Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays! My Ragdolls, Bella and Bailey, have been enjoying the scents of pine and spending lots of time with the tree.
I will be doing lots of cooking over the next couple days. Appetizers tonight with my side of the family and a big traditional ham dinner with Husband's side on Sunday. Hopefully I will remember to take a little time to grab a photo to get up on the blog.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Peanut Butter Blossoms



Who doesn't love these cookies? It just seems like they are the go-to favorite holiday treat. Personally I think it's hard to argue with peanut butter and chocolate together.

Ingredients:

½ cups Creamy Peanut Butter
4 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 cups Packed Light-Brown Sugar
2 large Eggs
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1 ½ cups All-Purpose Flour (Spooned And Leveled)
1 tsp Baking Powder
¼ tsp Salt
⅓ cups Granulated Sugar, for rolling dough
Milk chocolate stars or kisses or mini peanut butter cups

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, cream peanut butter and butter in a mixing bowl until smooth. Add brown sugar; beat until combined, scraping down bowl as needed. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until incorporated.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture in two batches.

3. Scoop off dough by the tablespoon; roll into balls. Place granulated sugar on a plate; roll balls in sugar, coating completely. Place 2 inches apart on a nonstick insulated baking sheet.

4. Bake until cookies begin to puff up slightly, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven. Press one star in center of each cookie. Return to oven; continue baking until cookies are golden brown and chocolate has begun to melt, about 6 minutes more. Let cool at least 10 minutes on baking sheet before transferring cookies to rack to cool completely.

Credit to Martha Stewart.

I prefer stars on my cookies; mostly because they are easier to stack and store. But chocolate kisses make a really adorable cookie. I have never tried the mini peanut butter cups, but I am sure it is awesome.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Chocolate Almond Biscotti



I think of biscotti as hard, crunchy and delicious. This recipe is a bit sweeter than most I have tasted with all that wonderful chocolate and also softer. But it would still be awesome dunked in a cup of coffee; which is my ideal way to east biscotti.

Originally I found a recipe for Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti. Try as I might I couldn't find shelled, unsalted pistachios. I finally decided to substitute with almond. The recipe also called for dark chocolate, for which I substituted milk chocolate. I know, I know...dark chocolate is good for you and some people adore it. I don't and I want my chocolate to be worth every single calorie.


Ingredients: 

 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 cups Sugar
1 ½ tsp Baking Powder
¼ tsp Salt
¾ cups Chopped Almonds
4 ounces Milk Chocolate, chopped
3 large Eggs
2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
¼ cups Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1.In a large bowl, whisk together flour, ¾ cup sugar, baking powder, and salt; stir in pistachios and chocolate. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, butter, vanilla, and cocoa. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until combined (dough will be stiff, so mix with hands if necessary).

2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Divide dough in half and place on sheet. Shape into two 2 ½-by-12-inch logs and sprinkle top of each with 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake until risen and firm, 15 to 20 minutes. Let logs cool completely on sheet, about 30 minutes.

3. Reduce oven to 300 degrees. Using a serrated knife, cut logs crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices in a single layer on baking sheets. Bake until biscotti are dry, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Pecan pie bars


I have been wanting to share this recipe since yesterday afternoon. It has taken me several tries to get any sort of decent picture. Note I said decent, not great or even good. My decent camera is out of town, my old iPhone camera wasn't doing the trick and it took me forever to find the cord to go with the passable camera.

*breathe*

These bars are truly fabulous. They are everything that is good about a pecan pie with chocolate added. How can that be bad?

Recipe found on the wonderful Brown Eyed Baker

Ingredients:

For The Crust:

1 ½ cups All-Purpose Flour
½ cup (1 stick) Butter, softened
¼ cup Packed Brown Sugar

Filling:

3 large Eggs
¾ cup Corn Syrup
¾ cup Granulated Sugar
2 Tablespoons Butter, melted
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 ¾ cups Coarsely Chopped Semisweet Or Bittersweet Chocolate - Or Chocolate Chunks In A Bag
1 ½ cups Chopped Pecans


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.

2. For the crust, mix together the flour, butter and brown sugar until crumbly. Press into the baking pan and bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown.

3. For the filling, beat the eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla extract with a wire whisk. Stir in the chunks and pecans. Pour evenly over the baked crust and bake for 25-30 minutes or until set.

4. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cool completely and cut into bars.

*I made the bars in an Airbake 9x13 pan and probably could have baked the crust a little longer as it is a bit crumbly. But that just means you can't walk through the house without dribbling crumbs. It is more a stay on the plate sort of bar.
I highly recommend using the chocolate chunks in a bag-so easy!

I ate my model bars for breakfast this morning; on a plate with a cup of coffee. So far it is the highlight of the day. There is a stupid amount of snow out there and it's -2 degrees. Oh, and the Vikings game has been postponed.  Guess I do some more baking today!

Friday, December 10, 2010

My colorful dinner


After a week which included going out for Mexican food and starting my holiday baking; I decided it was time for a healthy dinner. I made fish tacos this summer and enjoyed them. Using Tilapia which thaws and bakes quickly this came together in about 15 minutes. I baked the fish in the toaster oven with a little olive oil and lemon pepper.

It turned out so pretty! Fish, chopped grape tomatoes, green onions, spinach and Chipotle mayo made a great combination; both looks and taste.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chocolate Marshmallow Fudge


My holiday baking is in swing. Bring on the cookies.

I love Christmas candy, but I don't make very much of it. I don't deal with candy thermometers and the like. That sort of baking putziness just doesn't appeal to me. Homemade pie crusts, yes, candy thermometers...nope.
Fudge is my all time favorite and I had to try this new recipe. It sounded very easy and was described as very creamy. Perfect!

Ingredients:

1 Pkg Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 stick Butter
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 tsp Vanilla
½ cup Powdered Sugar
Mini Marshmallows

Directions:

Combine semi-sweet chocolate chips and butter in microwave safe dish and microwave on defrost setting at 2 minute intervals stirring between each interval until smooth. A double boiler method can be used if desired.

Mix in the butter, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and powdered sugar until smooth.

Add enough mini-marshmallows to make the mixture lumpy (around 2-3 cups depending on your preference.

Line a baking dish with wax paper and pour fudge mixture over the wax paper.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight and cut into squares.

*The butter and chocolate chips melted in about 5 minutes in the microwave. Double broiler? No idea why anyone would bother with that when it is so easy in the microwave.
Definitely refrigerate for at least 4 hours before attempting to cut the fudge. I tried a bit sooner and it was still soft and sticking to the wax paper. But a few hours later the wax paper came off easily and the process was a snap.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mint Chocolate Sugar Cookies



Yes, the cookies are green; it's not your monitor. :)
They taste like an Andes mint. If you like mint you will love these cookies.

Adapted from Betty Crocker

Ingredients:

1 Pouch (1 Lb 1.5 Oz) Betty Crocker® Sugar Cookie Mix
½ cup Butter Or Margarine, softened
¼ - ½ tsp Mint Extract
6 - 8 drops Green Food Color - I did 6 which seemed be plenty.
1 Egg
1 cup Mint Baking Chips
1 cup Semisweet Chocolate Chunks

Directions:

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter, extract, food color and egg until soft dough forms. Stir in mint baking chips and chocolate chunks.

Using small cookie scoop or teaspoon, drop dough 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool 3 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Serve warm or cool completely. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

* I briefly thought about making the cookies from scratch, but ultimately decided it would be less risky to just use the mix and avoid having to adapt my cookie dough recipe.
I immediately stuck them in the freezer to avoid eating them all; saving a few to bring to work. My coworkers raved. My green holiday cookies were a hit.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Broccoli Bacon Quiche


I posted this recipe last year, but didn't include a photo. It turned out so gorgeous I thought it was worth a rerun.
This recipe is very adjustable to use whatever is on hand. I had some white mushrooms so I sliced them thin and added them with the onions and garlic.

Ingredients:


3-4 strips of bacon
2 tbsp. Butter
1 Onion, minced
1/2 cup thinly sliced white mushrooms
1 tsp. Minced Garlic
2 cups Chopped Fresh Broccoli
1 (9 inch) Unbaked Pie Crust
1 cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
4 Eggs, well beaten
3/4 cups Milk
3/4 cup Half and Half
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Black Pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Fry bacon and allow to cool.  Over medium-low heat melt butter in a large saucepan (or use bacon grease) Add onions, mushrooms, garlic and broccoli. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft. Spoon vegetables into crust, break up bacon into small pieces and sprinkle over vegetables and then sprinkle with cheese. . Combine eggs, half and half and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over vegetables, bacon and cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, or until center has set.

*You could chop the broccoli finer, but I like leaving it in larger chunks so you can really tell what is in the dish.  I made it tonight for dinner and we are having leftovers tomorrow for breakfast.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!


I love pumpkin pie; definitely one of my favorites. If memory serves it is also the first pie I ever made. Lucky for me it was successful.

I found the recipe in my trusty old Betty Crocker cookbook and I have never deviated from it.

Ingredients:

9 inch unbaked pie crust
2 Eggs
¾ cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Ground Ginger
⅛ tsp. Ground Cloves
1 Can (15 Oz) Pumpkin
1 Can (12 Oz) Evaporated Milk

Directions:

Pre-Heat Oven to 425 degrees

In medium bowl, beat eggs slightly with wire whisk or hand beater. Beat in all remaining filling ingredients until well blended. 

Pour filling into pie plate. Bake 15 minutes.   

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake about 45 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool 30 minutes. Refrigerate about 4 hours or until chilled. Store in refrigerator.

*The hardest part of making this pie is getting the filling into the crust instead of the bottom of your oven. Pour half the filling into the crust. Pull the rack out the oven and carefully set the pie on it. Pour the remaining filling into the crust. ( A measuring cup works very well.)  Then very carefully push the rack into the oven.
Serve with whipped cream. This is essential. No pumpkin pie without whipped cream. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chicken Stew with Biscuits


The snow came last weekend and the cold arrives this weekend. Winter is coming. Yay. :P

It does make me want to turn on the oven and make dinners like chicken pot pie, meatloaf, lasagna and beef stew. I saw this a while ago on the Food Network website listed under one of Ina Garten's most popular recipes. EVERYTHING from Ina is great, so I knew this had to be wonderful. I was not disappointed.
Adapted slightly from this original.

Ingredients:

3 Whole (6 Split) Chicken Breasts, bone in, skin on
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
Kosher Salt And Freshly Ground Black Pepper
5 cups Chicken Stock, preferably homemade
2 Chicken Bouillon Cubes
12 Tbsp (1 ½ sticks) Unsalted Butter
2 cups Chopped Yellow Onions (2 Onions)
¾ cup Flour
¼ cup Heavy Cream
2 cups Medium-Diced Carrots (4 Carrots)
1 10-ounce Package Frozen Peas (2 Cups)
½ cup Minced Fresh Parsley

For The Biscuits:

2 cups Flour
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Sugar
¼ pound (1 stick) Cold Unsalted Butter, diced
¾ cup Half-And-Half
½ cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
1 Egg Mixed With 1 Tablespoon Water, for egg wash

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions and carrots over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and the heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, peas and parsley. Mix well. Place the stew in a 10 x 13 x 2-inch oval or rectangular baking dish. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the biscuits. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Add the half-and-half and combine on low speed. Mix in the parsley. Dump the dough out on a well-floured board and, with a rolling pin, roll out to ⅜-inch thick. Cut out twelve circles with a 2 ½-inch round cutter.

Remove the stew from the oven and arrange the biscuits on top of the filling. Brush them with egg wash, and return the dish to the oven. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the biscuits are brown and the stew is bubbly.

*I made about half of this recipe; starting with two chicken breasts. It sounds complicated with lots of ingredients and long instructions, but it really isn't difficult. The stew has a few steps, but it's not hard and thickens beautifully. Making the biscuits was easy in the stand mixer. Be very generous with the flour as the dough is sticky, but with that tip in mind rolling out the dough wasn't difficult.
This recipe is lick-the-plate-clean good. You savor every bite.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Calico Beans



Some people call them Chuck Wagon Beans. I have also heard Cowboy Beans. Whichever name you prefer it means several kinds of beans, meat and a sweet tangy sauce.

Speaking of beans.....


I had a can of Bush's Grillin' Beans left over from grilling season. Since winter has all but officially started thanks to a major storm last weekend it wouldn't be grillin' season again for a while. So the grillin' beans found their way into the crock pot.
Great Northern beans would also work in this recipe, but I really like the Butter Beans. With their white color and larger size they are a nice contrast to the baked and kidney beans.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb of ground beef - I use lean
4-5 slices of bacon
1 onion
1 can baked beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can butter beans
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Fry bacon until crispy, drain on paper towel and cut into small pieces. Add hamburger to frying pan. Chop onion and add to hamburger and cook until hamburger is browned and onion is soft. Combine all ingredients. Place in casserole dish or crock pot.
Bake 350 degrees for 1 hour or put in crock pot for a least 3 hours on low.

I can't vouch for the oven baking method as I have always used the slow cooker for this recipe. The flavors melt together beautifully and the kitchen smells fabulous.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries


I follow a lot of wonderful food blogs. They are a great source of tried-and true recipes that people love and want to share. Occasionally I see a recipe that I know I must try immediately if not sooner.

This was one of them. Found on Simply Recipes

I first had sweet potato fries at a local restaurant years ago and got addicted. They were great by themselves but made extra good with a chipotle mayo dipping sauce.  Sadly the place is no longer in business. I have had sweet potato fries a few times since, but I must say, the original place made the best.

Husband doesn't care for them. When I told them I would be making them he said he wouldn't be partaking. Fine. More for me!

So I bought myself one big sweet potato and set out to try it. I wondered how to spice it and decided on salt, pepper, Chinese five-spice, Cajun seasonings and a bit of Spanish Paprika. The pumpkin pie spice sounded interesting, but I wanted more savory than sweet.

Ingredients:

2 pounds Sweet Potatoes, about 3 large ones
¼ cup Olive Or Other Vegetable Oil
1-2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Salt
1-2 Tbsp Spice Or Spice Combination Of Your Choice: Chipotle Powder, smoked paprika, Chinese five-spice, pumpkin pie spice, garam masala, Cajun seasoning, etc.

Directions:

1 Preheat oven to 450°F.

2 Peel the sweet potatoes and cut off the ends. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and then, if they are very long, in half crosswise. Cut each piece into wedges.

3 Put the sweet potatoes into a large bowl and add the oil. Mix well to combine. Sprinkle with salt, sugar and spices of your choice. Use your hands to mix well, so all pieces are coated with oil and spices.

4 Spread the sweet potatoes out in a single layer on a baking sheet; the oil they are coated with should keep them from sticking to the pan. I also used a non stick pan.

5 Bake for a total of 25 to 30 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, remove the baking sheet from the oven and turn over all of the sweet potato pieces. Return to the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until they are well browned. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Since I made sweet potato fries I had to have some Chipotle mayo dipping sauce. I had some bottled Chipotle mayo and mixed it with a little sour cream. It did the trick and satisfied my craving for a while.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pasta with Spinach, Mascarpone And Parmesan


This is really good. I can say this for certain as I have eaten it twice in the last 24 hours. Last night I served it with broiled shrimp, which was terrific. But I forgot to get a photo. Today I made it again for myself for lunch, but without the shrimp. Delicious.
Adapted from this Jamie Oliver recipe. His version doesn't have the mushrooms or shrimp.

Ingredients:

1 pound Fettuccine Or Spaghetti
Olive Oil
2 tsp Butter
2 cloves Of Garlic, peeled and sliced
Fresh Sliced Mushrooms
14 ounces Fresh Spinach, washed thoroughly and finely sliced
Sea Salt And Freshly Ground Black Pepper
4 fluid ounces whipping Cream
5 ounces Mascarpone Cheese
2 Handfuls Of Grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the pasta, and cook according to the packet instructions. Meanwhile get a frying pan or wok warm, add a drizzle of olive oil, the butter, and add the mushrooms. When the mushrooms have cooked down add the garlic, then add the spinach. After a few minutes it will have wilted down and will be nice and dark. A lot of the liquid will have cooked away and you'll have wonderful intensely flavored spinach. At this point season with salt and pepper until it tastes good, then add the cream, mascarpone and a little ladle of cooking water from the pasta. Let this come to a simmer and then season again.

Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water, then stir it into the spinach sauce. Add the Parmesan and toss everything together. Loosen to a nice silky consistency with some of the reserved cooking water, so it doesn't become too claggy. Check once more for seasoning and serve straight away.

Claggy. I like that word. :)
 I adjusted the ingredients and directions to reflect how I made the dish but I had to leave claggy. Which mine wasn't....it was awesome.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Party Pinwheel Wraps


One of my coworkers hosted a get-together at her house last night. She made chili and cornbread muffins-we all brought a dish to pass.  There is always a ton-o-food at this sort of event and everything is fabulous. I decided to do an appetizer and thought of these wraps that always go over big when I have brought them to a work potluck. Sure enough they were the first food we ran out of last night.
I made them in the morning and stuck them in the refrigerator at work.

 Ingredients:

4 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
½ (1 ounce) Package Ranch Dressing Mix
* 2 Green Onions, minced
2 (12 inch) Flour Tortillas
¼ cup Red Bell Pepper, diced
½ (2 ounce) Can Sliced Black Olives
¼ cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Directions:

1. In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, ranch dressing mix, and green onions. Spread this mixture on each tortilla. Sprinkle red pepper, black olives, and cheese (if you'd like) over the cream cheese mixture. Roll up the tortillas, then wrap them tightly in aluminum foil.

2. Chill 2 hours or overnight. Cut off ends of the rolls, and slice the chilled rolls into 1 inch slices.

I skipped the chilling before I sliced them as I didn't have the time. It works fine, just use a sharp knife.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chardonnay Chicken and Wild Rice Soup



 Soup is so wonderful; especially when cooler weather rolls around. When winter really kicks into high gear a bowl of soup and fresh bread is great comfort food for me. This chicken wild rice soup is incredibly delicious. As you might imagine from the amounts of the ingredients it is also a HUGE recipe. We each had a bowl for lunch on Sunday, packaged up four bowls to give away and still had five large bowls worth to freeze. No complaints from me!!

Ingredients:

1 onion diced
1 red bell pepper diced (You could use green too, though I am personally not a fan.)
3 stalks of celery diced
2 carrots peeled and diced
4 raw chicken breasts chopped into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup white wine
1 Quart chicken stock
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp pepper
1/2 gallon heavy cream (yes, a half a gallon)
4 cups cooked wild rice (about 1 cup uncooked)
1 cup white wine

Directions:

1. Saute onion, red bell pepper, celery and carrots in a large stock pot. ( I mean large. My good sized stock pot was 3/4 full.)

2. Add the chopped raw chicken and cook through until chicken is no longer pink.

3.Deglaze with 1/2 cup of white wine and add chicken stock and seasonings.

4. Add cream. Bring almost to a boil and thicken with roux.

5. Add the rice and wine.

I prefer to thicken after all the ingredients are in the soup and that is what I did in this case.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rigatoni with Creamy Mushroom Sauce


The words creamy, pasta and mushrooms always sound good to me. I have been wanting to try this recipe for a while. Not to mention it was a good excuse to buy and try some Marscarpone cheese.
I made about half the following recipe for Husband and I and served it with some chicken seasoned with rosemary and thyme. It is an easy, quick recipe that comes together in under a half hour.

Credit to Giada De Laurentiis from Everyday Italian

Ingredients:

1 pounds Rigatoni Pasta
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Shallots, minced
1 Clove Garlic, minced
Salt And Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 pounds Assorted Mushrooms - I used white and portabella
½ cups White Wine
½ cups Vegetable Stock
1 cups (8 ounces) Mascarpone Cheese, at room temperature
½ cups Grated Parmesan
¼ cups Chopped Fresh Chives - I used green onion tops

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. While the pasta is cooking:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the heat to high. Add the wine and cook for 3 minutes until all the liquid evaporates. Add the stock and simmer until liquid is slightly reduced. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the mascarpone cheese. Stir until creamy. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water, and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the mushroom mixture and the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Toss well to coat pasta, adding the reserved pasta water, if needed, to loosen the pasta. Garnish with the chopped chives. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Breakfast for Dinner


I was on my own for dinner tonight; and decided to make something as opposed to dig for leftovers in the freezer. I had a bunch of eggs and some leftover mushrooms. Sounded like the makings of an omelet.

Nothing magical or fancy here and I am no expect on omelets; especially not flipping them! I whisked two eggs, a little milk and salt and pepper. I poured it into a heated skillet and added some mushrooms and onions that I had previously sauteed along with a little sharp cheddar cheese.Then it was folded, flipped and tossed on the plate with a bit more cheese on top.

A few red grapes to go with the omelet and I have dinner. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chimichangas and Cilantro-Lime Rice


Browsing the Farmer's Market over the weekend I found a stand with Jalapeno peppers and fresh cilantro. I remembered these two recipes I found recently and had been wanting to try.

The chimichanga recipe was adapted from Food Network

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
4 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 White Onion, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 Jalapeno Pepper, diced (remove seeds for less heat)
1 ½ tsp Chili Powder
½ tsp Ground Cumin
¼ tsp Ground Cinnamon
Kosher Salt
1 small Tomato, chopped, plus more for topping
2 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Cilantro
Sriracha Sauce to taste
2 ½ cups Shredded Rotisserie Chicken
¼ cup Sour Cream
Black beans-slightly smashed with a fork
4 10- Inch Flour Tortillas
1 cup Shredded Mexican blend, plus more for topping
Salsa, for topping

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Melt the butter with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet; transfer to a bowl. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeno and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon salt; toast 30 seconds. Add the tomato, cilantro and Sriracha sauce and cook until slightly dry, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken and sour cream and warm through. Remove from the heat.

Brush a rimmed baking sheet with some of the butter-oil mixture. Spread 2 tablespoons black beans down the center of each tortilla, leaving a 2-inch border on both ends. Top with 1 cup chicken mixture and ¼ cup cheese. Fold in the ends and roll up.

Put the chimichangas seam-side down on the baking sheet; brush with the butter-oil mixture. Bake 8 to 10 minutes per side, brushing again after you flip. Top with the salsa, more cheese, lettuce and tomato.

* I feared disaster when the time came to flip it halfway through baking, but it stayed together perfectly. I used 8 inch shells as that is what I had available so they were sort of mini-chimichangas; but it was a good portion size.
I don't keep Rotisserie chicken lying around, so I baked boneless skinless breasts with a little fresh ground pepper and olive oil.

Cilantro-Lime Rice

Cooked White Rice
1 Bunch Fresh Cilantro, chopped
Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice, 4-6 limes for about 4 servings or rice
Coarse Salt, to taste

Cook or re-warm white rice. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool briefly. Begin by adding the juice of one lime to the warm rice, stir to combine and taste. Continue adding fresh lime juice until rice is tangy enough. Repeat with the cilantro, add a few tablespoons at a time until the flavor comes through. Repeat again with the salt (do salt last because the acidity of the lime juice will brighten up the flavors a lot and you may not need as much salt as you normally would), just adding a few pinches at a time and stirring well then tasting. Taste dish again and adjust flavors as needed.

*This was a great accompaniment to the chimichangas. The lime and cilantro made a great fresh, light taste.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Orange-Honey Glazed Chicken



I use Yummy Soup; a Mac-based recipe management program. It works very well and got even better recently with the ability to easily import recipes on the web.
The program came with some recipes already imported and this was one of them. I was a bit concerned with idea of reducing glaze; but it wasn't hard at all. The glaze thickened up nicely after coming out of the oven and had great flavor.
I made half of the recipe and it maybe could have used a bit more glaze. But I don't think you could really have too much. :)
The hardest part was remembering to keep my bare hand off the handle of the skillet! There are several references to that in the recipe and I can see why.

Attribution: Cooks Illustrated

 Ingredients:

1 ½ cups Orange Juice Plus An Additional 2 Tablespoons
⅓ cup Light Corn Syrup
3 Tbsp Honey
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp Distilled White Vinegar
⅛ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
Table Salt And Ground Black Pepper
½ cup All-Purpose Flour
4 Chicken Breast Halves With Ribs & Skin
2 tsp Vegetable Oil
1 medium Shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)

Directions:

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk 1 ½ cups orange juice, corn syrup, honey, mustard, vinegar, pepper flakes, ⅛ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper together in medium bowl.

2. Remote ribs and excess fat from breasts. Trim off any extra overhanging skin as well. Place flour in pie plate, then season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Working with one chicken breast at a time, coat chicken with flour, patting off excess.

3. Heat oil in ovenproof 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add chicken breasts skin-side down; cook until well browned and most of fat has rendered from skin, 8 to 14 minutes. (If after 3 minutes you don't hear definite sizzling, increase heat to medium-high. If after 6 minutes chicken is darker than lightly browned, reduce heat slightly.) Turn chicken and lightly brown other side, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to plate.

4. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon fat from pan. Add shallot and cook until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase heat to high and add orange juice mixture. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced to 1 cup (heatproof spatula should leave slight trail when dragged through glaze), 6 to 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and tilt to one side so glaze pools in corner of pan. Using tongs, roll each chicken breast in pooled glaze to coat evenly and place skin-side down in skillet.

5. Transfer skillet to oven and bake chicken until thickest part of breasts registers 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 25 to 30 minutes, turning chicken skin-side up halfway through cooking. Transfer chicken to platter and let rest 5 minutes. Return skillet to high heat (be careful-handle will be very hot) and cook glaze, stirring constantly, until thick and syrupy (heatproof spatula should leave wide trail when dragged through glaze), about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons orange juice. Spoon 1 teaspoon glaze over each breast and serve, passing remaining glaze at table.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cheddar Garlic Biscuits



These may bear a slight resemblance to a certain restaurant biscuit. :)

I have tried a number of recipes for cheddar garlic biscuits. These are delicious; moist and very flavorful.  We both ate one immediately after they came out of the oven. Of course, they are at their absolute best hot and fresh. One more for each of us with dinner and I froze the rest right away. These babies are best out of sight unless you want to eat the whole batch!

Ingredients:

Mix together in a small bowl and set aside for brushing:
2 tbsp. Butter, melted
¼ tsp. Dried Parsley Flakes
½ tsp. Garlic Powder
Pinch Of Salt

Whisk with a fork in a large bowl:
2 cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 tbsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Onion Powder
½ tsp. Garlic Powder
2 tsp. Dried Parsley
¾ cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Add to the bowl all at once:
⅔ cup Milk
⅓ cup Vegetable Oil

Directions:

Place the oven rack in the middle position and preheat to 475. Use an Airbake cookie sheet or double up two cookie sheets together if you don’t have an Airbake.

Stir with a fork just until the dough readily leaves the sides of the bowl. Scoop the dough with a spoon and drop two inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until lightly golden browned on top. Immediately, liberally brush the melted butter mixture over tops of biscuits.

Makes about 10 biscuits.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chinese Chicken with Green Beans


Our favorite Chinese restaurant makes wonderful chicken with green beans. It's spicy and flavorful and one of the few times Husband will eat fresh green beans. I decided to find a recipe and give something similar a shot at home.

It required a leisurely stop at the Asian section of the grocery store.


I have been looking for an excuse to buy some Hoisin sauce anyway. That red bottle in back, Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, is hot indeed! 1 1/2 teaspoons of this goes a long way.

Ingredients:
6 ounces Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, very thinly sliced ⅛-inch thick
7 ½ tsp Soy Sauce
¾ tsp Asian Spice Blend, recipe follows
¼ cup Chopped Cooked Shrimp
½ cup Hot Water
¼ cup Vegetable Oil
½ pound Green Beans, stem ends trimmed, cut into 3-inch lengths
1 Tbsp Minced Garlic
¼ cup Roughly Chopped Cashews
2 Tbsp Hoisin Sauce
1 tsp Sesame Oil
1 ½ tsp Sriracha Sauce
¼ tsp Red Pepper Flakes

Directions:
In a bowl, combine the chicken, 4 ½ teaspoons of the soy sauce, and Asian spice blend. Toss to coat and let sit for 10 minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine the shrimp and water. Let sit for 15 minutes. Drain and roughly chop. In a large wok or saute pan, heat the oil over high heat. Add the beans and shallow fry until wrinkled, stirring, about 2 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the oil and add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 10 seconds.

Add the chicken and stirring constantly, cook until brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chopped shrimp, greens beans, cashews, hoisin, remaining 3 teaspoons of soy sauce, Sriracha sauce, and red pepper flakes. Stir to coat, and cook for 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and serve immediately over rice.

Asian  Spice Blend

1 tsp 5-spice Powder
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground Pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

This recipe was adapted from Food Network

Lots of flavor here and spicy without being overpowering. This recipe was a nice amount for the two of us.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Italian Sausage Lasanga






Lasagna is one of my absolute favorite foods. I have also been making it for a very long time. I have changed a few things over the years, but never really deviated much from my first ever recipe.

Ingredients:

(for the sauce)
1 pound  Italian Sausage (I used 1/2 lb Hot Italian sausage and 1/2 lb Turkey Sausage)
1 medium Onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
1 1/2 cups Chopped Fresh Mushrooms
2 Clove Garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Parsley
1 tsp Sugar
1 tsp Dried Basil
1 tsp Oregano
1 can (16 oz.) Whole Tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes-see my note)
1 can (15 oz.) Tomato Sauce
12 Uncooked Lasagna Noodles (see my note)
—————————-
(for the cheese mixture)
1 Carton (16 Oz.) Ricotta Or Cottage Cheese
¼ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Parsley
1 ½ tsp Dried Oregano Leaves
—————————-
(for the top)
2 cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (8 Ounce Package)
¼ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese


Directions:

Make the sauce- Cook sausage, onion, mushrooms and garlic in a large stockpot, stirring occasionally, until sausage is brown, drain. Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley, sugar, basil, tomatoes and tomato sauce. Use clean kitchen shears to snip the tomatoes into smaller pieces. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally, reduce heat. Simmer uncovered about 45 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook noodles as directed on package (don’t overcook), drain. Mix ricotta cheese, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon parsley and oregano. Spread 1 cup of the sauce mixture in an ungreased rectangular baking dish, 13x9x2 inches. Top with 4 noodles overlapping slightly.

Spread 1 cup of the cheese mixture over noodles, spread with 1 cup sauce, sprinkle with ⅔ cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat with 4 noodles, the remaining cheese mixture, 1 cup of the sauce mixture and ⅔ cup of the mozzarella cheese. Top with remaining noodles and sauce. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and ¼ cup Parmesan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.

*My best pans of lasagna have started with fresh tomatoes in place of both the canned whole tomatoes and the tomato sauce. Nothing wrong with lasagna made that way; I make it all the time in the winter when fresh garden tomatoes are not available. But you cannot beat the fresh taste.  It certainly takes a bit more time and effort to cook down the fresh tomatoes, but the final taste is worth every minute. 
I have come full circle with cooking the noodles. I started by cooking them fully; then started not boiling them at all and simply letting them cook in the lasagna. The lasagna sets up beautifully that way but I always ended up with some unacceptably crunchy pasta on top.
My method now is to boil them for just a few minutes; basically enough so they are flexible, but certainly not fully cooked. The crunchy on top is eliminated and the pasta gains the wonderful flavors of the sauce and cheese as they cook.
This recipe is adapted from Betty Crocker. The mushrooms were not part of the original but have been a part of my recipe since day one. 



Normally with a recipe this large I would cut down the recipe for the two of us. Not with Lasagna. The pan gets separated into individual portions for terrific lunches or quick weekday dinners.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Meatloaf and Butternut Squash


This time of the year you don't have to look far to find someone with a garden overflowing with squash. A patient brought in a bunch of butternut squash and I grabbed one of the smaller ones for the two of us. One of my coworkers mentioned serving hers with meatloaf and that sounded like a perfect fall meal.



Squash is so easy to prepare and baked in the oven along with the meatloaf. I cut it in half the long way and scooped out the seeds and stringy stuff. I rubbed the meat of the squash with olive oil so it didn't dry out, sprinkled it with kosher salt and put it in a casserole dish with a little water. It baked in the oven covered at 400 degrees for a little over an hour. It was falling-apart tender and very easy to scoop out of the shell. I then mixed in butter and brown sugar. Very tasty.



My meatloaf tends to look like giant meatball instead of a loaf. But I don't think that's a bad thing; it stays juicy and doesn't dry out that way.
My recipe is very basic.

Meatloaf

1 pound of hamburger-I use lean
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
About 1/3 cup of bread crumbs-I used seasoned
1 egg
1 tsp of Worcestershire Sauce
Fresh ground pepper and kosher salt to taste

Mix well with hands and form into a loaf (or a ball :) ) and place in a loaf pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour.

I think ketchup is delicious on meatloaf. It was a very good meal.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pizza for the football game


We always have pizza for Vikings games. It's a great tradition at our house and lately I do homemade more often than not.
After years of experimenting I finally found a crust recipe that I love. It is flavorful and tender, yet you can still pick it up to eat it.

American style Pizza Crust by Wolfgang Puck

Ingredients:

Untitled Ingredient
1 Package Active Dry Or Fresh Yeast
1 tsp. Honey
1 cup Warm Water (105º F To 115º F)
3 cups All-Purpose Flour (Use Good Quality All-Purpose Or A Bread Flour)
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 tbsp. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, plus more for brushing

Directions:

1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and honey in ¼ cup of the warm water.

2. In a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour and the salt. Add the oil, yeast mixture, and the remaining ¾ cup of water and mix on low speed until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and clusters around the dough hook, about 5 minutes.

3. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand 2 or 3 minutes longer. The dough should be smooth and firm. Cover the dough with a clean, damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot for about 30 minutes. (When ready, the dough will stretch as it is lightly pulled.)

4. Place a pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500º F.

5. Divide the dough into 2 balls. Work each ball by pulling down the sides and tucking under the bottom of the ball. Repeat 4 or 5 times. Then on a smooth, unfloured surface, roll the ball under the palm of your hand until the top of the dough is smooth and firm, about 1 minute. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. At this point, the balls can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

6. To prepare each pizza, dip the ball of dough into flour, shake off the excess flour, place the dough on a clean, lightly floured surface, and start to stretch the dough. Press down on the center, spreading the dough into an 8-inch circle, with outer border a little thicker than the inner circle. If you find this difficult to do, use a small rolling pin to roll out the dough. Lightly brush the inner circle of the dough with oil and arrange the toppings of your choice over the inner circle.

7. Using a lightly floured baker’s peel or a rimless flat baking tray, slide the pizza onto the baking stone and bake until the pizza crust is nicely browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Remember that the oven is very hot and be careful as you place the pizza into and out of the oven. Transfer the pizza to a firm surface and cut into slices with a pizza cutter or very sharp knife. Serve immediately

*My note: Through trial and error we have found the best way to get the pizza on the heated pizza stone is to use tin foil. Prepare the pizza on the foil and then slide pizza and foil onto the heated stone. The dough going directly on the hot stone makes all the difference in how it cooks. No more soggy crusts! A cookie sheet can be helpful with this process; especially to pull the pizza out of the the oven. Just slide the cookie sheet under the foil.

The above recipe makes a pizza for each of us. Personal pizzas, if you will. I like my pizza traditional: crust, sauce, topping, cheese in that order bottom up. Husband likes to put cheese down on the sauce and then a bit more cheese on top of everything. He likes a lot of meat; I like a bit of meat and more veggies. So now we each our own pizza made the way we want. I eat half for the game and usually half later in the day.
The picture above is my pizza. It looks huge, but it is really only a little bigger than the "personal pizzas" you see offered at restaurants. For topping I have turkey sausage and a few pepperoni, red onions, portabella mushrooms, black olives, a pizza cheese mix and some fresh mozzarella.
It was delicious.
Now if the Vikings can just figure themselves out this season.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chili


The weather is getting cooler and chili is a great fall meal. I had actually never made traditional red chili from scratch. We like spicy foods so I wanted to find a recipe with a little kick.

Ingredients:

1 ½ Lbs (750 G) Lean Ground Beef
2 Onions, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
2 Stalks Celery, chopped
1 large Red Bell Pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp (25 ml) Chili Powder
1 ½ tsp (7 ml) Dried Oregano Leaves
1 ½ tsp (7 ml) Ground Cumin
½ tsp (2 ml) Hot Pepper Flakes Or To Taste
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 drops of hot sauce
1 can (28 oz/796 ml) Tomatoes, including juice, chopped
1 cup (250 ml) Reduced-Sodium Beef Broth
1 can (19 oz/540 ml) Pinto Or Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup (50 ml) Chopped Fresh Parsley Or Cilantro

Directions:

1. In a large Dutch oven or saucepan, cook beef over medium-high heat, breaking up with a wooden spoon, for about 7 minutes or until no longer pink. Place in strainer and drain fat. Return beef to pan.

2. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions, garlic, celery, red pepper, chili powder, oregano, cumin, hot pepper flakes, cayenne pepper and hot sauce; cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened.

3. Stir in tomatoes with juice and broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.

4. Add beans and parsley; cover and simmer for 10 minutes more.

I added the cayenne pepper and hot sauce and substituted red pepper for the green. I had a huge tomato that needed to be used so instead of the can of tomatoes I used fresh. I really like all the fresh vegetables in this recipe.
It was excellent, very flavorful with a little heat but not overwhelming. Good sized recipe so we get leftovers later in the week. I am betting it will taste even better in a few days.
I made some cornbread muffins go with the chili. Betty Crocker gets the credit for the muffins

Recipe found on cookstr.com

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stuffed chicken breast


Husband and I were talking about food and he happened to mention bug bag chicken. Yes, that's right.....bug bag chicken. How wonderful does that sound????
Actually it's delicious. I made this Martha Stewart recipe years ago and it was a staple at our house for quite a while. For whatever reason it fell out of the rotation.
The "bug bag" chicken reference should be explained. The mushroom, onion and herb mixture stuffed under the skin looks a bit like the bug bags that like to inhabit flowering trees.  Disgusting things and that is where the comparison ends.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 Shallot, peeled and minced
1 pound White Button Mushrooms, finely chopped
Salt And Freshly Ground Pepper To Taste
¼ cup Dry White Wine
1 cup Finely Chopped Parsley
2 Whole Boneless Chicken Breasts, split

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add garlic and shallot; saute, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms; cook, stirring, until mushrooms release their juices, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add white wine, and continue cooking until liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in the parsley. 2. Pull skin back from one chicken breast, keeping skin attached at one end. Season with salt and pepper. Mound ⅓ cup mushroom filling on breast; pull skin back over filling. Tuck ends under breast, forming a ball. Secure with toothpicks. Repeat with remaining chicken and filling. 3. Place stuffed breasts in a roasting pan, keeping them close together but not touching. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over top. Transfer to oven; roast until skin is golden brown and chicken has cooked through, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven, and serve.

It is a quick, easy and tasty recipe. I have never been able to find boneless skin-on chicken breast so I make it with boned. The idea of trying to de-bone and have an intact piece of meat left doesn't fill me with confidence.  I served it with cauliflower with white sauce.

Recipe from Martha Stewart

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Red Cabbage and Cauliflower Salad


This salad was also served at our get-together the other night. The recipe has been in the family for a while. I did add the Balsamic vinegar as it seems to be a common ingredient in red cabbage coleslaw.  The sour cream was also added as I always use a combination of salad dressing and sour cream in coleslaw.

Ingredients:

1/2 head red cabbage
1/2 head cauliflower
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 slices bacon-fried until crisp
1 cup salad dressing ( I used Miracle Whip light )
1 TBSP Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Finely chop cabbage and cauliflower and layer in a large bowl. Fry bacon and layer chopped bacon and onion over cabbage mixture. Mix salad dressing, vinegar, sour cream and salt and pepper and layer over top of salad. Refrigerate at least one hour and toss salad before serving.
This is a big recipe and makes a lot of salad. Luckily we didn't have a lot left over as it was quite popular. It held up very well and was still good the next day; the red cabbage and cauliflower were still crunchy. The picture above was some I enjoyed for lunch the next day. Very pretty salad!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Spinach Cashew spread


We had Husband's family over last night to get together and break in our new deck. It is always nice to have a couple appetizers to start the festivities. We served chips and salsa; which is easy and appealing to most, but I wanted one more item. This recipe has been sitting in my "to-try" file for a while and I had spinach to use up.

 Ingredients:

1 cup Fresh Baby Spinach, rinsed, with water still clinging lightly to the leaves (about 1 cup, tightly packed)
½ cup Whole Roasted, unsalted cashews
1 Clove Garlic, roughly chopped
2 tbsp. Sour Cream
1 ounce Cream Cheese
1 tsp. Fresh Lemon Juice
⅛ tsp. Salt
Black Pepper, to taste (optional)

Directions:

Combine the spinach, cashews, and garlic in the bowl of a small food processor or mini-chop and process for about 15 seconds, or until finely chopped and pulverized. Stop the machine and scrape the sides once about halfway through.

Add the remaining ingredients and process an additional 30 seconds, or until creamy, scraping halfway through to incorporate all the ingredients evenly.
Use immediately, or chill and serve. Keep refrigerated.

It's very fresh tasting with all that spinach and a pretty green color. It came together in minutes in my easy chopper and tasted great after being refrigerated for a couple hours.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pasta Sauce


The above photo isn't my delicious spaghetti sauce we enjoyed tonight, but it's certainly the most important ingredient.

I quickly learned growing tomatoes that you always end up with more than you could hope to eat fresh; certainly not the two of us. No matter as they lead to fabulous pasta sauce and salsa.

But I dreaded the skin removal process. Pulling tomatoes out of boiling hot water to remove their skins didn't sound like fun. In talking to someone I learned of a much easier method-throw them in the freezer. When they are completely frozen solid put them in hot water. The skin literally falls off. The one thing to remember to to cut out the stem part and any imperfections ahead of time before you stick the tomatoes in the freezer.

At that point the tomatoes were cooked down and when some of liquids had evaporated I added spices, mushrooms, garlic and onions. Tonight I added Italian sausage when I served it for dinner.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fish Tacos


Food blogs and restaurants are all about fish tacos lately. I thought it sounded like something different.

My plan was to use tilapia as I had some in the freezer; flavored with lime and garlic. After not being able to find more to go with it I ended up with some frozen lemon-garlic grilled fish fillets.

Looking up sauces for fish tacos I found either Chipotle Mayo or some form of creamy chive sauce. I decided on the spicy Chipotle Mayo sauce to compete with "fishy" taste. I had been looking for an excuse to buy some Kraft Sandwich Shop Mayo-chipotle flavor. For vegetables I chopped up tomatoes, green onions, red pepper and added some cilantro.

I liked it a lot. It was very flavorful and a lower calorie choice for a main entree.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My lunch


A garden tomato, fresh mozzarella cheese, a little olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper made a delicious light lunch today. The only time missing from the classic Italian Caprese Salad was fresh basil leaves and I had none.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Menu Planning

People tend to be surprised and usually impressed when I tell them that I plan our weekly menus. But I think they are imaging something fancier and more complicated than it really is. What it does not involve is fussy recipes every night of the week; and certainly not on busy work days.

What it does involve is having our meals figured out to save the stress of coming home at 5:30 PM, hoping to eat by six or shortly after and not having a clue what to make. I went through years of this and we were both sick of the stress.

So before we go grocery shopping every Sunday morning I plan our weekly menu. It starts with what sounds good, what have I been wanting to try or what is currently fresh and in-season. I usually look through our local grocery store's weekly ad and see what strikes me. I then look through my recipes and see what we haven't had for a while. Hopefully at the end I have something designated for each day of the week. I try to do a variety of main entrees and hopefully use up leftovers I may have lurking in the refrigerator in the process.

But make no mistake, it doesn't mean everything is a complicated or fancy dish. Some days might list "leftovers" or "go out to eat" It might also be something incredibly fast and easy like nachos using leftover taco meat. But the point is the plan is there and we can both go to our shared calendar to see what is for dinner.

The benefits are many. The weekly grocery shopping is far more efficient having a plan as opposed to wandering around seeing what looks good, but may not produce meals. I like to think we eat a more balanced diet. Not to mention I am much more likely to make meals, even if I am tired, when they are planned. To me half the battle of weeknight cooking is figuring out what you want to make.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Power of the first Garden Tomato


Sometimes one great ingredient can inspire an entire meal. I harvested the first tomato from my plant-in-a-pot yesterday and, of course, needed a worthy use of the gorgeous little guy. They do taste particularly good sliced over a grilled hamburger. Sweet corn is in full season now, so one side was decided. I also remembered I hadn't made creamy cucumber salad yet this year.
A classic summer dinner.

Creamy Cucumber Salad

1 cucumber-peeled and sliced
1/3 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing-I used a combination of the two
1/2 small onion sliced-white, yellow or red is fine
1/2 tsp dried dill-I am sure fresh would be fabulous
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Mix all and allow to set in refrigerator for a least one hour. I usually stir or shake the container at least once during the setting process to assure the flavors meld together.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thai Peanut Pasta


When I came up with idea of a food blog and settled on the name Food Havoc the question became would there ever be havoc? I don't see a lot of food writers blog about their mistakes, accidents, or otherwise bad results.

Honestly, this isn't a post about bad results either, because my mistake luckily did not result in inedible food. 

But the fact is the first time I made this recipe I accidentally omitted a couple ingredients. Call it doing two things at once, or just not paying attention: but it could have been a mess.

Ingredients:

1 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1 cup Lite  Coconut Milk
⅓ cup Rice Vinegar
¼ cup Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Orange Juice Concentrate
1 tsp Ground Ginger
½ tsp Crushed Red Pepper
¼ tsp Ground Cumin
¼ tsp Ground Allspice
1 pound Thin Spaghetti, cooked and drained
1 Tbsp Cilantro Leaves

Directions:

Preparation 1. Whisk peanut butter, coconut milk, vinegar, soy sauce, orange juice concentrate, Ground Ginger, Crushed Red Pepper, Ground Cumin and Ground Allspice in medium saucepan until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, 5 minutes or just until mixture comes to a boil. 2.Pour sauce over hot spaghetti. Toss until spaghetti is coated. Sprinkle with Cilantro Leaves and serve.

*The first time I made it I really liked it. I am absolutely no expert whatsoever on Thai food, but I think the peanut noodles that I have had on different occasions tasted pretty close to this recipe. The first time I made it I also forgot the rice vinegar, the soy sauce and the orange juice concentrate. I didn't even realize it until later when I looked back at the recipe to prepare a post!
 Luckily, still edible. I made it with the additional ingredients tonight and it was very good; a bit more complex flavor.
My struggle was something to serve with it. For both meals I served chicken flavored with fresh rosemary and that seemed to work just fine.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Creamy White Chicken Chili



This recipe came my way through a coworker.  She mentioned it as her plan for her family's dinner that evening and I had to have the recipe.

Ingredients:

½ pound Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts Chopped Into ½ Cubes
½ medium Onion Chopped
1 small Cloves Garlic Chopped
1 ½ tsp Oil
1 can Great Northern Beans Drained
½ can Chicken Broth
1 (4 oz) Can Chopped Green Chilies
½ tsp Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
½ tsp Chili Powder
½ tsp Cumin
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
6 ounces Sour Cream

Directions:

In a large saucepan saute chicken, onion and garlic in oil until chicken is done. Add beans, broth, chilies, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add sour cream.

Or-


Slow cooker instructions: cut up chicken, onion and garlic and add to crock pot. Add rest of ingredients except the sour cream and cook on low for 8 hours. Add sour cream about 15 minutes before serving before serving.

*I have made it in the slow cooker the last couple of times and I prefer that method.  The flavors meld together and the chicken is very tender. It is also such an easy way to have dinner ready when I get home from work. I did add the last three spices to the original recipe as we like a bit more spice.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fettuccine Chicken


I am a sucker for pasta recipes and really love pasta recipes with chicken. A pasta recipe with chicken that can be on the table in about a half hour....I had to try it.

Fettuccine Chicken

1 large Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Halves
3/4 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Chopped Fresh Thyme Leaves
Garlic Powder And Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/2 Packages Fresh Fettuccine
⅓ cup Mayonnaise ( I used light )
¼ cup Freshly Chopped Green Onions
1 Tbsp Freshly Chopped Parsley Leaves
1 Tbsp Freshly Chopped Basil Leaves
½ tsp Pepper And Garlic Powder
½ tsp Lemon Juice
½ tsp Seasoned Salt
⅓ cup Sour Cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Slice chicken breasts lengthwise into 1-inch wide strips. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme, garlic powder and pepper. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through but still juicy; do not overcook.

While chicken is cooking; cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta. Pat excess moisture off pasta with a paper towel, if necessary.

Combine mayonnaise, green onions, parsley, basil, pepper, garlic powder, lemon juice,seasoned salt and sour cream. Pour dressing over pasta and toss gently.

Place chicken strips on top of pasta.

*I adapted this recipe a bit by adding some sour cream instead of part of the mayo.  Super easy recipe and I loved how the thick sauce clung to the pasta. Nothing worse then a thin sauce swimming around the plate under the pasta!! 

Recipe adapted from Paula Dean on Food Network

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Herb Potato Salad


I have been hungry for potato salad; it always sounds good in the summertime. I made the traditional mayo, mustard and vinegar salad and, of course, German potato salad always sounds wonderful. But I felt like something different. 

Herb Potato Salad

Ingredients:
3 pounds Small White Boiling Potatoes
Kosher Salt
2 Tbsp Good Dry White Wine
2 Tbsp Chicken Stock
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
½ tsp Dijon Mustard
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
⅔ cup Good Olive Oil
¼ cup Red Onion, finely diced
2 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Tarragon
2 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Flat-Leaf Parsley 

Directions
Place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot off the heat and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Leave the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender but firm.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the wine, chicken stock, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, 2 teaspoons salt and ¾ teaspoon pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Set aside.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into quarters or halves, depending on their size. Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl and pour enough dressing over them to moisten. (As the salad sits, you may need to add more dressing.) Add the onion, tarragon and parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature.

*I would have liked to use small new potatoes for this recipe, but I had a good amount of russets on hand. The peel stayed on as it seemed to go with the feel of the recipe.  I boiled the potatoes a bit more traditionally as there were full size potatoes but I did let them sit and steam and I liked that. The potatoes were tender but stayed together, mushy isn't good.

It is really delicious and went very well with the fried chicken. The boneless, skinless fried chicken, but it was tasty.



Recipe from the Barefoot Contessa on Food Network

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Peach Pie


I love peach pie; it is one of my favorites.  But I don't make one very often because a quality peach pie so much depends on the quality of fruit.   Hard to go through the time and effort of a homemade pie with less than stellar ingredients.
While grocery shopping earlier in the week I noticed some nice looking peaches.  They looked ripe and even smelled nice and peach-y.   So I decided I would give them a shot.


Lovely, huh?  I have never bought, much less baked with, white peaches.  They were very juicy and I was optimistic we were in for a good pie.
The pie is really good.  The white peaches have a more mild peach flavor, but they are very sweet and baked up beautifully.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cajun Shrimp and Rice



 Jambalaya was an enormous hit a few months ago.  When I saw this recipe on the Food Network website it sounded like a lighter version with the same good spicy flavor.

Cajun Shrimp and Rice

1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
2 Tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 tsp Cajun Seasoning
1 pound Large Shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
Kosher Salt And Freshly Ground Pepper
4 Plum Tomatoes, chopped
2 Bunches Scallions, chopped
3 cups Cooked White Rice
3 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Parsley

Heat the butter, olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the Cajun seasoning and shrimp and cook, stirring, until the shrimp begin to curl, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the tomatoes and scallions to the skillet and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add the rice and ¼ cup water and continue to cook until the rice is warmed through and the shrimp are opaque, about 3 more minutes. Stir in the parsley.

*I did adjust the instructions a bit by rubbing the shrimp with the Cajun Seasonings and refrigerating for a hour before cooking.  I also took the tails off- per Husband's request.  Prettier with tails, but easier to eat without.  :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chicken with Mushrooms


This recipe had me at the title.  We eat a lot of chicken and love mushrooms.  I found it browsing through the AllRecipes application on my iPhone.  
It was good.  I could have used more mushrooms ( I don't think I could ever have too many mushrooms) and I imagined the sauce being thicker and just more of it.   It could also use a bit more flavor in the form of spices.  But I think it's a recipe worth playing with in the future. 

Ingredients:

  1-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
  1/4 cup chopped onion
  2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  1 eggs, beaten
  1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  1 tbsp. butter
  shredded cheese
  1/4 cup chicken broth


Directions:

 1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
 

 2. Place half of the mushrooms and the onions in a 9x13 inch pan. Dip chicken into beaten eggs, then roll in bread crumbs.
 

3. In skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Brown both sides of chicken in skillet. Place chicken on top of mushrooms, arrange remaining mushrooms on chicken, and top with mozzarella cheese. Add chicken broth to pan.

 4. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.  Serve over noodles.






Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mexican Rice


This Chicken Enchilada recipe was dinner tonight; it has quickly become a favorite.   I have made Mexican rice a couple times; tweaking the ingredients each time.

Mexican Rice

1 cups uncooked white rice
1/8 cup vegetable oil
2 cups water or chicken broth
1 small onion, diced
1 small tomato, diced
1/2 can green chilies
1  tbsp dried cilantro, chopped (add at the end)
1 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp Spanish paprika



Dice onion and tomato; set aside. Put rice in a bowl and add all of the spices. Pour oil into a large pan and add the onion.

Cook until onion is tender; add uncooked rice and all of the spices. Cook for 1 minute; add diced tomato and green chilies and stir. Add 2 cups water; bring to a boil.

Lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Add  cilantro.

I made about half of this recipe for the two of us.   The 1/2 can of green chilies was left over from the enchiladas so I added it to the rice.  I did stir the rice several times as it cooked so it didn't burn to the bottom. 

Saturday, July 3, 2010

HellBurgers

We spent the last few days in Duluth, Minnesota; enjoying Canal Park.  Lots of great sightseeing and way too much wonderful food.  Having enjoyed this area many times, we go back to a lot of old favorites year after year.
One new place we tried was HellBurgers .  We stopped in one evening for beers and happened to check out the menu.  Lots of great burgers, naturally, but I noticed the wings and fries.  I LOVE sweet potatoes fries.  I was introduced to them a few years ago at a now, very sadly, out-of-business restaurant.  The fries were outstanding and came with a dipping sauce that made them even more wonderful.  I noticed these fries at HellBurgers suggested Chipotle Mayo dipping sauce and I was hooked.  I also noticed Thai Peanut wings on the menu.  That sounded excellent and decided there and then we had to check this out the next day at lunch.

These pictures were taken rapidly with my cell phone camera and obviously, suck.


But you get the idea.  The wings were HUGE, loaded with sauce and really delicious.  The fries were great and the Chipotle Mayo was very close to the dipping sauce I remember.  I didn't come near to eating all of it.  Husband helped me eat a couple wings and I took some fries back to the hotel with me. Wonderful food and very reasonable.  We were very pleased.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ribs, Beans, and Coleslaw


Coleslaw is one of my favorite summer sides. 

Ingredients:

1/2 head finely chopped cabbage (the bags of shredded cabbage work every well too, and often contain carrots which add some nice color)
1/2 small onion-finely chopped
1/3 cup mayo or salad dressing ( I use Miracle Whip Light)
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate until serving.  Best served shortly after preparation.

Coleslaw really is a last minute side.  It gets runny quickly.  I honestly wouldn't make it much more than an hour before serving and usually make it right before the meal. 




If coleslaw is an easy side, these beans are a complete no-brainer.  Open a can of Bush's Grillin Beans Bourbon and Brown Sugar variety and stick them on the grill.  These beans are great in a sauce pan on the stove but even better on the grill.  I love my little bean pot. 

Oh, and some ribs were grilled.  They were pretty fabulous too. :)