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Smoky Mountain Chicken

Howdy friends and neighbors!  The birds are singing.  The sun is shining.  The flowers are blooming.  The ankle biters aren’t fighting.   But only because they’re not up yet!   Life is GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!

So I thought I’d share one of my most requested recipes with you.  I started making Smoky Mountain Chicken several years ago when a friend at Moms Online posted the original recipe.  Since then, I’ve made it so much, folks just think the recipe is “mine.”  But the original credit goes to Lisa in Maine for posting the recipe about a gazillion years ago.  When we had our little bakery/catering business, this was one of the most popular meals we offered. 

So without further ado, I’m going to share it with you all!  There’s no “Here’s what you’ll need” photo this time.  I was busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest when I made this and just forgot to make one.  My bad! 

So here’s what you’ll need:

*  Boneless skinless chicken breasts

*  deli honey-baked ham slices

*  monterey jack cheese slices

*  garlic powder

*  Italian seasoning

*  black pepper

*  BBQ sauce of choice

Easy peasy!  Here’s what you’ll need to do, get a large baking dish/cookie sheet and cover it with foil.  Give it a good spray with non-stick cooking spray.  There’s so much cheese coming later you’ll be glad you did this foil/spray step!  Trust me!  Now place the boneless skinless chicken breasts in the pan.

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Like this……………

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Now sprinkle some garlic powder on them.  Don’t be stingy!  Garlic is GOOD!  It keeps the vampires away!  :o)  But if you’re obsessed with Twilight, that might not be a plus for you………..

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Now sprinkle with some Italian seasoning.  Again, be generous!

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Now give it some fresh cracked black pepper or just some out of your black pepper shaker.  I won’t be so picky about it here!

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See?  It  needs a nice coating of all the spices!  They’re going to sink in and make the flavor EXPLODE!!!!

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Now stick them in a 350° oven and let them roast until done.  These were HUGE chicken breasts so it took 45 minutes to an hour before they were done. 

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When the chicken is done, smother it in your favorite BBQ sauce.  This BBQ sauce is homemade.  It’s a secret recipe…….given to me by the precious Mrs. Gigi before she went home to be with her Savior.  I hope she’s making her amazing BBQ sauce and fabulous potato soup and Spanish cornbread and homemade melba toast for Jesus!  RIP Mrs. Gigi!  But, if you aren’t privy to Mrs. Gigi’s spectacular sauce, KC Masterpiece or Kraft or Sticky Fingers BBQ sauce will do.  Just use your favorite BBQ sauce.  But really smother it!  Don’t be shy with the sauce! 

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Now give everybody their own pig blanket!  Layer a couple or three slices of honey ham on each chicken breast.

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Now top it with cheese and then stick it back in the oven just long enough for the cheese to melt and get all ooey gooey.  This is Tall Skinny Man’s favorite part……….when the chicken comes out of the oven, some of it will be melted into the warm BBQ sauce.  Once I’ve taken all the chicken out of the pan, he scoops up all that melty cheese and BBQ sauce.  It’s nirvana to him!  Eyes rolling back in the head and the whole 9 yards!

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And when you’re done, this is what you’ll have!  Be sure to park a knife beside the plate and a big ole napkin! 

This is such an easy dish to make and fool folks into thinking you REALLY worked hard!  Go ahead!  Invite the boss over for dinner!   You’ll be getting a raise!!!  Invite the preacher!  He’ll love it!  Might even nominate you for sainthood!  Or just serve it to your Tall Skinny Man (or non-skinny man—-this blog does not discriminate on the basis of weight!) and ankle biters.  They’ll clean the kitchen and mop the floor for you after they eat this.  Well, not really.  But it was worth a shot to hope for, huh? 

You can serve it with a little bit of anything!  Green Beans, Corn on the Cob, Baked Potatoes, a big salad, Fresh Asparagus, you name it!  I served it with the Super Honkin’ Kicked Up Loaded Baked Potatoes I shared with you recently and a big salad. 

Alrighty!  There ya go!  Dinner for tonight is decided!  :o)  Now what are you going to do with the rest of this gloriously sunny summer day???  Have a great one!

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Super Honkin’ Kicked Up Loaded Twice Baked Potatoes

Alrighty!  Here we go!!!  Finally, at long last, a new recipe!  Well, new to y’all…..not so new to my family and me.  I’ve been making these potatoes for years!  We loved “Twice Baked Potatoes,” but I wanted something a little more substantial, so I started playing around with some ideas.  And that’s how these Super Honkin’ Kicked Up Loaded Twice Baked Potatoes came to be.  Trying saying that name 3 times really fast!  Betcha can’t do it! 

Let’s make some!  They’re a little time and labor-intensive, but OH, SO WORTH IT in the end!  Here’s what you’ll need:

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Potatoes, of course!  Get some big ones!  Those little squirrely ones just won’t hold up to the Super Honkin’ part of this recipe!  Some green onions, red bell pepper, a can of whole kernel corn, frozen broccoli, garlic, fresh peppercorns, sour cream, Jane’s Krazy Salt and cheese of choice.

Start out by scrubbing your potatoes and sticking them in the oven to bake.  I like to bake them naked…..just lay them on the racks of the oven like this:

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Now while they’re baking, let’s mix up the goodies that will go into the potato mixture later.

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Trim up the green onions and get them ready for slicing.  I take the “hairy” end off each one and then the cut tips of the greens.  I also peel the most outside layer of the onion off.  There’s no rhyme or reason as to why I do that particular step other than I have major OCD issues and think it MUST be done.  You’re welcome to skip that step if you aren’t obsessive/compulsive!  :o) 

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Now give them a little diagonal slice like this.

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Now cut the pepper in half and scoop out the insides.  Remove all the seeds and discard them. 

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Slice each half into thin strips like this.

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Slice the strips until you have a small dice like this.

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Go ahead and throw them into a bowl together.  They’re going to be good friends!  See!  Don’t they look pretty together?! 

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Open and drain the can of corn.  Now add it to the peppers and onions in the bowl.  If you prefer, you could use a can of cream corn instead of the whole kernel. 

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Go ahead and throw the bag of broccoli in there now.  Use as much or as little as you think your family will like.  My family LOVES broccoli.  So I use the whole bag not matter how many potatoes I’m making.  This time, I used chopped broccoli.  I had company coming with kids younger than mine.  So I used the smaller cut broccoli to make it a little easier for little people to eat.  Usually, I use broccoli florets so there are large hunks of broccoli in there.  Ankle Biter #2 could eat his weight in broccoli!

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Now give it a good mix.  Looks how gorgeous that is!  Couldn’t you just swan dive into it!?

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Throw in some fresh-cracked pepper.  I sure wish these screens had a scratch and sniff feature because you can’t even wrap your head around how amazing this smells!

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And some Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt………….that’s some GOOD stuff right there!

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And what would this world be without a big scoop of minced garlic!?  So toss some of that in too!  Give it a good stir and just set it aside until the potatoes are done.

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Cut each potato in half length-wise.  Notice I’m holding the potato in a pot-holder.  You’ll need to do this step while the potatoes are hot or they’ll get gummy on you.  So I highly recommend using a pot-holder or a towel to hold the potatoes or you’ll have some seriously charred flesh!

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Not the best picture ever, but I can’t hold a potato in one hand, a spoon in the other and take pictures with my toes.  I’m just not quite that dextrous.  So Ankle Biter #1 had to help his ole mom out with this one.  Scoop the potato out leaving a little potato around the edges so it will hold its shape.

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Collect all the potato’s innards in a large bowl.  No sissy bowls for this.  You’re going to need a BIG one! 

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Here’s what your potato shells should look like.  Line them up on a baking sheet for stuffing.

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Get your trusty potato-masher and have a go at those tater innards!  You don’t want the consistency of mashed potatoes.  Leave a few lumps, but not huge chunks.

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Now add the sour cream to the smooshed potatoes.

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Stir until all the sour cream is combined well with the potatoes.

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Dump in the bowl of veggies you prepared earlier. 

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Give it a good mix.  Man alive, this stuff is GOOD!

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Dump in about 2/3 of the bag of cheese.  Reserve some of it for the tops of the potatoes.  Now give it a good mix.

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Start stuffing the potatoes.  Be generous!  You’ve got plenty!  Really mound it up!

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See, like this?  Don’t be stingy!  You’ll have more than enough to really pile them high!

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Give the potatoes a good sprinkle of cheese and stick them back in the oven just long enough for the cheese to melt.

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Now dig in!!!!!!!!!

It’ll take you a little time to make these, but they are SO worth it!  And if you want to make them a complete meal in themselves, add some of last night’s grilled chicken into the potato mix.  Just diced it up and toss it in when you add the veggies.  Leftover ham or grilled pork chops would also be good.  You can’t really go wrong with it! 

If you like asparagus better than broccoli, substitute that!  Roasted red peppers as opposed to raw red peppers would be amazing!  Change it up to suit your fancy! 

I served it alongside Smoky Mountain Chicken (recipe will be available here in a few days!) and a Wedge Salad.  But it makes a wonderful accompaniment to most any grilled or baked meat.  And if you don’t want to take the time to do all that potato baking, scooping, and refilling you can just peel some potatoes, boil them like for mashed potatoes and just add the ingredients and bake in a casserole dish.  Or………you can fake this one really well!  Make up some instant mashed potatoes using sour cream and then add all these other goodies, top with cheese in a casserole dish and bake.  Nobody will ever know you didn’t peel potatoes until your little fingers nearly fell off the bone! 

These potatoes are a HUGE summertime expectation at my house.  When we grill, they make frequent appearances!  I hope you all enjoy them as much as my family does!

Scalloped Cabbage a la Candy

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Hello friends!

It’s been a while!  Life has gotten in the way of my cooking and my blogging.  There’s a little thing called work.  And 2 little things called Ankle Biters.  And 1 huge thing called “the tyranny of the everyday.”  Oh yeah, and then there’s also that little thing called “remodeling hell”…………cuz I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOO there!  My kitchen is STILL not finished!  ACK!

But enough of all that whining.  We’ve got cooking to do together!  It’s been way too long since we’ve done that.  Speaking of cooking together, that brings me to the recipe I want to share with you today.  Ladies and Gentlemen, today I give you Scalloped Cabbage a la Candy!

Candy is a dear, precious friend that I made via Moms Online.  We’ve traded recipes and kitchen secrets for years now.  And I’ve had the distinct pleasure of visiting with Candy numerous times in person. 

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Here’s Candy, me and Candy’s mom a couple summers ago when they were traveling through TN on their way to visit family.  Candy is an absolute computer GENIUS!  She has the ability to correct my computer just by me having a thought to call her.  NO JOKE!  My new laptop was acting wonky and no matter what I did, it wouldn’t act right.  I picked up the phone, called Candy and left her a voicemail to call me back.  It cringed in fear of Candy and begin functioning correctly immediately.  This has happened a number of times!  No kidding!  Not that any of that has a thing to do with cooking…………..

But here’s the thing……..Candy and I never get to visit long enough to actually get to cook together.  That makes me sad because based on this recipe and some others Candy has shared with me over the years, I know she’s a PHENOMENAL cook!  And we would have an incredible time in the kitchen together!  Someday…….

Ages ago, Candy shared a recipe with me that I knew I would love before I ever made it!  She talked about making this Scalloped Cabbage dish and my mouth watered!  I LOVE cabbage……..pretty much anyway you can think of!  And the first time I made it, my family went WILD over it!  Now granted, I took a few personal liberties with Candy’s original because y’all know I can never leave well enough alone. 

So without further ado, let’s make some!  Here’s what you’ll need:

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A head of cabbage, an onion, some garlic, flour, margarine/butter, milk, pepper and a spicy processed cheese (like Mexican Velveeta, but I used the Kroger brand) and some chips.  Chips?  Huh?  Oh, just you wait!  It’s awesome!  Really!

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Start by cutting the cabbage head into roughly 1″ pieces.

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Put it in a large pot, cover with water and boil 10 minutes.

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While the cabbage is par-boiling, dice up an onion. 

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Melt butter or margarine in a pan.  Pick a pan that’s big enough to make your sauce.

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Add some minced garlic to the melted butter.  You don’t want the temperature to be too high or your garlic will burn. 

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Add the onions and stir.  We’re not cooking the onions here, just “sweating” them out a little.

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Now add a little fresh cracked pepper to the onions and keep stirring. 

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See the color on the onions here?  They’re perfect!  So go ahead and add the flour to the mix.

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Now give it a stir.  Most of the butter will soak up the flour.  That’s cool!  It’s supposed to do that!  We’re making a “roux.” 

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A who, you say?  A “roux.”  It’s French.  (HI SARAH!!!!)  When you mix the same amount of butter and flour together, you have a roux (pronounced “roo.”)  It’s the base for lots of traditional sauces.  Once the butter soaks up all the flour, you’ll add some milk to the mix and whisk.

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Whisk until the milk is completely incorporated into the roux making a thick sauce.  It should be smooth………well, as smooth as it can be with the pieces of onion.  The point is that the sauce itself shouldn’t be lumpy.  If the only “lumps” are the pieces of onion, you’re good!

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Now cut the cheese into chunks…….it just makes it easier for the cheese to melt if it’s not in huge pieces when you put it into your sauce.

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Now add the cheese to the sauce and cook on low heat until all the cheese is completely melted.

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Your sauce is ready!  So let’s get the cabbage ready.  Drain it well.  You don’t want any of the cooking liquid to water down that amazing sauce!  So make sure the cabbage drains as much as possible.

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Add the drained cabbage into the sauce and give it a good toss making sure all the cabbage is coated with the cheese sauce.

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See?  You want it completely immersed in all that glorious sauce!

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Pour cabbage and sauce into a WELL-sprayed casserole dish.  This sauce is so cheeeeeeeeeeesy that if you don’t spray your pan with non-stick cooking spray before you add the sauce, you will be sorry!  You’ll be like Lisa Douglas from Green Acres……tossing your pots and pans and dishes out the kitchen window! 

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Remember those chips?  Put some in a ziplock bag and crush them up.  Don’t snarl up your nose!  Trust me here!  Have I ever caused you to go astray before?  Of course not!  Go ahead!  Crush ’em!  I’ll wait.

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That was therapeutic now, wasn’t it?!!?  Now sprinkle the crushed chips on top.

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Like this!  Now go stick it in a preheated 350° oven and leave it alone for half an hour or so.

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And when it’s done, you’ll have this ooey, gooey, fabulous chees-ified cabbage goodness.

Scalloped Cabbage a la Candy

*  1 head cabbage

*  1 onion, diced

*  1 Tbsp. minced garlic

*  freshly cracked pepper to taste

*  1/2 cup flour

*  1/2 cup butter or margarine

*  2 cups milk

*  1 pound peppery cheese product such as Mexican Velveeta

*  2 cups crushed chips

I’ve had folks ask me for “something different” so many times.  So here you go!  Here’s something different for you!  I served this with that pot roast I posted a couple weeks ago.  I’ve also made it to go along with chicken and pork chops.  And if you added a little cooked ground beef to it, you could have a complete meal, easy!  It’s just a new idea for a side dish to put beside your meatloaf or fried chicken instead of that tired, boring old slaw! 

Give it a try!  I think you’ll love it! 

And Candy, THANK YOU for a wonderful recipe and for being such a precious friend!  You’re a true gift from God and I could never tell you enough how much I appreciate Him sending you to me!  I love you!  Keep those recipes coming, friend!

Comfort Food: Pot Roast

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Having been so crazy busy at work lately and also having a kitchen semi-under construction, my cooking has been very sporadic as a result.  I haven’t been able to get in the kitchen and really cook meals for the most part.  It’s been as my Granny used to say, “Catch as catch can.”  We’ve eaten a lot of frozen pizza and we’ve also eaten out quite a lot.  

But last weekend, I couldn’t take it anymore!  I HAD to have some good ole grub!  Comfort food.  The kind of stuff that makes you remember why it’s good to be alive!  My friend Christie (The Lurker around here!) came home for a visit.  She lives WAY too far away and only gets in to visit a few times a year.  So since she was coming, I decided to make a big ole pot roast.  There are few other things that scream comfort food quite like a roast does. 

I generally prefer a sirloin tip roast.   And in all honesty, I should’ve stuck with what I prefer as opposed to getting a different cut that looked “alright” that was on sale.  I should’ve paid the other few pennies to get what we all really like.  But I didn’t.  And you can’t put the crap back in the horse.  So move on and dance with the one who brung ya, huh? 

I ended up with a beautiful chuck roast.  It just didn’t end up nearly as tender as my beloved sirloin tip roasts always do.  So lesson learned.  If you have a favorite cut of roast, get it even if it’s not on sale.  You’ll be glad you paid the extra $ for what you really like!  Lesson learned.  But I digress………..

Now here’s a little thing about me and roast.  I’m not a “Roast with Carrots and Potatoes” kind of gal.  I’m a “Roast with Carrots” kind of gal.  I think roast should have a big ole pile of mashed potatoes beside it and gravy to smother both of those in.  So I only put carrots in with my roasts.   If you like potatoes in with yours, by all means, add them.  I just don’t happen to prefer mashed potatoes with my roast.  And I also LOVE the carrots out of a roast.  So I always put an insane amount of carrots in with my roasts so I can have leftover carrots to eat one for a few days.  But roast would be good with any number of other vegetables in it.  So add whatever you and your family really like!

How’s about we make a little Pot Roast, shall we?  Here’s what you’ll need:

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A roast, some carrots (and any other veggies you choose,) a packet of dry Italian dressing mix, a packet of Beefy Onion Soup mix, black pepper and Worcestershire sauce.  Take a close look at the Worcestershire sauce.  It’s a new “thick” version.  And I have to say that I’m in LOVE!  But then, I was in love with the regular stuff too.  This new thick sauce really adheres to the meat.  Either kind would work fine though.

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Start with a large roasting pan (or your crockpot.)  I like to cut the carrots on the bias (at an angle) and then if they’re large, I cut them in half.  I want the carrots to cook completely through.  The family likes carrots anyway they can get them, but I am no fan of crunchy carrots in a roast.  So I cut them into as evenly-sized pieces as possible so they all cook through and through.  If you have other vegetables you enjoy in a roast, add them to the bottom of the roasting pan.

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Next take the fresh-cracked peppercorns and pat them into the meat. 

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Once the meat is peppered all over, place it on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan.

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Sprinkle the Beefy Onion Soup Mix on top of the meat.

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Now give it a nice massage.  Really pat it onto the meat so it coats it evenly.

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Sprinkle the dry Italian dressing mix on top.  You’re probably sitting there wondering how Italian dressing mix can work with a roast.  The first time I did it, I was going for an “Italian-tasting” roast.  What I got was an amazingly flavored roast, but it didn’t taste “Italian” at all.  So PLEASE don’t eliminate this step thinking you’ll have a strange-tasting roast.  The flavor this little packet imparts to the roast is unbelievable!

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Pour the Worcestershire sauce over the meat.

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Add water to the roasting pan to create a little steam.

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And here’s what you’ll have when it’s ready to go in the oven.  I used my Pampered Chef roaster so it has a lid that goes over it.  Whatever you use, make sure it either has a lid or you cover with foil to keep the meat moist.

Pot Roast

*  1 roast of choice

*  vegetables of choice:  carrots, potatoes, onions, parsnips, celery, turnips

*  1 packet dry Italian dressing mix

*  1 packet Beefy Onion Soup Mix

*  1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

*  fresh cracked pepper, to taste

*  1 cup water

Prepare roast by cutting off large pieces of fat if necessary.  Peel and prepare vegetables.  Cut vegetables in pieces that are comparable in size so they all cook evenly.  Add them to the roasting pan.  Sprinkle the roast with freshly cracked peppercorns.   Place roast on top of vegetables.  Add the packet of soup mix to the meat and ensure it’s entirely covered.  Sprinkle dry Italian dressing mix over meat.  Drizzle meat with Worcestershire sauce.   Pour warm water into the roasting pan.  Put lid on roasting pan or cover with foil.  Roast in a 350° oven approximately 4 hours, but will depend on the size of your roast. 

When roast is finished cooking, set on a cutting board for about 10 minutes prior to slicing.  While the meat is resting, make gravy with the wonderful juices created in the bottom of the roasting pan.  Slice meat and top with gravy.

And with all that said, let me just say that my pot roast will NEVER hold a candle to my Aunt Jane’s.  She made the most phenomenal roast I’ve ever put in my mouth!  THAT was truly comfort food!  Her daughter, my cousin Kimberly, can come MIGHTY close to her mom’s pot roast.  But I have never been able to.   This roast I’ve shared with you is good, no doubt about it.  But it’s not Aunt Jane’s!  I miss her and I miss her amazing roasts…..and cakes……and macaroni and cheese…….and pea salad……OK, I could go on and on.  I hate y’all never got to have her pot roast.  You missed one in a million! 

Despite this pot roast not being like my beloved Aunt Jane’s, I hope you enjoy it anyway!  We had Mashed Potatoes, English Peas, Fried Squash (details coming here soon!), Fried Corn, Macaroni and Cheese, Scalloped Cabbage (details coming here soon!) and Cornbread with this Pot Roast last weekend.  The whole point of comfort food it so keep eating until you’re not comfortable anymore!  LOL  So that’s just what we did! 

Now go hug your family and show ’em some love with some Pot Roast or whatever comfort food lets them know you love them! 

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Alfredo….My Way

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This was originally going to be titled “Fettucini” Alfredo.  But as you can see, I didn’t use fettucini.  I used fusilli pasta.  Cuz we just like it better.  And that’s just how it is.  So I couldn’t call it Fettucini Alfredo.  And somehow “Fusilli Alfredo” just didn’t sound all that good.  So let’s just go with Alfredo!  And you can just pick whatever kind of pasta you and your family like and then it can be Alfredo….YOUR Way!

Let’s talk about this dish a minute……..It’s so simple, it’s completely ridiculous!  So simple, in fact, that you’ll never have to buy that stuff in a jar again!  I started making this several years ago when I was doing “Once a Month Cooking.”  I would spend all weekend cooking about once every month or so and fill up the freezer with meals.  Then each night, all I had to do was pull out an entree and make some sides to go with it while the entree warmed up.  This sauce was perfect for the freezer.  So I would make it in huge batches then freeze it in vacuum-seal bags.  While the pasta was boiling, I’d just drop the vacuum-sealed bag down in the boiling water and it would be warm by the time the pasta was cooked.  Dinner could literally be done in the time it took to boil a pot of water and 8 minutes worth of noodle-boiling!

For some reason, I hadn’t made it in years.  When I finally pulled this one back out of my hat, you would’ve thought I brought out GOLD!  These skinny people around my house went wild over it!  And my SIL thinks I’ve invented the best thing since sliced bread. 

Last weekend was the baby ankle biter’s birthday.  And he asked for this particular dish as his birthday dinner.  That was a change because for the last 4 years or so, he’s asked for Broccoli Soup!  Unfortunately, what he got was a trip to Mickey Dee’s with his Unk and Aunt Dee because I was in the recliner coughing up my lungs.  😦 

But I managed to finally get off my death bed a few days later and made him his meal….what he calls, “you know Moma, that stuff with the noodles and chicken.”  Uh huh.  Which brings me to the chicken part.  I always grill chicken to put on top of this.  It’s certainly tasty by itself.  But with the grilled chicken on top……well, that just puts it over the top!

So let’s make some!  And you can top yours with whatever cranks your tractor!

Here’s what you’ll need:

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Dry Italian Salad Dressing Mix, Cream of Chicken Soup, Garlic and LOTS of it, Cream Cheese, Pasta of choice, Half-and-Half or Heavy Whipping Cream and Fresh Cracked Pepper.

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Start with the cream cheese in a cold pan. 

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Add the soup.

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If you’re ever shy with the garlic, this is NOT the time to be!  Embrace the garlic!  Dump in a BUNCH! 

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Now add the packet of dry Italian salad dressing mix.  I like the “zesty” kind.  Not sure if there’s a bit of difference between it and the regular packet that doesn’t say “zesty,” but somehow “zesty” makes me feel like it will have more flavor.  So that’s what I use.

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Pour in the half-and-half or cream, whichever you prefer. 

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Finally, add the fresh cracked pepper and you’re ready to roll!  Just turn the stove on low.  Let it sit a couple of minutes and then whisk until smooth.

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Like this! 

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Boil some water for your pasta of choice.  I like to always salt my water and add a little oil so the pasta doesn’t stick to itself.  And since this was for Alfredo, I went ahead and dumped in a healthy spoonful of minced garlic to the water too. 

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Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and boil about 7-8 minutes. 

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Drain the pasta well.  You don’t want any residual cooking liquid to water down your thick, hearty Alfredo sauce!

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Pour the drained pasta in a serving dish.

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And now……if you’re feeling especially decadent and you happen to have some on hand and I did……grate some fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese on top.  Or heck, if you just have that Kraft Parmesan dust in a can, add a little of that to your noodles before topping with the sauce. 

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Go ahead and pour that thick sauce all over the pasta.  It’s just waiting to be smothered in something fabulous!

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Nothing left to do but eat! 

Alfredo Sauce

*  1-8 oz. bar cream cheese

*  1 cup half-and-half or heavy whipping cream

*  1 can cream of chicken soup

*  1 packet dry Italian dressing mix

*  minced garlic, to taste

*  fresh cracked pepper, to taste

*  pasta of choice, cooked to al dente and drained well

*  topping of choice:  grilled chicken, grilled shrimp, grilled salmon

Mix cream cheese, cream of chicken soup, half-and-half, dressing mix, garlic and black pepper in a cold pan on the stove.  Turn stove on low.  After about 5 minutes on low, begin to whisk sauce until smooth.  Serve hot over pasta.

And that is Alfredo MY way!  I told you it was simple!  Serve this with a nice salad and some garlic bread and you’re set! 

I hope you and your family enjoy this “stuff with the noodles and chicken” as much as my ankle biting people do!  And since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, a very happy Valentine’s day to you all!

White Chili

White Chili, you ask?  HUH?  Chili ain’t white!  Well, THIS one is!  The first time I ever heard of White Chili, I was a skeptic too!  But after the first bowl all those years ago, I was cured of my skepticism!  So I thought “White” Chili was appropriate for today when we were *supposed to* get some of that “white” stuff from the sky.  Turns out, it just teased us!  We got hit hard and fast this morning, but then it just quit and now there’s little evidence left behind that we got any at all, much to the chagrin of my ankle biters.

White Chili……..what in the cat hair is White Chili?  I was introduced to it by my Aunt Ann, my mom’s baby sister.  She’s a phenomenal cook and is always coming up with something new and nifty!  I get my love for casseroles from her!  She’s like the casserole QUEEN, or something!  Anyway, she was telling me about White Chili on the phone one day and I just couldn’t wrap my head around it cuz chili is NOT supposed to be white.  As she was explaining it, I snarled up my nose more and more.  It’s made with white beans instead of pinto/kidney/black beans like one would expect to find in regular chili.  And I am no white bean fan.  Just don’t love ’em.  I know!  I know!  Not exactly what you expect to hear from a good little Southern girl.  But I don’t.  Never have.  Except my SIL’s and man, she can cook a pot of white beans.  But I digress.

So like the good little niece that I am, I wrote down the recipe thinking to myself, “I’m going to waste good chicken in this!”  That’s what I honestly thought!  I never dreamed that I and my family would all fall in love with it and like it as well as, or maybe better than, regular chili!  That’s how amazing it is!  And even better is the fact that it’s a really healthy dish!  White beans are full of fiber and are super-filling!  And the chicken is boneless, skinless, so it’s heart-healthy!  In figuring Weight Watchers points for this, I think their little recipe builder spit out a point-value of 5 for a serving of this.  This pot makes about 10 servings, give or take…..depending on how big a bowl you serve it in!

I really can’t extol the virtues of this chili any better, so let’s make some!  Did I mention it’s EASY?!  Gotta love easy! 

Here’s what you’ll need:

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Navy beans…..now the original calls for Great Northern beans.  But I happen to prefer Navy beans to the larger Great Northern beans.  Navy beans seem a little sweeter to me and I like them because they’re smaller.  But if you prefer Great Northern to Navy, God will forgive you and I will too!  Knock yourself out!  Chicken….boneless and skinless.  I happened to have some tenders in my freezer and they cook up in no time flat.  So that’s what I ended up using today.  But boneless and skinless is preferred to anything with skin, bones and dark meat.  God might still forgive you for using dark meat chicken, but I’d probably have a hard time.  ;o)  Just speaking the truth in love.  I don’t care for dark meat chicken.  Don’t be hatin’!  The rest is easy!  Seasoning Blend, Garlic, Oregano, Cumin, Cayenne Pepper, Ground Cloves and Chopped Green Chiles.  You’re practically done, man!

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Wash and sort the dried beans before you soak them.  That’s literally the most labor-intensive part of this recipe.  And you know what?  If you want to skip this step altogether and use canned white beans in your White Chili, I won’t tell a soul!  And at the end of the day, nobody will ever know the difference.  But if you DO use the dried variety, they have to be washed and sorted, then soaked.  If you don’t do all that, you’ll end up with some skanky beans or even rocks mixed in with your good stuff.  And that’s just no dang fun!  Once you’ve got them sorted, cover the beans with lots of water and let them soak a couple hours or overnight before making this. 

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While your beans are soaking, go ahead and boil your chicken.

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Now drain your plumped up beans.  And you might want to give them one more little once-over for any wayward strays that you missed before you soaked them.  Do you see the one little skanky bean I missed the first time?  He had to go!

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Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the broth.  Just set it aside on a plate to chop up later.

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Add the beans into the chicken stock you made from cooking the chicken and begin adding the rest of the ingredients.  There’s no particular order they have to go in.  This is the oregano going in.

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Seasoning Blend going in…….you’re certainly welcome to chop up your own fresh onions, peppers and celery.  But I was lazy and let someone else do the chopping for me!

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Now add the chopped green chiles.  I find green chiles to be fairly mild.  But then, I grew up eating jalapeno peppers with my scrambled eggs at breakfast.  So you really can’t judge by me.  The recipe calls for 1 can.  I added 3.  :o)  I love their flavor and really can’t detect any heat from them.  But some folks say they think these are hot.  You be the judge!

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Add the cumin.  I LOVE cumin!  Until I started making this chili, I’d never heard of or bought cumin before!  That was probably 15 years ago or so.  Since then, I’ve fallen head over heels in love with cumin!

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Next add the cayenne pepper.  If you can handle it!  Again, if you’re afraid of the heat, leave it out.  Or on the other hand, if you’re like my family and like some kick to your grub, put it in and add some extra!    I add double what the recipe calls for.

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Now add the cloves.  CLOVES?  In CHILI?!!?  I know!  You’re sitting there saying to yourself, “That poor Amy’s smokin’ crack again!”  Trust me on this!  The cloves absolutely MAKE this!  It’s such a subtle little hint of flavor in the background that leaves everybody at the table saying, “WHAT is that flavor I’m tasting?!” 

You’ll notice I didn’t add any salt and pepper.  I NEVER EVER EVER E.V.E.R. add salt to dried beans until they’re completely cooked.  Why?  Cuz my Moma told me not to.  Why?  Heck if I know.  But she always said never to add salt to dried beans until they’re completely cooked through.  She said it would make the beans harder to cook.  Now I have NO idea if that’s so or not.  But Moma said it, so I don’t add salt until the beans are completely cooked. 

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Finally, add the garlic.  And just let this simmer until the beans are tender.  It will probably take a couple of hours or maybe longer depending on how long you soaked your beans.

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Your chicken should be cool enough to handle by now.  So you can start chopping it up while the beans are cooking away.

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Chop it into bite-sized pieces before adding it to the beans.

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Now dump it all in and give it a stir.  You’re almost there!  Let it simmer about 30 minutes before serving.  If you need to add a little water, go right ahead.  It all depends on how thick or soupy you like your chili to be!

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Ahhhhh!  And there you go!  Plop a dollop of sour cream in the center and sprinkle with your choice of cheese.  Absolutely divine, I tell you!

White Chili

*  1 pound dry white beans, washed, sorted and soaked

*  1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast

*  1 bag frozen seasoning blend

*  1-7 oz. can chopped green chiles

*  1 Tbsp. minced garlic

*  2 tsp. cumin

*  1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

*  1/4 tsp. ground cloves

*  1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

*  2 quarts chicken stock

*  salt and pepper to taste

Wash and sort dried beans.  Pick out any beans that are discolored or broken and discard them.  Put them in a large bowl and add enough water to cover 2″ above the beans.  Soak at least 2 hours or up to overnight.  Drain and rinse the beans before cooking.  Boil chicken and set aside when tender.  Strain chicken stock and return to stockpot.  Add dried beans, seasoning blend and spices.  Simmer at least 2 hours or until beans are tender.  Cooking time will vary depending on how long beans were soaked.  Chop chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Add to beans.  Add water or additional chicken stock if desired.  Simmer an additional 30 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.  Serve hot.

And that, friends and neighbors, is White Chili!  It’s absolutely insane!  Just add a chunk of cornbread or Mexican cornbread and dinner is DONE!  We like to add sour cream and a mix of Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses to ours.  But it would also be good with a dollop of fresh guacamole or some fresh chopped cilantro sprinkled on top.  It makes such a hearty, bone-warming meal!  I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we do!

And I hope you and yours are safe and warm!  As for me, I’m really enjoying this “snow” we got today!  :o)

Beef Tips & Gravy

First of all, let me just say that I’m a popsicle this morning.  It’s a wonder that my poor little fingers can even type in this evil, wicked, mean and nasty cold!  It’s a whopping 6 whole degrees in my neck of the woods this morning!  6!  DEGREES!  That’s just insane!  This ain’t Minnesota!   OK, enough whining!  Let’s cook cuz we need to do that just to warm up the house, huh?

So I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I’d recently had a craving for Beef Tips but I ended up making something else entirely.  I invented something else entirely actually.  So I never got my Beef Tips that I was craving.  So what some of you skinny people out there who simply eat to live instead of living to eat may not know is this…….once a fat woman gets a craving, it’s ON!  She ain’t gonna be happy until that craving has been satisfied.  So I HAD to make Beef Tips! 

And I thought today would be a good day to share these with you since it’s so wicked cold here.  This is a bone-warming meal.  And today is a mighty fine day for that!  So let’s cook, shall we?

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Here’s most of what you’ll need:  Beef (sirloin steak or beef tips, but we’ll talk about that in a minute) Beef Gravy, Flour, Worcestershire Sauce, Lipton Beefy Onion Soup Mix, Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Pepper Blend, and Garlic.  You’ll also need a really large bell pepper and a really large or two small-t0-medium onions.  Now let me just say that you’re welcome to cut up your own beef.  And I recommend doing that if you can find good sirloin because that’s truly what works best for this recipe due to sirloin being so tender.   But you see, I am lazy!  And I just flat out didn’t want to cut up all that meat.  So I bought “stew beef” and called it a day.  Worked like a charm!

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Next, slice up those peppers and onions that I forgot to take a picture of when they were still whole.  But I’m fairly sure y’all have seen a whole onion and a whole bell pepper before so you know what they look like.  So I think we’re safe! 

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Open the package(s) of meat into a mixing bowl.  Add flour and seasonings to the meat.  For this, I chose Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Pepper blend.  But it’s not rocket science.  If you have a favorite spice blend, by all means, use that instead!  And share with ME what you did because I always like new ideas for new flavors!

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Next you’ll want to heat some oil in a Dutch oven.  Use whatever oil you like:  canola, vegetable, olive, whatever.  Get it screaming hot and then add the floured meat to the pot.  Continue stirring it around until it’s browned completely.

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Once the meat is browned, add Worcestershire sauce to the meat.  I have a sick, twisted love affair with Worcestershire sauce!  I LOVE the stuff!  So naturally, I was pretty heavy-handed with it!

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Now add the garlic and those peppers and onions.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much I adore smelling peppers and onions cooking.  Smells like LOVE, man!  YUM!!!!!

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Now sprinkle in the packet of Beefy Onion Soup Mix.

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Then pour the gravy over it all. 

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Stir it all up.  Let it simmer.  While it’s simmering, make your favorite rice blend.  Personally, I really like a long-grain and wild rice blend to go with this.  But white rice, brown rice, basmati rice or whatever you like would be fine.  It would also be good served over mashed potatoes or a big pile of egg noodles.

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I also failed to include fresh parsley in the “what you need” photo at the beginning.  But right before you plan to serve it, add a healthy handful of chopped fresh parsley.  I can’t tell you how much bright flavor fresh parsley adds to a dish!  You’ve got to try it for yourself!

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Please excuse the lack of flash in this photo.  Not sure what happened, but I didn’t load the pictures on the computer until after this meal was LONG gone, so I couldn’t go back and take another picture to better capture how delicious this really looked.  SORRY! 

As you can see, I served it with some broccoli and cheese because Ankle Biter #2 could eat broccoli and cheese EVERY single meal of his life.  And I also served some roasted carrots, which is one of my all-time EVER favorite side dishes.  But this would be good with so many things!  Mashed Potatoes and English Peas.  Green Beans with Corn-on-the-Cob.  A Mixed Vegetable Casserole and a big salad………the possibilities are endless!!!! 

Beef Tips & Gravy

*  2 pounds stew beef or sirloin steak (cut into bite-sized pieces)

*  1 cup flour

*  1 Tbsp. Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Pepper

*  1 large onion, sliced

*  1 large bell pepper, sliced

*  2 cans beef gravy

*  3 Tsbp. Worcestershire sauce

*  3 cloves fresh garlic, minced or 1 Tbsp.  minced garlic

*  1 packet Lipton Beefy Onion Soup Mix

*  fresh parsley

Slice pepper and onion into small slivers.  If using sirloin steak, cut into bite-sized pieces.  Once meat is in bite-sized pieces, place in a mixing bowl and add flour and Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Pepper.  Make sure all pieces of meat are well-coated with flour.  Heat oil in a Dutch oven or deep skillet.  Saute meat in oil until browned on all sides.  Add Worcestershire sauce, garlic, peppers and onions, and packet of soup mix.  Stir into meat.  Add gravy and simmer on low 1 hour.  Immediately before serving, add fresh parsley.  Serve over rice of choice.

And if that doesn’t warm your bones, they can’t be warmed!  A perfect meal for a cold winter day when you need something warm and comforting!  Enjoy!