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!


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.


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.


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.


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, 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.


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.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008


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!


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.

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.


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.