Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Some things should just not be changed

I love a good cheeseburger. Always have, probably always will. Fuddrucker's is one of my favorite places to get burgers...they have great flavor. Chili's also has great burgers.

I don't usually make them at home. However, I have certain cookbooks on my shelf that I like to try a new recipe out of from time to time and this is the first one out of this book...it is a low-carb book which probably should have been my first tip. Nothing against low-carb...it's just generally not my style of eating since it's usually higher in fat and heavy duty on the veggies.

Mini-Cheeseburger Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

2 lbs ground sirloin
1/2 c chopped yellow onion
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp grill seasoning **I used McCormick's Montreal Steak seasoning
extra virgin olive oil
8 oz chipotle cheddar cheese or any flavored cheddar in a brick
3 Romaine lettuce hearts or a prepackaged bag of Romaine
1 c sliced dill pickles
1 c grape tomatoes
3 Tbsp yellow mustard
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped

Combine meat with the onion, Worcestershire and steak seasoning. Form 12 large meatballs and flatten them into small patties. Drizzle patties with a little oil. Slice cheese into 1/4" pieces. Grill burgers until desired doneness and place cheese slices on at the end of the cooking cycle so that cheese will melt. Chop lettuce and combine with pickles and tomatoes. Whisk together the mustard and vinegar. Stream in olive oil and whisk to combine. Add chives and peppers and stir. Place cheeseburgers on top of salad and top with dressing.

What I liked about this recipe: Extremely colorful. It was a gorgeous presentation.
What I disliked about this recipe: WAY too many flavors. It was just overwhelming.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: I bought one of those living herb plants at Target for the chives and after I chopped off what I needed, I actually planted the herb in my boxes to see if it would survive and believe it or not, it DID!
Tastiness factor: P thought this was great and took the leftovers for lunch the next day. Me, I hated it and will never make it again. However, I think it's more my taste preferences than a bad recipe. I just didn't care for it. But it did have everything that a cheeseburger would have except for the bun, so lo-carbers craving a burger should love it. I did add ketchup to the salad to make it a little more palatable and to cut the acidity.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Let's go to Outback tonight

Little known fact: I actually worked at Outback for about three months when I first moved to Texas. Unfortunately, I started working at the one in Addison which didn't have as much traffic as the others and they wouldn't let me switch, so...I finally ended up quitting because I wasn't making much in tips with only 2-3 tables a night.

But one of the best things that I did get out of working there was the best way to make awesome baked potatoes. One of the cooks told me that the reason why baked potatoes are often rolled in salt is because it draws out the moisture from the potato and makes them very fluffy on the inside.

Outback-Style Bakers

Russett baking potatoes
salted butter, melted (use about one Tbsp for every potato you are making)
kosher salt

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Scrub the potatoes well to get all of the dirt off the skins. Prick potatoes several times with a fork. Use a pastry brush to brush butter all over potatoes until well-coated. Sprinkle kosher salt on all surfaces of the potato. If you want to eat the potato skins, do not roll the potato in salt as they will be too salty. Bake at 425 degrees for one hour. Serve with your choice of toppings. (My favorite toppings are butter, sour cream and shredded Cheddar.)

What I like best about these potatoes: They take almost no time to prepare and get in the oven and they are great if you are grilling out. Just put them in the oven before you get ready to start preheating the grill and if they are ready early, just turn the oven down to 250 degrees to keep them warm. You don't have to use foil if you don't want to, but it will save your cookie sheet if you do and make clean up a snap.
What I dislike about these potatoes: The fantastic taste can NOT be duplicated in the microwave, so these aren't a quick dish to make. But the length of time is completely worth the effort.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: I have a silicone pastry brush which is fantastic to make these.
Tastiness factor: Incredible and SO delicious. I have never served to them to anyone who didn't like them.

Herb-Marinated Steak

2 lb sirloin steak
1 tsp onion salt
1/2 c white vinegar
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1 tsp fresh tarragon, minced
1 tsp fresh dill weed, minced
1 tsp fresh sage, minced

Rub both sides of the steak with onion salt and place in a shallow dish. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over steak. Cover and marinate at least one hour or overnight. Grill or broil steak until desired temperature is reached, brushing steak frequently with marinade.

What I liked about this recipe: Very easy to make the marinade. You can also use 1/4 tsp of dried herbs instead of the fresh.
What I disliked about this recipe: A little too much vinegar in my opinion.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: I have an 11x7 glass baking dish that was perfect for marinating the steak.
Tastiness factor: I can not believe I scalped my tarragon plant for this dish. Very, very tasteless. I got more flavor out of the charcoal than from the herbs. I don't know if it was because I opted to use fresh herbs or not. I did not enjoy this as I have other marinades, but it wasn't offensive. Just not as flavorful as I would have preferred. The steak was tender though, probably from the vinegar.

Garlic Ranch Chicken

1 c Ranch dressing
2 Tbsp garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh basil, minced
4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Combine dressing, garlic and basil. Place chicken in a Ziploc. Add marinade and turn to coat. Squeeze out air, seal bag and refrigerate up to 24 hours until ready to grill. Grill chicken for 15 minutes on each side.

What I liked about this recipe: Pretty easy to make, really, and you can either use bottled Ranch dressing or make your own with buttermilk and mayo. I opted to make my own fresh and I think it made a big difference since I don't care for bottled Ranch dressing.
What I disliked about this recipe: It makes a wee mess on your grill, so make sure you have a brush or something to clean up with afterwards.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: I used my mezzaluna to mince the basil. First time harvesting basil!
Tastiness factor: Very, very good. Not sure what the creaminess of the marinade did for the chicken, but it sure made it tender and flavorful. Great dish...definitely one that I would make again. The recipe said that it recommends you serve Ranch on the side for dipping, but we didn't even need that.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Soup Nazi....er, maybe not

Okay, sorry...that was a bad joke. But again, I'm trying to think of a clever title for this blog entry and all I keep thinking of is that Seinfeld episode!

A few weeks ago, I defrosted leftovers of this soup that I made back in December, so I thought I would share the recipe.

German-style Potato Soup

4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 c chopped onions
8 oz cooked smoked sausage, sliced
4 c beef broth
2 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp pepper
2 c packaged shredded cabbage (coleslaw mix)
snipped fresh parsley

Combine potatoes, celery, onions and sausage in a slow cooker. Whisk together broth, vinegar, sugar, celery seed, dry mustard and pepper in a separate bowl and pour over potato mixture. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours or on high for 4-4 1/2 hours. Stir in cabbage mixture. Cover and cook for 15-30 minutes more. Top each serving with fresh parsley.

What I liked about this recipe: It was very spicy and the leftovers freeze well.
What I disliked about this recipe: The spiciness of the sausage leeches out into the broth, which is great for the soup, not so great for the sausage.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: At the time I made this, I didn't have my mezzaluna so I used my herb snipper instead. It was fine.
Tastiness factor: Very tasty and very satisfying.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Thyme for pasta!

I made this dish a few weeks ago as a quick and easy meal on the cheap.

Beef and Macaroni

1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
half of a green pepper, chopped
1 c cooked elbow macaroni
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
10 3/4 oz can cheddar cheese soup

Brown beef, onions and green pepper in skillet. Pour off drippings and place in a slow cooker. Add all other ingredients to slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 2-2 1/2 hours, stirring twice.
What I liked about this recipe: Seriously easy. It would be very hard to screw this up.
What I disliked about this recipe: The cheddar cheese soup? EW. I wish there had been a listed substitute. I'm not really sure if I could come up with a good substitute...I have read in casserole books that when recipes call for processed soups, use them, because the results just aren't the same.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: My little red four-quart slow cooker was the perfect size for this.
Tastiness factor: WAAAAAAY too strong of an herb taste. I felt like all I tasted was thyme and P said all he could taste was onions. And I even cut the onions to about a 1/2 cup. It is possible that next time could be better if I used fresh herbs, but I doubt there will be a next time. There are just too many other slow cooker recipes out there.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Orange Frosting

I made a cake for Easter Sunday/P's birthday...his only request was that it be a white cake. I wanted to make something colorful and pastelly for Easter, and I had some leftover oranges in the fridge, so....I decided to make this frosting to go with it.

It was perfection on a plate. I threw some pastel cake decorations all over it and it was just so beautiful! Very pretty and perfect for spring.

Remember this cake? Just no coconut this time...and substitute this frosting.

Orange Sugar Frosting

1/2 c butter, softened
3 2/3 c powdered sugar
1 tsp orange extract
2 tsp grated orange zest
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp half and half

Beat the butter on medium speed until creamy and smooth. Add sugar, extract, zest and salt and beat for one minute. Add the half and half and beat well at high speed, stopping to scrape down the bowl often, until the frosting is smooth and creamy and ready to spread.

What I liked about this recipe: No cooking needed!!!
What I disliked about this recipe: Nothing. It was light, fluffy and perfect!
Cool kitchen gadgets used: My Microplane to zest the orange.
Tastiness factor: The orange flavor was light and citrusy and not overwhelming at all. It was the perfect compliment for the white cake.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Homestyle Chicken and Dumplings

This isn't as good as the chicken and dumplings that my grandma makes, despite what the recipe claimed, but it's pretty good for being this easy and not requiring an entire chicken OR a pastry blender. Definitely worth a try!

Homestyle Chicken and Dumplings

1 lb chicken breasts, boneless/skinless
2 10.75 oz cans of cream of chicken soup
29 oz chicken broth or chicken stock
1/2 onion, chopped (I used a half cup of chopped)
2 16 oz tubes of refrigerated biscuits, quartered

Combine onions and soups in crock pot. Add chicken breasts. Cook on high for five hours. At five hours, shred the chicken with a fork and add biscuit pieces. Stir to coat biscuit pieces and cook on high one additional hour.

What I liked about this recipe: FIVE ingredients. Doesn't get much easier than that. And it reheats well.
What I disliked about this recipe: The biscuits are seriously fatty. One refrigerated biscuit is 170 calories and 8 g of fat. Not really crazy about that, but they were tasty, so it was worth it!
Cool kitchen gadgets used: Love the Crock Pot.
Tastiness factor: Very, VERY rich with a lot of homemade flavor and yumminess. It was great. I would definitely recommend this if you are a fan of chicken noodle soup as it had a lot of chicken soup flavor to it from the soup and broth.

Sauteed Carrots

2 lbs carrots
1/3 c water
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh chopped dill or fresh chopped parsley
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Peel and chop carrots on the diagonal into 1/4" pieces. Place in 12" skillet with water, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover skillet and lower heat to medium low. Simmer for eight minutes or until carrots are cooked through. Add butter and simmer for an additional minute until water is evaporated and there is nothing but butter left. Stir to coat carrots. Remove from heat and toss with dill. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

What I liked about this recipe: Again, another excuse to harvest more of my dill.
What I disliked about this recipe: A little on the bland side....but the recipe states that it is a simple recipe.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: My mortar and pestle to grind the pepper. Ever since I read that pepper is more flavorful if it is ground fresh rather than spooned out of the container because the peppercorns retain moisture, I have been giving the mortar and pestle a workout.
Tastiness factor: Very simple and elegant. The dill really adds a nice taste to it. I don't think parsley would be as tasty.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Grilling rocks!

OMG, I'm in love with our new charcoal grill. Who knew that $20 at Walley World could bring you so much happiness? It takes a little more time to heat than a gas grill, but the taste and the smell are so worth it.

We have grilled twice in the last week, and both times has been SOOOOOO good. Plus that smell! Oh, that SMELL! It's loverly! Smells like spring and summer! Cookouts rule.

Plus I got to harvest my fresh dill which was FUN.

Tequila Lime Chicken

1/2 c tequila **I used Cuervo Gold
1 c fresh-squeezed lime juice (about six large limes)
1/2 fresh-squeezed orange juice (about two large oranges)
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 whole boneless skin-on chicken breasts or six split
1 Tbsp minced cilantro, optional

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Arrange chicken in a 13x9 baking dish and pour marinade over chicken. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Grill until chicken is done and skin is crispy.

What I liked about this dish: Most of the work is done the night before, which leaves you free to make your sides while the chicken is grilling.
What I disliked about this dish: I can't get skin-on boneless chicken breasts here in big D. It's either skinless boneless or skin-on bone-in breasts. So I bought the latter and deboned them (actually P did). It wasn't that hard, and I'm sure that this chicken would be just as good with skinless breasts, but oh, was it TASTY with the skin on!
Cool kitchen gadgets: I have a small citrus juicer that I use for occasions such as this where I have a dish that calls for fresh juice. It was perfect for this dish. I also used my mortar and pestle to grind fresh pepper.
Tastiness factor: This is seriously the best grilled chicken dish I have ever had. Period. This recipe will be made a LOT in my house going forward. And yes, even though it made six breasts, it refrigerates and reheats perfectly. I have had grilled chicken Caesar salad twice with leftovers now and it is just so delicious. I meant to add the cilantro to the marinade (more harvesting!) but I forgot to do it so next time I will add it and see what new taste that adds.

Marinated Dill Steaks

1 to 1/2 lbs of steaks **I used two 8 oz tenderloins
1/2 c soy sauce
1/4 c red wine **I used an Australian shiraz
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
a half bunch of green onions, chopped
one clove of garlic, crushed and minced
1 Tbsp fresh dill, minced, or 1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp celery seed
juice of one lime

Combine all ingredients except steak in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Place steaks in a large Ziploc bag and add marinade. Refrigerate overnight, turning bag when you pass the fridge in the morning. Set steaks out for about forty-five minutes before grilling to allow them to warm to room temperature. Grill on each side about six minutes or to desired doneness.

What I liked about this recipe: Most of the work is done the night before and almost everything is stuff that most people have in their pantries.
What I disliked about this recipe: Nothing. IT WAS AWESOME!
Cool kitchen gadgets used: Besides the grill, I used my herb snippers to harvest my dill...first time cutting my dill. Granted, my dill looks a little bare now, but all my gardening books say the way to get more herbs to grow is to harvest and prune regularly, so we'll see. Even if this is the only dish that I can use dill with, it was worth it...fresh herbs really do make a difference, I'm noticing!
Tastiness factor: Delicious. Definitely a keeper. If you are looking for a tasty marinade, give this a try. Just make sure that you taste the steak before salting it because the soy and Worcestershire do make it very salty...you probably won't need any additional seasonings.

Nutty Sweet Potatoes

two sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/3 c sour cream
1 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp chopped pecans
1/2 tsp cinnamon
brown sugar to taste

Cover sweet potatoes in a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Mash and blend in sour cream, butter, cinnamon and milk. Fold in pecans. Serve hot with brown sugar to sprinkle on top.

What I liked about this recipe: It is a recipe just for two people, which means very little leftovers, but I still have enough for at least two more servings.
What I disliked about this recipe: It tasted like it was missing something. I can't explain it. It might have been that sugar wasn't added to it while it was stirring, but it was a little on the bland side. The pot also boiled over slightly and was a mess to clean up on my stove.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: My mixer is fab for mashing potatoes.
Tastiness factor: I would probably make this again as it was a little on the lighter side with less butter than most sweet potato casseroles, but considering how many other recipes I have for yams, I will probably wait a while. Not bad though...

Sauteed Peppery Zucchini and Mushrooms

8 oz package of sliced white mushrooms
1 zucchini, diced and unpeeled
kosher salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. When oil is hot, add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for five minutes until mushrooms are browned. Add zucchini, garlic and red pepper flakes and stir. Season liberally with kosher salt. Stir-fry for about five to ten minutes or until zucchini is very tender. Serve hot.

What I liked about this recipe: It is a great take on sauteed mushrooms and much much healthier to serve with steaks since it uses olive oil instead of butter. It is also the perfect size for two people and doesn't require constant stirring, so it's a good one to throw together at the last minute while your other dishes are finishing up. I made this and the nutty sweet potatoes at the same time and it went smoothly.
What I disliked about this recipe: It makes the pan very very dirty, so make sure you soak it before trying to scrub it clean.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: I always use my large chef's knife to crush garlic before I peel and mince it. Crushing garlic releases more flavor and makes the cloves much easier to peel.
Tastiness factor: I really, really like this dish. It is from one of my books by a certain Food Network chef whom I am not too fond of (think EVOO and yummo) and while most of her recipes to me are WAAAAAAAY too difficult, this is an easy one. I probably use more salt than most people do since I love salty dishes.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Shrimp Monterey

If you are in the mood for shrimp scampi...try this. It's pretty darn good and SO easy, it's ridiculous. I made it for my sister while she was here and she and I and P killed the whole dish.

Shrimp Monterey

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp salted butter
2 lbs medium shrimp, peeled/deveined/cleaned
1/2 c white wine
2 c shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced

In a skillet over medium heat, saute garlic in butter for one minute. Add shrimp and cook for 4-5 minutes until shrimp is pink. Use a slotted spoon and transfer shrimp to a greased 11x7 glass baking dish. Cover with foil to keep shrimp warm. Add wine to the skillet and bring wine to a boil. Cook and stir for five minutes. Pour wine sauce over shrimp and top with cheese and parsley. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for ten minutes or until cheese is melted.

What I liked about this dish: It was quick, full of garlic flavor, and fancy enough to serve for company.
What I disliked about this dish: A little heavy on the cheese. Next time I make it, I will probably go with one cup of cheese instead of two.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: My food processor to the rescue again with the Monterey Jack. Why do they not sell M Jack preshredded?
Tastiness factor: Excellent. Purely excellent. I will definitely make this again. And frozen shrimp worked just fine with it...fresh good shrimp is not easy to come by in big D.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Good morning, Vietnam!

Sorry...that was just the cheesiest title I could think of that had Vietnam in it. It was either that or pho bistro....which is coincidentally the name of a Vietnamese restaurant down the street from me. I'm not even going to go in there until I have eaten a few more Vietnamese dishes.

So...here's another Asian dish. After I made this, P read in my book that Vietnamese food, traditionally, gets its roots from French cuisine, which would explain why it wasn't as drenched in thick sugary sauces as the Asian food that I'm used to getting at restaurants. This was a very colorful, yummy dish, even if it didn't look exactly like the photograph in the book.

And did you know that fish sauce is the main ingredient in almost all Vietnamese food? Apparently it's a HUGE export of Vietnam.

Chicken with Pineapple and Cashews

2 Tbsp shredded coconut
1/2 c raw cashews
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 c chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp chopped red chili pepper
11 1/4 oz chicken thigh fillets, chopped into bite-size pieces
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
2 c chopped fresh pineapple
2 spring onions, chopped

Place coconut on a cookie sheet and toast at 300 degrees for ten minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. When coconut is golden brown, remove and put in a small bowl to cool. Turn oven up to 350, scatter cashews on cookie sheet, and roast for 15 minutes until cashews are golden brown. Heat oil in a large wok and add onion, garlic and chili. Stir-fry over medium heat for two minutes and then remove mixture from pan and set aside. Turn heat up to high and add chicken and peppers. Stir fry until chicken is light brown. Return onion mixture to the wok and add the oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar and pineapple and stir fry for two minutes. Add cashews and toss mixture. Transfer chicken mixture to a serving bowl and top with coconut and spring onions.

What I liked about this dish: It didn't cook as lightning fast as the other Asian dishes that I have made, but I am still very glad that I prepped ahead of time. And I didn't have to buy any weird ingredients since I had fish and oyster sauce on hand already. Those are two sauces that a lot of Asian dishes call for, so if you are going to be cooking Asian dishes, I would recommend picking them up as they seem to be as common as soy sauces.
What I disliked about this dish: I would have preferred more of a sauce to the meat, but I think I may have figured out what happened...I bought a pound of thigh fillets, intending to weigh out what I needed and then forgot, so it's possible that there was just too much chicken to go around. And I didn't think it tasted quite as good reheated, even though P thought it was great. I don't know...it just tasted not as fresh. But it was still tasty.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: Tonight was the debut of the Calphalon wok and so far, P and I are NOT impressed. It just didn't seem to conduct heat as well as the other one that we returned. We are going to reserve judgement until we use it again, but so far, not impressed at ALL.
Tastiness factor: Very, VERY good. The toasted coconut totally makes this dish. We forgot about it until we had both served ourselves and taken the first bite, and after we topped it with the golden coconut, it was just yummy yummy. And the pineapple was nice and fresh and juicy and sweet...great combination with the oyster and fish sauce.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The ultimate in comfort food

I really like meatloaf. Paired with potatoes, it is just very comforting. I have tried many meatloaf recipes over the years, one from a friend in California, a spicy Texas-style one with jalapenos, and a few others, one particularly nasty turkey meatloaf dish when I was dieting hard, and this one...well, this is pretty darn good. And the leftovers are awesome. They really reheat well and I only had to freeze one portion of the meatloaf.

Saucy Meatloaf

1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1/2 c quick cooking oats, uncooked
1/2 c chopped onion
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 c tomato juice
1 egg


6 oz can tomato sauce
3 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp dark brown sugar, packed
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Whisk all sauce ingredients together until smooth and sugar dissolved.

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pat into an ungreased 9x5 loaf pan and pour sauce on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours and let stand for five minutes before slicing. Serves eight.

What I liked about this recipe: It was SO quick to mix up and put together.
What I disliked about this recipe: It calls for 1 1/2 lbs of ground beef. Ground beef, at least where I buy it, only comes in 1 lb packages. So now, I have a half lb of ground beef in the freezer in a Ziploc bag waiting for the next time I make this dish.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: I realized when I made this that I do not have a glass loaf pan, so I used my silicone loaf pan and it worked just fine! The only change I had to make was that I had to remove the meatloaf from the pan and place it on a platter before serving whereas with the glass loaf pan, you can just serve it right from there. Not a big deal though...I've been eyeing the Le Crueset loaf pans.
Tastiness factor: This is very good and there are no flavors that overwhelmingly stick out. It's just a nice, good, basic tasty meatloaf.

Rosemary Potatoes

6 red potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together and spoon into a greased 13x9 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Serves 4-6.

What I liked about this dish: It was very easy to throw together and I was able to bake it at the same time as the meatloaf at the same temperature so that they were both ready at the same time. Can't get better than that.
What I disliked about this dish: It was not as flavorful and aromatic as I had hoped for. And I'm not sure why. My rosemary is not the freshest ever, but it still smells good. The olive oil almost overpowered this dish. I think if I make this again, I will try 6 tsp of fresh rosemary instead and see if that helps this dish.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: I used my mortar and pestle to crush the rosemary. A molcajete would have been more fun for sure.
Tastiness factor: Not bad, but not my favorite potato dish. Using Yukon golds or Russets may have improved the flavor. It reheated well though.

And then we have a slow-cooker chicken recipe...always a good choice.

French Country Chicken

1 c chopped onion
6 carrots, chopped and sliced
6 stalks celery, chopped and sliced
6 boneless and skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp dried thyme
pepper to taste
10 3/4 oz cream of chicken soup
package of dry onion soup mix
1/3 c dry white wine
2 Tbsp cornstarch

Combine onions, carrots and celery in the bottom of a slow cooker and arrange chicken on top. Sprinkle with spices. Whisk together soup and soup mix and spoon over chicken. Cover and cook on high setting for four hours, stirring after one hour. At the end of four hours, whisk together wine and cornstarch and pour over chicken. Stir well and cook uncovered on high for an additional ten minutes until sauce is thickened.

What I liked about this dish: It was easy and didn't require any braising or precooking ahead of time.
What I disliked about this dish: Not much. It was easy.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: Love my slow cooker.
Tastiness factor: This was good. Not dry at all, very moist, very flavorful and delicious with mashed potatoes. And it reheated well for leftovers. Very, very good dish.

Swiss Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken halves
8 slices Swiss cheese
one 10 3/4 oz can cream of chicken soup
1/4 c white wine
1 c chicken-flavored stuffing mix
1/4 c melted butter

Arrange chicken in a greased 13x9 baking dish and top with cheese slices. Combine soup, wine and stuffing mix and spread over chicken. Drizzle with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.

What I liked about this recipe: ZERO prep time!
What I disliked about this recipe: A little long in the oven, but well worth the time.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: I have a Pyrex glass measuring cup that was perfect for the butter.
Tastiness factor: OMG. SO delicious. If you are looking for something new to do with chicken, try this and I promise, you won't be sorry. It is incredible.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Brownies of karma

It just so happens that I decided that I wanted something sweet the other night, and it just so happens that I was wondering how I would use up the rest of my sour cream leftover from brunch that morning. I opened up my brownie cookbook RIGHT to this recipe, and as luck would have it, I had everything on hand to make these. They were perfect. Simply perfect. At least, for the first day.

Sour Cream Brownies

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
10 Tbsp (1 stick + 2 Tbsp) unsalted butter
6 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 3/4 c sugar
1/2 c sour cream
3 eggs at room temperature
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c chopped pecans

Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl until combined. Combine the chocolates and the butter in the top of a double boiler and melt. When butter is almost melted, remove the top pan and continue stirring chocolates and butter until mixture is smooth. Transfer chocolate to a mixing bowl and let cool for ten minutes. Add sugar to the chocolate and beat until mixture is smooth and silky, about two minutes with a mixer on medium speed. Add sour cream and beat an additional two minutes. Add eggs one at a time and beat mixture after each addition. Add vanilla and beat for one additional minute. Fold in flour mixture and pecans and stir by hand until smooth. Spread mixture into a greased and floured 13x9 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing brownies.

What I liked about this recipe: That I had EVERYTHING on hand! What are the odds that I would have bittersweet chocolate chips? And I used up all of my sour cream and my unsweetened chocolate, which is good...I don't like ingredients to sit around forever.
What I disliked about this recipe: It took four bowls to prepare the ingredients (one for sugar, one for the flour mixture, one for the vanilla, and one for the chocolate, plus the double boiler. Lots of dirty dishes to wash. Also, there was a note on the recipe that said that these brownies will keep for four days. I didn't believe it until the fifth day. It didn't taste horrible, but just not great. And they were really crumbly after the second day and not very good without ice cream.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: I love my double boiler.
Tastiness factor: These were good. Very silky and chocolatey. And not too sweet either. Definitely worth the effort. Just not great for keeping for a long time.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I (heart) my pressure cooker

Finally, at last, I got the pressure cooker to work with help from P. Don't get me wrong, we were nervous that the thing might explode, but thanks to a little guts and a lot of reading of the instruction manual, the house stayed intact.

However, with this first recipe, we decided to just try it as a boiling water canner. Nope. That pot is way too big to boil water in and I don't get enough heat from the radiant range.

Both of these recipes were chosen as the result of seeing that Sprouts (a local farmers' market) had Bartlett pears and strawberries on sale.

Strawberry-Pineapple Jam

3 cups hulled and crushed ripe strawberries (about 1 1/2 quarts whole berries)
1 c drained and crushed pineapple (you will need two 8 oz cans)
6 1/2 c sugar
1/2 tsp unsalted butter
3 oz pouch liquid pectin

In a stockpot, combine fruits, sugar and butter. Over medium-low heat, heat the mixture until sugar is completely dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Add pectin. Return mixture to a full boil. Boil for one minute and remove pot from heat. Allow jam to cool for five minutes and stir every minute to redistribute the fruit. Ladle the hot jam into hot jars and leave 1/4" headspace. Wipe jar rims with clean cloth, cover with hot lids and apply screwcaps. Process half-pints in rolling water bath for ten minutes and pint jars for fifteen minutes. Yields 8 half-pint jars.

What I liked about this recipe: It was easy and strawberries were on sale that day, 2/$4.
What I disliked about this recipe: It did not set as firmly as I would have liked. After 24 hours, I actually labeled the jars "strawberry-pineapple ice cream topping" because I was certain that it had not set correctly. I did eat it over ice cream and it was great. A few days later, I decided to look at it again for jam since I had used all of my old strawberry jam up that I had made in December and tried it on bread. Surprisingly, it was fine and not overly liquidy. I don't know if it's one of those things that just sets a little harder once it's in the fridge or what, but warm, in the jars on the shelf, it's the consistency of ice cream topping.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: None on this other than my lid wand and my funnel that were part of my canning kit. The pressure cooker does NOT work as a water bath canner very well. So I used the inverted method to seal the jars.
Tastiness factor: Oh, it's SO delicious. It has a very very sweet strawberry taste and there's something else in there that just really gives it a beautiful bright red color and a wonderfully tropical taste. Oh, RIGHT, the pineapple! (Dad, I can't wait for you to try it!)

Bartlett Pear Marmalade

3 1/2 cups peeled, cored and finely chopped ripe Bartlett pears (about 3 1/2 lbs)
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
2 medium Valencia oranges (I used navel oranges)
1/4 c water
1/2 c water
8 oz can of crushed pineapple in juice, lightly drained
1/2 tsp unsalted butter
6 c sugar
3 oz pouch liquid pectin

Combine chopped pears and lemon juice and stir gently until pears are completely coated with lemon juice. Set aside. Using a zester, remove only the outer colored peel of the oranges. (Alternative is to cut off the peel with a paring knife and then slice into thin strips.) Peel the fruit and remove the white pitch. Separate the orange segments and remove all membrane and seeds. Chop the fruit and set aside. Combine the orange peel and 1/4 c water in a small bowl and let soak for ten minutes. Drain the peel and discard the water. In a stockpot, combine the peel, chopped oranges and 1/2 c water. Overe medium heat, bring mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add pears, pineapple and butter to the mixture and simmer, uncovered, for five minutes. Stir frequently to prevent mixture from sticking to the pot. Gradually add the sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Turn heat up to medium-high and bring mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Add pectin. Return mixture to a full boil and stir constantly. Boil for one minute. Remove pan and let jam sit for five minutes. Stir the marmalade every minute to redistribute the fruit. Ladle hot jam into hot jars and leave 1/4" headspace. Wipe jar rims with a clean cloth. Cover with hot lids and apply screwtops. Process half-pint jars in water bath canner for ten minutes, pint jars for fifteen minutes, or in a pressure canner (YES!) for ten minutes at 6 lbs. of pressure. Yields 8 half-pint jars.

What I liked about this recipe: It is VERY unusual! Who would ever pair oranges and pears together? And the pears were 99 cents a pound.
What I disliked about this recipe: It took a REALLY long time to prep and a REALLY long time to cook.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: The zester that I don't own. He he he. Okay, seriously, the pressure canner was The Coolest. Thing. Ever. So easy and it did not explode. We followed the directions to a T and it was SO neat hearing the lids ping as they sealed. Very cool. But I do need a zester very badly after this if I'm going to attempt marmalade again. Doing it the way I did it with the paring knife not only was irritating, but time-consuming and a little dangerous for the little fingers.
Tastiness factor: I had only heated eight jars and had so much left over, I was able to fill one of my plastic Ball refrigerator jars completely and that's what I'm working on eating right now. Same as the jam above...it's very liquidy but seems to gel even more once it's in the fridge. I haven't opened any of the sealed jars yet. I did give a jar to my friend J at her son's first birthday party last weekend and she really liked it a lot and said it was yummy. It is very tasty...it is very much like orange marmalade but not as orangey citrusy...you can distinctly taste the pears and the pineapple. It is very delicious. (Dad, you're going to love that one too.)

Now, my jamming adventures are at a halt for a bit. I have so much jam in the cupboard and while I'm working on giving it to friends and family, I really just can't make any more until I use up more of what I have.

I (heart) jam.

Next up, pickles.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Rice to Riches

If you have not heard about this place, PLEASE check it out...it's a company called Rice to Riches located in NYC. I was utterly amazed when P told me about this place that he heard about from a girl at work who used to live in New York City.

Question from me: "And all there is in this little container is rice? And milk? No alcohol or anything?"

I have the old plastic container that the girl was going to get rid of (she gave it to us) and when P told me that she spent like $50 on this container (that included shipping), I just was flabbergasted to say the least.

However, it DID put me in the mood for old-fashioned rice pudding. First time I've made it. Pretty easy recipe too...it was one of four that I found in my cookbook collection.

Old-Fashioned Rice Pudding

2 1/2 c milk
1/2 c long-cooking rice, uncooked
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 t cinnamon or nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in the top of a double boiler. Cover and cook over boiling water, stirring frequently, until rice is tender and milk is almost absorbed, for about one hour.

What I liked about this recipe: Um, that it didn't cost me $50? For the cost of about a buck, I get really really yummy rice pudding...just not the cool container.
What I disliked about this recipe: Not exactly the kind of recipe that you just let go. It's more of a thing to make while you are cleaning up the kitchen after a huge dinner, which is exactly what I did while I was making it.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: I love my double boiler.
Tastiness factor: Not as sweet as I would have liked, but it is good this way because everyone that is eating it can sweeten it to their specs. When I served this, I put out bowls of raisins, sugar, brown sugar (suggestion from my sister) and cinnamon sugar, and it was a huge hit.