Tag Archives: Velveeta

SLOW COOKER CHICKEN SPAGHETTI

Our stove is still unrepaired so I continue using my daughter’s slow cooker. I hope that she doesn’t ask for it back any time soon as we’re still uncertain about how much longer the stove will be out of commission.  The rotisserie chicken for Sunday dinner turned out well. I had done two chickens so there were lots of leftovers for us and for Carol. I tried to think of how I could use the chicken in some slow cooker recipe. Soup immediately came to mind, but it seemed too hot outside for soup. I couldn’t figure out how to make chicken pot pie or chicken and dumplings without a stove. Old-fashioned chicken spaghetti sounded like a good option. We ate chicken spaghetti at the East Texas farm for as far back as I can remember. The recipe was a treasure of Susan’s mother and included a generous amount of Velveeta. I suspect the original recipe came from a Velveeta box and that it has been copied onto 3 x 5 cards in many families. This is not the authentic recipe. I used sharp Cheddar instead of Velveeta. I also wound up cleaning out the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator along with using up all of the leftover chicken.  Since the leftover chicken had been topped with garlic butter, I did not add garlic, but you could if you like. The slow cooker was the perfect utensil for the project.

RECIPE

Slow Cooker Chicken Spaghetti

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 4 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • leftover roasted chicken, bones and skin removed, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 4 cups)
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Sweat onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes with slow cooker set on High. Add pepper, celery, and optional garlic. Cook for another 10 minutes. Then add chicken stock and cook for 1 hour or until the vegetables are tender.
  2. Break the spaghetti into pieces that will fit into the slow cooker and stir into the pot. Cook for 20 minutes on High or until the spaghetti is just al dente.
  3. Reduce the heat to Low. Stir in the grated cheese until it is melted. Add the chicken and cook just long enough to warm it thoroughly. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

12 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes

CHICKEN SPAGHETTI FOR ONE

When my wife is away for a while, I always bounce around the house at loose ends. One of my main challenges is to decide what to eat. Sometimes I will go to a restaurant, but feeling comfortable at a table for one is always a problem. Sometimes I buy a bunch of frozen dinners with the misguided, maybe even delusional, notion that I can lose some weight during Susan’s absence. The other alternative, cooking for one, is neither easy nor appealing. Still, this time I decided to cook something fairly simple that could be eaten as leftovers.

I had bought a chicken breast during my planning for meals for Susan’s trip, but I wound up not using it. So, needing to cook the chicken, I settled on a family favorite that could be scaled back from the usual crowd-pleaser.

When Susan’s mother and father were living on their East Texas farm, the many siblings and their children would often visit. The old-fashioned Southern comfort food, chicken spaghetti, was on the list of must-cook favorites. Mom Mom would often comply by cooking up a big batch. Her version included boiling a whole chicken to get a lot of chicken broth and shredded chicken. The recipe also called for Velveeta or American cheese. The finished dish fed a houseful of relatives.

For my home-alone effort, I wound up paring down the recipe and substituting ingredients including mild cheddar cheese for Velveeta.  I’m sure my friend, Jim, would want to add green chiles, and that would be good, too. It was fairly easy to make, and there was enough left over from the first dinner for the next night. It tasted good, but I am anxious for Susan’s return.

RECIPE

Mom Mom’s Chicken Spaghetti For One

Ingredients

  • boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 scallions including green tops, sliced
  • ½ green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 ounces mild cheddar cheese + more for topping
  • 1/3 pound dry spaghetti
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. In a large pot, cover the chicken with chicken stock and bring to the boil. Lower heat to low boil and cook for 3o minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and reserve the broth.
  2. With two forks, shred the chicken and set aside.
  3. Return the broth to the boil and stir in the scallions, peppers, and mushrooms. Simmer for 10 minutes until the vegetables are cooked but still crunchy.
  4. In the meantime, make a blonde roux by combining the butter and flour in a small saucepan over medium low heat. As the butter melts, stir until  they form a smooth paste. Cook for another 2-3 minutes to get rid of any raw flour taste. The roux should be smooth and not browned. Pour in a few tablespoons of the stock mixture, stirring at the same time. Then add the tempered roux back to the broth. (This should prevent lumps)
  5. Add the grated cheese and shredded chicken to the broth mixture and simmer for 10 minutes until everything is heated through.
  6. While the broth and chicken are simmering, cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water until tender, about 10-12 minutes. With tongs, transfer the cooked spaghetti to the hot broth mixture and stir gently until well combined. If needed, use some of the cooking liquid to thin the broth. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  7. Ladle the mixture into a serving bowl making sure to include chicken, spaghetti, vegetables, and broth. Sprinkle with additional grated cheese and serve immediately. Enough for one with leftovers for a second meal.

14 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes

QUESO FUNDIDO (MELTED CHEESE)/QUESO FLAMEADO (FLAMED CHEESE)

 

This is one of the easiest recipes around, but it is also easy to mess up. When it is done properly it cam be ethereal. The first time I ever had it was some thirty years ago in Tlaquepaque, Mexico, a small town filled with artisans on the outskirts of Guadalajara. We had taken our children and one of their friends on a family vacation to the Mexican west coast, and this was to be our day of tourist shopping. The array of handmade goods was overwhelming. There were weavings, pottery, jewelry, worked silver, paper flowers, hand-made furniture, and the requisite “onyx” chess sets.

After a full morning of going from one vendor’s stall to another, everyone was ready for lunch. We chose a huge open air restaurant, partly because there were enough vacant seats for all of us.

The first thing we ordered was queso fundido and freshly made corn tortillas to snack on with drinks until our main dishes came. Dipping browned and molten cheese out of a dish and heaping it on a warm tortilla was a treat for all of us. There was crumbled crisp chorizo on top, but no chiles and no spice. It was just plain good eating.  We ate quickly, and that was a good thing. When queso fundido cools off, it can set up into a solid chunk of cheese.

Since then, I have enjoyed queso fundido, aka queso flameado in many places along the US-Mexico Border. Most of those versions have been good, but none as good as that in Tlaquepaque. The dish is not to be confused with another stalwart, chile con queso. In its traditional form, that dish includes melted cheese and roasted green chiles. Neither queso fundido nor chile con queso is to be confused with versions you are likely to see in fast-food Mexican restaurants: Ro-Tel mixed with melted Velveeta, or worse, Cheez Whiz mixed with bottled taco sauce.

When you make your own queso fundido, use authentic asadero cheese if you can find it, Mexican chorizo of the best quality, and corn tortillas that you make yourself.None of that is really very hard. If you can’t find asadero cheese, any yellow melting cheese like Monterey jack, American Muenster, or mozzarella will do.

Serve with your favorite salsa or even guacamole or both.

RECIPE

Queso Fundido

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces asadero cheese, coarsely grated
  • ¼ pound Mexican (not Spanish) chorizo, crumbled and lightly browned

Method

  1. Heat a shallow baking dish, about 9 inches across, in the middle of an oven preheated to 375°F for about 5 minutes or until hot.
  2. Remove the heated dish from the oven. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly in the dish. Top with chorizo, and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and lightly browned.
  3. Remove from the oven. Set on a heat-resistant surface. Serve immediately with warm fresh corn tortillas and spoons for dipping the melted cheese.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Travel

BOXED MACARONI DINNER INCOGNITO

Some time ago I wrote about James Kraft and his invention of Velveeta processed cheese food. His small company morphed into a giant food manufacturer that has been responsible for some of the inventions that have made American cuisine what it is. Those inventions include Miracle Whip salad dressing, Cheez Whiz, Parkay margarine,  and arguably the most famous of all, the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner that came into being in 1937.

Since then, there is probably not a single American child who has not had boxed macaroni and cheese. In fact, in our family it is a child’s favorite that is often preferred to Mom’s carefully crafted (no pun intended) macaroni and cheese made from the finest ingredients. The good news is that children’s tastes change as they grow older.

Recognizing the appeal of boxed macaroni and cheese dinners with kids, some time back when we were watching over some of our grandchildren for several days, I bought a box but wound up not using it. It came home with us and has been residing in our pantry for awhile (It is virtually indestructible and will probably last forever, along with my box of Velveeta). It has become a bit of an embarrassment, so when I was reorganizing the pantry a while back, I decided to use it with the sub-plot of disguising it so much that it would fool an adult.

Well, it turned out to be pretty well disguised, but sorry to say, you will not be fooled. Still it was a pleasant diversion and something that went ok with soy-sauce-and-lemon-vinaigrette-braised flounder.

 

RECIPE

Boxed Macaroni Dinner Incognito

Ingredients

  • 1 7.25-ounce package of Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner
  • 1 10-ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon Pernod (optional)
  • 5 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (doesn’t need to be EVOO)
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup panko
  • 1 ounce Parmesan, grated
  • butter to dot the top of the casserole

Method

  1. Prepare the macaroni and cheese dinner according to instructions on the box. Pour the finished dinner into a bowl and set aside.
  2. With your hands, squeeze as much water out of the thawed spinach as you can. Chop finely.
  3. Saute the mushrooms over medium heat in the olive oil. Drain.
  4. Combine the spinach and mushrooms with the prepared dinner. Stir in Pernod to your taste, but be careful as it can be overpowering if used too liberally)
  5. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper
  6. Top with panko and grated Parmesan. Dot with butter.
  7. Bake in the middle of a 350° F (177° C) oven for 40 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbling. Serve.

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes

CHUNK O’CHEESE BREAD

One of our family’s favorite breads is Chunk o’Cheese.  The original recipe was developed by Mrs. Richard W. Ojakangas from Duluth, Minnesota. With it she won Second Grand Prize in the ninth annual Pillsbury Grand National Bake-Off. The recipe was published in Best of the Bake-Off Collection, Book Publishing Industries, Inc., 1959, page 21. Since then, the recipe has been reprinted numerous times in various cookbooks and recipe collections as well as on the internet.

Chunk o'cheese loaves fresh out of the oven

Chunk o’cheese loaves fresh out of the oven

During a recent visit to Los Angeles, I made the bread with my grandson, who had a great time pushing the little chunks of cheese into the dough. That is a very important step, because cheese on the surface of the dough melts in the oven. It can make a big mess. For that reason, be sure to line your baking pans with aluminum foil Also be sure to remove the foil from the finished loaves while they are still cooling. Otherwise you will wind up with pieces of aluminum foil stuck in the cracks of the firmed-up bread.

All it needs is some butter

All it needs is some butter

The basic recipe is really the very old-time American classic, anadama bread, but the cheese sets it apart.  The original recipe called for American cheese. (That and Velveeta were the kinds of cheese found in most American kitchens in the 1950s.) I prefer to use sharp Cheddar, but you can choose your favorite so long as it melts easily. Monterey jack, Muenster, Swiss, mozzarella, or provolone will also work. You can even try a mixture of cheeses. I have also added a little whole wheat flour to make the loaf even more flavorful and crunchy.

RECIPE

Chunk o’Cheese Bread

Ingredients

  • 2¼ cups lukewarm water (110°F)
  • ½ cup cornmeal + more for shaping loaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons butter or vegetable shortening
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 4½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound cheddar cheese, cut into ¼ to ½ inch cubes

Method

  1. In a 2 quart saucepan, combine 1 3/4 cups of the warm water, cornmeal, and salt. Stir until smooth. Then place over medium heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Continue to stir until thickened, about 5 minutes after it comes to the boil. Remove from the heat.
  2. Stir in molasses and butter or shortening. Cool to lukewarm.
  3. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the remaining ½ cup of warm water. Add the cornmeal mixture and blend thoroughly.
  4. Stir in the whole wheat flour until well combined. Then, one cup at a time, stir in 3½ cups of the all-purpose flour to form a sticky dough.
  5. Spread the remaining 1 cup of flour onto a clean work surface. Place the dough on the flour and knead until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic.
  6. Return the dough to the washed, dried, and greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean cloth, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in volume.
  7. Turn the risen dough onto a work surface sprinkled with cornmeal, and work the cheese cubes into the dough by flattening the dough, sprinkling with about ¼ of the cubes, and folding over the dough, then repeating the process until all of the cheese cubes are incorporated.  Make sure that all of the cheese cubes are covered.
  8. Divide the dough into two equal pieces.
  9. Shape into two round loaves. Place in two 8 or 9 inch cake pans tightly lined with well-greased aluminum foil. Make sure the cheese cubes are well covered. Otherwise they will melt during baking and make cleanup difficult.  Cover the shaped loaves with a clean cloth and let rise until doubled.
  10. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 1 hour. Test for doneness.  When the loaves are baked, remove from the oven and cool in the pans for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Remove any bits of aluminum foil that cling to the loaves while they are still warm. Otherwise you will have a hard time removing the foil.
  11. Cool completely before slicing. although you will be tempted to try an early sample.

7 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes

GOODBYE TEXAS – EAST TEXAS CASSEROLE

We recently had a wonderful family gathering with our children (their spouses didn’t attend) and some of our grandchildren. My wife’s family has had a beautiful farm in East Texas for over fifty years. Our children had spent many times during their growing-up years there, enjoying swimming, fishing, hiking. horse riding, and just generally having a good time. Now, because we all lived so far away and because travel to the fairly remote place was difficult and expensive, we decided to sell the farm. After we had accepted an offer on the farm, we needed to make one last visit to load up personal items and to enjoy the place for one last time.

It turned into a great family gathering when all of the kids found a few days to spare in their busy schedules. For nearly a week, people came and went, fished and hiked, laughed, sat in front of a camp fire, and ate some good food.

Our family has been lucky to have excellent cooks in many generations, so one of the best memories for all of us is the good food we have enjoyed on the farm: festive Thanksgiving dinners, fried catfish, fresh vegetables from the once-one-acre garden, and wild blackberries from the surrounding fields and woods. One meal that we all remember was a huge buffet that ladies of the church had prepared for a family gathering many years ago at a time of family sadness. The spread was lovingly prepared, but the most noteworthy dish was made by one of my late mother-in-law’s closest friends. I call it East Texas Casserole, but if you look for the recipe on the internet, you will find it called Redneck Casserole. I have changed the name because I would never call any of the gracious ladies of the church society rednecks. The dish is easy to prepare – one of those open the can and dump creations – and it gets uniformly good reviews on the web. You can prepare it in 30 minutes or so.

Most internet recipes call for grated Cheddar cheese, but to me that is not really authentic. For the real thing you will need to use Velveeta cheese food. I grew up on the stuff, and so did most other kids of that era, including my wife. The product has an interesting history which you can read about in great detail in The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink edited by Andrew F. Smith (Oxford University Press, New York, 2007)

The short story is that two American cheese companies were looking for ways to prevent cheese from spoiling so rapidly and to store it at room temperature. A process was patented by Joseph L. Kraft in 1916. Tinned cheese was distributed to the troops in World War I (Remember Spam in World War II?) Eventually the two cheese companies agreed to share the patent and Velveeta made its brand-name appearance in 1928. Velveeta must contain at least 51% cheese (that’s why it is called cheese food) and will keep almost for eternity on a shelf at room temperature. These amazing properties are due to sodium citrate and, later, sodium phosphate among other preservatives. Subsequently Kraft brought out boxed macaroni and cheese in 1937, using a dehydrated version of Velveeta. Millions of boxes are sold each day, and it is discouraging to many mothers when their offspring prefer Kraft’s macaroni and cheese dinner to their carefully made from-scratch version.

RECIPE

EAST TEXAS CASSEROLE

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 can (22 ounces) Bush’s barbecued beans
  • 1 package (8) hot dogs, sliced into ½inch rounds
  • 1 pound (about 2 cups) frozen tater tots
  • 8 ounces Velveeta cheese food, grated (chill the Velveeta in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to make it easier to grate)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Heat a 2 quart cast iron skillet over medium heat.Add the diced onions and oil, stirring until the onions are translucent, but not browned, about 55 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  3. Stir in the canned beans and hot dog slices.
  4. Arrange the frozen tater tots on top of the mixture.
  5. Bake on the middle rack of the preheated oven until the tater tots are golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  6. Remove the skillet from the oven, sprinkle the top with the grated Velveeta, and return to the oven for about 5 minutes. Then turn the heat off in the oven and continue to bake for a few minutes until the Velveeta is well melted. Serve immediately.

11 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Travel