Friday, August 24, 2012

A Tuscan Dream

So, I got kale from Bountiful Baskets AGAIN. Since this trendy super-food won't leave me alone, I decided to make good use of it. First, I thought I'd try a sausage and kale soup, which I think is a thing, although I've never had or made it before, but then I remembered that it's August and nobody wants soup in August. So I got the brilliant idea of making a rustic pasta dish inspired by sausage and kale soup.The dish took me halfway across the world to a trattoria in the Tuscan country side, especially because I served it with some crusty bread, which I made from scratch thanks to my friends at Pinterest.

(Here's the recipe for this amazingly simple and delicious bread:
Disclaimer: I've never been to Tuscany or really studied much about it, but I watch the Food Network and I'm sure Giada would approve this recipe as being Tuscan-inspired.

Sausage, White Bean, and Kale Pasta

Look at me, getting all Pinterest-ish with my poor quality iPhone photos
1/2 box whole grain medium-sized shell noodles (or any short pasta will work)
1/2 lb. mild Italian sausage
1/2 onion--diced
1 carrot--grated
2 garlic cloves--minced
1/2 can cannellini or great northern beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup crushed tomatoes (or tomato sauce)
1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning 
3 stalks of Tuscan kale--chopped (or regular kale, or spinach would probably work)
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to serve

1. Cook pasta according to package direction (..okay Giada, I'll mention it..) for al dente.

2. Head a skillet to medium heat. Brown and crumble sausage. Add onion and carrot and cook until they are soft and tender. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.

3. Add beans, tomatoes, kale, Italian seasoning and season with salt and pepper. Simmer until kale has wilted and is tender. Add cream and stir. Add pasta.

4. Serve with crusty bread and LOTS of Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Adventures in Cauliflower, Part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, I got a whole head of cauliflower, one of my not-so-favorite veggies, from Bountiful Baskets and was determined to make it taste good. Tonight I used the second half of the head in some righteous mac & cheese (to quote Chandler Bing). The cauliflower added a nice bite, but was otherwise unrecognizable (which is a good thing), except to my toddler who somehow had her cauliflower/broccoli radar on tonight and would spit-out every bite that had even the slightest smidgen of cauliflower in it. Of course, the noodles went down just fine because I'm pretty sure it's a requirement of kid-dom to like mac & cheese. Anyway, I may have to sacrifice the pleasant cauliflower bite and mash those puppies up more if I want to fool my masterful veggie detective (she loved the cauliflower mashers from the other night). If you have a picky toddler, you may want to do the same.

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/2 box elbow macaroni
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
2 tsp. dried mustard
a tiny dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used a mix of white cheddar, sharp cheddar, and mild cheddar)
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

1. Preheat Oven to 400*

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add macaroni and set timer for for 6 minutes less than the package directs. After that time, add the cauliflower and cook for 6 more minutes.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small sauce pan on medium heat. Add flour and whisk and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add milk and let it come to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Once thickened, add mustard, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

4. When the macaroni and cauliflower is finished, drain it, return it to pot (this would be a good time to mash up those cauliflower florets with a fork), and add the white sauce. Pour half of the mixture into a 9x9 casserole dish, sprinkle with half of the cheese, pour the rest of the cauliflower/macaroni into the pan, top with the rest of the cheese and sprinkle evenly with the panko.

5. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Maple Dijon Pork Chops with Cauliflower Mashers

A square meal that's good enough to eat and super easy too:

Let me begin by sharing a little bit about my recent adventures in produce: I briefly mentioned Bountiful Baskets in my last post. It's a produce co-op that gives you a mystery basket of local-ish, small farm produce for $15. I've done it twice now, and it's pretty great. As you can imagine, in the haul there are a few fruits and (mostly) veggies that I normally don't buy. I have enjoyed expanding my cooking horizons with these foreign ingredients. Last time I got a butternut squash, which I fashioned into a squashy mac & cheese and some squash muffins--both were great ways to sneak some veggies into my little one. This week I got kale, radishes, and cauliflower. Not only have I never purchased or cooked with these ingredients, I'm not a big fan of them either. I tried making kale chips. I don't care how "healthy" they're supposed to be, they were gross. The radishes may just end up getting donated to someone who likes radishes, but the cauliflower I was determined to use. I thought cauliflower mashed "potatoes" would be palatable enough. Turns out, they were delicious! A perfect pairing for these easy maple dijon pork chops, a recipe I found on Pinterest that originally calls for chicken.

Maple Dijon Pork Chops

2 center-cut, thick pork chops
salt & pepper
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. maple syrup (the real stuff)
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp. dried rosemary, chopped well (because my husband hates "sticks" in his food)

Preheat oven to 425. Season both sides of pork chops with salt and pepper. mix the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl. Pour sauce over pork chops and cook for 25-30 minutes.

Cauliflower Mashers

1/2 head cauliflower, washed and cut into florets
1 potato, peeled and cubed
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 (ish) cup of milk

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potato and cauliflower. Bring it back up to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Drain well and return to pot. Add butter to cauliflower and begin to mash with a masher. Add milk slowly until you reach your desired consistency. Cauliflower has a lot more water in it, so you'll need less milk than with mashed potatoes. Season with salt (be liberal) and pepper.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pinterest FTW

The Scene: 5:00 pm on a Thursday night. I'm sitting on the couch with my squirmy 16 month old who is pointing at her mouth, telling me she's hungry. Enter Pinterest's food and drink section, where I find this recipe for Cajun Chicken Alfredo. Enter Dora the Explorer. Enter dinner!

Here's my shrunken (because leftover alfredo is just the worst), adapted to what I had on hand recipe for...

Cajun Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

1/2 package of fettuccine noodles
1 chicken breast
Cajun seasoning (I just happened to have some in my 4-year-old spice rack that I've never used, it's okay)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/8 cup chicken stock (actually water seasoned with chicken base, it's okay)
1 large clove garlic
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved (Thank you Bountiful Baskets. I would've never had these on hand otherwise.)
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. butter
1 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Boil pasta according to package directions.

2. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Thinly slice chicken breast and liberally season each side with cajun seasoning. Cook chicken in oil for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until browned. Remove chicken and set aside and dump excess oil.

3. Add chicken stock to de-glaze* the pan. Add tomatoes and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook on medium-medium-lowish heat for 3-4 minutes or until tomatoes start to break down and stock reduces. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

4. Add cream and butter. Bring to simmer, reduce heat to low, simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Add cream cheese and stir until melted in. Turn off heat and add parmesan cheese. Stir until melted.

6. When the pasta is finished cooking, rinse it in cold water. (I know this goes against Italian pasta cooking rules, but the blogger who I stole this recipe from recommended it and I thought it might be the solution to my dry, gummy alfredo problem, and it was! I will do this whenever I make alfredo from now on. Sorry Mario Batali.)

7. Add pasta and chicken to sauce and stir to combine. Eat immediately, like I said, reheated alfredo is just the worst.

*My show-off word of the day is Deglaze = to add wine or other liquid to a pan in which meat has been roasted or sauteed so as to make a sauce that incorporates the cooking 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chicken Gyros, Opa!

I love a good Gyro. It is one of those foods that I'll never be able to fully recreate at home, so a trip to Olympus Burgers is well worth it. But, I have been experimenting and have come up with a decent second to a real chicken suvlaki.

Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

Greek Marinade: (can also be used as a dressing in a Greek salad)
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Whisk all ingredients of marinade together. Cut two chicken breasts into large chunks and marinate for an hour. Thread 4-5 pieces of chicken on skewers (if using wooden skewers, soak in water for about an hour beforehand). Grill on medium-high heat for 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Warm pitas on a dry skillet set at medium heat. Fill pitas with chicken, tzatziki sauce, sliced cucumbers, tomato, onion, lettuce, and feta cheese.

Tzatziki Sauce:
1/4 cup cucumber, shredded and excess water squeezed through a dish cloth or paper towel
1/4 cup plain yogurt
a few drops of lemon juice
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried dill
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients and let sit for an hour so flavors can meld.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fish Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

I make a pretty mean fish taco. Every time I make them they are slightly different, but they always have the same fundamentals:
  • corn tortillas (I like white corn)
  • a flaky, white fish marinated in lime, cumin, chili powder and grilled or fried
  • my special Chalula sour cream sauce
  • a tropical fruit salsa of some kind (mango, avocado, pineapple, etc.)

Tonight the fish was flour-crusted and pan fried and topped with pineapple salsa. Here's the recipe:

Heat 2-3 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a pan over med. heat. Make the marinade:

1/4 cup lime juice (I used the kind in the bottle, it's okay)
1/2 tsp. salt
a few cracks of pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin

Mix the ingredients and marinate 2 tilapia loins for 5-20 minutes. Dredge the fish in 2 Tbsp. flour mixed with 1 Tbsp. corn starch. Pan fry for 5 mins on each side or until golden and cooked through. Drain on paper towels and flake into bite-sized chunks.

Pineapple Salsa:
1 cup diced pinepple
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed and finely diced
1 tomato (I used a handful of grape tomatoes), seeded and diced
salt, pepper, cumin to taste
a few splashes each of lime juice, red wine vinegar,  olive oil, and honey

Special Sauce:
1 Tbsp. mayo
2 Tbsp. sour cream
lime juice
Chalula hot sauce to taste

To assemble:
Heat a corn tortilla in a dry skillet on medium heat for 30 seconds on each side. Smear some special sauce in the center of the tortilla. Top with some chunks of fish and then the salsa. Make sure to get some of the yummy salsa water over the fish.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Cans and Packets Need Not Apply

You know that creamy, delicious Crock Pot Italian chicken recipe that your mom/neighbor/sister-in-law makes? Do you want to know how to make it without opening a single can or packet and only taking 5 extra minutes? Here you go:

"Homemade" Crock Pot Creamy Italian Chicken.

1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp. chicken base (If you want to avoid all processed foods, you can leave this out. It just mimics the flavor of the cream of chicken soup, but the dish would probably taste fine without it.)
4 oz. cream cheese
2 chicken breasts
1 Tbsp. homemade italian dressing seasoning mix (recipe follows)

1. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute. Add milk and bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally. Once thickened, add chicken base. (At this point in the recipe, you have a wonderful substitute for cream of chicken soup that you can use in pretty much any recipe. That's right, if you can make a simple white sauce, you never have to buy condensed creamed soups again. Awesome, huh?) Add the cream cheese and whisk until smooth.

2. Meanwhile, place chicken in crock pot and season both sides with Italian dressing mix.

3. Pour sauce over seasoned chicken and cook on low for 4 hours. (I put the chicken in frozen and it was perfectly moist in 4 hours. Overcooked crock pot chicken is the worst.)

4. Shred chicken and serve over rice or noodles. I had it with brown rice and the chicken was so delicious I didn't even notice the brown rice.

Celebrate! You have broken free of Cambpell's! (Campbell's, please don't sue me.)

I found a copy-cat recipe for Italian dressing mix here, but after a couple trials and due to not having all the ingredients I made a few changes. Here is my version:

Homemade Italian Dressing Seasoning Mix
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
2 tbsp ground oregano
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground basil

1. Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container.  If you want to make dressing: Mix two tablespoons of the mix with ¼ cup vinegar, 2 tablespoons of water, and ½ to 2/3 cup olive oil or canola oil.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fish for people who don't like Fish

Garlic Butter Tilapia with Roasted Red Potatoes

Step one: Buy frozen tilapia loins from Costco. Seriously, they don't even taste like fish. I tried Target Brand frozen tilapia fillets once and they were naaasty. Just trust Kirkland on this one.

Step two: Defrost your tilapia in the microwave. "What?" you say. If you are seriously going to remember to put the fish in the fridge the day before you want fish, be my guest. But for me, who didn't know we were having fish until about 5:00 pm, the microwave worked fine. My defrost goes by pounds, so for two loins, I set it to 5 lbs, put them in while they were still in their cute plastic pouches, and turned them when it told me to. When I defrost via microwave, I usually try to underestimate the weight a bit so the meat doesn't get cooked.

Step three: Preheat the oven to 400* and scrub 5 or 6 small red potatoes. Cut them in half. Toss them in a bowl with:

1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
5 cracks of pepper
1 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese (It's okay, I used the stuff in the green can.)

Place them on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Cook for 10 minutes, stir/flip, and cook for another 10.

Step four: Make your garlic butter by melting 2 Tbsp. of butter and adding

1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
a few cracks of pepper
a sprinkle of paperika
two sprinkles of dried dill weed

Step five: reduce oven heat to 350* and take your potatoes out of the oven for a sec. (this will make dish duty a little simpler). Push potatoes over to one side of the pan and brush the butter mixture on the other side. Lay the tilapia down on the butter and slather the tops of the fish with the butter mixture. Stick the pan back in the oven for 12 minutes.

Step six: Microwave some green beans and you have yourself a square meal.

Mark got to eat on the "celebrate" plate, not because he's special but because it's the 2000's and everybody gets a trophy...And it was on the top of the pile of plates when I was setting the table.
It really was one of the easiest and tastiest meals I've prepared. Thus, the blog post.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Unfortunately, my tandor was in the shop..., I had to make this delicious Tandori Chicken on my outdoor grill. I found this recipe on Pinterest, and actually pulled out the measuring spoons and followed it to a T (well, I cut it in half). So, I can't take credit for this one, but it was still tasty.

"Tandori" Chicken

1/4 cup plain full-fat yogurt
1/2 lemon--juiced
2 cloves garlic--minced
1/2 tsp. fresh ginger--grated
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. salt
two sprinkles of cayenne pepper
2 chicken breasts, cut into large cubes

Mix all ingredients for marinade and add chicken. Let it sit in the fridge for 4-24 hours. Remove chicken pieces and thread 4-5 pieces each on skewers that have been soaking in water (soaking keeps the skewers from burning). Grill at med-high heat for 3-5 mins on each side.

I served mine with grilled zucchini and onions and aromatic basmati rice. Here are those recipes:

Grilled Zucchini Skewers

1 zucchini
1 small onion
olive oil
salt and pepper

Split zucchini in half then cut into 4-5 slices and cut an onion in quarters. Thread zucchini (longwise) and onion pieces alternately on skewers, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill on med-high heat for 10 minutes, turning once or twice.

Aromatic Basmati Rice (Rice Cooker)

Rinse two rice cooker sized cups of basmati rice and then soak them for about an hour. Fill the rice cooker with water just past the two cup fill line. Add:

1 sprinkle of allspice
1 sprinkle of cinnamon
2-3 sprinkles of cumin
a quarter of an onion, peeled and left whole
1 bay leaf

Turn the rice cooker to cook. When finished remove the bay leaf and onion and fluff with a fork. It's that easy. I seriously heart my rice cooker.

PS, I remembered to take a picture this time..of my husband's half finished plate. Hmph...I'll make it to Pinterest someday.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Traditional Chicken Enchiladas--kind of

Growing up, my definition of chicken enchiladas was a soggy flour tortilla filled with boiled chicken and smothered with canned cream soup, sour cream, and colby jack cheese. While this concoction is admittedly delicious, it is, I'm sure, quite the offense to real Mexican food. Over the past four years, I've tried and tried to make a good red sauce and corn tortilla enchilada, but it has always been too spicy, too tomatoey, too soggy, or too corny, until tonight's batch. Even my increasingly picky 15 month old devoured it. This recipe is definitely worthy of living forever on the Interwebs. *remember: all of my measurements are estimates*

1/2 medium onion--diced
1/2 green pepper--diced
2 garlic cloves
1 chipotle in adobo--diced
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 cup-1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. parsley flakes
 salt and pepper to taste
2 chicken breasts
8 white corn tortillas
1 cup mozzerella cheese
1 cup cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp. sour cream

1. Saute onion and pepper in olive oil on medium heat until soft. Add Garlic and chipotle; saute for one minute. Add tomato sauce, water, sugar, spices, and chicken breasts (I cut each breast into fourths so they would cook faster).
2. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer (Thanks to my girl Anne Burrell, I'm starting to understand this concept so my herbs don't burn, unfortunately it is extremely difficult to achieve a slow simmer on my crappy stove.) Simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
3. Remove chicken, shred it, and add back to sauce.
4. Strain the sauce and put the chicken and onions in one bowl and set the sauce aside for later. This would be a good time to preheat the oven to 425.
5. Add the mozzarella cheese to the chicken (I know what you're thinking: Mozzarella cheese has no place in Mexican food. But quite frankly, neither does cheddar cheese but try telling your neighborhood Mexican joint that. This is something I've never used before, and I think it may have made all the difference. It added a really nice salty, rich flavor.)
6. Wrap the tortillas in paper towels and microwave for 40-60 seconds so they won't crack when you roll them. Fill the tortillas with the chicken mixture and place them seam side down in a pan sprayed with cooking spray.
7. Spray the naked enchiladas with cooking spray or brush them with oil and cook for 7 minutes. This helps the tortillas avoid a soggy fate.
8. Whisk sour cream into the sauce. Cover enchiladas with the sauce, then sprinkle cheddar cheese on top. Cover with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 3-5 minutes or until very bubbly.