Ham and Cheese Cups

March30

This time of year is crazy hectic, so here’s a breakfast recipe that’ll make your life just a little bit easier (at least for a few mornings).Ham and Cheese Cups - Whip up these on Saturday or Sunday and after they’ve cooled, pop them in a resealable freezer bag so you can reheat when you're in a hurry!

Whip up these Ham and Cheese Cups on Saturday or Sunday and after they’ve cooled, pop them in a resealable plastic freezer bag. Zap them in the microwave to reheat. (Uh…take them out of the bag, first!) Very easy. Very delicious.

Season them with your favorite seasoning salt (Old Bay, Lawry’s, etc.) or dried herb blend. You can fill them with whatever you’ve got on hand: chopped ham, cheese, chorizo or sautéed veggies. The best part: they make a great lunch or snack, too.

You can thank me sometime next week when you’re slammed because the alarm didn’t go off… or that it was your turn to drive morning car pool… or you just don’t feel like cooking!

Cuban Garlic Shrimp

March22

Old Havana Neighborhood

Journey down any Cuban residential street at mealtime and one distinctive, hunger-inducing aroma lifts you up and carries you to the table: garlic.

This is not a one-clove-in-a-dish kind of place. Got a bulb of garlic? Use it. Please, don’t get me wrong; Cuban cooks know how to incorporate garlic into a recipe so it doesn’t smack you around. They know how to coax garlic into releasing it’s pungent flavor without asaulting the rest of the dish.

Toasting, roasting, sautéing and even frying, bring out garlic’s various nuances. Don’t forget: you want garlic’s flavor, but not the bite… like in this easy-to-prepare garlic shrimp recipe. A splash of vinegar, or lemon, brightens the dish just a bit.

Like visiting Cuba, this is a journey worth taking.

Buy Shrimp by Count Not Size

December21

Always buy shrimp by count not size. "Count” means the number of shrimp you’ll get per pound. The smaller the number, the bigger the shrimp.

Jewel asks: When I was buying shrimp, I saw the word “count.” What does this mean?

“Count” in shrimp lingo means the number of shrimp you’ll get per pound. This is where size really does matter because the smaller the number, the bigger the shrimp. This is why you should always buy shrimp by count not size.

Sometimes you’ll find a “U” in front of the number 10 or 15. This means there are under 10 or 15 shrimp per pound. Buying shrimp by the count is a good idea because what one store sells as “large” could be sold as “jumbo”  in another store.

Count is usually reserved for raw shrimp, head-on or head-off, de-veined or not, and peeled or unpeeled.

But lately I’ve noticed that some places are selling cooked shrimp with a “count.” Don’t forget that shrimp shrinks once it is cooked, so buy bigger if you can afford it!

Use this handy chart for a loose reference so you’ll always know how to buy shrimp by count not size:

Size of the Shrimp Count or Shrimp per Pound
Small 36-45
Medium 31-35
Large 21-30
Extra Large 16-20
Jumbo 11-15

And once you get those shrimp home, you’re going to need to peel and devein them. Here’s how I do it:

How To Peel and Devein Shrimp

Nashville Style Hot Chicken

November17

If you love spicy food, I mean, really, really LOVE all things fiery and flavorful, then you’re ready for Nashville Style Hot Chicken.

What makes Nashville Style Hot Chicken so unique is the “sauce” that is brushed, dipped or poured over the chicken just before serving.

I’m telling you, this atomic fried chicken is guaranteed to burn your face off. Ah, the eye-watering pain. The mouth-burning agony. It hurts (and tastes) so good.

Yes, there are a lot of spicy fried chicken recipes out there. But what makes Nashville Style Hot Chicken so unique is the “sauce” that is brushed, dipped or poured over the chicken just before serving. That sauce is so delicious; you have to serve it with a slice or two of good old-fashioned white bread to soak up all the drippy goodness.

Oh, and you definitely need some good pickles to gussy-up the plate. That’s part of the presentation. You don’t want to go to all the trouble of making Nashville Style Hot Chicken and leave off a traditional garnish!

Several (now famous) places in Nashville have been serving Hot Chicken for decades. But as we all know, it only takes one hip website or famous food show star to get the rest of the country clamoring for the next BIG THING RIGHT NOW.

But what in the world is Nashville Style Hot Chicken anyway? How it came into being is absolutely fascinating, but, then again, I love food history and how it defines our culture, and in this case, a city.

Give a read to Dr. Rachel Martin’s post on the website The Bitter Southerner to understand how Nashville’s so-called signature dish stayed hidden in plain sight for so long before exploding into the mainstream.

What makes Nashville Style Hot Chicken so unique is the “sauce” that is brushed, dipped or poured over the chicken just before serving.

Hattie B’s in Nashville, which offers five heat levels, including “Shut the Cluck Up”, inspired my Nashville Style Hot Chicken recipe. I’ve changed it a bit by adding some spices to the flour. Like Hattie B’s recipe, I dredge the chicken pieces (breasts, thighs and legs only) twice in the flour before frying.

But I don’t add quite as much cayenne pepper as Hattie B’s because, well, I may be a little high strung, but I’m not crazy.

Read this recipe all the way through before you begin. I just heard you gasp. That’s right, one of the ingredients in the secret sauce is one cup of the hot oil from the skillet where the chicken is fried.

But, like I always say, you don’t eat like this every day, and I know how much you love fried chicken!

What makes Nashville Style Hot Chicken so unique is the “sauce” that is brushed, dipped or poured over the chicken just before serving.


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Hi…
I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: mamashighstrung@gmail.com