Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mushroom Risotto

Houston witnessed a miracle today...it snowed!!  It only lasted a few minutes & (of course) it didn't stick, but it did fall from the sky, so we'll count it.  They even shut down all of the local schools and businesses.  These are the days that having a home office isn't as exciting.  I still had to work all day while most people enjoyed a "free" day.

On cold days like these, I crave something warm to eat. Mushroom Risotto fits the bill.  Risotto takes a while to make, but it's a labor of love.  Once you take your first bite, you'll realize it's worth all the time you stood at the stove, stirring...and stirring...and stirring. 

Mushroom Risotto

  • 3 Tbsp. butter, divided 
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 5-6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stem & chopped
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shaved or shredded
  • kosher salt & pepper


1.  Pour chicken stock into a 2 qt. saucepan and warm over low heat.  (Don't boil it, just keep it warm).

2.  In a large, heavy pot, heat 2 Tbsp. butter over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

3.  Add 1 Tbsp. butter & 1 Tbsp. olive oil the the pot.  Saute onion & garlic for 3-4 minutes.  Stir in the rice and cook for 2-3 minutes.

4.  Pour in white wine and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. 

5.  Once the wine has been completely absorbed, add 1/2 cup of chicken stock.  Simmer, while stirring, until the liquid has been mostly absorbed.  Repeat with remaining chicken stock, adding 1/2 cup at a time, letting each addition absorb before you add the next 1/2 cup.  Stir frequently.  Depending on your rice, you'll use 5-6 cups of chicken stock.  When you're getting close to the end of your chicken stock, taste the rice for doneness.  It should be creamy & soft, but not mushy. 

6.  When you add the last 1/2 cup of stock, stir in the mushrooms, thyme & parmesan cheese.

7.  Season with salt & pepper.  (You'll want to taste it again at this point.  If you use reduced sodium chicken stock, you'll probably need to add a generous amount of salt.  Start with 1/2 tsp. and go from there).

8.  To serve, top with additional parmesan cheese.

My Tid-Bits:

* You can use whatever type of mushrooms you'd like.  I would normally use an assortment of wild mushrooms, but the wild mushrooms at my grocery store looked sad.  I went with baby bellas instead. 

*  Step 5 will take a good 25-30 minutes.  Be patient and enjoy a glass of wine while you stir. 

* I served this risotto with grilled steaks & roasted green beans.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bailey's Buttercream Icing

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions because no one ever keeps them.  However, for 2014, I decided that each month I'm going to challenge myself to one thing that betters my health, fitness or eating habits.  My hope is that committing to something for a full month will create new & better habits.

I started off the year with a big one. I gave up French fries for the month of January.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I, Nancy, gave up French fries.  That may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but those who know me well would tell you this is huge!  I LOVE FRENCH FRIES!  And as embarrassing as it is to admit, I was probably eating them 3+ times a week.  I went cold turkey at the beginning of the month & thus far, I haven't eaten a single French fry.  Not even when The Hubs ordered a big basket of them at lunch last week.  Not even when we went to dinner with friends and the waitress handed me a plate with fries nestled next to my sandwich even though I asked for a substitution.  Needless to say, I'm pretty proud of myself.

However...what I've saved in calories & fat grams from French fries, I've made up in this tasty, delicious Bailey's Buttercream Icing.  I've made it twice in the last 4 weeks.  I might be addicted.  It's so easy to make and goes perfectly with simple chocolate cake.

If you're in need of an easy & yummy dessert, I highly recommend this one.


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 Tbsp Bailey's (or other Irish Cream Liqueur)
  • 2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until fluffy.   Slowly add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until combined.  Pour in the Bailey's and beat slowly until combined.  Increase the speed to high & beat for 1 minute.  Add whipping cream and beat again for 1-2 minutes until light & fluffy.  If the icing is too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.  If it is too stiff, add a splash of Bailey's.

Spread icing onto a prepared chocolate cake or pipe onto cupcakes (or just eat it straight out of the bowl). 

My Tid-Bits:

* I've also made this same recipe using Kahlua.  It's delicious, as well.

* I have a confession.  When I make a plain chocolate cake, I use a box mix.  Why reinvent the wheel, right?

(I almost didn't buy this brand because it has the "M" word on the front.  Worst. Word. Ever).

* I'm not great at icing cakes.  I can never get the icing to smooth out just right.  My solution?  Cover up the imperfections with toppings (like sliced, toasted almonds) or pipe frosting along the edges. 

* If you're looking for me on February 1st, I'll be a Chick-fil-A stuffing my face with waffle fries. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Chilaquiles: Delicious Mexican Nachos

As you probably know by now, The Hubs and I are major college football fans.  We spend our weekends from September - November with our "Fall Family" cheering on our beloved Aggies.  While our team didn't do quite as well as we had hoped for, it was a great season for college football, nonetheless.  There have been so many spectacular games and the National Championship between Auburn & Florida State on Monday was no different. 

When trying to plan what to eat while watching the game, I kept in mind that The Hubs & I would want to watch all the pre-game coverage before kickoff.  After all, Coach Sumlin & Johnny Manziel were going to be contributing their two cents before & during the game and we definitely wanted to hear what they had to say.  With that in mind, I thought a slow cooker meal would be a good fit.  That way, I could prep it during the day and dinner would be ready by game time with very little effort.

I settled upon a recipe I've made a couple of times before - Chilaquiles.   The best way to describe Chilaquiles is like a Mexican nacho.  It is a soupy concoction of stewed tomatoes, chiles, cilantro & seasonings that you serve over chips or wrapped in a tortilla.  It's delicious and easy to make! 

*Recipe adapted from MyRecipes.com


  • 2 (14oz) cans fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped chipotle chiles, canned in adobo sauce
  • 1 (4oz) can, diced green chiles, undrained
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin 
  • 1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Corn tortilla chips
Optional Toppings:
  • Sour cream
  • Cilantro 
  • Avocado
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Lime Juice

Combine first 10 ingredients (tomatoes through cumin) in a 5 quart slow cooker.   Submerge chicken breasts in tomato mixture.   Set the slow cooker on low and cook, covered, for 6 hours.  Remove chicken from the slow cooker and shred.  Return the chicken to the Chilaquiles.

Serve in a bowl over corn tortilla chips with desired toppings.

My Tid-Bits:

* This dish can be spicy or mild depending on the ingredients you use.  If you like it hot, be sure to get *HOT* green chiles rather than mild.  Also, you can keep the seeds in the chipotles in adobo.  If you like a more mild spice, add *MILD* green chilies.  I purchased whole chipotles in adobo and removed the seeds before chopping them up & throwing them in the pot.

* If you're in a hurry, you can set the slow cooker to high & cook for 4 hours.  As long as the chicken shreds, you're good to go.

*  This dish is EXCELLENT the next day.  You can either serve it over chips again or switch things up and make tacos.  

Now let's just see if I can keep The Hubs from going into withdrawal until college football starts back up in 231 days when the Aggies take on South Carolina.

Monday, January 6, 2014

2014: The Year JTFF Made a Comeback!

Hello?  Is anyone still out there?   It's been a while.  (818 days to be exact).  I'm not really sure why I took such a long break, but I guess life just got busy.  I still love to cook.  I still love to try new recipes.  And I still share the really good ones with my friends & family.  However, blogging step-by-step recipes with pictures is quite time consuming and therefore fell to the wayside when my plate got full.  (No pun intended). 

Recently, several people have mentioned to me they really missed Journey to Fabulous Foods and wished I would bring it back.  Well, it's a new year and I thought I'd give it a shot!  In order to try & make things more simple, I'm going to share recipes with just a few snapshots of each.  If there is a step that I think would be better understood with a picture, I'll throw that in, of course.   Besides, y'all know I like to stick with simple recipes 90% of the time and you don't need pictures for those.  On the rare occasion that I do something more complicated, I'll go into more detail.  I'm also hoping to upgrade the blog to include a better search function & an easy-to-print recipe card.  We'll get to that eventually.  More than anything, I just want to share recipes with others when I find dishes worth making. 

Before I move on to sharing a recipe, there's one other change/addition to this blog that I'm excited about....


Since I last blogged, The Hubs and I built and moved into a new home in the "country."  We absolutely love it!  When we were designing the house, the kitchen was my main area of concentration.  Thankfully, my wonderful husband let me have (pretty much) exactly what I wanted.  I love it!  It is perfect for entertaining, which we done A LOT of since we moved in.  (Note: This picture was taken before we moved it.  I promise it has more decoration - and more of a mess - now).  I can't promise my photographs will be any better, but they will have a new backdrop!

And now...on to what you really came here for: a recipe!  We'll start with an easy one, Okra with Stewed Tomatoes.  I love okra - pickled, fried, stewed, grilled, it doesn't matter.  I like it all.  Some people don't care for the slimy texture of okra, but when when cooked over low heat for a long time, that sliminess goes away and acts as a thickening agent for the "sauce" in this dish. 

Okra with Stewed Tomatoes

  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 lb fresh okra, sliced 
  • 1 (14oz.) can diced tomatoes (with juice)
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Salt & Pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven.   Add okra, tomatoes, shallots, onions & garlic.  Saute for 2-3 minutes.  Season with salt, pepper & Cajun seasoning.  Stir in 1/4 cup chicken stock.  Cover and set heat to low.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.  If the okra starts to stick to the bottom, add another splash of chicken stock.  (I ended up using the whole 1/2 cup).

Yields: 4 servings with about 70 calories each.

My Tid-Bits:

* Start with 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning.  If you like more spice, add more.  You just don't want the dish to get too salty.

 "Slap Ya Mama" is The Hubs favorite Cajun seasoning. 

* If you like things really spicy, use diced tomatoes with green chiles (aka Ro-Tel).  Just be sure you buy a larger can.  The small one isn't enough. 

* To make this side dish into a full mean, throw some peeled, raw shrimp in the pot during the last 5 minutes of cooking and serve over rice.