about an equal amount of broccoli (steamed in the microwave) and heated it all together with a lid for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, I was preparing some cornbread stuffing. I made too much – one box (7ish oz?) probably would have been enough.
I made it with onion and celery.

Finally, I mixed condensed cream of chicken soup into the chicken & broccoli mixture until it was saucy but not stew.

In a 4qt casserole, I spread the chicken/broccoli/sauce mixture then some (not a lot) cheddar cheese and finally some stuffing/onion/celery mixture on top – not a solid layer, it’s easy to have too much.

30mins @ 375 uncovered melted the cheese, got the sauce bubbling, and just the right crunchiness for the stuffing.

I really liked it but it’s not very substantial and I don’t know what side would be appropriate.

Crockpot Southwest Chicken Soup

Terra and I loved this.
I served it with flour tortillas but should have done tortilla chips instead.
The only modifications I did were I didn’t add the paprika (didn’t have any) and I used red kidney beans instead of black and pinto. I bought them but accidentally used them in a recipe the other day that I was supposed to use the kidney beans in :P

1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can yellow corn, drained OR 1½ cups frozen corn
8oz tomato sauce
28oz diced tomatoes
1 can fat-free chicken broth, reduced sodium
4oz can green chilis
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts – frozen is fine
1 tbsp chili powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp oregano
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp crushed red pepper
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

As early as the night before combine all ingredients in a large crockpot. Stir well.

When ready, cook on low heat for 5-6 hours.*

Thirty minutes before serving pull chicken from the mixture, shred, and return to crockpot.

Chicken & stuffing casserole

I loved this…
Another unhealthy comfort food Pinterest recipe…

First, I made a box of Stove Top stuffing.

Then I diced up some uncooked chicken breasts – it was less than two pounds.

I combined about a can and a half of condensed cream of chicken soup and almost a cup of milk and stirred it until it was smooth.
Then, I added a cup of mozzarella cheese and stirred that in.

I put the chicken in a 4qt casserole and added the sauce and mixed it all up.

I spread almost another cup of cheese and covered it with the stuffing.

30mins @ 375

Served with broccoli and I thought it was amazing. My culinary constituency was less impressed.

Stuffed Pepper Casserole

Another Pinterest recipe that turned out great…

I browned 2lbs of burger, drained, and then added 4 green peppers cut into big chunks, garlic, onion powder, s&p, etc., and heated that until the peppers were getting soft.

I then mixed that up with 4 cups cooked brown rice, 48oz pasta sauce (we prefer Classico), and 2 cups mozzarella.

I packed all that into a 4qt casserole and spread another 2 cups of mozzarella on top.

Baked 1 hour at 350 and served with garlic bread.

Taco Tater Tot Casserole

Another Pinterest recipe…

It was a huge hit.

Firstly, I cooked and drained 2lbs of burger.

Then, I added…

a large chopped up onion
Granulated garlic
16oz frozen corn
8oz hot green chiles
2 packets of taco seasoning

And heated it all up together.

In a large bowl, I added the mixture to 2lbs frozen tater tots and about 1.5lbs shredded Mexican cheese and mixed it all up.

I poured about half a can of enchilada sauce in a 4qt casserole and spread it around.

Then I added the whole mixture and leveled it.
Then, pour another can and a half of enchilada sauce over it.

Baked 45mins at 375.

Finally, I poured another half pound of cheese on top and baked it another 10 mins until the cheese was all melted.

Served with tortilla chips.