Monday, January 31, 2011

Recipe 12: Chili/Stew

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
The incoming blizzard has inspired me!
I realize that it might seem like I cook everything from scratch. I don't. I would love to, but I don't honestly know enough of the basics, it would cost a fortune, and there is something to be said for convenience.
This is a super easy, from the pantry meal.
First, I'd like to pay tribute to how I was raised. My Mom loves sweet chili. She has always adds ketchup, syrup and some other secret good things to make her chili. The thick, rich concoction is perfect for cold days and partners so well with sweet cornbread.
There are certainly days where nothing else fills me up quite as well as Mom's chili, but most of the time I prefer my soups, stews and yes, even chili, to be lighter and more chocked full of veggies.
So, here's my variation of chili.
2 large (25oz) cans chili
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can corn, undrained
½ orange bell pepper, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
½ small onion, finely chopped (more or less to taste)
1 tsp chili powder
*Depending the brand of chili you buy, you may also want to add some extra beans. Kidney beans work well or stick with chili beans.
1.) In a large saucepot, combine chili cans, onion, and extra beans*. These ingredients take a little longer to soften, so let them cook 3-5 mins.
2.) Add remaining ingredients and heat to boil.
3.) Serve warm—with toast for best results.
It mixes great with almost any vegetable: potatoes, carrots, etc. But, this is a very veggie-rich recipe, so if you're not a fan of vegetables (Melody), I wouldn't recommend it.  Otherwise, customize and dig in!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Recipe 11: Oatmeal Cookies all grown up

Prep Time: 10 mins
Baking Time: 12-15 mins
Cooling Time: 20 mins

I cannot take credit for this delicious recipe. A wonderful woman at my church shared these cookies, and I practically demanded the recipe. My family loves them, even with the slight twists on classic oatmeal raisin cookies. They are sweet but not too sweet. Oat-filled but moist, and full of wonderful flavor surprises.

I can't get enough of the ingredients combined in this recipe; I've literally eaten a dozen of these in the last two days. And, I'm not even sorry.

1 cup flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups oats
1 cup dried cranberries
4 oz dark chocolate bar, roughly chopped

Two pointers: Don't fear the cranberries, they are not tart. Don't use milk chocolate, the sugars sweeten the batter and milk chocolate makes the cookies overwhelming.

Heat oven to 350
1.) In medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
2.) With a mixer, mix butter & sugars until fluffy.
3.) Add vanilla & egg. Mix until smooth.
4.) Slowly add flour mixture.
5.) With a spatula or spoon, add oats, cranberries and chocolate. Stir until evenly mixed.
6.) Line a cookie sheet with wax/parchment paper.
7.) Using a cookie or ice cream scoop, make balls of dough. Flatten slightly.
8.) Bake 13-15 minutes until just slightly golden at the edged.
9.) Allow to cool 20 minutes before serving. (This is especially important if you are serving little ones because the melted chocolate really retains heat.)

Recipe 10: Zesty Roasted Chicken & Potatoes

Prep Time: 8 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins

The great thing about this recipe is that one sauce takes on two different tastes. The chicken doesn't absorb as much of the mustard and really shows off the garlic, chive taste while the potatoes pull in the creamier textures and almost make an easy potato salad--only not mushy.

Here we go.

Boneless chicken breasts (1 per serving per person)
1 lb red potatoes (cut into quarters or thick slices)
2 toes minced garlic
1/3 cup mayo
3 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp dill pickle juice (It just adds a salty/vinegar base to the potatoes)
Chopped chives (Fresh or jar) for garnish

1.) Heat oven to 350.
2.) Grease baking pan.
3.) Wash and cut potatoes.
4.) Put cut potatoes in a microwave safe casserole dish with a lid. Add 1/4 cup of water and microwave for 5-7 minutes.
5.) Mix all ingredients except chives.
6.) Place chicken and potatoes on baking pan and coat with sauce. (It is easiest if you have a brush but spoons work just fine too.)
7.) Bake uncovered 30 mins. (May need longer for thicker pieces).
8.) Add chives to taste and broil until meat and potatoes are slightly browned.

One pan, one bowl, one casserole dish--super easy. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Recipe 9: Cadillo Stew

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 1 hour

Last night was my first failed recipe in a long time. Just as all cooks, I have my strengths and weaknesses. Knowledge of meat cuts is a huge weakness of mine and the ultimate downfall of this recipe. Still, the soup and potatoes had good flavor, so I am going to show the recipe with my suggested changes

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 lb cut stew meat my package was poorly cut, included a lot of fat and even some bone. It was too tough for the directions given and is only suitable for slow cooking over many hours. Instead I would use ground beef or spend the money to get a good chunk of meat and cut it  into cubes yourself.
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic toes minced
1 large onion chopped
1 can diced chiles
2 large potatoes peeled and cubed

Two Important Tips:
1.) Prep work--cutting veggies, etc. SAVES you time and helps coordinate the timing of cooking.
2.) When you saute onions, garlic or other fragrant ingredients, you are really just heating them to the point that they release their flavor, so if you want to really flavor meat, let the veggies saute for a minute or two and then stir in your meat and simmer.

1.) Chop Onion, cube potatoes
2.) Drain juice from tomatoes into large measuring cup. Add enough water to equal 1 1/2 cups; set aside.
3.) Add stew meat, flour and salt into a large zip-tight bag. Toss until meat is coated with flour mixture.
4.) In a 5-6 quart saucepot, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add garlic and onion; saute 3-5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
5.)Shake off excess flour from stew meat; add to saucepot and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until brown on all sides (if you use ground beef, you will need to drain the fat after it is browned)
6.) Stir in chiles, cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
7.) Add potatoes, tomatoes and reserved tomato-water mixture.
8.) Cover and heat to boiling. Reduce to low heat; simmer 35-40 minutes until meat and potatoes are tender.

Again, the meat I got at the market was far too tough for the one-hour cook time. I would suggest using another meat or cooking all day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Recipe 8: Chicken Pita

Prep Time: 3 mins
Cook Time: 8-20 mins depending on thickness of chicken and amount cooked

True to form, I'm posting a recipe that is really easy to customize to your own tastes and whims.

The Basics

Boneless Skinless Chicken (as much as your family will eat in Pita form)
1/2 cup of flour
2 Tbsp Cinnamon
Olive Oil
Any type of lettuce you prefer

1.) Coat the bottom of a large skillet in olive oil and heat on med.
     If you use a non-stick pan, your chicken will not brown, but it will cook.
2.) Combine flour and cinnamon in a large bowl. Lightly coat chicken with flour mixture.
3.) Fry in olive oil.
4.) Cut into bite-sized pieces and salt to taste.
5.) Put fresh lettuce in pita, top with chicken and your choice of sauce.

The great thing about this meal is the absolute versatility. With these basics, I was able to pacify so many different tastes in a house that sometimes has to be tricked into eating healthy.

For the grown-ups, I made a spicy/sweet sauce from mixing Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet and Spicy sauce with a little juice from a maraschino cherry jar for added sweetness and thinning. It was great and reminded me of McDonald's Southwest sauce. For my son, I just dabbed on some Ranch--the only dressing that exists before age 20. And, for myself, I plan to add some fresh tomatoes, fresh spinach and Caesar dressing for lunch tomorrow, just to have a new take on things.

Chicken is a great base. Though not flavorless, it is not overpowering, and greens go with anything, so go wild and try it all without having to make 30 different batches!

I know, I was pretty excited about that too.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Recipe 7: The Final Meatloaf Recipe

Prep Time:10 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins

I am a meatloaf connoisseur. I love it in almost every incarnation. Sweet with lots of ketchup like Mom's; savory and full of herbs; topped with gravy; made with the Lipton packets...I love them all. Over the course of 4 years, I have tried MANY varieties. Sorry to all my guinea pigs.

To all those who endured the overly greasy, sometimes too salty loafs, and to those who scooped through the ones that wouldn't stick together--I owe you a taste.

At long last, I found it. THE recipe, and now I will share it with you.

This is a double recipe. One pound comfortably fills 4 people. So, I make two at a time and vacuum wrap and freeze one loaf to make a night the next week easier. Yay vacuum bags by Ziploc!

Ok, recipe time. Here it is, the recipe 4 years in the making.

2 lb ground beef
1 tsp salt
1 small onion (more or less to taste)
2 cups Italian bread crumbs
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp Parsley
1 toe minced garlic

Top with as much or as little ketchup as desired

1 green onion sliced
1 sweet tomato with the gooey stuff cut out and sliced
(These are separated out for a reason)

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. At the 20 min. mark, take the loaf out, sprinkle on the green onion and evenly spread out the tomato and cook 10 more mins.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Recipe 6: Pork Paillard

First, I would like to apologize for being absent. I took some time to recover from the Christmas mayhem, then I was so sick I almost died. Not really, but it felt that way.

This recipe could just as easily be called "Thank you Food Network."

And this is not my picture. We were too busy eating to take pictures.
I did not make asparagus, either. I think it's a gross texture. I made fresh green beans.

The best part of the meal ended up being the veggies which I whipped up purely out of my head, but the rest was pretty good too.

1.) Mix 1/2 cup softened butter with chopped sundried tomatoes, thyme and sage to taste.
2.) Either pound pork thin (or buy it pre-cut that way) and coat very lightly in salted flour. Shake off all excess flour. Pan sear and cook through.
3.) Boil fresh green beans in water salted to taste like sea water for 5-8 mins.
4.) Strain green bean when at desired texture and put back in pan.
5.) Add 2 tsp butter, chopped tomato and thinly sliced green onions and sear lightly.
6.) Serve as pretty as you please and ENJOY!

Trust me--it's delicious.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Recipe 5: Penne with Creamy Bacon Sauce

Recently, I had dinner at my dad's house and offered to help with some of the cooking--Shocking, I know. I wanted something easy but delicious and memorable.

I hit the mark.

My dad and step mom have two young children, and sometimes fancy recipes are a definite 'no,' but this recipe went over so well that my step mom requested the recipe. It was a proud moment.

This recipe is great for 3 reasons: it's 5 ingredients, so it's cheap; it's quick; it's great.

The sauce is just what it promises, it's creamy. The bacon provides a nice, salty bite and the noodles, if cooked right, keep the dish from going overboard. Plus, who doesn't like bacon, right?

Penne with Creamy Bacon Sauce

1 pound (1 box) penne noodles (Rigatoni also works well)
8 slices of bacon thinly sliced (add more to taste)--
if you leave the bacon slightly frozen, they are much easier to slice. Scissors also work well for this job.1 1/4 cup heavy or double cream
3 toes of garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1.) Cook noodles as directed
2.) Dry-fry bacon in a large frying pan over medium heat until crispy
3.) Add the cream, garlic and Parmesan
4.) Cook over low heat for 4 minutes
5.) Drain the noodles and combine

I encourage you to tweak this to your liking. If you love bacon, use a whole package instead of the prescribed 8 slices. If you want a richer sauce, add more cheese. Scale back on the garlic if you make it for a date. You get the picture.

Have fun!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas Celebration No. 50--An Epic Cake

Fair Warning: Please keep in mind that I admit first and foremost that I am not a decorator. I have ok ideas and absolutely no way to capitalize on them.
When I began planning all the wonderful things I'd be trying and making for the holiday season, I began imagining a spectacular cake for the joint family gathering. I wanted a 3-tier cake to decorate like a Christmas tree complete with a krispy treat star and snowman and brownie presents.

First things first. I learned how to ice a cake so that it looked (fairly) smooth.

1.) Cool the cake completely. 2-5 hours in the fridge!

2.) I tested homemade icing vs. the store bought and decided that Pillsbury did better than I could, so I bought 4 cans of white, vanilla icing,

3.) Add water to thin the icing slightly so it spreads without pulling the cake.

4.) Apply a layer of "I don't care what it looks like" icing. This is a tip I learned from Cake Boss. This icing creates a nearly friction-free surface to add your fancy icing to.

5.) Let first layer of icing cool and set up. I allowed my icing to cool one hour in the fridge, but it honestly could have used more time.

6.) Apply fancy icing. To make smoothing easier, dip your spreading device in hot water between swipes.

Taste is the most important thing. Devil's Food cake and white icing is a pretty sure bet, and the cake went over pretty well. My son's birthday celebration was done at the same gathering and he LOVED it, so was all worth it. I think with more practice I could really get good at it too.