Thursday, November 28, 2013

Real Green Bean Casserole

I had a baby a month and a half ago, so when asked what I wanted bring to Thanksgiving dinner, feeling unable to tackle the rolls as I have for several years, I offered to do something a bit easier--Green Bean Casserole. But in true me fashion, I couldn't take the easy way out. I just couldn't bring myself to construct something out of Cream of Mushroom soup in my kitchen. I had to make it from scratch, and it was way worth it. It was a big hit at both of the Thanksgiving meals I attended.

Real Green Bean Casserole

4 cups fresh green bean
4 strips of bacon (because, heck..)
1 onion--diced
1 cup button mushrooms--diced
6 Tbsp. butter (I didn't say it was healthier, just less processed ;)
6 Tbsp. flour
1.5-2 cups milk
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
salt and pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup crispy fried onions (I just couldn't leave them out...)

1. Wash, trim, and cut green beans into 1-2 inch pieces. Cook in salted, boiling water for 4-5 minutes. Transfer beans into an ice bath so they stop cooking. You want the beans to remain a bit crunchy; if we're using fresh green beans, lets not allow them to taste like canned...mmmkay?
2. Heat a large sauce pan or dutch oven to medium heat. Slice bacon into little bits (I like to freeze my bacon because it makes it easier to cut.) and cook it until crispy. Remove bacon bits from pan and drain them on paper towels.
3. Add mushrooms and onions to the bacon pan (Don't worry about draining the fat flavor. It's only Thanksgiving once a year.). Cook the veggies until soft and slightly browned, about 10 minutes.
4. Add the butter to the onions and mushrooms and melt. Stir in flour and cook for a couple of minutes.
5. Slowly add milk to the pan and cook until it bubbles and is thickened. If it seems too thick, add more milk. Add Soy sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Add green beans and reserved bacon and mix until beans are evenly coated. Check seasonings one more time. This dish can handle a lot of salt, so taste, taste, taste!
7. Pour mixture into a buttered 9x13 casserole dish and top with panko bread crumbs and crispy fried onions.
8. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
9. Enjoy rave reviews at your family's Thanksgiving dinner

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

White Chicken Chili

There are versions of this recipe floating all over the web. The first time I had something like it was at a neighborhood chili cook-off, where it won the contest by a large margin. Unfortunately, many of the recipes I've seen are littered with processed ingredients. I've tried making it a few times sans packets and cans, and this has been my favorite incarnation.

White Chicken Chili 

2 chicken breasts
1 1/2 tsp, oregano
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. pepper 
1 onion-diced
2 stalks celery--diced
1 green pepper--diced 
1 jalapeño--diced
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp. chicken base
4 oz. cream cheese
2 1/2 water 
Place all ingredients in a Crock Pot and cook on low for 6 hours. Shred Chicken and stir-in cream cheese until it's incorporated. Cook on low for one more hour. Serve with crusty bread, shredded cheese, green onions, tortilla chips, or whatever you'd like.

30 Minute Pork Chop "Thanksgiving"

Now that it's Fall, you may be craving heavy meals infused with warm spices and topped with gravy. If you don't want to wait until Thanksgiving or spend two days in the kitchen, this meal for you.

2 pork chops
salt and pepper
butter and olive oil
1/2 onion--sliced
1 apple--peeled and sliced
1 celery stalk--sliced

For the braising liquid:
1/4 cup canned whole-berry cranberry sauce
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
small sprinkling of dried thyme, cinamon, allspice, and nutmeg
1 bay leaf

For the gravy:
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour

mashed potatoes
green beans

1. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and sear them on both sides in a small amount of butter and olive oil over medium heat.
2. Remove pork from pan and add onions, apple, and celery. Cook until soft.
3. Mix all ingredients for the braising liquid. Return pork to the pan and cover with braising liquid. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes on medium-low heat or until pork is cooked through but not overdone.
4. Remove pork chops. Strain braising liquid. Reserve the onions, apples and celery to serve over the pork chops. Use the liquid to make the gravy.
5. To make the gravy, add butter to the pan and melt. Add flour and cook on medium for a minute or so. Add reserved braising liquid and bring to a bubble.
6. To make this meal really Thanksgivingy, serve with mashed potatoes and green beans. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Last week, I got a head of butter lettuce from Bountiful Baskets. If you've used or purchased this stuff, you know it can be a little unsettling to put a living head of lettuce, complete with dirty root ball, into your refrigerator. The perfectly cup-shaped leaves made my mind immediately think lettuce wraps. Here is how I made them:

1 head of butter lettuce or 1/2 head of iceberg lettuce
1 chicken breast
salt and pepper
1/2 yellow onion--diced
2 carrots--diced
2 stalks celery--diced
1/2 cup mushrooms--diced
a handful of cashews--roughly chopped

For the sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
a squirt of siracha, depending on how hot you like it
2 garlic cloves--minced
1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
1 Tbsp. peanut butter
a splash of rice wine vinegar 
1/2 lime--juiced
1. Season both sides of the chicken breast with salt and pepper and sear it on both sides in a tsp. of canola oil on a medium-high wok. Once the chicken is seared on both sides, "grind" it up. I use this fancy meat tenderizer/breaker-upper that I got from The Pampered Chef, but you could just use a regular meat tenderizer or a knife. I really like the texture of tiny chicken bites in my lettuce wraps. You could also just use ground chicken, turkey, or beef.
2. Add the veggies and some salt and pepper to the ground chicken and saute until the veggies are soft.
3. Mix all of the ingredients for the sauce in a separate container. When the veggies are soft, add the sauce and cook until it comes to a bubble.
4. Serve inside washed lettuce leaves. Adding rice makes it a complete meal.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Bountiful Baskets" Slaw Salad

I've mentioned Bountiful Baskets before. One of the things I love most about the "mystery produce baskets" I get from the co-op is that they give me a culinary challenge every time. This week it was green cabbage. Two huge heads of it. The only other time I've purchased green cabbage in my lifetime was when I was trying to stop breastfeeding my daughter (Apparently placing cabbage leaves in your bra helps halt the production of breast milk. It's a real thing, look it up.) Trying to look past my last unpleasant encounter with cabbage, I've been racking my brain with uses for it that will make the duckling of an ingredient swan-like.

On Monday, I added some to a noodle stir-fry. It was yummy and adding the cabbage made it very reminiscent of Panda Express's chow mein, but I only used one-quarter of one head, and the cabbage was more of a background ingredient than the star. Tonight I decided to rally some other ingredients from Saturday's basket (carrot, green apple, and celery) and make a modern, non-mayonaisey cole slaw. It is sitting in the fridge gettin' happy right now, and I can't wait for dinner! I sneaked a bite,m and it is safe to say that the cabbage takes center stage in a good way. I think I'll grill up some chicken and make it a simple summer supper.

Honey Dijon Slaw Salad

2-3 Tbsp. lime juice (I used the kind in the bottle, but fresh limes would be much better. I'd use the juice of 1.5-2 limes)
2 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper

1 Granny Smith apple-sliced in match-sticks
2 celery stalks-sliced thin on a bias
1 carrot-shredded
3 cups green cabbage-shredded or sliced very thin

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients.
2. Add the veggies and toss. I chopped the apple and let it sit in the dressing while I chopped the other ingredients hoping the acid in the lime juice would keep the apple from turning brown. *fingers crossed*
3. Taste test and add more salt and/or pepper to your preference.
4. Let sit for a few hours or eat immediately.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chicken, Bacon, Spinach and Swiss Crepes

I am the <self-proclaimed> queen of crepes. At the hand of my brother who lived in France for a while, I learned the delicate art of crepe making. I took my skill to the marketplace in 2008 when started a food stand at a local summer concert series where I sold freshly made crepes with a variety of tantalizing sweet and savory fillings. I did this for three summers in a row. So, when it comes to all things crepe, you can trust moi.

This is a brand new creation that I made in the face of the 6:00 "what's for dinners?"

Chicken, Bacon, Spinach, and Swiss Crepes

1 batch of crepes (recipe to follow)

For the filling:
2-3 slices of bacon, sliced into lardon-style bits (I like to freeze my bacon. It makes it much easier to slice.)
1 breast of chicken, cut into small cubes and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cup milk
4 slices of swiss cheese, cut into cubes (or 4 oz of grated swiss cheese)
1 cup frozen spinach, cooked in the microwave for a few minutes
a dash of nutmeg and pepper to taste

1. Make the crepe batter and let it sit while you start the filling. For best results, crepe batter really should rest for a while before you start cooking.
2. In a large frying pan, sautee the bacon over medium heat. When the bacon is cooked, remove the bits and let them drain on a paper towel. Remove most of the fat, leaving a tablespoon or so.
3. Add the chicken to the bacon pan. (Chicken cooked in bacon fat...winning).
---(This would be a good time to turn your crepe pan on and start cooking crepes if you can multi-task.)---
4. When the chicken is nice and brown, turn the heat down to medium-low and add the butter and melt. Then, add the flour and cook and stir for a minute or so. Then, add the milk, stir, and, return the heat to medium and let the mixture come to a simmer.
5. When the mixture simmers and is thickish, turn the heat to low and add the swiss cheese. Stir and wait for the cheese to melt. Then, add the spinach, nutmeg, pepper, and at the last minute, return the bacon to the pan.
6. Scoop some filling into each prepared crepe, roll it up and place it on your plate. It should make about 9 8-inch crepes if you make sure to get lots of sauce and a only a few bits of chicken in each crepe.

Okay, here it is. My *sacred* crepe recipe:

3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 Tbsp water
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp. melted butter
extra butter for cooking

Beat milk, eggs, and water together. Add dry ingredients. Whisk really well so there are no lumps. I use my immersion blender, and I've seen this step done in a regular blender as well. Stir-in melted butter. Let rest. Heat a small frying pan or crepe pan on the stove to medium. Brush the pan with some melted butter. Then, ladle a small amount of batter into the pan, swirl until the pan is just barely and evenly coated (beware of too-thick crepes!). Cook for a minute or two, flip and cook for another minute.

The best news of all: There should be enough crepes leftover for dessert crepes. Tonight we had lemon and sugar as well as Nutella and Strawberries.