Friday, May 27, 2011

Fiesta Brown Rice Chicken Bake

I'm a big fan of casseroles, as I'm sure I've said before. I'm an even bigger fan of one dish casseroles like this one. I saw this dish on The Mess Pot right around Cinco de Mayo and thought I'd give it a shot. I'm so happy I did, these flavors are right up our alley and the process was relatively simple. It reminded me a little of a jambalaya or paella. I even got to use yummy boneless chicken thighs without my dark meat fearing husband even knowing! I did cut back slightly on the garlic, and I probably used a little more chili powder than the recipe called for. I have to say, that spritz of fresh lime juice at the end really makes a huge difference here. I sometimes leave stuff like that out, but the dish wouldn't be the same without it. We will definitely be having this again!

Tex-Mex Chicken & Brown Rice (from The Mess Pot)
8 Garlic Cloves (I used about 6)
2 tsp chili powder (I used about 2.5 tsp)
1/2 tsp hot sauce (I used Tabasco)
Salt & Pepper
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
1 tsp canola oil
1 onion, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and minced
2 ears corn (I used 1 cup frozen, since I have an endless supply right now!)
1 cup long grain brown rice, rinsed
1 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth (I always use stock)
4 scallions, sliced diagonally
1 Tbs fresh lime juice

Adjust oven rack to lower position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine half the garlic, 1 tsp chili powder, hot sauce and salt & pepper in a large bowl. Stir in the chicken and rub until covered. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat until simmering. Add the onion, bell pepper, jalapenos and corn. Cook until soft and light brown, 8-10 minutes. Stir in rice, remaining garlic, and remaining chili powder and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, scraping up brown bits at bottom of the pan.

Lay the chicken on top of the rice mixture. Bring to a simmer, cover, and transfer to oven. Cook until rice is tender and liquid is almost absorbed, 50-65 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate. Cover the pot and allow rice to steam up the rest of the liquid for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop/shred the chicken into small pieces.

Stir the shredded chicken into the rice. Top with scallions and lime juice. Season with salt & pepper to taste before serving.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Soft Garlic Knots

My successful return to baking with yeast commenced with these delicious soft garlic knots. After my initial success with pizza dough, I thought yeast was a piece of cake. Unfortunately, my pita disaster then frightened me off for about a year. I saw this recipe on Annie's Eats (love her), and thought that if Annie thought this was a good yeast dough for beginners, that maybe I could give yeast dough a shot again. Plus, I'm a sucker for soft garlicky bread! I really felt like not only was this a delicious final product, but the dough itself was very forgiving, allowing me to really experiment with it to figure out what worked for me when shaping. When I tried to roll the dough like play-dough, the dough deflated a little too much and those rolls didn't puff as much in the second rise as the others. What worked was stretching and kind of tossing the dough a little, like pizza dough, until it strung out to the length I needed and then I could shape it easily. Such a fun project because it really is a lot like playing with Play-dough and it makes the house smell like beer and then like fresh bread! These are also reheating from the freezer quite nicely. I just pop them in the toaster oven on 350 for about 10 minutes and then toast them on level 2 to give them a little toasty edge. I'm glad they refreeze nicely because I ate 3 immediately out of the oven, so it's probably best if I hide them in the freezer in 2 packs for future use so that I'm not tempted to eat the whole batch!

Soft Garlic Knots (As seen on Annie's Eats & Amber's Delectable Delights, from King Arthur's Flour)
For the dough:
3 cups bread flour
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. instant yeast
1¼ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup milk
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. lukewarm water
For the glaze:
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp. melted butter
½ tsp. Italian seasoning (I used oregano)
To make the dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the dry ingredients. Add the olive oil, milk and water. Mix until ingredients have formed a dough. Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turn once to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk. Divide the dough into 10 even pieces (I think I got 11). Roll (or stretch) each piece until about 10 inches long, then tie into a knot. Tuck the ends around so that one goes into the middle of the knot and the other is tucked underneath (Annie has a great pictorial of how this works!). Transfer rolls onto a baking stone or baking sheet lined with silicone sheet. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for another 45-60 minutes. To make the glaze, mince the garlic into a small bowl with the melted butter. Add the Italian seasoning/oregano and mix well to combine. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Very gently brush the glaze onto the shaped, risen rolls. Bake until just golden, about 15-18 minutes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Raising French Babies and Grating Soft Cheeses

I have wanted to make a white lasagna for a while now, but needed both inspiration and a break from the cycling season to make such a fattening dish. Inspiration arrived in the way of a Plow to Porch basket that included both early season zucchini and spring spinach. Both sounded like delicious additions to a white chicken lasagna. I was excited to use my new food processor to grate the mozzarella cheese, but forgot the helpful hint of freezing this cheese before grating. It is a little too soft to grate straight out of the fridge and when I turned on the processor, it managed to get sucked through the shute as though it was a science fiction "blob" character. Of course, the sound that this made alerted the husband. When he asked "what the heck was that?" I was able to respond with a quote from one of my favorite cycling season Radioshack commercials: "I'm raising French babies and grating soft cheeses, as is the custom here!"

**This commercial is based on Lance Armstrong's fictional assistant Alphonse, who sneaks onto Lance's bike while he is out of town and pretends he is an overweight Lance, riding to victory. My favorite Radioshack commercial. The actual line from the commercial is: "They're raising French babies and throwing soft cheeses as is the custom here" in a faked British accent.

This ended up being a tasty meal and a good chance to experience the new Philadelphia Cooking Creme product. I used their Italian Herb flavor as an addition to the bechamel sauce to add a little thickness and flavor, and I appreciated the more complex flavor it added. I think I will be using this product again, since we like cream cheese, but not too much, and this cuts some of the cream cheese heaviness for us (I am not affiliated with this product in any way, by the way).

White Chicken Lasagna (my own creation)
7 No Boil Lasagna sheets
2 cooked skinless chicken breasts, diced (I used rotisserie chicken)
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup Philadelphia Cooking Creme
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 pound zucchini, shredded (about 3 small or 2 medium)
8 oz low fat ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 egg
1 Tbs fresh or 1 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350. Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add onion & garlic and cook until golden. Add spinach and zucchini and cook until spinach is wilted. Mix in cooked chicken and remove from heat. Meanwhile, cook the bechamel sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan. Add flour and cook about 1 minute. Add milk and stir constantly until no lumps are noticeable and sauce begins to bubble & thicken. Add cooking creme and stir to combine. Sauce will be thick.

In a medium bowl, mix ricotta, egg, parmesan, basil & pepper. In a 13" x 9" baking pan sprayed with cooking spray, add about a 1/2 cup of bechamel sauce. Layer about half of the lasagna noodles (I did 3 facing vertically), then spread with about half of the ricotta mixture. Add a layer of about half of the chicken/veggie mixture, then top with about half the remaining bechamel. Repeat these layers, then top the entire dish with an even layer of mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake about 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 5-10 minutes more until cheese starts to turn golden.

Asparagus Season

My Plow to Porch life is complete. I was excited about the artichokes we got this Spring, but I knew I wouldn't be satisfied until I got locally grown asparagus delivered to my door. Look at these beauties! The husband said this meal was restaurant quality (flat iron steaks, "baked" potatoes in the microwave, and asian grilled asparagus). The only problem was that they consider one bunch to be a 1/2 pound of asparagus. I'm quite certain I could have (and would have, had the husband not stopped me) eaten the entire bunch! I supplemented with some sliced grilled zucchini with the same sauce/marinade. This is not a new recipe, but it is pretty high on my list of vegetable dishes, and it looked so pretty I had to share!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kale, Sausage & Beans Pasta

I commented last night to my husband that I sometimes feel like the vegetable delivery basket I get every week leaves me as a "Chopped" contestant. For those that don't watch Food Network, we love this show, which asks chefs to use a very strange ingredient combination to create a full meal (appetizer, main, dessert). After each round, one contestant is "chopped" for their poor performance and another weird list of ingredients is chosen for the next course. Sometimes the ingredients I get in our "Plow to Porch" delivery are really weird to me. I definitely never even tried kale prior to our subscription, and now it is one of the leafy greens we enjoy often. I had heard that kale & sausage goes well together, and I know that greens and white beans are a great combination. This was a dish that I came up with using the "secret ingredients" of kale, white beans, turkey sausage and green garlic. I really enjoyed this dish and the leftovers have been a really great lunch dish.

Kale, Sausage & White Beans (my own creation)
1 green garlic (it's kinda like a big green onion), white & light green only, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 lb Turkey Sausage, removed from casings
1/2 lb kale (mine was purple), chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock
8 oz small pasta (I used whole wheat medium shells)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup + 3 tsp milk
1 tsp cornstarch
1 can white (canelloni) beans, rinsed & drained
salt & pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat oil in large saute pan over med-med high heat. Add diced garlic & pepper. Cook until garlic starts to carmelize, about 5 minutes. Remove veggies to a bowl, leaving as much of the oil behind as possible. Add turkey sausage, mashing into small pieces, and cook until no longer pink. Remove turkey to vegetable bowl. Add chopped kale and stir until coated with the sausage/veggie oil, then add chicken stock and cover. Cook for 5-7 minutes until kale is soft but still keeps some of its bite. Add all contents in the veggie/sausage bowl and drained beans and heat through. Create a well in the middle of the saute pan and add heavy cream. In a separate bowl, mix cornstarch with 3 tsp of milk. Stir to disolve, then add this mixture along with the rest of the milk to the saute pan. Stir very well until bubbly and thickened. Mix in with all the veggies and cook for 3-5 minutes more until desired consistency is reached. Add salt & pepper to taste, then add pasta and toss to combine. Makes 4 very filling servings.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cajun Chicken Pasta

I have a coworker who is also into cooking and always comes to me for ideas when she's cooking dinner for friends. If I can't come up with something on my own blog, I almost always head over to Annie's Eats. Annie is an amazing blogger and just a fantastic all around inspiration. When my co-worker tried Annie's Cajun Chicken Pasta, she raved about it and brought in some leftovers for me to taste. Nothing but yum! This is a recipe that I wouldn't make on a regular basis, and not in the midst of a heavy race week due to the heavy fat content, but this made a really great special occasion dinner (celebrating the first part of the season being done, yay!). This is a restaurant quality meal. I made mine a little too spicy, so I will cut back on the Cajun /Creole Seasoning next time, and the Tony's Creole Seasoning that I used was really salty, so I cut way back on the salt called for in the recipe. I also had some Spinach that I was looking to use up from my Plow to Porch delivery, so I tossed that in and I don't think I would have liked this as much without it. This is probably going to be my favorite new recipe of the year!

Cajun Chicken Pasta (from Annie's Eats)

For the chicken:
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt and pepper
Cajun seasoning

For the pasta:
8 oz. bowtie pasta (I used whole wheat corkscrews)
Kosher salt

For the sauce:
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped
3/4 tsp. kosher salt (I used 1/4 tsp)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 bag baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. water
3 scallions, chopped
To cook the chicken, heat a small amount of butter or olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, and a generous sprinkle of Cajun seasoning. Add to the skillet and cook until lightly browned and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the cooked pasta and set aside.
Meanwhile, return the skillet to medium heat and heat the butter and olive oil until the butter has melted. Add the bell peppers and onion to the pan. Mix in the salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning and cayenne pepper. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add the half-and-half and heavy cream to the pan and bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water, and add to the skillet once the cream mixture has started to bubble. Allow to cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and stir into sauce until wilted.
Add the cooked pasta and chicken pieces to the pan. Stir well to combine and cook at medium-low heat just until the chicken is warmed through. Adjust the amount of Cajun seasoning if necessary to suit your tastes. Stir in the scallions. Serve immediately and top with additional Cajun seasoning, if desired. Makes 4 servings

Steak Taco Salad

I have never been the sort to order "just a salad" at a restaurant. A salad has to be pretty darn special (and let's face it, deep fried!) in order to grab my attention enough to be eaten as a meal. On the day I made this meal, I was planning on making a turkey cutlet dinner with mashed potatoes and braised swiss chard. It was also in the 80s, and so as the day went on, I was less and less motivated to cook the hearty dinner I had planned. I stopped at the store for something I could throw on the grill and eat with a salad, saw a fantastic flank steak, and the idea for this Steak Taco Salad was born! I picked up some mixed Mexican vegetables in the freezer section (black beans, bell pepper, corn, onion and poblano). I rubbed the steak with the equivilant of one packet of taco seasoning (I used my homemade stuff) and grilled it to medium rare along with a sliced bell pepper. I served a large amount of mixed greens topped with the cooked frozen veggies, cheese and slices of steak. I topped this with a dressing made of about a 1/4 cup of ranch dressing to 1/4 tsp of chipotle chili powder. The dressing really made the salad. We enjoyed this with chips & salsa on the side (and I crumbled mine up into the salad, too).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Guinness Beef Stew

Growing up, my memories of beef stew are pretty much - Stew Meat + Golden Mushroom Soup + Dry Onion Soup Mix + Carrots + Potatoes. Not very exciting, and I really disliked Golden Mushroom Soup back then. I think the beginnings of my dislike of mushrooms came from that dish - the mushrooms didn't taste like anything, but had a nasty texture! Thankfully, I still held out hope for beef stew and have tried making it at home a couple times as an adult. Unfortunately, my husband is very particular about how he expects beef stew to taste because he had a mom who made it from scratch with no soup mixes (and I didn't know this was why he was so particular until just recently. I really need his mom's recipe!). Thankfully, the food blogging world loves to make Irish inspired meals for St. Patrick's Day, so I was able to find this recipe for Guinness Beef Stew on Mary Ellen's blog (originally from RazzleDazzleRecipes). Mary Ellen is great with comfort foods and all the stews I've seen on her site look fantastic, so I knew this recipe had great potential. I used a combination of Mary Ellen's version and the RazzleDazzleVersion (plus a couple of tasty mistakes of my own, haha) and I was floored by how good this was. So rich and velvety - and I don't even like beer! I will definitely be making this stew again!

Guinness Beef Stew
2 lbs stewing beef (I used one pound, intending to half the recipe, but messed that up a bit)
1 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne (I probably used a 1/4 tsp to my 1 Tbs flour)
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste dissolved in 4 tablespoons water (I used this entire amount for my half recipe, so the result was a more tomatoey flavor and a thicker consistency)
1 ¼ cups Guinness Stout (I used about 3/4 cup for my "half recipe" because it was pretty thick from the overage of the tomato paste!)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
Sprig of fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme (I used about a 1/2 tsp of fresh rosemary)
1 ½ cups beef broth, canned or homemade (I used this full amount)
Chopped parsley for garnish (I omitted)

Toss beef with salt, pepper, flour, and cayenne. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven. Add beef and brown on all sides, about 6-7 minutes. Add garlic and onions, saute 2 minutes. Add tomato paste mixture, cover and let simmer 5 minutes. Remove beef to a resting bowl. Pour half of the Guinness into the saute pan where the beef cooked. Scrape up any brown bits and bring to a steady simmer for 5 minutes. Return beef to the pan and add remainder of the Guinness. Add carrots, celery, potatoes, thyme or rosemary, sugar, and broth. Stir and adjust seasonings. Cover and cook over medium-low heat (just at a nice simmer) for 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes or so. Adjust salt and pepper, and simmer partly uncovered for another hour (hmm, just now realized that I never did this! Oh well, always next time!). Adjust salt and pepper and serve.

Linguine with Vegetable Sauce

I made this dish shortly after having oral surgery. I won't go into details since this is a food blog, but I was not eating up to my normal standards during my recovery. However, at this same time, I happened to notice a Macy's ad for a ridiculously low priced food processor. This is the one kitchen tool I had always done without, because while I think it is super cool, I can't justify the cost, since I can technically do all the things it can do (it just takes forever by hand!). At the sale price from Macy's, plus a gift card, plus my Macy's card discount, I really couldn't pass this deal up! The day I purchased it, I was watching the Cooking Channel and Mark Bittman happened to be using a food processor to cook this Lavender Pasta. Well, I didn't have any lavender leaves lying around, but I loved the idea of bulking up the pasta with a sauce made from veggies - all of which I could prep using my new toy! I definitely altered this a bunch, but I really loved this pasta. So much flavor and super easy, and that was just what this "Mac & Cheese and Mashed Potatoes" surgery recovering girl needed!

Linguine with Vegetable Sauce (my own creation, inspired by Mark Bittman)
8 oz linguine pasta
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion
2 shallots
1 clove garlic, minced
2 medium carrots
1 medium zucchini
1 medium red bell pepper, core & seeds removed
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream

Cook pasta according to directions. Heat oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Chop onion, shallots and garlic in food processor. Add to oil and cook until lightly golden. Meanwhile, shred zucchini, carrots and bell pepper in food processor. Add to pan with onion mixture and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Deglaze with white wine. Allow wine to cook off, about 1 minute. Add cream and stir until smooth. Toss sauce with pasta. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Makes about 4 servings.

Berry Crumb Bars

Ever since we started getting our weekly local fruit & vegetable delivery from Plow to Porch, I have become a huge fruit lover. The first thing I eat every day is fruit of some sort. When we first started getting the deliveries, I was a little bit daunted at how much fruit we got and what to do with it. I had never even eaten a blackberry the first time I got them in the delivery box, and while I liked them, I thought it might be easier to bake these into a treat for the bike shop instead of just snacking on fruit. I probably won't have this problem again in Summer of 2011, since lately I've had to supplement the fruit in the delivery by purchasing even more fruit (and even then, my husband still complains that I eat all the strawberries before he even knows we have them!). I look forward to baking more of these yummy bars this Spring and Summer, but I know it won't be because I'm trying to use up excess fruit!

Berry Crumb Bars (from Martha Stewart)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter melted, and 1/2 cup (1 stick), room temperature, plus more for pan
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 containers (5 ounces each) blackberries (I used a mix of Blackberries and Raspberries)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter and flour paper, tapping out excess.
Make topping: In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; add 1 cup flour, and mix with a fork until large moist crumbs form. Refrigerate topping until ready to use.
In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 3/4 cup flour, baking powder, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat room-temperature butter, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy; add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture. Spread batter evenly in pan; sprinkle with blackberries, then chilled topping.
Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Using paper overhang, lift cake onto a work surface; cut into 16 squares.

Chicken Lo Mein

Let's see if I can become a food blogger again! I have admittedly not been blogging for a very long time, but I do miss it! I really give a lot of credit to the blogging world for my love of food, and that love of food and experimentation has led to my loss of 20 pounds in the last year, even if I haven't been blogging about any of the fantastic food that I've been eating. This recipe for Chicken Lo Mein comes from Elly Says Opa by way of Annie's Eats and I've been using the sauce (with some adaptation) as my standard homemade stir fry sauce. I never used Oyster Sauce before, but now it is a staple in my pantry. It really brings the Asian flavor to stir fries and does not add any fishy flavor. The picture below is shown with whole wheat spaghetti noodles, which I do not recommend. The sauce doesn't get absorbed well enough over Italian noodles, so you either need Asian noodles or rice. I have substituted in all sorts of veggies with this recipe, it really goes great with everything.

Chicken Lo Mein
6 oz. lo mein noodles
1 tbsp. oyster sauce
2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth (I sometimes omit and use 2 Tbs Oyster Sauce and 2 Tbs Soy)
I add 1 Tbs Brown Sugar
Pinch red pepper flakes (I sometimes omit and add 1-2 tsp chili garlic paste)
1/2 tbsp. canola oil
1 medium chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
1 cup snow peas
4 oz. sliced mushrooms (I used 2 julienned carrots instead)
3 cloves garlic, minced (I use less if I'm using chili garlic paste)
1 tsp. sesame oil (I usually only use if I'm serving with the noodles, not with rice)

Bring a pot of water to boil. Cook the lo mein noodles according to the package directions. Drain and set aside. In the meantime, make the sauce by combining the oyster sauce, soy sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Whisk well and set aside.
Heat the canola oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook until browned and cooked through. Add in the vegetables, each a few minutes apart, starting with the onion and ending with the bell pepper (or whatever veggie takes the least amount of time to cook). Cook just until tender-crisp. Add in the garlic and saute just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the sauce to the pan, and then the cooked lo mein noodles. Toss the mixture well to coat everything. Drizzle with the sesame oil and toss once more. Serve immediately.