Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cuban Bread


What is Cuban Bread, you may ask? It's more or less the Cuban version of a French of Italian bread. I love these breads for their simplicity. The ingredients are: flour, water, salt, yeast, bit of sweetener. Done. I love the idea of bread being so simple, clean and lovely. A bit like minimalism. Add-ins to bread are wonderful, don't get me wrong. But having such a nice base is refreshing.

I decided this year to bake bread instead of cookies around Christmas. I grew up baking and decorating cookies, and love it! But, I also knew that this year, each of our Christmas hosts would have plenty of cookies and treats, and that Greg and I didn't need batches to ourselves. I also figured that this was the worst week to give out cookies at work, since everyone has had their fill at home. So, in order to satisfy my baking craving, I made bread, which turned out to be equally as dangerous as a fresh batch of cookies.

I found this recipe in Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. This is a great book with breads for any baking level. The Cuban Bread is considered a beginners bread. We thought it was appropriate that I bake something more simple, since I've only made a couple yeast breads, each being very simple. Needless to say, I did not change anything from the recipe. The resulting bread had a nice crisp dry crust with a moist soft inside. A bit sweet, but not too much. It made wonderful grilled cheese sandwiches! It reminds me a bit of Great Harvest breads. The only thing I don't like about this bread is that it uses only all purpose flour. Now that I'm comfortable with the recipe, I'll play around with adding whole wheat flour and or wheat germ.

Recipe: Makes two free-form loafs.

5-6 C. flour
2 pkgs dry yeast
1 TBS salt
2 TBS sugar
2 C. hot water

-Place 4 C. flour in a large bowl. Mix in yeast, salt and sugar. Pour in hot water and continue to mix. Slowly add in the remaining 1-2 C. of flour until the dough is no longer sticky (i had to add the full extra 2 C.).

-Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.

- Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and keep in a warm place for ~15 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.

-Punch dough down and cut into two pieces.

-Form into a ball by pulling the dough into the shape of a ball, and "tucking" the excess dough into the ball. Place it excess side down onto parchment paper or cornmeal-sprinkled baking sheet. Brush the tops of the bread with water. Make an "X" cut or a square cut in the tops of each loaf.

-Place a pan of cold water in the bottom rack of the oven. Place the bread in the middle and turn on to 400 degrees. Set your timer for 40 minutes. The bread will rise as the oven warms up. The recipe calls for the bread to take 50 minutes to be done, but I think mine took closer to 40. The crust will be golden and if you tap the bottom of the bread it will sound hollow once it is baked all of the way.

-Enjoy!!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wild Rice with Squash

I saw this dish on Epicurious close to Thanksgiving, and I have been wanting to make it ever since. I must admit, part of why I wanted to make it was an excuse to buy this beautiful multi-grain rice from Whole Foods. They have a bulk section, so we were able to get just the amount we need. It was a fun treat. Well, I like each of the main ingredients on their own, but I was a bit hesitant about how they would all taste together. Turns out, they are an amazing trio. I changed two main things about the original recipe. First, I cut the butter from 6 TBS to 0. That's right, 0 butter. I only used about 3 or 4 tsp extra virgin olive oil. Next, I changed the main herb from parsley to sage. Sage is one of my favorite winter vegetable seasonings. I know it's not very original, but it's sooooo yummy!

I think this would make a great side dish for a party. It makes a huge amount of food. We'll probably be eating this for a few days. I'm trying to think of ways to change it up a bit so we don't get sick of it. Maybe I'll make some chicken soup and put this in it instead of noodles. We'll see though.

Recipe: Makes about 10 Cups.

1 1/2 C. wild rice
3 C. water
1 C. chicken broth or water
1 small onion, diced
1 small butternut squash, skinned and cubed
2 tsp sage
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 1/2 C. frozen corn kernals

-Bring 3C. water to a boil. Add rice. Turn down to low heat and simmer coverd for about 45 minutes.

-While rice is cooking, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Skin and cube the squash. Toss with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and sage. Roast for 10 minutes. Turning after the first 5 minutes.

-Dice onion. In a large skillet, saute with extra virgin olive oil. When the rice and squash are done, add each to the skillet with the onion. Add the corn and 1 C. chicken broth. Simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed. About 10 minutes. Serve warm.

-Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sugar Cookies with Chocolate Ganache Drizzle


This is one of my favorite sugar cookie recipes. There is a McGraw recipe for Apee Sugar cookies, but whenever I try to make them, they never turn out. So, though I prefer the taste of the apee, these turn out each and every time, and have a nice flaky texture. I have a bunch of cookie cutters which are tons of fun to use. For this batch, I chose a winter theme since I knew I was taking some to work. I wasn't sure if anyone at work would hate it if I brought Christmas tree's in. Turns out, everyone celebrates Christmas at work, and they thought some of the broken snowflakes were Christmas tree's! Looks like all of my cookie cutters are safe to use =).

Though these are cute cut out as snowflakes and such, I think these are best when I make them icebox style. Rounds are nice, but it's very pretty to line a left over foil box with saran wrap and fill the dough in, making them square. They tend to bake better when they are smaller and thicker, so icebox is a perfect solution! The chocolate ganache adds a nice extra element to these, without over powering the flavor of the cookie. They each complement each other nicely!

I got the base of this recipe from the food network, it was/is an Alton Brown recipe. Though, he did not have any flavored extract or chocolate ganache drizzle! I like Alton a lot. I've tried a few of his recipes and they all turn out really well. My parents are big fans of his french toast!

Recipe:

Cookie:
3 C. flour
3/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 TBS milk
1 C. butter - softened
1 C. sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 tsp vanilla or other flavored extract

-Sift together f lour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

-Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, vanilla and milk. Beat to combine.

-Add dry ingredients in three portions. Combine. Cut in half and cover, refrigerate for at least two hours.

-Roll out and cut or slice from roll. Bake for 7 minutes and 30 seconds at 375 degree's. Yes that's specific, but it works!

-Let cool a few minutes before removing from baking sheet.

Ganach:
Melt 1 C. chocolate chips in a double boiler. Add 1 tsp butter and 2 tbs milk. Mix together. Stir often until melted. Place in a bag. Cut the tip off the bag and drizzle over cookies. Let cool until chocolate sets.

Enjoy!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pasty/Pot Pie


Generally, I'm not a big fan of pot pie/chicken ala king. Mainly, I don't like gravy, or my veggies and mashed potatoes mixed together. But, a pasty, a dense gravy-free version of the pot pie, is wonderful! This was another "What's in the pantry" meal. I had a left over frozen pie crust from Angel Strata, and then a left over packaged pie crust from an apple pie. It would be just as easy to make your own pie crust for this, also.

While this is not very fancy or unique, it was very easy and very good. I like the idea of baking meats and veggies together into a pie. It's so comforting. The only problem was that the potatoes I cut up didn't all cook through. I might boil them for a few minutes before adding them to the veggie/chicken mix next time. Greg loved this as well, and had two servings before work. He said he was so full that he almost forgot to bring dinner with him for the night.

And, I must let you know that I won't be making another post until after Thanksgiving. Greg has ventured to Michigan and taken the camera with! Have a great holiday everyone!

Recipe: Serves 6 - 8

2 pie crusts/double batch
pie pan
1 C. frozen veggie mix
2 chicken breats, cut into bite size pieces
2 small red potatoes/new potatoes. Cut into 1/2 -1 inch pieces and boil for about 5 minutes
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbs grated parmesan cheese
sea salt

-Prepare pie crust

-Cut and cook potatoes

-Cut chicken into bite size pieces

-Combine veggies, chicken, potatoes, olive oil, parmesan, sea salt and spices

-Pour into pie crust, cover with second crust and put slices in the top. Brush with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt

-Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour at 375 degrees

-Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stir Fry


I like to call this "poor man's stir fry", since all I only had broccoli and carrots in the fridge. But, it turned out really well. Both of these veggies are strong enough to hold up well through the cooking process, and their flavor blends well with the soy sauce. This was a good quick cold weather meal. I'm made versions of this before, and will probably keep making versions of this in the future.

Recipe: Serves 2-3

2 carrots, washed and julienne cut
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
1/4 onion, thinly sliced
1/4 inch fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs soy sauce
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 C. cooked brown rice (I had instant on hand).

-Start cooking your rice as package/bag directs

-Cut all veggies. Combine broccoli and carrots.

-Heat olive oil, soy sauce and brown sugar over medium high heat in a large skillet

-Add onion, garlic and ginger and red pepper flakes. Saute until onions are tender, stir often to not burn the garlic.

-Add the carrots and broccoli. Continue to stir fry for about 10 minutes until the veggies are cooked. Serve warm over rice.

-Enjoy!!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Flax Seed Dinner Rolls


Yesterday Dan and Rebecca came over for lunch. It was "cold" (40's) and raining, and grey, and awful...and the perfect day for Cheddar Broccoli Soup with homemade dinner rolls! The four of us have been trying to get together for dinner, but with work and class schedules, it just hasn't worked out. Lunch was a great solution.

Baking yeast rolls was a great way to warm up the apartment, too! And then our place just smelled sooooo goooood! I've made these rolls before, and they never last more than a day or two, they are that tastey. The recipe is a Betty Crocker classic, and I'm a bit hesitant to go about changing the white flour to wheat flour at all, since the texture is so nice as it is. The only real change I made was to throw some flax seeds into the dough. They are so small you can hardly taste or see them. It's a nice sneeky way to add health.

Recipe: Makes 15 rolls.

3 1/2 C. flour
1 pkg yeast
1 tsp salt
1/2 C. butter, softened
1/4 C. sugar
1/2 C each of milk and water, heated to 120 degrees
1 egg
1/4 C. flax seed

-Mix 2 C. flour, yeast, salt, butter, flax and sugar together. I prefer the dough hook on my Kitchen Aid stand mixer (Thanks Mom and Dad Dekker!!!)

-Add the milk, water and egg. Once these are mixed in, the dough will be very sticky. Add the remaining flour in 1/4 C. increments until the dough is easy to handle.

-Put the dough in a greased bowl and let rise for one hour in a warm place. My favorite way to let dough rise is to set the oven to preheat at 400 degrees for 2 minutes. Turn the oven off, place your dough in, close the door, walk away. Rebecca taught me that trick! It keeps a nice constant warm temp.

-When the dough has doubled in size, flour your hands and gently push it down and kneed for a bit. Then break the dough off into 15 equalish portions. Form into balls, and place in a greased 9x13 inch pan. Bake for15 minutes at 375 degrees.

-Once done, remove imediatly. Take a bit of butter (I used less than 1/2 tbs) and rub the tops of the buns to get a nice top. Serve warm.

-Enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fajita Burgers


This has been a regular meal of ours for a few years now. I first found the recipe in a Rachel Ray cookbook, and made some healthy improvements. Rachel called for the addition of sour cream, seasoned salt, and she pan fried these chicken patties. We got rid of all of these and kept a really flavorful burger. We've served these to company, and each time they have gone over really well. I think adding fresh cilantro to my "guacamole" would be really good, and a bit of lime juice or zest. But, needless to say, we'll keep making and eating these for a while!

Recipe: Serves 6

1 package ground chicken (turkey works too, but chicken is far better)
2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 medium avocado
1 C. salsa
1 package fajita size tortillas

-Mix chili powder, garlic powder & cumin into the ground chicken

-Form into 6 small patties. Place in a 9x13 baking pan or jelly roll (There will be some oil/juice run off, so use a pan with sides so they don't spill onto your oven!). Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

-While your chicken burgers are cooking, slice up your avocado into small pieces. Then mix in with the 1 C. salsa to make your "guacamole".

-Serve burgers and guacamole on a tortilla. Wrap it up like a burrito (fold in on all sides).

-Enjoy!!!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Zucchini Ricotta Risotto

I know, I know, I haven't posted in days! Just about 2 weeks, actually. =( It's been a busy two weeks, with not much time to cook, take pictures, and then write. Plus, my Mom and Sister came down to visit, and we ate out while they were here, so there was also less need to cook. But, needless to say, I'm back! This week is still pretty busy, but I decided that we just needed to make time and make something scrumptious. Since Greg and I now work the same shift (hooray!), we made this risotto together for lunch. It was so fun to cook with him! It just felt great to have something cooked for the next day. We tend to cook dishes that will feed us for at least two days. I always feel so relaxed when the cooking is done, and we eat so much better. I just need to remind myself of this whenever it seems that there isn't enough time.

I found this recipe in a vegetarian cookbook at Barnes and Nobel (our regular cheap date). Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the book it was from! But, it looked so great that I had to write down the gist of the recipe. The original recipe only called for you to season the dish with salt and pepper. That sounded a bit to bland. We used nutmeg, oregano, rosemary, cayenne pepper, bay leaf, and of course, salt and pepper.

Using ricotta in the rice really helped make this seem super super creamy and fattening, without adding ANY fat! We also added a bit of parmesan after the ricotta for more flavor, but it was about 1/4 C. of parmesan for about 6 servings of rice! That works out to 2 tsp parmesan per serving, which is 20 calories and 1.5 g of fat.

When Greg took a bite, he said "this is heavenly", which roughly translates to "we'll make this again for years". We were trying to think of what we might do next time when we make it. Neither of us are big mushroom fans, but we both think that the nutty flavor of the risotto would go great with mushrooms. Maybe stuffed into a portabella cap?

Recipe: Serves 6-8 as a side

1 C. dried rice.
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/3 C. ricotta cheese
1/4 C. parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3 gloves garlic, minced
4 C. chicken broth (recipe called for 3 C. chicken broth and 1 C. white wine, we didn't have any wine, so we used all chicken broth)
2 medium zucchini, sliced into rounds and then quartered
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

-Heat oil on a large skillet to medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

-In a separate pot, bring chicken broth to a simmer.

-Add rice to the skillet once the onion is cooked. Stir to coat with oil. You may need to add more oil. "Fry" the rice until it is mostly translucent and smells nutty. About 2-5 minutes, careful not to burn it.

-Once the rice is ready, start adding about 1/3 C. of liquid to the rice at a time. Stir continuously until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Continue this process until there is about 1 C. of liquid remaining. Once there is only 1 C. remaining, add the liquid, spices & zucchini to the rice. Cover and turn down to a simmer. Let cook for about 20-30 minutes until rice is completely cooked.

-When the rice is cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed, add the ricotta and parmesan. Stir to evenly incorporate. Serve warm.

-Enjoy!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Flavor Bible


This is the newest addition to my cookbooks! I won this book from a give away that Julie from A Mingling of Tastes, has been hosting this month. Thanks Julie!!! She's been giving away books for her birthday! That's right, for her birthday! Anyway, to win a book all you have to do is check out her blog and leave a comment when she announces she is giving away another book. She choses her winners by using a random number generator, and matching the number selected up with the comment number. Pretty clever.

This book has a large list of ingredients, with a list of other ingredients that go well with the main ingredient you looked up. This is perfect for me, since I often stray away from recipes, or make something based on what I have in my cabinets. There are also paragraphs by chefs with tips about how to bring out the flavors in your food. Also, there is a section that talks about how we taste and perceive food, and the importance of balancing flavors, textures, & temperatures.

I've spent the morning going through and making lists of combinations to cook. For example:
Acorn squash + mascarpone cheese + ginger + veggies. It's making my mouth water just thinking about it!

Well, I haven't cook anything new lately. Greg hasn't been feeling well, so we've had lots of familiar comfort food: grilled cheese, mac & cheese with tomato soup, pumpkin pasta, ice cream. Hopefully he'll feel better soon and get his taste buds back. Then I can make something new! There are a few new recipes and combinations I'm anxious to try.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Roasted Squash & Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad


This plate looks like a hodgepodge, and it is. This plate may look bland, but let me assure you that it is not! The acorn squash has been roasted with garam masala, turmeric & cumin, and the chicken was coated with a spice oil with cumin, red pepper flakes, garlic and paprika. Yum.

The chicken was actually from a dish I made earlier this week. It was originally roasted with chickpeas and cherry tomatoes. The chickpeas dried out and were not that great, and the cherry tomatoes just didn't seem to go with the rest of the flavors. Well, I was roasting my squash and trying to think of what else I could eat for dinner. I remembered that I still had chicken left. Really not wanting the same left overs again, I decided to make chicken salad and eat that on a whole wheat baguette! The bread is what really makes this unlike my left overs from yesterday, but it was just enough of a change!

I really like the yogurt sauce that goes along with the chicken. This was my first time having greek yogurt, and I loved it! I'm not sure how it would be to eat daily, since it was so tangy. But, in this savory spicy dish, it was really wonderful. Greg loved the chicken, too, so we'll make this again. The only thing I will change (other than leaving out the chickpeas and tomatoes) is that I would remove the skin from the chicken thighs & marinate them for a few hours.

Recipe:

Chicken: Serves 5

2.5 lbs chicken thighs, skinned
1/4 C. extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1 tbs. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1/2 C. plain yogurt or Greek yogurt

-Mix oil, garlic, paprika & cumin together. Add 1 tbs of oil to the yogurt, stir and chill.

-Coat chicken with oil and roast for 20-30 minutes at 450 degrees. Serve with the cool yogurt.

Acorn Squash: Serves 5 as a side.

1 large acorn squash
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cumin
olive oil

-Cut squash in half crosswise. Scoop out seeds and fiber. Slice each half in half lengthwise. Set each quarter down on a flat/cut side. Now make 1 inch thick slices. Using a pairing knife, remove the skins. Cut each slice into cubes. In a large bowl, combine with all ingredients. Stir to coat. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. After the first 10 minutes, stir the squash.

-Enjoy!!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Roasted Red Pepper Soup


I've had a few versions of Roasted Red Pepper Soup. This is not my favorite. I prefer my soups to be a bit hearty. As a starter or early course, this would be a wonderful soup. When Greg and I were picking food for our wedding reception, one of the catering suggestions was a Roasted Red Pepper Soup with a Bri soup added in. I think that would make this a bit heavier, and add just enough extra "something" to make this really pop.

When I first ate this, I had a bit of White Bean dip left over. I spread mine over an unbaked whole wheat pita half. It was delicious! I added more cumin and red pepper flakes to this batch of dip, and it was the best yet.

I'm not sure if I'll make this particular soup again, but I will make some version of it.

Recipe: Serves 6

3 red bell peppers, seeded, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 inch fresh garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 1/2 onion, chopped
4 C. water or broth of choice (I used chicken)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

-Coat bell pepper slices with extra virgin olive oil & salt and pepper. Broil for about 5 minutes.

-Heat extra virgin olive oil in a stock pot. Add onion, carrot, garlic, & ginger. Cook until onions are tender. 5-10 minutes.

-Add the bell pepper slices. Add the liquid. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

-Once cooked, puree in batches if you are using a traditional blender. I prefer my stick blender!

-Drain through mesh if you want this to be very smooth

-Serve warm & with a bit of shredded/grated cheese

-Enjoy!!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Apple Tart

Yes I know, second dessert in a row. But, in my defence, the last post was for Rebecca who did make her delicous dessert!

This is a compilation of different recipes, and I think it might be more appropriately named: Brown Butter Dutch Apple Tart. The pie crust recipe is from my Better Crocker cookbook. The apple filling is from Fine Cooking's Apple Brown-Butter Jalouise. The dutch apple topping is from allrecipes.com. I thought I had my Mother-in-Law's recipe, but it now appears I don't! Her's is much better than the one I used.

I chose to make a tart instead of a pie for two reasons: First, I think tarts look better, second, they are not as tall, so it is easier to get a small slice. I really like the rippled edge of my tart pan, and all tart pans in general. Greg gave this one to me a few years ago from Christmas. Talk about a gift that gives back! =). Well, here is a picture of the tart edge. You can see the apple filling bubbled over a bit. I would recommend baking this one top of a jelly roll pan. I did that, and there were some spills and splatters on it.


I doubled the pie crust and pie filling recipe, but left the crumb topping a single. My Mother-in-Law's recipe makes a tall crumb top, and I assumed this recipe would do the same. But, I really like that on this tart the topping is spread out and you can see the apples. It gives it kind of a elegant rustic feel. Greg really enjoyed this, too. The only complaint I have is that the butter flavor in the filling is really strong. I'll probably at least half, if not quarter it for next time. A nice hint of the butter would be nice, and add a little something extra to traditional apple pie filling. I will be curious to see how reducing the butter changes how the apples cook, though.

Recipe: Doubled version of filling & crust. Makes 1 11 inch pie tart, serves 12.

filling:
6 apples, peeled, halved, cored and sliced. (I took a metal 1/4 tsp spoon and scooped out the core)
1/2 C brown sugar
1 1/2 ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla

crust:
2 C. flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 C + 2 tbs shortening
4-6 tbs cold water

topping:
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 stick butter

-Make the pie crust first. Sift flour and salt together. Cut in the cold butter until it forms pea sized balls. Slowly add in water (1 tbs at a time) until you can gather it and form a ball. Mix with your hands (it will work much better). Make one flattned ball, chill for atleast 45 minutes.

-Roll out the pie dough on a floured surface. Should be about 3 inches larger on each side than the tart pan. I prefer to gently fold my pie crusts into quarters and pick it up, opposed to lifting it with the rolling pin. Press dough into the tart pan. Fold edges over and into the pan, pressing down on the sides. Bake at 375 degress for 5 minutes. Press down bubbles and let cool to room temp.

-Peel, core and slice apples. If they are going to sit for a while, toss them with lemon juice to keep from browning. Once they are peeled, toss with brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

-In a large stock pot, melt and brown the butter. Once browned, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Because the alcohol will evaporate, expect an unusually strong scent from the vanilla. You can inhale alcohol through evaporation, so if you are weary of that, please don't add in the vanilla at this point.

-Make the dutch apple topping: Mix flour and sugar together. Add butter, cut in until pea sized balls form.

-Add in the apples. Stir to coat with the butter/vanilla mixture. Stir occasionally for 5-10 minutes. Longer if your apple slices are thick. Remove from heat. At this point, you may also stir in the vanilla.

-Pour into the pie crust, juices and all. Top with dutch apple topping. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until topping has started to turn golden and the crust has pulled away from the tart pan a bit.

-Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

-Enjoy!!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sweet Potato Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

My sister in law Rebecca made this cake yesterday. I brought over spinach lasagna for dinner, and then we had this scrumptious cake for desert! She found the recipe from the The Cake Mix Doctor, and then made her own tasty adjustments. As you can see, the cake has a wonderful texture. It's rather dense & moist from the sweet potato, but in no way is it undercooked. Perfect! The recipe calls for caned sweet potatoes, but she used the fresh ones, mashed with buttermilk. And, to add a bit more flavor, she added vanilla. I can't believe the original recipe didn't call for any. For even more changes, the frosting recipe called for coconut and pecans. Since cream cheese frosting and spice cake are both really rich, she opted to leave out the add-ins. I think that was a great idea, since the focus was really on the cake; not on everything else. For a future suggestion, Rebecca mentioned using a plain butter cream frosting next time, since this particular cream cheese frosting is extremely rich. Either way would be great, since the cake is really the star.

After dinner, I took a piece home for Greg. It was a great just home from work treat for him. Like the rest of us at dinner, he just loved it. Thankfully, Rebecca gave me this cook book as a wedding gift, he can make this for himself whenever he wants! But since it's just us, maybe cupcakes, and freezing the rest might be a better idea. For those of you who don't know, Greg can also make a wonderful cake.

Recipe:

Cake:
1 C. cooked sweet potato (1-2 potatoes)
2/3 C. buttermilk
1 package (18.25 oz) plain spice cake mix
3 large eggs
1/3 C. vegetable oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8oz cream cheese, room temp
8 tbs butter, room temp
2 1/2 C. powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the cake:
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 9 inch round cake pans.

-Mash the cooked sweet potato with the butter milk

-Combine cake mix, eggs, oil, cinnamon, vanilla and sweet potato mash. Mix until combined.

-Divide the batter into the two cake pans. Bake side by side, 28-31 minutes.

-After cooling for 10 minutes, remove the cake from the pans and allow to cool to room temp.

-Once the cake has cooled, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until blended. Add the powdered sugar a bit at a time. Blend until fluffy.

-Frost the cake.

-Enjoy!!!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Moroccan Chicken


Yum, yyyyuuummmmmm, YUM! Well if you couldn't tell, we really enjoyed this dish. I found the recipe on epicurious while searching for recipes that have chickpeas. Ironically, I forgot to add the chickpeas. The name lead me to do a bit of research on Moroccan food. It appears that this is actually based on traditional Moroccan cooking! I was so impressed. All of the spices, and cooking method for this particular cut of meat checked out to be fairly authentic. I used chicken thighs, and the less ideal cuts of meat are cooked in a Tajine (large pot) in a sauce, creating a "stew". Very cool.

All of the flavors in this are very familiar to American tastes, so if you are even a bit adventurous, this would be worth trying. One word of warning, it is very aromatic, so crack open a window while cooking!

I made this while Greg was at work, and he had a re-heated serving once he got home (10pm..better than midnight!). It was even great re-heated. I was a bit nervous to see if he would like it or not, but after one bite he started getting his tell tale "let's make this one again" smile.

Recipe: (doubled version from epicurious, serves 4-5)

2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 pkg chicken thighs or meat with bone and skin (~2.5lbs)
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp lemon zest, fine
3 tsp flour
3 C. chicken broth
2 TBS honey
1 C. chickpeas
2 C. rice, cooked
1/2 onion, chopped

-Cook rice as directed by package. If you are using dry grains, when there is about 20 minutes left on the rice, start cooking the chicken. If you are using instant rice, start cooking when you return the chicken to the pan after searing (step 5).

-Heat oil in a very large skillet (large enough so that the pieces of meat do not touch) around medium high to high. I actually had to use two skillets, splitting the ingredients in half into each.

-Season chicken with sea salt and ground black pepper. Sear skin side down.

-Remove chicken, set aside.

-Reduce heat to medium, add chopped onion, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, lemon zest & flour. Stir to create a paste. About 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and honey. Stir to combine. The sauce will be very thin and water like at this point.

-Add the chicken, skin side up. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes, until cooked through. Leave uncovered so the sauce can reduce.

-Once the chicken is cooked, remove from pan. Add chickpeas and continue to simmer for 3-5 minutes.

-Serve chicken over rice. Pour sauce with chickpeas on top of chicken.

-Enjoy!!!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Red Beans and Rice


I know that the beans are traditionally served on top of the rice, but I really prefer to mix mine in as I am cooking the dish. It helps to blend the flavors. I have made this dish several times. Once, following the recipe exactly, the others with a bit of improv. The recipe is actually from The Great American Detox Diet, by Alex Jamieson. Her book is very fascinating, and I think it would be a good read even if you don't plan on following it. We are partial "detoxers". I've made several of her recipes and health issues aside, they have each tasted wonderful. She has a great cold and flu tea that I swear got me through last years flu season unscathed.

Ok, back to this dish. Each component of the dish is cooked seperatly with different herbs and spices. When they are all combined at the end it results in a very nice layering of flavors. The intensity of these flavors seems so surprising, since the dish itself is very simple. Another aspect that I really like about the meal is that it is very versitile; it can be vegan, vegetarian (if you add a bit of cheese at the end), or an omnivor's dish by adding meat or cooking your rice in chicken broth. I think that chopped chicken would be a nice addition if you want to add some meat in. I really love flexible dishes like this. I am always drawn to them.

Next time I may use this as a stuffing for squash, or make a clear broth and have soup.

Recipe:

15 oz can red kidney beans (1 1/3 C. cooked dry beans) drained & rinsed
4 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 C chopped onion (red and vadalia both work)
3 gloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leafs
2 C. chicken or vegetable stock (I use water and then add buillion paste)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp ground mustard
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1-2 C. any other vegetable you want to add (zucchini tends to be my preference, though I didn't add any this time. Roasted squash might be nice, too.)

-Cook rice as package directs, using broth instead of water for extra flavor

-When the rice has about 10 minutes left:

-Cook beans in 1 C. water with red pepper flakes, oregano & a dash of cayanne (if you want to spice it up a bit more) by boiling water, adding the beans and spices, and then turning down to a simmer.

- Heat extra virgin olive oil in a skillet. Add onion & garlic with thyme & ground mustard. Add the remaining chopped vegetables. Cook until tender. About 10 minutes over medium heat.

-Drain the beans after 10 minutes.

-Combine, rice, vegetables & beans. Serve warm.

-Enjoy!!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Chocoate Chip Cookies + New Oven!



That's right, I have a new oven!!! After a year of baking frustrations, my life has gotten much, much better! We have had an oven thermometer for a while, and noticed that our oven at it's best tends to be about 50 degree's cooler than what we set it for. At it's worst, the oven's temperature will fluctuate from 75 degree's too cool, to 20 degree's too hot; all in one baking cycle.

After complaining to our apartment manager (yes our apartment, we are young newly weds after all!) and a visit from our very friendly maintenance technician, we found out that some internal sensor was broken. We were also told that the oven was too old to find replacement parts for, and that we should get a new oven.

We tried to talk to the manager several times with no luck, that is, until yesterday! While at work, Greg received a call from them with the best news, "We have an oven in stock for you, can they come over right now to install it"? Luckily, I have Thursdays off. With in 5 minutes the old piece of junk was gone and the brand new, clean, digital oven, with a window was installed! It was time to celebrate/test out this new toy.


First, I thought about making something fussy and fancy. Then I thought, why not go for something classic that will let me know right away if this oven is any good? The obvious answer: Chocolate Chip Cookies! I must say, I forgot how wonderful it is to bake each batch of cookies for the same amount of time, and have them all turn out the same! Standardization, what a concept! With my old oven we had to check each batch every 3 minutes...what a pain.

And so, without further ado, the classic chocolate chip cookie. No real modifications here, just a bit more flour and vanilla. This is essentially the Nestle recipe, but almost all of these recipes are the same.

Recipe:

3 C. Flour
3/4 C. brown sugar, packed
3/4 C. white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 C. butter, softened
12oz bag chocolate chips (I love mine very chocolaty)

-Cream butter and sugar together, add eggs and vanilla.

-Add flour, sat & baking soda, mix to combine

-Add chocolate chips

-Chill dough for at least 30 mintues

-Spoon out dough in 1 tbs balls, about an inch and a half apart on a baking sheet

-Bake for 8 minutes 30 seconds at 375 degrees. (yes that is specific, but I found that 8 minutes left them too soft, even after cooling on the baking sheet, and 9 minutes left them a bit too dark).

-Enjoy!!!

p.s. I promise next time to post a non-dessert!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Rich Fudgy Brownies

Well, a Fine Cooking recipe has come through yet again! These are my new favorite brownies, without a doubt. If you like a more cakey brownie, these are not for you. These are even more addicting than the Brownies with m&m's and Peanut Butter! The two recipes are strikingly similar, and so it was very fun to see how the slight differences really changed the outcome.

One of the components of Fine Cooking that I love is all of the pictures. I was able to compare my brownies to the published great looking magazine shot. After following the recipe perfecting (yes I know...), my brownies rose about double what the picture shows. I'm really not sure why that would be, but the flavor was still great. Greg and I decided that we could make wonderful ice cream sandwiches using these if we were to press these down while in the pan, pour soft ice cream on top, and then put another layer of pressed brownies on the ice cream and freeze. Hm...yum.


Recipe:
1 C. butter
2/3 C. flour
2 C. sugar
4 eggs, room temp
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 C. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

-Mix all dry ingredients together, set aside.

-Melt butter. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients (takes a while for it to get incorporated).

-Pour batter into a greased 9x9 baking pan

-Bake for 40 mintues at 350 degrees.

-Enjoy!!!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

French Lentil Soup


We've had another "fall" like day (but tomorrow should be 81). I made this soup up last night with the plan of eating left overs today and tomorrow. When I first had a bowl, it was OK, but after sitting overnight all of the flavors came out, and it was quiet good! I also made some frocacia bread, from my Cafe Paradiso cook book (thanks Rebecca!) to go along with.

I found the recipie on epicurious. Many of the reviews stated that the soup was bland, until they added lots of seasoning. That's my cue to play with the recipe as much as possible! Okay, well I really didn't change too much. I doubled the amount of onion to be cooked down, and added thyme, rosemary, oregano, a bay leaf and basil. Herbs de Provence would make a very nice substitute as well.

For our next day meal, we noticed that all of the liquid had been absorbed by the lentils, making this more of a mush. It still had a nice texture, and would go over rice or in a pita really well. We also thought that this tasted very much like a beef stew that my paternal Grandmother makes, adoringly called "Grandma's Stew". Her stew also contains parsnips, which I plan on putting in the next time I make this. Also, I think that cubed beef, venison, or bison would make a great addition for all of the omnivores out there.

All in all, we are pleased with this soup/stew/mush. Like the Pumpkin Pasta, it might not look that great, but it tastes wonderful and is very satisfying.

Recipe:

1 1/4 C. dry lentils
4 C. chicken broth
1 C. chopped carrots
2 C. chopped celery
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
15 oz can diced tomatoes, plain
4-5 gloves garlic, smashed
2 tsp basil
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

-Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat with garlic and seasonings
-Add chopped veggies, stir to coat. Cover and let cook until the onions are transparent, about 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
-Add tomato, lentils and chicken broth, bring to a boil
-Cover and bring down to a simmer. Simmer until lentils are cooked, 35-45 minutes
-Remove bay leaf
-Blend part of the soup with a stick blender or a traditional blender/food processor. If using a traditional method, return blended soup to the stock pot and stir to combine.
-Serve warm, plain or over rice.
-Enjoy!!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pumpkin Pasta

Even if it might be 80 degrees outside, it is fall! This is one of my favorite comfort foods. It sounds interesting, and looks interesting, but let me assure you that it is wonderful. We saw this recipe in a Rachel Ray cook book, titled Pumpkin Cauliflower Pasta. I like pasta, squash, and cauliflower, so I thought "why not". There are a decent number of flavors going on here, and it tastes like it would be more difficult to make than it really is.

Over time, we've changed the herbs/spices we use and the portions of ingredients. The recipe calls for chicken broth. We've tried both vegetable broth and water, but they just don't add near as much flavor, so chicken broth it is. I've used both parmesan and feta cheeses, and a combo of both (depending on what is in the fridge). The original recipe calls for heavy cream. We started by using skim milk instead, and lately we've just been leaving that out all together. The pumpkin puree really makes a nice texture for the sauce.

I know we've served this to guests before, and I'm sure we'll serve it to more people for years to come.

8 oz whole wheat pasta
1/2 C. pumpkin puree
1/4 C. parmesan cheese
1 C. Chicken broth or liquid of choice
1 head of cauliflower cut into florets, or 1 16 oz bag of frozen cauliflower, thawed (but the florets in the bags tend to be a bit too big)
2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

-Bring water a to a boil. Cook pasta as directed

-While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high. Add garlic, rosemary, thyme. Cook for about 2 minutes.

-Add cauliflower. Stir to coat with oil. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

-Once pasta is cooked, drain & return to stock pot. The cauliflower should be done soon. Once the cauliflower is done, pour into the pasta. Add pumpkin puree, nutmeg, cinnamon, ground pepper, salt and parmesan. Stir to combine. Serve warm.

-Enjoy!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Creamy Polenta with Veggies and Red Kidney Beans


Over a week with no posts, goodness! This past week has been crazy, with addition of the latest niece to expand our family. Greg and I have been busy spending time with her, her parents, and the rest of the family which came down to visit. So I must confess, we made this meal about a week and a half ago, and we have been pleasantly distracted since then =).

If you are wondering if those veggies are yet more frozen veggies, then you would be correct. I really enjoy this particular bag. On top of the obvious broccoli and cut carrots, it contains black eyed peas, garbanzo/chick peas, snap peas & cauliflower. Two years ago on a trip home to Ann Arbor, my family ate at at the Quarter Bistro. I ordered a wonderfully spicy vegetable minestrone. We joked that I just have gotten the last of the pot, because it seemed like there were at least 4 cups of minestrone in my "bowl". We took the left overs home, and my Mom made grilled polenta, and then spooned the re-heated soup on top. It was so delicious. This is my quick attempt at mimicking the dish.

To add flavor to the veggies and beans, I started by cooking the beans in water with bay leafs, oregano, basil, rosemary, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Once they were mostly cooked, I added the veggies until they were warm. We put cheddar cheese on the polenta once it was done, and that helped keep the texture creamy. I think a stronger flavored cheese would work much better. A little asiago would have really gone along way!The whole process took about 10 minutes. I'm sure if the veggies had simmered longer they flavors would have been more full. But, for a done in 10 minutes meal, this was pretty hard to beat. If anything, the next day left overs were better than the first day. The polenta's texture had changed since it was allowed to sit, but the flavor was still good.

Recipe:

Veggie Mixture:
1 15oz can red kidney beans
8oz frozen veggies
shredded cheddar
1 C. water
1 1/2 tsp each of: rosemary, basil, oregano, cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves

Polenta:
1 C. water
1 C. corn meal or polenta
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper

-Bring 1 C. water to a boil. Add drained and rinsed kidney beans. reduce to a high simmer. Cook until just about tender and warmed through. Add the veggies. Continue cooking until the veggies have heated through. Drain and set aside.

- While the beans and veggies are cooking, bring the 1 C. water to a boil. Slowly pour in the corn meal or polenta while whisking. Whisk until any large clumps have dissolved. Serve warm and creamy or pour into a 9x13 and cover with plastic wrap to set.

-Serve the polenta while warm and creamy, top with a bit of cheese. Place veggies and beans on top of cheese.

- Enjoy!!!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Chicken with Spinach and Barley


Part two of thrifty tasty eating! For this dish we only had to buy chopped frozen spinach. Pretty thrifty! There was not really a recipe that inspired us to make this, just a hunch that everything would work well together once it was all cooked. I stir fried the chicken in my Tuscan Sunset mix from Penzey's, and added a lot of rosemary and garlic. I saw a tip on a health blog, that smashing your garlic and letting it sit for 15 minutes before cooking helps to release healthy compounds that are good for your heart. We did that this time, too. Well, even if that's bogus, the wonderfully mellow flavor that resulted is worth the 15 minute wait! Once everything was cooked and combined, I added a small handful of mozzarella cheese to help bind it all together. The end result was very flavorful dish with an excellent creamy texture, much like risotto, much healthier, and much less time consuming!

We ate this as a main, though I think it would probably be better as a side. For leftovers, I put this in a whole wheat pita and ate it cold. That was also spectacular! If I make this as a side, I'll probably leave the chicken out and just cook the spinach down in the same seasonings. Either way, we'll definitely be making this one again!

Recipe:

3 chicken tenders, thawed out & cut into bite size pieces
1/2 block of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 C. uncooked barley of choice
2 or 3 cloves of garlic (I used 3 but they were on the small side)
1 tsp tuscan seasoning (italian would be fine too, but I would add some red pepper flakes)
1 tsp rosemary
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 small handful (not even 1/4 C.) shredded mozzarella cheese

-Set water to boil for barley. Start cooking.
-Cut chicken into bite size pieces. Add oil to a large pan and heat to medium high. Add the tuscan seasoning, rosemary, and garlic. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Stir frequently for even cooking.
-While the chicken is cooking, thaw out the spinach.
-When the chicken is mostly cooked through, add the spinach. Cover and turn down the heat. Let the spinach cook and wilt while the chicken cooks all of the way through.
-When the barley is cooked, add that to the chicken mixture along with the mozzarella
-Stir to combine.

-Enjoy!!!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Lemon Parmesan Chicken with Orzo and Veggies


This month Greg and I are trying to eat "thrifty", yet good. We found that if we plan out meals we end up spending less, and so we planned out as many meals as we could from ingredients that we have on hand. We almost always have everything needed for this recipe, and we put it at the top of our list!

I made this once before when Greg had an evening off, and it turned out really well. This version of Parmesan Chicken is also the light version. There is no dredging the chicken in egg or melted butter, no pan frying, and light on the breading. Since all of those removed steps/ingredients add so much flavor, I added the zest of one whole lemon along with sea salt to compensate. And, instead of serving over spaghetti, we chose whole wheat orzo with a nice vegetable medley. We've been using frozen veggies more lately. I know that everything is in season right now, but the frozen mixes are just so affordable while allowing a great variety of veggies with absolute minimal prep time. Next year, we will have to have some sort of garden so we won't have to buy veggies, and then drive home to prep; we'll just walk out onto our patio!

But anyway, this is pretty tasty. The lemon makes it feel like a summer dish, but for the fall I might want to skip on the zest, and then serve it over roasted sweet potato or a winter squash. Yum. It's also a very fast recipe, since the chicken tenders only take about 20 minutes to cook.

Recipe:

3-4 Chicken tenders, thawed
3 TBS each of flour, corn meal, and parmesan cheese
1 C. frozen veggies
1/2 box whole wheat orzo
marinara sauce to taste
zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
1/4 C. shredded mozzarella cheese
extra virgin olive oil

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Mix the flour, corn meal, parmesan, lemon zest, salt and pepper together
-Rub flour mixture onto chicken tenders
-Bake the chicken tenders on a greased baking sheet or pan for about 20 minutes or until cooked
-While the chicken is cooking, boil orzo as directed. In the last 2 minutes of cooking time, add the frozen veggies. Drain and toss with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and marinara sauce to taste.
-Serve chicken on top of pasta and veggies, top with a bit of mozzarella.

-Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Honey BBQ Chicken


This past Labor Day Greg and I went to Dan and Rebecca's to grill. We provided the meat, they provided the grill! We had a nice day. Rebecca and I relaxed while Dan and Greg washed and waxed Dan's car. If you thought it looked fast before, watch out! This was the first car Greg washed since we moved last summer. Well, other than hang out, we also ate some awesome food. Rebecca made sweet potato fries (which we believe that recipe is courtesy of Sister-in-law Beth), corn bread muffins, bbq chicken, grilled pineapple, and lemon dessert. My mouth is watering just thinking about it all! We tried to take some pictures of our feast, but unfortunately our camera batteries were low, and absolutely nothing was in focus. It's really too bad, because everything together just looked amazing.

Labor Day was also a day of many firsts! My first time butterflying a chicken, grilling, making my own bbq sauce, and everyone's first time seeing a whole chicken on the grill. It was very fun. The chicken recipe came from my most recent Fine Cooking magazine. I stayed in line with the recipe for the most part. I changed a few things based on ingredients that I already had, and then again for preference. For example, I really like my bbq sauce on the sweet side, so I added more honey that originally called for, and knowing that Rebecca dislikes vinegar, I left that out. Next time I would like to put an oven themometer in the grill, so we can better judge how long it will take to cook. And, though our meat thermometer read that the meat was cooked, the meat around the bones was not cooked. Nothing that a little microwaving coudln't take care of, but next time I'd really like for it to be cooked through the whole way. I don't really have that problem when I oven roast chickens.

Chicken Recipe:

1 whole chicken, butterflied
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp thyme
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp chipotle chile powder
1 clove garlic, crushed/minced

BBQ sauce Recipe:

1/3 C. honey
1 TBS soy sayce
2 TBS ketchup
2 tsp dried mustard
2 tsp WOrcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp chili powder

-Prepare the chicken: Mix olive oil, sat, chili powder, paprika, brown sugar, thype, black pepper, chiotle powder and garlic in a small bowl. Massage onto chicken, inbetween skin and muscle, and on top of the skin. Let sit either overnight in the fridge or 30 minutes on the counter.

-Prepare the sauce: Add all sauce ingredients

-Sear the chicken skin side on the grill at high heat (450 degrees).

-Once seared, turn down heat to about 350, or move to a cool place on the grill. Start brushing on the bbq sauce every 5-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Let stand for a few minutes once cooked all of the way through.

Sweet Potato Fry Recipe:

(Please correct me if this is wrong, Beth or Rebecca!)

1 large sweet potato
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

-Juline cut the sweet potato, leaving the skin on.
-Toss with olive oil and place on a jelly roll pan
-Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes
-Sprinkle with kosher salt once done cooking


-Enjoy!!!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pan Seared Chicken with Vegetables

Last week was a bit cooler, gray, and rainy. It looked like fall outside. What a perfect opportunity for some comfort food! This dinner filled our apartment up with warm and familiar scents, and made us really feel like it was November.

I took this recipe out of the March 2008 issue of Gourmet, generously provided by my good friend, Sasha. Sasha and her fiancee, Phil, are both wonderful and avid cooks! The original title is "Chicken in Riesling", but we didn't feel much like buying a bottle of wine to just use one cup for cooking. I think the wine would have added more flavor, but it was just fine with out. When I was at the store, they only had packages of chicken breasts with the skin and rib meat, no whole chickens, thighs, or pick-of-the-chicks. The recipe calls for 1 whole chicken, and I think that would have worked out much better, since the breast meet gets a bit more dry than everything else. And finally, the recipe calls for you to skin the potatoes, but then you are throwing away flavor, color, and nutrients!

In general, this was pretty good. Very comforting, easy, and a bit different from just baking chicken (but just about as easy). I should have seared my skin sides a bit more, and I think next time I make this I might brine it the night before, just so the chicken stays nice and moist. Greg and I also think that the presentation is nice. It's a bit rustic since you can present everything in the same dish it has been cooked in, but I think that adds to its charm!

Recipe:

About 3.5 lbs of chicken with bone and skin
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
3 TBS butter, divided
4 leaks chopped or 2 C. sweet onion chopped
4 Medium carrots, halved
6 asparagus sprigs, cut into half
1.5 lbs small redskin potatoes
2 TBS fresh chopped parsley
1/2 C. heavy cream
1/2 C. lemon juice


-Heat oven to 350 degrees
-Rub chicken with salt and pepper.
-Heat oil with 1 TBS of butter in a wide oven proof pot or cast iron.
-Brown chicken in 2 batches. Transfer to a plate.
-Pour off fat from chicken. Add 2 TBS butter, leaks/onion and salt. Stir until golden.
-Add chicken, skin side up. Add carrots and asparagus. Add 1 C. of water or wine, boil until the liquid is reduced by half (about 4 minutes)
-Cover the pot and bake until the chicken is cooked through, 20-25 minutes.
-While chicken is baking, clean and boil potatoes until they are just tender. Drain, sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper.
-Stir in heavy cream to the chicken, add potatoes and lemon juice.

-Enjoy!!!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Asparagus and Chicken Pizza

I love pizza. If I didn't care much for my health or wallet, I could probably eat pizza at least once a week. One of the qualities I love so much about pizza is that anything goes. Literally, anything. You can eat pizza in just about any setting, too. It's nice stadium food, but it can be dressed up with goat cheese and roasted veggies and served with a glass of wine.

Making pizza is pretty great, too. Especially with the wide variety of pre-made crusts. I prefer the Jiffy mix (a whole whopping 49 cents for a box!), and add Italian herbs while I mix it. I think the crust gets a bit more firm than the chilled doughs, too. But that might be due to the directions; the box calls for you to pre-bake the crust, then add toppings. I'm sure this would work just fine for the roll out doughs.

Greg and I love chicken on our pizza, but it's often such an expensive item to add. It just makes more sense to make our own. Asparagus was on sale this week, so that prompted the Asparagus-Chicken combo. We also added the zest of 1/2 lemon. It turned out really well! It felt very summery because of the asparagus and lemon (it washed down great with a glass of fresca). I think the bright green is so pretty, too. All in all, I'm pleased with how this turned out. I think a bit of asiago cheese would compliment the stronger flavor of the asparagus, and next time I'll probably add a bit in.

Recipe:

1 box Jiffy pizza mix
1/2 tsp Tuscan spice blend (We really like Penzey's).
1/2 C. hot tap water
1/2 can of pizza sauce
8 oz. shredded mozzarella
1/4 C. parmesan, shredded or grated
3-5 sprigs of asparagus, depends on how thick they are
lemon zest to taste
3 chicken breast tenders
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp each of rosemary, basil, oregano
1 tbs corn meal

-Mix Pizza mix with Tuscan blend and water according to directions, let stand.

- Heat olive oil and spices in a pan. Cut chicken into bite size pieces. Add the chicken to the oil, stir fry until just about cooked.

-When the dough has risen, sprinkle corn meal onto a baking sheet. Spread the dough out into a rectangle. If you use the Jiffy Mix, I've found it very helpful to keep my hands wet to keep the dough from sticking to me. Pre-bake according to directions.

-Rinse asparagus and cut into 1 inch pieces. Cut width in half if needed.

-When pre-baked, add pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella, parmesan, asparagus and chicken. Add the zest of lemon on top.

-Bake as directed by pizza dough. Let cool.

-Enjoy!!!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Blondies with Chocolate Chips


This was another "what's in the cupboard" baking adventure. After Mom Dekker brought some wonderful blondie bar cookies down on their last visit, I've been wanting to make a batch myself. I didn't have much butter on hand, and ended up choosing to follow a recipe that called for just about all I had to spare. I found the recipe on allrecipies.com, and it had a pretty high rating.

Overall, these aren't bad, but they are just a bit bland. They really lack any butterscotch flavor that I associate with blondies. The recipe calls for you to melt the butter and stir in brown sugar. I think that if you browned the butter there would be much more flavor. There is 1/2 tsp of cinnamon in the recipe, and that does bring something unique to the cookie. It is very subtle, and you might not taste it if you didn't know it was there.

They do have a wonderful texture; more cakey than a brownie, very nice crumb, and they didn't dry out over a few days. I think I will make these again, but add a variety of chips into the batter. I also think it would be fun to make a frosted treat out of these, a lot like the giant Mrs. Fields cookie treats.

Recipe:

3 C. flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 C. butter
2 1/3 C. brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

-Melt butter, add brown sugar and stir to melt. Remove from heat and let cool. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla.

-Add dry ingredients, stir to combine. Fold in chocolate chips.

-Bake in a greased 9x13 at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

-Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Enchilada's



These are about as Americanized as you can get, but very delicious! I say they are Americanized because the recipe includes: canned beans, condensed soup, instant rice, bottled salsa, pre-packaged tortillas, and shredded cheese. Hm...makes me feel a bit gross just writing about it! Greg and I try to keep things as least processed and most homemade as possible, but this recipe is definitely a huge, yummy exception.

Well, ingredients aside, these are very good. My Mom makes enchilada's and they always have super creamy nice rice, and she shared her secret! Instead of cooking rice in plain water, she cooks hers in a watery condensed creamy soup! It really makes a wonderful texture.

To come up with this recipe, Greg and I looked at what we had in the cupboard that we could make a dinner out of. We had: 1 can of kidney beans, frozen chicken, instant rice, cheese, and salsa. The only ingredients we needed were soup and tortilla's! We ended up with a super tasty, super filling, super easy supper (ok, that was a bit lame, I know)! Now, when I say filling, I mean it! With three sources of complete protein, rice that expands, and carbs to help wash it all down, these will fill you up fast!

Recipe:

1 can creamy cheese soup (Cheddar or Fiesta Nacho Campbell's soup)
1 pkg large tortillas
6 oz shredded cheese
2 C. salsa
4 chicken tenders or 2 chicken breasts
1 1/2 C. instant rice
1 15 oz can red kidney beans
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 TBS chipotle chili powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
ground black pepper

-Bring 1 can creamy cheese soup plus 1 1/2 cans of water to a boil, add rice. Reduce to a simmer and cover for about 15 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed.
-While rice is cooking, cut chicken into very small pieces.
-Drain and rinse kidney beans
-Turn oven to 350 degrees
-Coat a pan with extra virgin olive oil. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano and black pepper. Heat.
-Add chicken and beans to oil. Stir to coat. Add 1 C. salsa. Cook on medium-high heat until chicken is cooked through, stirring often.
-Once cooked, remove from heat.
-Add the rice/soup combo once the liquid has been absorbed. Stir to combine. Set aside.
-Place 1/2 C. salsa in the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan. Spread around to coat the whole bottom.
-Place about 3/4 C. of the rice/chicken/bean mixture into a tortilla. Roll and place in the pan.
-Once they are all in the pan, cover with the rest of the salsa. Spread cheese on top of the enchilada's.
-Bake for about 15 minutes until the cheese is all melted.
-Enjoy!!!


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bowl of Greens


There is nothing like watching the best athlete's in the world to inspire you to be healthy. It's also still warm, and standing by the oven still sounds awful. Right now, the produce looks wonderful. I tend to just pick out what looks good that week, and go from there. This week, all of the green veggies at the store looked great. So, I non-consciously created a monochromatic salad: baby lettuce mix, green beans, green bell pepper, and cucumber. Saturday Greg and I were at the Farmer's Market with Mom and Dad Dekker, Dan, and Rebecca. The veggies there were fabulous looking. Maybe we'll go next weekend and have a more colorful plate!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Brownies with m&m's and Peanut Butter


WARNING: Highly addictive, must be consumed with a large glass of cold milk.

In High School, my friend Sarah and I used to make these brownies, but just with m&m's. We would eat them with vanilla ice cream when they were still warm, have a sleep over, and then eat some more for breakfast. Brownies make a delicious breakfast. When we went to college, we both took the recipe with us. We each gained a reputation for making yummy brownies and bringing them to parties or meetings, and sometimes to work. Not surprisingly, both of our Husbands love these brownies!

When Greg was waiting for surgery, his meds really decreased his appetite. Since he was losing weight and didn't want to eat much, I started making sure that there was always had a batch of brownies in the apartment so he would get some calories. I knew they were high in calories, and I started adding about a cup of peanut butter so he would get some protein, too. It seemed to work, he stopped losing weight as fast. We also brought them to Dan and Rebecca's once, where Rebecca dressed them up with fresh strawberry's and cool whip. They were amazing like that.

The only real changes Sarah and I keep making to the recipe is the amount and type of cocoa powder. We've always put an extra tsp of cocoa in, and most of the time I use half dark cocoa, half regular. The peanut butter was a new addition this year. Normally, we use baking m&m's, but I couldn't find any at the store. If you look, you'll notice that the regular m&m's all sunk to the bottom of the pan and the candy coating bled a bit. The extra sugar at the bottom formed an interesting crisp layer (much like an m&m shell...). Greg said it was like a sugary surprise, since you can't tell by looking at the top or sides. Next time, I'll wait for the baking m&m's.

Recipe:

3/4 C. butter, melted
1 1/2 C. sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
3/4 C. flour
4 tbs cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C. baking m&m's
1 C. peanut butter

-Melt butter in a large bowl. Add sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Add dry ingredients. Mix well. Add m&m's.

-Pour into a greased 9x9 pan or 8x8 pan (a 9x13 works, as do muffin tins, but the cookings time are lower, I'm not sure what they are. I generally start at 15 minutes and keep adding time until they are baked).

- Add the peanut butter in several glops. Spread throughout with a spoon. Bake for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees.

-Enjoy!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

White Bean Dip with Baked Pita Chips

I think that this is a perfect snack, or meal, if you get carried away. While watching one of our many PBS channels, there was a lady making what she called "healthy after school snacks". This was definitely the most grown up of each of her items, but pretty great looking. I don't remember what spices she used, but I instantly thought of the seasonings for the dipping oil at one of our favorite restaurants, San Chez. Last summer they changed their menu to no trans fat, and introduced a wonderful oil with parsley, cumin, sea salt, black pepper, and lemon juice. It is absolutely fantastic, and I decided to use these seasonings to try to re-create the flavor.

The only downside to this is that there is no recipe. I just added olive oil, cumin, a pinch of salt and pepper, and lemon juice until it tasted right and had a nice smooth texture. There was some method to the madness, though.

Method:

1 can Canenolli beans, rinsed and drained
1 lemon
olive oil
sea salt
black pepper
cumin
parsley

-Blend beans using preferred method (I love my stick blender, much less messy than a food processor for small jobs!)
-Add the lemon juice and a bit of olive oil, mix in
-Add a pinch of salt and pepper
-Slowly add cumin and parsley until you get your preferred taste


-Turn oven onto 400 degrees
-Cut a pita into 8 pieces, brush both sides with olive oil
-Bake for 15 minutes, flipping them over after 7 minutes
-Let cool

-Serve the dip cool.

-Enjoy!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Broccoli Cheddar Soup with Corn Bread


This 4th or July weekend was a bit cold and very rainy. What better weather for comfort food! Greg had a morning and afternoon off, so we got to spend our lunch hour making food together. Greg tackled the corn bread, while I made a new Broccoli Cheddar recipe. Our old recipe, though very tasty, had 1 brick of Velveeta in it (hm....). Not surprisingly, this soup was far superior to our old recipe! We found the recipe on the Food Networks website, courtesy of Emeril. We made a few minor changes based on what we had in the apartment, but it's more or less the same recipe. The corn bread recipe is actually from my Mom. Since Greg is a very precise baker (he often weighs and sifts his dry ingredients), he followed her recipe very closely, and as always it was wonderful!

The soup is very easy to make, and is really fragrant. Our apartment smelled like it for a day or so afterwards. I suppose we could have aired the place out, but it was just so humid that we left the air on so we wouldn't melt.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup Recipe:

5 TBS butter or margarine, cut into 2 and 3 TBS
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp thyme
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 TBS flour
3 C. chicken stock
1/2 C. skim milk
8oz shredded cheddar cheese
1 16oz pkg frozen broccoli

-In a stock pot, melt 3 TBS butter or margarine, add onion, nutmeg, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook until tender. Add the garlic and stir to combine.

- Slowly add the flour and stir to coat. Add the chicken stock to this mixture, whisking constantly. Boil and bring down to a simmer for 5 minutes.

-Add the broccoli, continue simmering for about 10 minutes.

-Add the milk, let simmer for another 5 minutes. When the soup has thickened, slowly add the cheese, whisking constantly while it melts. Serve warm, enjoy!!!

Corn Bread Recipe:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees

1 C. cornmeal
1 C. flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 C. milk
1/4 C. melted butter

-In a large bowl, combine all of your dry ingredients. Mix well.

-Melt your butter. Add all of your wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Combine well. Pour into a greased 8x8 baking pan, bake for 20 minutes.

-Enjoy!!!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Jambalaya


"Hey y'all, here something that I know you're just gonna love!". OK, if you couldn't guess, this used to be a Paula Deen recipe. I love Paula because she loves food, and she makes everyone else love food. Well, this is all a bit of a digression. I say the recipe "used" to be Paula's because Greg and I changed just about everything about it. We roughly got proportions from her recipe, and a general season base. Instead of shrimp we used chicken ($), instead of dried onion and garlic we used the real deal, instead of beef bullion we used chicken, and instead of long grain rice we used brown. We also added a few spices: sea salt, sage, ground mustard, & ground coriander. I think all of the changes we made to this one really make up for the lack of creativity in the last few posts. It was really fun and energizing to take our time and dissect a new recipe again. I'll have to remember that feeling next time I just don't feel cooking anything fun.

We do thank Paula for her inspiration and her proportions, because we absolutely love this dish. The flavor and texture are great, and it really transported us to the South. It's also pretty healthy (again, I think this makes up for my last few posts, this was turning into a dessert blog!) and very filling. It's easy to cook, though it takes a bit of time since there are different stages.

What I think is most fun about this recipe is that it is a combination of Creole and Cajun cooking! I didn't realize we were mixing cooking styles until I looked them up afterwards. From what I can gather, Creole jambalaya has the tomatoes and the meat is not browned. In Cajun jambalaya, the meat is browned and the "trinity" is added: onion, celery and green bell pepper. In our recipe, we cooked the onion with spices, added our (yellow) bell pepper, then added our meat, browned it, then added our tomatoes, rice and chicken stock.

Recipe:


1/2 lbs Andouille sausage
1 lbs chicken
1 C. instant brown rice
1 C. chicken stock
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
2 gloves garlic, crushed or micro planed
14 oz. diced tomatoes
8 oz. tomato sauce
2 bay leafs
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp sage
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp dried mustard
1/4 tsp ground coriander
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Olive oil

-In a large stock pot or dutch oven, add olive oil, onion, bell pepper, garlic, sage, thyme, ground mustard, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, sea salt, black pepper and bay leafs. Stir to combine, cook until the onion is transparent but not yet caramelized, medium heat, 5-10 minutes.

-Cut the chicken and sausage into small bit size pieces. Add these to the onion mixture. Stir to combine. Turn up to medium high heat. Let the meat brown on one side.

-Add the rice, tomatoes, tomato sauce and chicken stock. Stir it all and scrap any pieces of meat of the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes (or as directed for your rice). Once the meat is cooked through and the rice is tender, remove from heat and let stand. Serve warm and enjoy! Also goes great with a slice of chocolate cake!

-Enjoy!!!



Monday, June 30, 2008

Chocolate Cake


In the middle of last week, someone brought a cake to Keeneland. Greg said that it looked like a chocolaty hot mess, but it didn't have any flavor and was overall a bit disappointing. Since I love to spoil him so, I decided to treat him to a cake this weekend while he had to work!

This is a pretty classic recipe. It's not creative or unique, it's especially not healthy, but it is WONDERFUL! I found this recipe on the back of a Hershey's cocoa box, along with my brownie recipe. I haven't messed around with the cake batter, but I have made different frostings. My favorite alternative is a mocha frosting, and I would love to try a dark chocolate-orange frosting. Yum!

Recipe:

Cake:
2 C. Sugar
1 3/4 C. all purpose flour
3/4 C. Cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 C. milk
1/2 C. veg oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 C. boiling water

-Mix sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, and salt.
-Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla
-Stir in boiling water
-Bake 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees


Frosting:
1 stick butter, melted
3/4 C. cocoa
4 C. powdered sugar
1/3 C. milk
1 tsp vanilla

- Melt the butter
- Add the rest of the ingredients, mix with a mixer. Add more powdered sugar if needed to get a desired consistency.

Let cakes cool all the way, frost and eat up! Great with a cup of milk!

-Enjoy!!!



Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Layered Lemon Dessert




This post is for my sister-in-law Beth. Beth is soon to be a first time Mom, and last I heard, citrus had been among her cravings.

This week at work my office moved, and to "celebrate" there was a company bbq. Dan did a great job grilling, and everyone else brought something for a potluck. I volunteered a "summery lemon dessert", but needed a recipe. I wanted something super super easy, a little creamy, and with good lemon flavor. www.allrecipes.com ended up having just tons of different versions of lemon desserts. The ones that sounded best were all layered with cream cheese and lemon pudding. Most of the recipes called for a homemade crust using a food processor. Normally I'm all for being very homemade, but I just wanted something I could throw together without turning the oven on, and that would taste great. Instead of cutting flour with butter, pressing and baking, I bought ginger snap cookies, broke them into pieces, and made a "crust". A "first layer" may be more appropriate since they didn't end up covering the whole bottom, and got slightly incorporated into the second layer. The coolness of the rest of the dessert really cuts the heat of the ginger (good for those who don't like ginger that well), but the ginger and lemon make a wonderful flavor combination. I also wanted to really taste the lemon flavor, so I added the juice and zest of a lemon to "zest" things up a bit. I think it worked really well, and Greg agrees. There is so much sugar in here that the extra lemon doesn't make the dessert tart at all, but just really "bright".

Greg got to have a serving or two when I got home from work. This is one of those desserts that you can easily just take a forkful of, walk away, and come back again in 30 minutes. It seems pretty light, which is great, and it is cool, which is wonderful. We'll be making this again because it is so delicious, very easy, and can serve at least 20 people.

Recipe

2 1/2 C. of crushed/broken ginger snap cookies
1 package of lemon pudding
1 8oz package of cream cheese
1 tub of cool whip
1 lemon
1 C. powdered sugar
1 1/2 C. milk

-Spread ginger snap pieces on the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan
-In a mixer, mix the cream cheese, 1 C. of cool whip, powdered sugar, and juice from the lemon until smooth.
-Pour the cream cheese mixture on top of the ginger snaps, gently spreading across the pan.
-Mix the milk and pudding, pour over the cream cheese mixture and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
-Spread the remaining cool whip on top of the set pudding.
-Cover the top of the cool whip with the lemon zest.
-Cover and serve cold.

-Enjoy!!!