Sunday, October 25, 2009

Delicious Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Parmesan is a pretty trusty dish. You can go into a suspicious "italian" restaurant and usually be okay ordering Chicken Parmesan. I often forget how easy and how much tastier this recipe can be when it is made at home. I don't make it very often, since it is not all that healthy and tends to spatter up my stove pretty bad, but wow, this is delicious! I know you can make this in the oven, but we eat a lot of breaded & baked chicken, so if we're going to do chicken parm, we usually do this the old fashioned pan fried way. I think this might be our Valentine's Day dinner in 2010, it was that good!

Chicken Parmesan (my recipe, inspired by a million Italian-American Restaurants)
Two boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 6 oz each) pounded to about 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup flour
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
3 Tbs Canola Oil (I used Olive Oil this time, but Canola is better in this application)
1 cup spaghetti sauce (jarred or homemade, I used Ragu)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp each dry basil, oregano and italian seasoning
1/2 cup grated mozzerella cheese
Mix bread crumbs and parmigiano cheese in a shallow dish. Place flour and scrambled egg in their own shallow dishes. Dredge both sides of chicken in flour, shaking very well to remove excess. Dip both sides in egg, then dredge in bread crumb mixture. Heat oil in frying pan until shimmery hot, then add chicken. Pan fry about 3-5 minutes per side until chicken is cooked through and crust is deep golden brown. Remove to paper towels and pat until most oil is removed. Pour oil out of pan and blot with a paper towel to remove most oil while leaving the browned bits in the pan. Add spaghetti sauce and scrape with a wooden spoon to pull up the browned bits into the sauce. Add pepper flakes and herbs and stir well to incorporate. Cook until just bubbly, then add the chicken back in, turning once to coat in sauce. Top each breast with about a 1/4 cup mozzerella cheese, reduce heat to low and cover, simmering until the cheese has just melted. Serve with hot pasta, if desired.

My 100th Post! Mac & Cheese with Chicken & Broccoli

This is my 100th post on this blog. I'm really excited to get to 100 in less than a year, especially since nearly all of my posts are cooking related (I've dropped the "tales" portion of the blog because I keep track of my books on now). This has been a great year for me, cooking wise, and I owe it all to the blogging world.
My 100th post is a blend of a couple recipes. I had seen Mac & Cheese with Chicken & Broccoli added in on a "kid friendly" episode of 30 minute meals with Rachael Ray. Her version seemed a little bland, from the recipe, so I added some seasonings that I had seen on The Pioneer Woman website (If you can't trust that site for rich & creamy mac & cheese, I don't know where else to go!). I picked up some tasty cheeses from our new Whole Foods Market (yay!) and it just made this meal fantastic. This was delicious, and we found it very filling.

Thanks for sticking by me and reading this blog. Its been really fun and I'm looking forward to another 100 posts. Sorry about the yellow picture. You'd think I'd have this food photography down in 100 posts, wouldn't you?

Macaroni & Cheese with Chicken & Broccoli
1/2 lb whole wheat dry macaroni
12 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into one inch pieces
1 tsp grill seasoning
2 Tbs butter
1.5 Tbs AP Flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup nonfat milk (or a total of 1 cup dairy of your preference)
About 6-8 oz grated cheeses, good melting (I used 1/2 aged white cheddar, 1/2 young gouda)
1 tsp dry ground mustard
1.5 to 2 cups of broccoli florets
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs (I used a mix of panko and italian seasoned)
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions, undercooking by a couple minutes (it will finish cooking in the oven). Meanwhile, season chicken breast with grill seasoning or seasoning salt (trust me, it tastes great with this seasoning!). Cook in 1 Tbs of butter until no longer pink. Remove from heat and add the other Tbs of butter. Add flour to melted butter and stir until a smooth roux is formed. Cook for about a minute before adding dairy all at once. Whisk very well and cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Then add mustard and slowly fold in cheese until very smooth & creamy. Return chicken to the sauce and add broccoli florets. Stir well until all is incorporated, then add cooked macaroni (or add sauce mixture to drained macaroni pot, if preferred). Pour all into an 8" x 8" baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Mix bread crumbs and parmesan in a small bowl, then sprinkle mixture over top of the macaroni & cheese until coated with the crispy mixture. Bake uncovered until crumbs start to brown, about 20-25 minutes.

Old Fashioned Pot Roast

I realized last weekend that I had never made an old fashioned pot roast. I've only ever cooked pot roast in a crockpot (and it is fantastic). I decided to try an old fashioned oven pot roast and used this recipe on allrecipes as my base. I added carrots and potatoes and cooked it all up in my Le Crueset dutch oven, which I don't use nearly as often as I should. This turned out okay, but I think that crockpot cooking has really revolutionized the pot roast. When cooked in the crockpot, roasts come out so juicy they just fall apart. This roast, while still tender, needed to be sliced up, and I've never had to do that with a crockpot roast. I'm glad I tried this method of cooking, and it felt really old fashioned and homey to have a roast in the oven all day on Sunday, but I'll stick to my crockpot recipe in the future.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Easy Fall Dinner - Ravioli with a Pumpkin Cream Sauce

This is a great easy meal that comes together really quick, but still tastes decadent and homemade. I'm not one to shy away from prepared freezer meals (particularly from Trader Joe's, my favorite for freezer meals), but this comes together just as quickly and just feels like it was made with more love than a meal that is poured into a pan and heated up. I based this on a recipe from a restaurant here in town that is no longer around (Zaffiro, which was originally Pascucci's, which still exists in their downtown location). Our absolute favorite dish at this restaurant, which both the husband and I would order nearly every time, was the Spicy Sausage Ravioli with Butternut Squash sauce. The way the spicy and sweet would play off each other was just fabulous. I wanted to recreate this at home, so I picked up some Italian Sausage stuffed prepared ravioli (not spicy, but I think there are some spicy brands on the market these days). For the sauce, I had heard that Trader Joe's carries a seasonal pumpkin butter that can be made into savory soups & sauces. I combined about a 1/4 cup of the pumpkin butter with about a 1/2 cup of heavy cream (I said it was decadent! You can use lighter dairy products) and spiced it up with about a 1/4 tsp ground sage (I'm afraid of ground sage, so I didn't use much. The store was out of fresh) and 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg. I served this sauce over the cooked raviolis and topped with finely chopped candied walnuts, also from Trader Joe's. I finally topped everything with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. The entire meal takes about 15 minutes, is really filling and just plain makes us happy!

Pumpkin White Chocolate and Butterscotch Chip Cookies

Since I came out a winner in the great pumpkin shortage of 2009, I've been looking for recipes to satisfy the fall pumpkin cravings many of us have at this time of year. When I made the pumpkin chocolate chip muffins last week, the boys at my husband's work were clamoring for more, so I made them a second batch. I was a little sad at how few of these pumpkin treats were being consumed by my household (namely, me). Thankfully, we were invited to a barbeque last weekend. We were told "No need to bring anything, since everyone else is already bringing something." Yeah, that works well in the world of reciprocity! Husband and I debated a little bit before deciding to bring a "snacky dessert" that we could bring and people could munch on, without stealing the thunder of whoever had already brought dessert. I knew I wanted to make a pumpkin treat, had some white chocolate chips at home, and the butterscotch chips at the store have been calling my name, hence these cookies became the choice. They came together quickly using this recipe from Skinny Food by Amy (I obviously mixed the chips, but that was the only change). These were so good. I brought 2 dozen to the party with 7 total adult guests and brought home an empty plate! We kept referring to them as "Cakies" instead of cookies because they were like a mix between a cake and cookie texture. The recipe made 3 1/2 dozen cookies for me with my 1 Tbs cookie scoop, so thankfully, I had leftovers!
Pumkin White Chocolate Butterscotch Chip Cookies
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I accidentally omitted. This seems like a lot, though!)
2 cups chocolate chips (I used 1 cup white chocolate, 1 cup butterscotch chips)
Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Add vanilla & chips. Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

Pork Medallions in a Creamy Dijon Herb Sauce

This was a recipe inspired by Mary Ellen on Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations. She pulled the recipe from Epicurious, and it seems some of my other co-bloggers have also enjoyed the recipe. My version was closer to Mary Ellen's (using onions instead of leeks and cooking the sauce and pork in the same pan for more flavor), but I also made some adjustments. I coated the tenderloins in flour to help the thickening of the sauce, and used a splash of cream instead of sour cream to make the sauce extra rich in addition to the chicken stock. I enjoyed the flavors of this dish, but I think next time, I'll be more prepared with measured ingredients, as I was so flustered while making this that I forgot to add the parsley (and I love using parsley right now because I have so much of it in my porch herb garden!). Husband was not so impressed with this dish, however, as it was too tender for him. He thinks pork is supposed to be tough because he rarely has it cooked properly. This was cooked until just no longer pink inside, and he kept complaining that it tasted too rare. Oh well, more for me next time!

Pork Medallions in a Creamy Dijon Herb Sauce
1 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 Tbs AP Flour
1/2 c chopped onion
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp sour cream (I used heavy cream)
2 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
2 boneless pork loin chops, each cut into 4-5 medallions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 Tbs Chopped Fresh Parsley (I omitted)
Salt and pepper
Heat butter and 1 tbsp olive oil in a saute pan. Season pork with salt and pepper and coat in flour, shaking off any excess. Add pork to the pan and cook for a few minutes on each side If the pork is still not cooked in the center, cover and let cook for a few more minutes. Transfer pork to a plate and keep warm. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the brown bits. Add the broth and bring to a steady simmer for 5 minutes. Lower heat and whisk in cream and Dijon mustard until creamy. Stir in chives. Serve sauce over the pork, top with parsley.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Fall has finally arrived in Santa Barbara! Today was the first day that we had a bit of a chill to the air, and the wind blew fiercely all day out by where we live. What better way to celebrate the cooler weather than by baking some fall flavored treats? I had heard that there has been a nationwide pumpkin shortage from the cooking board I frequent, so I was excited to see that my regular store had plenty in stock. Sure enough, the checker commented: "Some other shoppers were telling me we are the only store in town carrying the small cans of pumpkin." I guess I'm just lucky that my store is the one with the stock! I'm hoping my husband's coworkers enjoy these muffins. They smelled divine as they were baking, and really got me in the "good little housewife" mood and they inspired me to get a ton of cleaning and chores done the rest of the day. My husband will be happy to know that baking triggers this mood, as he will be able to enjoy baked goods AND a clean house whenever I bake anything! I can't wait to bake more with my pumpkin stock (and the rest of the cinnamon chips, those were fantastic!)!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins (from My Baking Heart by way of Jenn and Food, Perfect Together)
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c whole-wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 c canned pure pumpkin
2 large eggs
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c skim milk
1/3 c canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c cinnamon chips
1 c mini chocolate chips
1/2 c chopped pecans (I used 1/4 cup and made 1/2 with nuts, 1/2 without)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners and set aside.
Whisk together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, milk, oil and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Then add in chips and pecans. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20-23 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Remove the muffins and cool an additional 5 minutes before serving.

Duggar Casserole!

I will admit it: I watch too much TLC, although I have started to cut back after child exploitation got out of hand ("Toddlers & Tiaras," anyone? Yikes!). I have dropped Jon & Kate + 8 altogether and I used to watch it faithfully. My remaining vice is the Duggar family show. I find them fascinating and while yes, they are still earning money off the filming of their family, they really seem to have a strong hold on their own values while filming and portray a simple strength in family that I think is important for viewers to see. While I (obviously, no kids here!) don't follow their beliefs in family planning (or lack thereof), I've always felt that variety is the spice of life, and they are able to care for their family without government assistance, so who am I to judge? Anyway, this tater tot casserole is a recipe the Duggars have become famous for. Since I watch a lot more TV and am online a lot more than the entire Duggar family, I don't play actively as much as they do, so I chose to lighten up this recipe by using way less cheese, low fat soup, and added zucchini to add some green to the mix. This was pretty good, and a very traditional casserole, but I don't know if I'll make it again. I'm steering clear of recipes made with cream of xxx soups lately, and this casserole featured the flavor pretty prominently. I did love how festive the army of tater tots looked, though!
Tater Tot Casserole (from the Duggar Family by way of Lemons & Love)
half a bag of frozen tater tots
1 can cream of chicken soup (I used low fat cream of mushroom, I hate cream of chicken!)
1 pound ground turkey
2 cups cheddar cheese (I used about 3/4 cup)
garlic powder (I used a clove of garlic)
I added:
1 small onion, diced
1 zucchini, sliced in half and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tsp olive oil
Preheat oven according to tater tot directions (mine was 400 degrees).
Cook veggies in oil until soft. Remove. Cook ground turkey, season with salt & pepper. Drain if necessary. Add in cream of chicken soup and cheese. Mix well. Transfer turkey mixture into an 8x8 baking dish. Neatly top mixture with tater tots. Bake for approximately 25 minutes until tater tots are crispy to your preference. Serves: A LOT! We had leftovers for lunches and still threw some away.

Mini Turkey Meat Loaves

I have been wanting to try meatloaf myself for a long time now. I'm not a huge fan of the recipe we had all the time when I was younger. It was okay, but it didn't knock my socks off. I also knew that if I made meatloaf, it would need to be made with turkey, since we eat very little ground beef. Unfortunately, most of the turkey meatloaf recipes I've seen haven't really accounted for how much dryer the turkey is than ground beef. I finally found this recipe in a new cookbook I picked up called "Cook Yourself Thin." I loved the added spinach in this recipe, and the glaze sounded right up our alley with a little spice to it. Not to mention, the idea of using a measuring cup as a mold to create these cute little mini loaves was very appealing to me. These were very good and had enough of the old fashioned meatloaf flavor to satisfy that fall comfort food craving.

Turkey Mini-Meatloaves (from "Cook Yourself Thin")
1 slice whole wheat bread
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
5 oz bag baby spinach
1.25 lbs lean ground turkey
2 Tbs finely grated parmesan
1 large egg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/8 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
3 Tbs Ketchup
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp hot sauce
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grind the bread in a food processor (I used Magic Bullet) until fine crumbs form. Transfer to large bowl and pour milk over top. Heat oil in large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Add spinach, stir until just wilted, about 30 seconds. Transfer to bowl with soaked crumbs. Add turkey, cheese, egg, salt, pepper & nutmeg. Combine with hands until well mixed; it will be very wet. Pack 1 cup of mixture into a 1 cup dry measuring cup. Invert cup onto a rimmed baking sheet, gently shaking to release. Pat mound to shape. Repeat with remaining mixture to create 4 mini loaves. Bake until cooked through and golden, about 40 minutes. While baking, create glaze: Mix ketchup, hot sauce and worcestershire sauce. Brush over the tops of the meatloaves with about 5 minutes remaining to cooking.