Sunday, July 25, 2010

July Recipe of the Month

This was supposed to be a beef tenderloin with chimichurri sauce, but I used pork instead. It was really good. I grilled it on the outside like I was supposed to, but finished it in the oven. I changed a lot of the sauce, like I cooked it. The sauce is traditionally uncooked and served cold, but I don't like garlic, onion, or parsley raw, so I heated it up and I think it tasted awesome. The vinegar in the sauce gave the pork a really good flavor.
The sauce wasn't as vibrantly green, as you can see, but I think it was delicious, and that's all that really matters. I served it with mashed potatoes the first night and with a barley salad the next night. Unfortunately I put parsley in the salad, which ruined the flavor for me...I won't do that again! There was a bit of prep involved in getting the sauce ready, but the recipe itself was not that hard to do at all. I'd definitely make it again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The $5 Chicken Post

The local grocery store was having a special on their rotisserie chickens--$5 each! So I bought one with the thought of eating it all week and seeing how many meals and servings I could make from it. The first meal was just the chicken as it was, with sides that I actually can't remember right now. Clearly it wasn't very amazing. So that was one serving. The next night I made a pasta dish with Canadian bacon, chicken, shallots, tomatoes, and sour cream for a sauce. I used fresh linguine and it was quite tasty. So, that's two servings. Next up was a quesadilla. I sauteed mushrooms, tomatoes, shallots, and chicken and added it with cheese, between two whole-grain tortillas. It was so filling it made two meals, so now we're up to four. Then I made a Shepherd's Pie with stuffing instead of mashed potatoes. That was supposed to make four servings, and I had enough chicken for nachos or something, for two more servings, which would have made ten servings from one chicken! But, I only made it through two servings of the pie before my body rejected the idea of eating any more chicken and I tossed the rest. It was a waste, yet, but I wouldn't have eaten it later if I'd frozen it. I just needed that chicken gone. So, one $5 chicken made at least three recipes, and would have made ten servings, had I eaten it all. Quite a good value, I'd say. I recommend eating this way, when possible, it helps save money. I would do it if I had more people eating it, though, cuz you will get sick of it by the end.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

June Recipe-Club Recipe

This month's recipe was Buttermilk Grilled Chicken. I used the recipe as a base, but changed up a lot of it. I caramelized the shallots and left out the sugar, instead of just chopping the shallots and adding sugar to the buttermilk. I added a pinch of cayenne, and I added the buttermilk to the pan to really infuse it with the shallot flavor. This caused the buttermilk to sort of break, but I figured it didn't matter since it would just be a marinade.

I used two chicken breasts, one with skin and bones, one skinless and boneless, to see which worked best. I marinated them all day in the fridge, then put them onto a hot grill pan on the stove. I only put it them on long enough to get the grill marks on both sides before putting them in a pan and into my table-top oven to finish cooking. I had heard feedback from others about them getting too blackened on the outside before finishing, and didn't want that to happen.
This was the end result. The one on the top is the one with skin, the bottom, skinless. I found that the skin didn't really stay that crispy and I ended up taking it off, so I would say go for skinless in the future. By doing it in the oven this way, it saves all the moisture you can see on the bottom of the pan. I poured this over the chicken and it was so moist and flavorful. This was a really easy and delicious recipe. I have buttermilk and a shallot left over and I might try doing a fried chicken version of this. Since so many recipes call for buttermilk anyway. Hopefully it'll work out all right.

June Round-up

I tried a few things this month that worked and didn't work. This one was a fail, but it was an inspiration for a win, so that balances it out. I tried a tuna noodle casserole from a low-sodium, heart-healthy cookbook and it was gross. Don't do it, it's just not good. But, the sauce I made for it I thought would work, if tweaked, for chicken divan. Chicken divan is one of my favorite recipes but it relies heavily on mayonnaise and canned cream of chicken soup, which is a dairy no-no for me. It's really hard to find recipes that replicate that creaminess but don't have cream in them. This one was for a thickened milk sauce. I tried it with rice milk for the tuna casserole and found it a bit too sweet, so I tried dairy milk, acidophilus kind, for the chicken casserole.
This was the result. The sauce was delicious. Milk thickened with cornstarch as opposed to a traditional bechamel. I added cheddar cheese to the sauce, since cheese is an important element to chicken divan, as well as a bit of curry powder and lemon juice, other essentials to a good sauce. I was very pleased with the results. I'd been nervous that the lemon juice might make the milk sauce curdle, but I added it at the very end and it did just fine.
I used fresh broccoli instead of frozen, which I am not a fan of. Frozen broccoli has very little flavor or texture, it's basically pointless, in my humble opinion. However, I should have steamed the broccoli instead of assuming it would cook enough in the oven. It didn't. But the flavor of the entire dish was what I wanted, and it was dairy friendly and at least slightly healthier since there's no mayonnaise in it. I used reduced fat cheese also since it doesn't matter too much when melted into a sauce like this. And I used one chicken breast for the entire dish. I will definitely do this one again.

I have a table-top oven that we got last year to try out in hot weather. Boy is it ever a life-saver! It doesn't heat up the apartment and I can bake and roast things year round now. This will be getting a lot of use. It already has.
My sister and I went to the Edmonds farmers market last Saturday where I found these little treasures. They just look like potatoes in this shot, but they're actually the size of marbles. They are adorable and delicious! I steamed them, then fried them up in a bit of butter so they got a bit crispy on the outside, but were mealy in the middle. I wish I could go to farmers markets all the time, but I doubt I could afford it. So, I'll have to satisfy myself by going once in a while.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

May Cooking Club Recipe

The cooking club recipe for the month was from the Food Network, and it was Ina Garten's "Scalloped Tomatoes". I was a bit nervous, because I don't normally eat cooked tomatoes except in tomato sauce. I wasn't sure I'd like it or not. I ended up altering a lot of the recipe, but it still turned out really really wonderfully. I was surprised at how much I loved it. The original calls for you to chop up the tomatoes and sort of fry them in oil for a bit, but I decided to grill them since the rest of the dinner I was making would be grilled as well. This added a lot of flavor and depth to them, and I really recommend it this way. I chopped them up after they'd cooked on the grill and had softened up a bit. I added the bread to the grill too but it didn't toast up as well as I'd hoped. I chopped it up and added some of it to the tomatoes and left some for the topping.
The recipe called for rosemary as seasoning and as I'm not a huge rosemary fan, I used oregano instead. Everything went into the pan and I topped it with the rest of the breadcrumbs and some rice cheese Parmesan before baking it off and cooking the rest of my dinner.
I served it on top of grilled polenta rounds, and it had a flavoring similar to spaghetti sauce, but with a different, more solid texture. It was really good. I would make this one again for sure.

May Wrap-Up

So, May has turned out to be one heck of a stressful month, but I did manage to cook/bake quite a bit. I expect it'll start slowing down a bit as the temperature heats up with summer time just around the corner. I made a Pasta Fritatta, and it turned out pretty good. It's an egg dish, sort of like a quiche, but no crust. You can make it pretty much any way you like, but this had cheese, ham, and cooked whole grain spaghetti in it. I was able to freeze the leftovers so it'll last a while.
This is my version of meatloaf. I make it with ground chicken instead of beef. And I use a lot of veggies. In fact it's probably a 2:1:1 proportion of veggies to starchy filler to meat. I used whole oats and whole flax seed as the filler/binder, and for veggies I added: chopped mushrooms, shredded zucchini, onion, and green bell pepper. I used yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and Heinz 57 sauce as the flavorings, and also Egg Beaters instead of an egg. It turned out really flavorful and delicious, and the leftovers also freeze and thaw well. It was a great way to actually eat healthy food while eating something as traditionally unhealthy as meatloaf.
This was a pretty simple roast made with Yukon gold potatoes and chicken legs and mostly oregano for flavoring. I threw in the green beans for the last part of roasting so it was all done in one pan. Easy and delicious.

Other things made but don't have pictures of include molasses cookies made with safflower oil instead of shortening, and peanut butter cookies with flax meal used for some of the flour. The molasses cookies I need to continue experimenting with to get the oil to flour proportions right. Baking really is a science, so you have to get it just right. I've been experimenting with new oils and flax this month because I'm trying to get my health under control, and that's a big part of it. It's hit or miss at this point, but you have to do that to see what works and what doesn't. I'm enjoying it so far...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fun with Baking

We had extra plain yogurt on-hand and I felt like baking. These turned out to be really easy, cute, and pretty tasty. It was a simple job of twisting the ends into a big "S", but it looks really fancy.
And chocolate stout cupcakes. My Disney messageboard started up a recipe of the month club. The first recipe was these cupcakes. The first time I tried them, I forgot the sugar. Two cups of sugar is a pretty major thing to forget! The second time I tried, I remembered it. I did however mix up the amount for the baking soda and the salt. Fortunately I was able to dig out the extra baking soda and I hadn't added the salt yet. I'm not much of a baker I think...
I don't do icing, and I wanted to do powdered sugar on the top, but it can be boring. I loved the idea of doing a stencil, which one of the people on my messageboard suggested. Since it was a Disney board, I had to go with Mickey. I actually printed one off the internet but it was too big, so I just cut one out of a post-it note. It fit perfectly, though it might not be perfectly shaped.
I shared some with my parents and grandparents and they all raved about them. I thought they were pretty good. I tried one the next day(today) and I thought they were even better. It's definitely better thoroughly cooled off. I'd say they were pretty easy to make, though I wish I'd only had to do it once instead of twice!!

Crockpot Meals

Mile high tortilla casserole. It started out a mile high, but it cooked down quite a bit. I used foil to lift it out, but it was really hot.
As you can see, it sort of collapsed on me. It tasted ok. Definitely not worth the time and effort it took to make it, but fun at least, to make it.
And my semi-annual spaghetti sauce. I used ground chicken this time. Chopped mushrooms, black olives, onions, garlic, and a zucchini as well as a can of chopped tomatoes. Red wine, two jars of spaghetti sauce, pepper, and Italian seasoning. It's just that simple. And rather tasty too. It ended up making about 19-20 servings for me, which I put in containers in my freezer. I really do end up doing this about twice a year. That's how long it lasts me. Definitely cost effective.

The Fried Post

Every once in a while, I like to fry stuff. But frying stuff takes a lot of work. So I don't do it that often. This time it was fried chicken and onion rings. Here's a tip: when you're about to try food, double check that you actually have enough oil. I didn't and had to get creative. I ended up using the majority of the oil for the onion rings, and pan frying the chicken just to get it brown, then finishing it in the oven. It turned out really good. It was supposed to be a KFC knock-off, but it didn't taste like it. It was good though. MSG free. Chemical free. And that is always delicious.
Hidden Mickey onion rings. They were beer-battered. Pretty tasty actually. Kinda messy though.
The end result of the chicken. Nice and brown, very crispy. Double battered, that's the key to good fried chicken. I feel I still have a long way to go, but I'm getting there.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Banana Muffins

I had three bananas in the freezer to use and that's just the right amount for banana bread. I also had walnuts and mini chocolate chips sitting around waiting to be used for something. I used a recipe my sister had for banana muffins and toasted walnuts to add to the batter. I mixed in mini chocolate chips and boy did they turn out really good. They were pretty easy to make too, which is always a good thing.

Pizza Pasta

My mis-en-place. Fancy French term for "everything in its place".
Just before adding the sauce.

This was a fun meal. I used up my last two Italian sausages, added black olives, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, garlic, and tomatoes to the pot. All the best pizza toppings. A little red wine, a jar of spaghetti sauce, and some Italian seasoning added to the mix, and it made one tasty spaghetti sauce. I had some organic multi-colored corkscrew pasta that I cooked up. Before adding sauce to the cooked pasta, I topped it with shredded mozzarella cheese, then added sauce, and more cheese on top. The cheese melted and got all stringy just like with pizza. I really enjoyed this one.

Infamous Apple Enchiladas

We had a potluck at work for National Tortilla Chip Day. I wanted to do something that fit in with that idea, but was unique at the same time. I wanted to do something with apple pie and then turn it into Mexican food. The easiest way? Enchiladas. There are recipes out there for dessert enchiladas, but most of them call for that nasty canned fruit stuff for pies. Blech. So I got my dad's apple pie recipe and just used the filling part to develop my own recipe. I cooked the apples the day before assembling the enchiladas. I did it in a pan on the stove with water, spices, and some lemon juice. I cooked them till they were about half done, then drained and cooled them. I saved the juice and added caramel sauce to it. I used that to dip the tortillas in and then with the apples and more caramel sauce, I made them into enchiladas. When I finished baking them a lot of liquid was sitting in the pans so I took out the liquid. Since they'd be refrigerated overnight I didn't want them to get soggy. But I saved that liquid and added more caramel sauce and used it as the sauce to serve it with. It needed something so I got some whipped cream and Cool Whip to serve it with. They all got eaten so they must have turned out ok.

The Pork Post

It seems as though I made a lot of stuff with pork over the last month, so I thought I'd write about it all in this post. Since I no longer eat beef, I eat a lot of pork, because depending on the cut, it acts and cooks in much the same way as beef. This dish was a crock pot meal. Black bean soup with sausage. It was really tasty, just spicy enough but not too spicy. I've never cooked dried beans in the crock pot before but it turned out really well. This was a great hearty meal for a cold winter night. Definitely would make it again.

Pork stew. I've spent a lot of time developing this. I used red potatoes this time but any variety will work. I use chicken broth instead of any mixes. I put the pork in a mixture of flour, salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder and then fried it up for a while to get it nice and browned before adding the veggies and liquid. Because of the flour I didn't have to thicken the stew. I seasoned it with more of the spices from the flour mixture and added some thyme. It was really delicious.
Another crock pot meal. This time it was pulled pork for tacos. Really easy, pork, salsa, pepper, and green chilies. I used this for tacos and nachos. This was really easy to make and really tasty. It makes a lot, so it's good for a crowd.
The nachos I made with the pulled pork. Very delish.

February Baked Goods

So I am finally getting caught up with the baking/cooking I've done in February and so far into March. First up, English Muffin French Toast. Not a recipe I was following, but one I just made up. I thought it might be interesting, two nationalities in one dish, even if it's just in the name, but it turned out ok only. The English Muffins don't absorb liquid on both sides really, and the texture is just off. With French Toast, you want the bread to almost turn into a liquid and then re-solidify when you cook it slowly, like a bread pudding, but with English muffins, the texture is just too dense to really do that. It's too chewy. That would probably be why you don't see this done in restaurants. But it was a fun experiment.
Smore's Brownies. Looked awesome. Concept great. Outcome? Not so much. The marshmallows didn't bake into the brownies at all so whenever you tried to take a bite, the brownie crumbled and the marshmallow ended up as one big gloppy mess. I might be willing to try it again sometime and actually mix the marshmallows into the batter instead of just setting them on top. The chocolate chips and walnuts could all be mixed into the batter for that matter.
I like Rice Krispy Treats. I like chocolate. I thought, why not combine the two? So I melted a bunch of chocolate in with the butter and marshmallows. It took forever for it to melt together, which I'm sure has something scientific behind it dealing with fat content and gelatin and whatnot, and then I added the rice krispies. They mixed pretty easily, but when I poured them into the pan and tasted them later on, they were really hard. And kept getting harder and harder. I reheated some in the microwave the next day and it softened a bit, but super hot rice krispy treats aren't that tasty. Again, it was a good experiment, and I see now why if I want chocolate rice krispy treats, to just use chocolate rice krispies instead.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Breakfast Casserole

Today was crockpot day. I had some leftover veggies, cheese, sausage, and bread to use up, and bought some new veggies to add to it. I cooked off the sausage and then sauteed most of the veggies in the same pan afterwards.
I did everything you'd normally do for a breakfast casserole but I put it in the crockpot instead of a pan. I cooked it on low for about 3 hours and then turned it onto high for another half hour to make sure it was all cooked through. It gathered some liquid at the top so I skimmed it off.
It was really tasty and the good thing is, the leftovers freeze and thaw out again really well.

Yummy Enchiladas

We had some cooked chicken left over from a rotisserie chicken from the store, so I found this recipe for enchiladas. The only other enchiladas I've made had a red sauce, and this one was a cream sauce. I thought the filling was rather pretty, with the green and red together. Sort of festive.
The sauce has chicken broth, sour cream, cumin, chili powder and a roux to thicken it all. And it's a very messy recipe, and definitely a group project. One to portion the filling, one to dip the tortillas and ideally one to spread the filling and roll the tortilla. We were only two people so we made due. And got very messy in the process!
The recipe said to put the cheese on the top at the start and bake for 25 minutes, but I saved it for the last 10 minutes and I think it was better because it didn't get too dried out and crispy. These turned out to be not spicy but really flavorful and so delicious! We made Mexican rice to accompany it, and even though it turned out to be a really late dinner, it was well worth the wait!

Sad Sad Cookies...

I borrowed my mom's copy of the "Cooky Book", this old Betty Crocker spiral-bound book from the 70'. I've looked at it over the years and always wondered what some of the cookies would taste like. A lot of them are pretty unique in today's tastes, so they always seemed foreign and crazy to me. My sister and I settled on "Chocolate logs" which sounded easy enough to make. She doesn't like nuts so we substituted mini chocolate chips instead. I also refused to use the full two teaspoons of my super expensive organic vanilla on them as well and only put in one. I can't imagine that being down one teaspoon of liquid would have made them as dry as they ended up being. The batter, if you can even call it that, was dry like a shortbread, but even more so. I feel like it needed a quarter or third cup of water or something added to the batter to fix it, but I didn't want to stray from the recipe too much, just see what happened as is.
What happened was this...A big rock hard clumpy mess. Actually they weren't rock hard at first and we managed to eat a few of them. They were good and chocolatey. But alas, by morning they had hardened and had to be tossed. I definitely won't be making this recipe again! It was fun to try it though...