Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Focaccia Bread



One of my goals is to try at least one new recipe a week. I have made focaccia bread before, but I don't remember being thrilled with the results. I had a new recipe and decided to try it with some chicken salad for dinner.

I turned out a bit puffier that I imagined; but the taste was wonderful. Fresh bread-hard to go too wrong.

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tbsp. natural granulated sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I actually used all white flour)
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
Coarse salt
Dried rosemary or oregano

Directions:

1. Pour the yeast into warm water and let stand to dissolve for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the oil.

2. Combine the flours and salt in a large mixing bowl. Work the yeast mixture in using your hands, then turn out onto a well-floured board. Knead for 5 minutes, adding additional flour if the dough gets too sticky. Shape into a round and roll out into a circle with a 12-inch diameter.

3. Place on an oiled and floured baking sheet, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

5. When the dough has risen, poke shallow holes into the surface with your fingers, at even intervals. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the top evenly, followed by the garlic, salt and herb.

6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the bread is golden on top and sounds hollow when tapped.

Recipe found in an email list from www.care2.com. Good stuff.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Nachos

Why haven't I thought of this sooner??

I am always on the look-out for quick dinners for weekdays. Husband and I are ready to eat as soon as we get home from work and quick is nice; and necessary!

Corn chips on a plate, cover with leftover taco meat and cheese and microwave until meat is hot and cheese is melted.

Cover with, well, just about anything you want.....

Last night-
black olives
salsa
green onions
avocado (guacamole is good too, of course)
A little red pepper
Sour cream on the side

Seems like I am forgetting something. It was darn good.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chicken corn chowder

I have been making this soup for years; it was actually my first attempt at soup. Very easy, as most soups are, and delicious.

For years I made the recipe exactly as my cookbook indicated, but recently I tried spicing it up a little bit. This is how am making it now.

Spiced up Chicken Corn Chowder


1 -1 1/4 lb. bone-in chicken breast
2 cups water
1 rib celery, cut up
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. salt
milk
1/4 cup margarine or butter
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup diced red pepper
2 tbsp. flour
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 2 cups)
1 (17 ounce) can cream-style corn
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp.cumin
snipped chives or parsley

Directions:

Combine chicken, water, celery, bay leaf and salt in 3 quart saucepan. Bring top boiling; reduce heat and simmer, covered, until chicken is tender, about 25 minutes. Remove chicken from broth; cool, discard bones. Dice chicken; set aside. Strain broth; add enough milk to make 3 cups; set aside. Melt margarine in 3 quart saucepan; saute onion and red pepper until soft but not brown. Blend in flour; gradually stir in milk mixture. Add potatoes; simmer until tender (15-20 minutes). Stir in chicken, corn, salt,pepper, and cumin; heat through. Garnish with chives.
Amount: 6-7 cups

The original recipe called for celery in place of red pepper. I use red pepper in other soup recipes and although I am not a pepper fan in general, I really like the flavor it gives a soup. It also didn't call for cumin; another ingredient I love in other soups. I might throw in a few red pepper flakes too.

Strawberry-Rhubarb



In my opinion, the flavors of strawberry and rhubarb compliment each other perfectly. Strawberry, on its own in a dessert, is a bit bland. Rhubarb, unless you are a real fan of tart or load the sugar is well...too much. But put them together and it's perfect.

This pie went to work for a potluck yesterday and was a hit. I missed the ice cream I usually serve at home. (Way too much of a hassle to deal with ice cream at work.) But it was really fabulous.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Chicken ala me

Now don't get me wrong; I am under no illusion that I am the first one to put veggies and cheese on chicken and call it yummy. But the fact is one day I just put it together, no recipe, just this-sounds-good-with-that and went for it.

It starts with a boneless skinless chicken breast; sliced in half the long way to make a long thin strip of chicken. This gets covered with flour and spices. The spices vary every time I make it. Last night it was salt, pepper, garlic and Italian spices.

The chicken is then browned in olive oil for about 10 minutes until it is brown on both sides, but not necessarily done in the middle. I then throw in the oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

A little more olive oil and in the pan go some veggies. Mushrooms are absolutely necessary in my opinion. Spinach is wonderful and adds some nice green color. A little fresh garlic is good, onion would probably work too.

When there is about 5 minutes left on the chicken pull it out and throw the veggies on top. Then cover with cheese. I am particularly fond of muenster cheese here, but mozzarella or Monterey Jack would be fine too. Let the cheese melt and you have it-Chicken ala me.

Friday, July 17, 2009

When you don't have it in you to cook....

...pizza saves the day fairly often. At least around here. Actually twice this week-it's been quite a week.

Tuesday is normally a day for a nice dinner and a possible time-consuming menu. I have the day off so there is no racing around after work to throw something together. This week the day included a massive, down on the couch headache. Husband got home and threw a frozen pizza in the oven. As far as frozen pizza go California Pizza Kitchen is pretty darned good.

Last night we ordered pizza. Not planned, just too long and stressful of a day to think about much of anything else.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Blueberries

On our weekly grocery shopping trip this morning Husband noted the blueberries were on sale. Would I make a blueberry pie today? Of course. But I did ask him to sort the berries. Four pints of blueberries went in the cart; twice the needed amount for a standard pie.

The sorting consisted of three bowls; excellent, acceptable and not acceptable. Luckily there were not a lot in the unacceptable category and those are now on the deck to see if birds might like them. Another bowl of acceptable fruit is the kitchen for ice cream and cereal toppings. The rest has been baked into a pie.

It surprised me looking at recipes how relatively few suggest picking through the berries. There is a big difference between a large, properly ripe blueberry and a small, under-ripe tart one.

Personally I don't care for blueberries. Maybe I have just gotten too bad ones, maybe it's the flavor or texture or maybe I just don't like blue foods. Regardless-Husband has a pie to himself.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Joy of leftovers

I have always been a big fan of leftovers. A easy, quick weekend lunch or weekday dinner. Every couple of weeks we have a leftover night; which consists of digging containers out of the freezer and refrigerator and reheating. It might be soup and pasta, or perhaps tacos and salad. Sort of our own little buffet.

We had lasagna for lunch. Those little plastic containers are the perfect single serving of leftovers.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Age Old Dilemma

The meal plan is set; then hours (or minutes) before you intend to start dinner-you realize you are missing an ingredient. Not the main ingredient generally, but one little item.

Do you?

*Race to the nearest store for said missing item?
*Never substitute and look into an alternative dish?
*Consider a substitution?

I personally have done all three at one time or another. Really depends.

Last night I planned to make Sesame Chicken. Actually a light recipe by Martha Stewart than I have made a handful of times. It eliminates the heavy (delicious) breading on the chicken that is sometimes seen on this dish and uses a egg white and cornstarch mixture.
Scallions, or green onions as we call them here, are used in this recipe and I was out. I ended up going with thinly sliced yellow onion and it wasn't bad. I missed the color and texture of the green onions, but it tasted fine.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dinner out

We are on vacation this week. Not going anywhere; more like relaxing, eating well and well....relaxing. I had been hearing good things about a restaurant in a local hotel for a while and it seemed a good time to try it.

Arriving at about 5 o'clock we were the first ones there. I was immediately pleased to see the wine list and recognize the brands. We have long been fans of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay; so we ordered a bottle.

I had no problem finding several entrees that looked good and settled on French Chicken with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Husband ordered one of the specials which consisted of pork with hoisin sauce over rice and a separate serving of beef with mushrooms. This is the second time in recent weeks I have seen two small separate servings as one entree and I love the concept.

The portions weren't huge; which made dessert an option. We split a slice of Snickers pie. Exactly what it sounds like and delicious.

It was a nice atmosphere; especially as it never got terribly busy while we were there. Nice evening.

Fudge delight

We were shopping at our local sporting goods/outdoor store and walked past the little fudge and candy shop that dwells within.

Should we stop and buy some fudge? Well, twist my arm.

Standing at the counter looking at no less than twenty varieties of fudge; we attempted to chose. The nice lady offered samples and stated the best deal is to buy six. Six meaning six good-sized hunks of fudge. It seemed silly not to.

That was not even 24 hours ago and a great dent has been put in those six heavenly pieces of fudge. Why we have not made greater use of that place is beyond me. To think fudge used to be a Christmas thing. Why not July?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

lasagna

I have been making lasagna for years. I would like to think it's one of my specialties and it has been a while since I considered any adaptations to my recipe. Sausage, fresh mushrooms, onions, garlic, tomato sauce and some fresh tomatoes, herbs and cheese. (Must have ricotta cheese, by the way.)
We had dinner with friends a few months ago and lasagna was served. It was spicy. I don't mean garlic-I mean spicy, hot!
So my lasagna tonight included hot sausage and a fair amount of red pepper flakes. Very good and got your nose running-if you know what I mean. :-)

New blog

It occurs to me that I talk, write and think a lot about food. Might make for an interesting blog