Why another cooking blog?

I decided to create this blog as a way for family and friends to see what I'm cooking and to share interesting food related tidbits I come across.
I'm frequently asked for recipes so I thought this would be a good place to start collecting the old, new, and funky recipes that I have.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

To grill or not to grill!

A friend of mine recently was asking me about marinating with beer. She had a kitchen fail and was looking for a solution. Here is what I typed to her in response:

You know you can grill on your stove top right? Do you have a griddle?



Simple grilled chicken –

When I grill chicken I always marinate or brine ((http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKr1rByVVCI) <- watch this at home it’s less than 5 min and really helped me understand brining) my chicken.

Marinades tenderize and flavor. Brining helps keep the meat moist, and can also add flavor. Chicken does not need to marinate as long as beef generally speaking. Brining is easy and makes a big difference in your food. All you need a little time and a good container. Brining recipes can use a lot of spices or no spices. If I’m looking for simple I just do salt, water, sugar, pepper (in the proper ratios).

So when using beer - first and foremost you want to make sure you pick a beer that tastes good. If you don’t like the beer, you most certainly do not want to soak your dinner in it.

Rinse your chicken and pat dry, trim any extra fat off. If your chicken is really thick (I’m assuming chicken breast here) then you need to pound them slightly to help flatten them out (helps with even cooking). I use two pieces of plastic wrap on either side of the chicken and then smack it with something heavy.  Season your chicken with some salt and pepper. Just a light dusting on either side. What salt do you use? Table? The correct answer here is kosher ;) Kosher is bigger granules, easier to use and you don’t need as much.

For marinating – get a gallon Ziploc or a large container with a lid. Assemble your marinade ingredients. In this case your beer, oil (NOT olive oil), garlic*, herbs*, salt, pepper. *optional

Pour the beer, oil (couple tablespoons), salt, pepper, and aromatics in the container/bag. Close the container/bag and mix contents (carefully!), then add chicken to the marinade. Close container/bag and move it around to make sure the chicken is completely submerged. If you are using a bad, you can massage the chicken a bit.

Do not use olive oil, as it has a very low smoke point. Smoke point is the temperature at which the oil basically catches on fire. You want an oil that has a high smoke point since you are putting this on a grill = high heat. Vegetable or canola oil is good, better is peanut oil. Peanut oil has a higher smoke point than vegetable or canola. I use all three, generally whatever I have on hand.

Put your chicken in your fridge until about 10-15 minutes before you are going to grill. Meat needs time to rest before and after grilling.

If you choose to add herbs, garlic, spices, etc. you will need to mince/chop them up. They don’t have to be perfect but chopping up herbs/garlic basically activates the flavors of said herbs/garlic.

What I do when making a marinade off the top of my head is smell everything and think about the herb/spice I am adding. Do I like said herb/spice?

Smell the beer, then smell the herb/spice. Do they seem like they will pair well? You will eventually get to a point where you will know what goes well together. I also recommend that you do not go putting a lot of any one thing in the marinade, go conservative at first….. especially with the salt. You can always add more later, you can’t take away.

When you are ready to grill, get your chicken out of the fridge, put the chicken on a platter and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes. We want to get the chill out. Discard the marinade. Do. Not. Baste the chicken with the marinade. I fight Jeff AND my Dad over this every single freaking time they grill. You are putting raw chicken germs back on the cooking chicken. Cross contamination! Yuck.

IF you want to use the marinade to baste then you need to put it in a pot on the stove, bring to a boil and reduce the marinade down a bit.

Once the grill is ready, throw your chicken on there and away you go!

Here is a pretty good blog post about marinades.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sweet 'N Sour Chicken and Rice

I recently rediscovered my Mom's Fix-It and Forget-It Lightly cookbook
I love using a crockpot, it's so handy; throw the food in turn, it on and in 6-8 hours you have a meal! Not to mention it keeps me from having to turn on the stove or oven which is a definite bonus in the summer.

Sweet 'N Sour Chicken and Rice
Fix-It and Forget-It Lightly
serves 6


Ingredients
1 lb baby carrots
1 medium onion, cut into wedges
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
20 oz can unsweetened pineapple chunks
1/3 C brown sugar
1 T low sodium soy sauce
2t chicken bouillon
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 t garlic powder
3 T cornstarch
1/4 C water
3 C cooked long grain rice
 
Instructions
In a 5 quart crockpot layer carrots and onion in slow cooker. Top with chicken.
Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Place pineapple chunks over chicken.
Mix together pineapple juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, chicken bouillon, salt, ginger, and garlic. Pour over top.
Cook on low 6-7 hours.
Combine cornstarch and water. Gradually stir into slow cooker. Cook for 30 minutes longer or until sauce is thickened.
 
My notes:
This was everyone approved. I didn't use 6 chicken breasts as the ones I had on hand were huge. I also used fresh pineapple instead of canned. I used 14oz diced pineapple and then 4oz of orange juice. I also added crushed red pepper flakes.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Black Beans and Yellow Rice


Black Beans and Yellow Rice
From: myrecipes.com
Ingredients
4 ounces dried black beans
Cooking spray
4 ounces Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced
6 cups water, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cups chopped fresh tomato
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions
  1. Sort and wash beans; place in a bowl. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; let stand 8 hours. Drain.
  2. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chorizo; sauté for 3 minutes. Add beans and 4 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 2 1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and cumin.
  3. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1 1/2 cups onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, and garlic; cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and onion mixture into bean mixture.
  4. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, rice, and turmeric. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid evaporates and rice is tender. Spoon 3/4 cup rice into each of 4 bowls, and top each serving with about 2/3 cup bean mixture, 3/4 cup tomato, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cilantro.
My Notes
This was a success, I doubled the recipe so we would have leftovers! I added cumin (about 1 tsp) to the recipe mainly because I like cumin and I thought the recipe needed it. I also used brown rice instead of white. It is important to note that over cooking the pepper and onion will make your meal very mushy, they provide the crunch. I think adding carrots to this would be very good as well.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Quick Fix Paella

This is a definite keeper! Not all of the recipes out of this cook-book were home runs but this one sure was!

Quick Fix Paella
From: Make Ahead Meals Made Healthy
Serves 8

4C reduced sodium chicken broth
pinch saffron threads
3T olive oil, divided
8oz hot italian turkey sausage, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise
8 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
1 onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded, quartered and sliced
1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded, quartered and sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1T smoked sweet paprika
2C paella or arborio rice
1 can (14.5 oz) fire roasted tomatoes
2C fresh peas
1/4C fresh chopped parsley
8 oz frozen medium sized shrimp
S&P

Place chicken broth in a saucepan over medium heat. Rub saffron with your fingers, crushing it, as you sprinkle it into the broth.  Stir and bring to a low simmer, reducing heat to low to keep it warm.

Heat 2T olive oil in a paella pan or large wide skillet over medium heat.  Add turkey sausage and cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes.. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until chicken is lightly browned.  Season with salt and pepper, stir a few more times, and then removed with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add remaining olive oil to the pan and cook onions and bell peppers, stirring occasionally, until softened.  Add garlic and spring with paprika.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Add rice, stirring to coat with oil and to lightly toast.

Add chicken broth, stirring to combine, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Raise heat to medium and return chicken and sausage to the pay, stirring to combine.  Add tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  Add more brother or water if necessary and simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in peas and parsley and simmer for 5 minutes or until rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed and there is a light (not burned) crust on the bottoms of the mixture.  Remove from heat and let cool completely.  Since shrim overcooks so quickly, it's best to add to the paella a few minutes before serving.

Jeff ate the doo out of this


My Notes
Holy frijoles this was really good, there are only 2 things I changed (frozen peas and no shrimp) and almost nothing I would change about it. It would be nice if the rice was a tad less sticky but that is really splitting hairs.

Spring Risotto

I found this recipe on myrecipes.com, I happen to love asparagus even though the rest of my family is slight less fond of it they gobbled this risotto down.

Spring Risotto
myrecipes.com
Serves 4

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 3/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ounce shaved Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
 
Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add asparagus, and cook for 2 minutes. Drain. Bring 2 cups water and chicken broth to a simmer in a saucepan.
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil, and swirl to coat. Add onion; cook 4 minutes. Add garlic, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in rice, edamame, and salt; cook for 1 minute. Stir in 1 cup broth mixture; cook for 4 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed before adding more (about 20 minutes total).
Stir in asparagus, cream cheese, and pepper; cook 1 minute. Spoon 1 cup risotto into each of 4 bowls. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese; sprinkle evenly with thyme.

My notes:
I happened to have a bag of frozen mushrooms, green beans, and edamame in my freezer so I threw that in along with the asparagus just to add some more green veggie goodness.
I also used 1 1/2C arborio rice and close to 6C of chicken broth because I was feeding 5 people and wanted leftovers.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Banana Nutella Bread

I discovered this recipe and have made it several times over the last few months. It is definitely a winner! Since I have a few speckled bananas on my counter I think it's time to make a loaf or two.

Banana Nutella Bread
From - Lemons & Anchovies



Ingredients
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan
¼ cup slivered almonds (you can add up to ½ cup for added texture)
10 tablespoons sugar
½ cup + ⅛ cup Nutella (heated for about 30 seconds in the microwave to make it more spreadable)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 very ripe, soft, darkly-speckled bananas, mashed (about 1½ cups)
¼ cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instruction

Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease 4 mini loaf pans or a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.
Mix the mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter and vanilla with a wooden spoon in another bowl. Lightly fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined and the batter looks thick and chunky. Stir in the almonds.
Measure out the Nutella in a small bowl and heat in the microwave for 30-35 seconds, just until it’s softened and stir together until it’s the texture of frosting. Stir the Nutella into the batter being careful not to completely incorporate the two together. You want a swirled pattern here.
Transfer batter into the greased and dusted loaf pan(s).
Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. It will take 25-30 minutes if you use mini loaf pans like I did or 50-55 minutes for a regular one. Cool in the pan for five minutes then transfer to a wire rack. This is great at room temperature or even straight out of the refrigerator.

My notes:
I didn't really change anything except for the yogurt. I only had fat free greek yogurt and it worked out just fine.
I think if you wanted to you could substitute 1C whole wheat flour for unbleached white to add a little more texture and fiber.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Green smoothies

I've recently fallen into the green smoothie craze.  I bought a book on sale for something like $1.99 on Amazon called Smoothie Power!. I've been trying recipes out of this book, and I've really enjoyed it! Now I'm not saying I buy all the author's claims about what drinking green smoothies will do for you but I do firmly believe that no one (yes no one!) gets enough greens in their diet. At least now I'm getting roughly 2-3C a day when I drink a smoothie. I have noticed that I don't eat as much at the meal following a smoothie and I have lost a little weight as well. So there's that little benefit. My current favorite smoothie to make is this one, Blue Bliss.

Blue Bliss
from Smoothie Power!

1C frozen blueberries
2 pears
2C spinach, firmly packed
2 1/2C water

Blend until smooth.


My notes:
This makes roughly 1 quart of smoothie. I generally drink it around midday or so. If it isn't sweet enough you could replace some of the water with orange juice or just add a tablespoon or so (to taste) of your favorite sweetner - agave syrup anyone? Also, you don't have to have frozen blueberries, I use fresh and just pour the smoothie over ice.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Holy frijoles!

I love beans, they are so easy to make and it's almost impossible to screw them up. My favorite bean cooking method is the crockpot.

My crockpot beans
1lb package pinto beans
1 large onion
1 ham hock
water
S&P to taste

Rinse and pick over the beans, put them in the crockpot. Dice your onion and throw it in the crockpot; add the ham hock. Add enough water that the beans are fully submerged and then turn your crockpot on high.
I usually add a can of rotel tomatoes, fresh garlic, and/or a fresh jalapeno (diced) if I want a little spice. Keep an eye on your beans, they soak up the water quickly, you'll need to add more water periodically. Taste test your beans for doneness after about 3.5 hours and call them done when they are soft (not toothsome).

My notes:
I used my largest crockpot, which I think is a 5qt but I'm not entirely sure. It will take a 2lb bag of beans.
These beans freeze beautifully, and are very versatile.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

National Pancake Day

February 5th is National Pancake Day! I do love pancakes, I especially love them when someone else is making them for me!
You can head on over to IHOP and get a free short-stack today.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cheesy Potato Soup

I recently discovered the website shrinkingkitchen.com
I am fan! I've tried a few recipes and while not all of them were a hit we have enjoyed most of them. This one is might be my new favorite soup recipes.

Cheesy Potato Soup
adapted from Light Cheesy Potato Soup Ready in 40 minutes

Ingredients
2T butter
2C chopped onion
4 carrots, sliced
2-3 stalks celery, sliced
5T all purpose flour
6C chopped red potatoes
2 1/2C low fat milk
2 3/4C fat, free low sodium chicken broth
1C water
1C low fat shredded cheddar cheese
1/4t ground red pepper
S&P to taste
diced green onions for garnish


Chop your potatoes and onions before you start! Makes things go much faster. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; saute' 5 minutes or until tender. Sprinkle with flour; cook 1 minute, stirring onion mixture constantly. Add potato, milk, broth, and water to pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes (I simmered for 15). Add cheese and ground red pepper; cook 2 minutes or until cheese melts, stirring frequently. Top each serving evenly with chopped green onions if desired.
 
My notes:
We really enjoyed this soup, don't forget to add the cheese slowly and stir after each addition otherwise it might clump together.