Thursday Recipe Exchange: Challenge Accepted

Before there was Bennifer, before there was Bradgelina, before anyone thought about using a portmanteau to create romantic links ad nauseam, there was the original. The one. The only. SPAM. That undeniable (some would say inedible) combination of spice and ham, first canned in 1937. (Yeah, I can’t believe I’m writing this either.)

Last week commenter Martin challenged JeffreyW and me to come up with SPAM recipes. How we got to that I have no idea. Not one to be intimidated by a challenge, I consulted with JeffreyW and then said, “eh, let’s not”. Too late. JeffreyW was off and running. His first batch of entries can be found here (and they are works of art, truly).

I reluctantly dove in and you can find my entries here. I was unimpressed, no matter how creative I got in the kitchen. But JeffreyW soldiered on and here are his final two entries, as tonight’s featured recipes. In the end, I’d say we had fun.

SPAM on.

Pictured above, SPAM Fried Rice. From JeffreyW:

Mrs J opted to eat the fried rice, she liked it. Has the Spam, onions, a minced clove of garlic, grated carrots, green peas, a fried scrambled egg in strips, a dash of soy sauce and a few drops of fish sauce – garnished with thin green onion slices.

And the coup de grâce, also from JeffreyW:

Gallina de Madre

  • 4 thick-cut slices country bread
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 thin slices SPAM
  • 4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Lay bread out on a sheet tray and drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toast lightly. Spoon a dollop of béchamel (recipe below) onto each toast. Arrange 2 slices of SPAM on each slice of toast, make a small indentation so the egg will sit in it. Crack egg and drop onto each slice of SPAM/toast. Bake in oven until eggs are just cooked but the yolk is still slightly runny, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.


  • 1/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Dash of grated whole nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir constantly to incorporate – you do not want any color. Gradually pour in the milk as you stir, and whisk out any lumps. As the mixture thickens up continue to stir until it reaches a boil – this ensures that the flour is cooked completely. Season and set aside.

(adapted from a FoodNetwork recipe)

I would say challenge accepted and we prevailed. You can meet us in the kitchen end zone for the victory dance.  (h/t jeffreyw)

Pasta challenge!

Mrs J tossed out a few ideas for using the new cherry tomato crop.  I mentioned that we had a surplus of Italian beef that we should work into the menu.  Mrs J was pretty sure she could put together something.Turned out she hasn’t lost her touch in the kitchen, even after all these years!  It’s something of a noodle bake:  Spaghetti pasta with a quart or so of cherry tomatoes, a few green peas for the color, and a goodly pile of mozzarella went into the oven for a quick bake.  Served with a ladle of the Italian beef and a sprinkle of fresh Asiago cheese this impromptu dish had me spooning out seconds and the pups pacing the floor, drooling, waiting for their share.  They hate it when we eat first.

Sweet and Sour Pork

This is a fairly simple Sweet and Sour recipe.  You can easily substitute beef or chicken, or if you want vegetarian, tofu.  Serve with steamed rice and buttered peas for a complete dinner.

Interestingly enough I just watched a chef discuss the limitations of wok cooking on conventional ranges, regardless if they are electric or gas.  He said they did not get hot enough for true wok cooking.  He suggested using a skillet instead or heating your wok in a 500 degree oven before cooking.  I’ll see if I can find a video or link to his show and post it for you.  I’ve never had an issue, but then I’m not a professional chef looking for professional results.

Sweet & Sour Pork


  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • drained pineapple juice

small bowl

Mix cornstarch & brown sugar, add remaining ingredients, blend well, set aside.


  • 1 to 1 ½ lbs lean, boneless pork
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut in 1 inch cubes
  • 8 oz sliced carrots
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 green pepper, cut into 1 inch slices
  • 4 oz pineapple chunks, drained (reserve liquid)
  • small bowl
  • 2 small plates

wok or deep fry pan

Cube pork into 1-inch cubes, dip into beaten egg, dredge lightly in cornstarch.

Heat 3 tbsp oil in wok, add pork, stir-fry over medium-high heat until evenly browned. Remove pork, add enough additional oil to make 2 tbsp, stir fry onion, carrots, garlic, about 1 minute, add water, bell pepper & cover. Reduce heat and cook for 2 minutes, while stirring occasionally. Add sweet & sour sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens (about 1 minute). Add pork and simmer 5 minutes, add pineapple & serve over steamed rice.

Tortellini Chicken Salad

This is one of those quick and easy meals to prepare after a hectic day.  You can cook the chicken anyway you like – boil, broil or fry (if you fry, it works best if you cube it first) – or use leftovers from a previous dinner.  Serve it with Broiled Tomatoes or a fruit platter and dinner is complete.

Tortellini Chicken Salad

  • 19-28 oz (sizes vary) frozen or fresh cheese tortellini, cooked according to package directions, drain*, rinse with cold water & ice cubes. Set aside.


  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked, cooled & diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 2 cups frozen sugar snap peas*
  • 4 oz ranch dressing
  • ¼ cup cashews

large bowl

Remove any remaining ice cubes from tortellini, draining well. Add chicken, celery & onions. Thaw snap peas under hot water & drain completely*. Add to salad, along with dressing. Garnish with cashews.

*You can pour the hot water from the tortellini over them if you like.

Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuit Pot Pie

Well, supposedly it is Fall now…though we will see near 90 degree temperatures today.  I can only blame myself, I rearranged my closet this past weekend, bringing all my fall and winter things out.  Tempting fate, like washing your car on a sunny day ensures rain.

But I’m certain, eventually, we will have a chill in the air and when we do, it will be the perfect time for this recipe.  A true comfort food and easy to put together.  A complete meal in one pan.

Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuit Pot Pie

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cups sliced carrots
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large Yukon Gold Potatoes, scrubbed and diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 cup peas

Buttermilk Biscuits:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 4 tbsp powdered buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter to brush on formed biscuits

Mix dry ingredients, make a center hole in the dry ingredients and add in shortening and milk.  Blend together, then knead 10-12 strokes on a floured surface, roll out to ½” thick, cut into 8-10 biscuits.

Set a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat

In a large bowl, combine the chicken thighs with salt, pepper and olive oil. Sear chicken in pan, stirring occasionally, until the chicken begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside in a separate bowl. Add butter to the pan and, when melted, add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the stock, browned chicken, potatoes, and spices.

Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat so that the sauce just simmers, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken and potatoes are tender…about 25-35 minutes.

While it simmers, prepare Buttermilk Biscuits.

Fold peas into chicken mixture and then remove the pan from the heat.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place the biscuits on top of the chicken and gravy, with 6 biscuits around the edge of the pan and the remaining 4 biscuits in the center (if you have a left over biscuit or two, bake on a separate baking sheet). Be sure the biscuits do not touch, so they cook thoroughly. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the melted butter and bake until the biscuits are golden brown and flaky..14 to 15 minutes. Allow the pot pie to cool briefly before serving. Makes 4-6 servings.

Mmm…fried dumplings

And stir fried green beans with a side of fried rice.  Lazy again, the dumplings were from frozen, bought in a bag at the Asian food store the other day.  I’ve had these steamed, but I think deep frying them is the way to go.  The dipping sauce was quick but good:  regular soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, a spoonful of chili paste, two crushed garlic cloves, a splash of rice vinegar and a little Splenda for sweetener, topped with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

The green beams were fresh, stir fried in hot chili oil then finished with a sauce made from soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, and peanut butter.  Yep-peanut butter, a teaspoon or so.  Also has some black sesame seeds, I should have used the regular instead.  Mrs J reminds me that I should have used regular oil instead as well, there was a bit of a bite from the hot chili oil.

The fried rice?  Just the usual, has some ham, a few peas and shredded carrot, a beaten egg stirred in, a tablespoon of oyster sauce for a bit of flavor.  It was good.


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Catching up and prepping for Easter

Got a couple of nice rides in this weekend, despite the wind.  I was caught in a couple of gusts that pretty much had me standing still.  Saw my first two bald eagles of the spring.  One followed along for quite a while on my ride.  He looked like he was having as much difficulty as I was with the wind.  Later he paired up with a buddy and it seemed they were having a lot of fun with the updrafts.

A few days ago I was treated to an Osprey diving in front of me, into the pond and pulling out his dinner and flying away with it.  Awesome.  We won’t discuss the squirrel I ran over today (yes with my bike and no, I’m not kidding).  I’m still traumatized.

I’m battling laryngitis and a cold, which should be pretty humorous tomorrow at the staff meeting.  Any illusion of control I have will be swept away by the fact I sound like Minnie Mouse…on helium.  Let me tell you, it’s sexy.  Thank the FSM this isn’t a Vlog.

My plan for this week is to post an Easter Menu.  I’ll post over several days as I recipe test.  What’s for Easter dinner?  How about Garlic and Herb Roasted Lamb and Potatoes, along with Mint Peas?  And for dessert?  Coconut Lemon Layer Cake.

Until then….

Thursday Night Menu: Valentine’s Day Edition

I’m travelling this week, so there will not be a new Thursday Night Menu.  Since it is Valentine’s Weekend, I thought I would go ahead and repost the menu from last year.  Why eat a mediocre dinner at an over-crowded restaurant when you can make a delicious and easy dinner at home for Valentine’s?  And it really is easy.  From 2010:

JeffreyW shoots a cornish game hen, served with broccoli and rice

Every year around this time, one of my local grocers offers Cornish Game Hens in packages where they are cut in half. I decided I needed to do something with this idea, so the Valentine’s menu was born. When they are cut in half, it reduced cooking time enough for the recipe to be workable on a week night. Since Valentine’s falls on a Sunday this year, using whole game hens seems reasonable, too. Longer cooking time, but worth it. In case you’re feeling really ambitious, click here for JeffreyW’s wonderful stuffing recipe.  And if you’re looking for a more elegant dessert for Valentine’s Day try this recipe for Raspberry-Chocolate Cupcakes in Raspberry Sauce.

On the board tonight:

  1. Cornish Game Hens w/Stuffing
  2. Buttered Peas and Carrots
  3. Tossed Salad
  4. Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Cornish Game Hens

  • 2 pkgs. stuffing mix
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • ½ cup boiling water or chicken broth
  • 4 Cornish game hens, cut in half *
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 tsp crushed rosemary
  • 2 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper

9×13 glass baking dish

Add stuffing mix, 2 tbsp melted butter and boiling water to baking dish, stir & spread evenly over bottom of baking dish. Lay hens cut side down over stuffing (it’s a tight fit, but you should be able to get all 8 halves in the 13×9 pan). Melt remaining butter, add spices and mix well. Brush some over hens and continue to baste every 10-15 minutes while baking. Bake at 350 to 375° until internal temperature is 175 ° about 45 minutes. Remove, cover loosely with foil and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.  Serves 4

*Hens will have to thawed completely and you’ll need a sharp knife to cut them in half. You can check with your butcher to see if they’ll cut them for you. If you don’t want to cut them in half, cook them whole and allow 1 hour 10 minutes cooking time.

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Preheat oven to 375°

  • ¾ cup chunky peanut butter
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¾ cup flour
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 13-16 oz bag Hershey’s Kisses

2 bowls and baking sheet

Combine peanut butter, butter, sugar, milk and vanilla in bowl. Beat with mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add egg, beat until blended. In small bowl, combine flour, salt & soda. Add to creamed mixture at low-speed until just blended (don’t over mix). Scrape sides and bottom and make sure all flour is mixed. Drop by heaping teaspoon full onto baking sheet, unwrap kisses and press 1 into each cookie. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Remove to racks and cool.

Shopping List:

  • 2 pkgs. stuffing mix
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 4 Cornish game hens, cut in half if possible
  • chunky peanut butter
  • 1 ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 13-16 oz bag Hershey’s Kisses
  • 1 egg
  • 16 oz bag frozen peas and carrots
  • Tossed salad ingredients

Also: rosemary, sage, crushed garlic, salt, pepper, milk, flour, baking soda, chicken broth