Monday, November 29, 2010

Pork Stir Fry

1 pkg thin cut pork loin chops - trim away all fat and slice into tiny strips
1/2 Onion sliced into thin half moons
2 sm zucchini sliced into thin half moons
1 Red Pepper in bite sized strips
1 sm can water chestnuts, chopped

1 Cup rice - make whatever kind you like.

SAUCE:  The sauce here is key and you can use that Kikoman Baste & Glaze (or whatever) if you want - or you can make your own.  Whatever works for you.  I don't have measurements for this because I stand at the stove and toss it in and taste it, adjusting as I go - so if you make your own sauce, I suggest you do what works for you.  Any of these ingredients can be increased, decreased or omitted at your convenience.  All amounts are guesses based on experience.

3 TB Soy Sauce
3 TB honey (or brown sugar)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1/4 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

Heat skillet with some canola oil (a TB or so) until shimmering and HOT.  Put in the pork and stir fry - do NOT crowd the pan.  It's okay to do this in batches but if the pan cools off too much you won't get a crispy, caramelized glaze on the pork.  Cook until the moisture has released from the pork and then continue until it's tightened up into a nice, brown color on your pork.

As soon as the pork is browned and yummy looking, pull it out and set aside.  To the hot pan, add 1/2 TB more oil and then the onion.  Saute for 1 min then add the rest of the veggies.  If you like (but it's not critical) you can add additional garlic & ginger now as well).

Keep stirring the veggies until they are brightly colored and crisp/tender.  Add in the sauce and use it to scoop up any browned bits on the bottom.  Saute another 30 seconds then add back the meat (and any accumulated juices) and saute another minute or two - just to get everything melded together.
If you like your sauce a bit thicker, you can stir a tsp of cornstarch into a TB of cold water and add that to the pan.  It will thicken up nicely and very quickly. 

Serve over the rice.  I like to sprinkle on some toasted sesame seeds at the end - but not critical.  Bob likes chopped green onions too.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Curried Turkey Pot Pie

I honestly think I could eat Thanksgiving dinner, exactly as served, every day.  It's SO good.  My family, however, is done with leftovers.  But we had a big bird so here's how I used up the last of it.

This is Alton Brown's recipe - I've just tweaked as needed.

1 lg bag frozen mixed veggies (peas, carrots, corn, beans - I pick out all of the lima beans ahead of time because ... well ... eeew.)
1 sm sweet potato, peeled & chopped small
olive or canola oil - a couple of TB
3 TB butter
1 onion, chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped
1 1/2 C chicken broth (that's not quite the whole can - freeze the rest in small bowls or ice cube trays for those times you just need a little)
1/2 C milk
3 TB flour
1 tsp curry powder (I use a heaping teaspoon, but do it to your taste)
2 cups chopped leftover turkey
1 Pkg Puff Pastry (like the frozen Pepperidge Farms kind)

Thaw the veggies while you peel, chop the sweet potato.  Toss the mixed veggies with the sweet potato, drizzle with oil and roast them all together at 400 until starting to caramelize. About 30 min or so (pull them out and toss every 10 min or so).

In a large measuring cup, combine the milk & broth and microwave until hot through (you could do this in a saucepan, but why dirty another dish when you've already dirtied the measuring cup??). 

In a large saute pan, melt the butter and then sweat the onion & celery.  Add the flour & curry powder and then stir to combine (it'll be a very fragrant pasty kind of mess).  Continue to cook for about a minute so the floury taste gets cooked out of it. 

Pour in the hot broth/milk and whisk/stir until it's not lumpy and sauce gets thick & silky.  Stir in the chopped turkey and the veggies.   Pour the whole thing into a casserole dish and top with the thawed, rolled out pastry dough.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 min.  mmmm...

You can do this with a rotisserie chicken ANY time and it's fantastic. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cranberry Chutney

This is fantastic with turkey or pork.  It's also a wonderful hostess gift in a nice glass bowl/jar.

It is quite intensely flavored.  A small amount goes a long way & it's not for everyone.  A deep crimson color, fantastic smell in your house and cranberries makes it a natural for this time of year. 
1 bag fresh cranberries, rinsed & picked over
1 7 oz bag dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 1/2 C brown sugar, packed
2/3 C dried currants
1/4 minced fresh ginger (peel it and then put into food processor until finely minced)
1/4 C apple or cranberry juice (or water or wine or brandy... I'm easy)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne

Combine it all in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan and heat over medium until all of the sugar is melted and glossy (no visible grains when you stir).  Turn up the heat and bring to a rolling boil.  Allow it to boil hard for 3 full minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool in a glass bowl. 


Mommy isn't cooking this week!!

We're having leftovers, pizza & chinese food this week while we prep for Thanksgiving.

I will post my recipe for Cranberry Chutney again for anyone interested.  Here's the Thanksgiving menu:

Turkey: Brined & Roasted by my amazing husband, Bob
Stuffing: Sausage Stuffing from my mother in law
Stuffing: Vegetarian version of Giada's Chestnut stuffing with roasted chestnuts, Craisins, Apples, onions & celery.
Mashed Potatoes: Yukon Gold, butter, cream, salt pepper...
Gravy: giblets, turkey stock.
Squash Casserole
Cranberry Chutney
Bacon wrapped green beans
Sweet potato casserole

Cake & Pies provided by my friend (and pastry chef!) Annie West (cannot wait for this!)

Hope that you have a happy & blessed Thanksgiving.  I am grateful for many things in life, not the least of which, being having an outlet for my food passion here, with you. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chicken Piccata

This is really the most basic version of this technique where you pound the meat, dredge it in some flour and saute it.  As with many things in life, basic/simple means GOOD.

2-3 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 C flour (S&P to taste)

2 TB Olive Oil
2 TB butter (plus 1/2 TB to swirl in at the end)

1 tsp minced garlic (shallots are nice too if you have 'em)
2-3 lemons, juiced
1 Cup dry white wine (Pinot Grigio is my usual)
1/4 C capers (drained)
sliced mushrooms (optional)

Pound your chicken between two sheets of waxed paper until they're an even thickness (maybe 1/4 inch?)
In a shallow bowl or pie plate, mix the flour, salt & pepper (use more S&P than you'd think).  Lightly coat the chicken in the flour mixture.

Place a large skillet over med-high heat and melt together your butter & olive oil.   When it's shimmering, gently place the chicken, one piece at a time, into the hot oil.  Be careful not to crowd the pan.  It is FINE to work in batches.  Cook 4-5 minutes per side, turning once. 

Remove chicken to a plate padded with several paper towels and then drain off all but a tablespoon or so of the fat & drippings.  To this add the mushrooms (if using) give it about 30 seconds to cool off the pan a bit then add the garlic.  Saute for about 10 minutes (the mushrooms will release all their moisture and pick up the flavor of the bits of yummy chicken that were stuck to the pan).  Then add in the lemon juice and capers, heating through.  If you happen to be drinking a glass of white wine, now would be a great time to splash a good bit of that in there too.  Allow it to cook together for a couple of minutes to reduce a bit and get some of the acid/alcohol out.  Then take your chicken and put it back into the sauce for about 1 minute per side.  This will reheat the chicken and allow some of that flour coating to help thicken your sauce.  Remove the chicken and add another small knob of cold butter and swirl into the sauce.

Place the chicken over pasta or sauteed spinach, top with sauce and serve.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Taco Night!


I just LOVE taco night.  Everyone loves taco night.  I try to limit it to once a month because it's not the healthiest meal but it really makes everyone happy.

We do it Taco John's style... smear a warm flour tortilla with refried beans, stick a crispy corn taco shell in there, fill it with meat, cheese, sour cream and tomatoes.  Happy Taco Night!!

*** On a side note ***  Harry Potter in 3 days.  Cannot wait!  Then a houseful of folks on Sunday and then Thanksgiving.  My favorite day of the year. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Everyone loves breakfast for dinner.  This is just a way to sneak some veggies into it and it's totally freeform. 

Tonight we're doing a Denver-ish Frittata with Canadian Bacon, red bell pepper, onion and cheddar cheese.  I may sneak in some spinach.

Another favorite of mine is to do it with Asparagus, Canadian Bacon, Red Pepper and Laughing Cow cheese.  It has a totally decadent feel to it with those little baby swiss cheese chunks dotted through it.  Bob isn't a fan though...

Heat an oven proof, non-stick skillet over med-high heat and saute your pepper & onions.  Add the bacon and get it heated through. 

Beat 6-7 eggs with pepper and about a tablespoon of water.

Turn on your broiler on HIGH and make sure your top rack is about 5-6 inches (so your pan will fit and it'll be close enough to heat the eggs). 

Get the sauteed veggies evenly spaced towards the center of the pan and then pour over the eggs.  Allow it to set for about 10 seconds and then start lifting up the edges gently so the raw egg can flow under.  Keep doing this until it starts to become difficult to get the top to flow any more.

Put the pan in the oven and keep an eye on it.  It will puff and start to set.  This is when you pull it out and sprinkle about a handful or two of cheese over the top and pop it back in just long enough to get the cheese melted & bubbly.

Slide it out onto a cutting board, slice into wedges with a pizza cutter and serve with fruit salad and toast.

Good news - if you mess up and it doesn't come out nice & smooth?  Just scramble it and call it a day.  :)


Monday, November 15, 2010

Soul Food... for a Yankee girl

Okay, I am the first to admit that I am the whitest girl in America.  I have zero "soul" -- no rhythm at all.  And I'm sure any Southern cook worth her grits would mock tonights dinner.  However, it's super easy, tasty, not awfully fattening and on the table in 30 minutes.  Can't beat that!

1.) Make the cornbread.  I use the old-fashioned box of Jiffy mix and I follow the directions.  Fantastic.

2.) In an oven proof, hot skillet, sear the outsides of the pork chops (I bought the thicker ones this time).  Then pop it in the oven alongside the cornbread until it registers done on a meat thermometer.

3.) Open up a can of Glory brand mixed greens and heat on the stove.

4.) Open up a can of Glory brand butter beans and heat on the stove.

15 minutes later you're serving dinner.  I'm not ordinarily a big fan of canned vegetables but I have tried to make my own greens and they are NOT as good as these Glory ones.  You can find them in the supermarket in the canned foods aisle. 


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Moroccan Chicken

Bobby Flay's Chicken & Chickpea Tagine with Apricots and Harissa Sauce.

I basically follow the recipe but with a few tweaks.

I use bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts.  Sear in the hot pan and follow the directions.
Don't drain the tomatoes -- you need the moisture.
I skip the parsley and just use cilantro.
You can't find creme fraiche at my grocery store so I use sour cream and Harissa from Williams-Sonoma and it's great.

When you pull it out of the oven (your house will smell fantastic!) - I pull out the chicken and get rid of the bones/skin and chop it into bite sized pieces and mix back into the sauce.  Serve over rice or cous cous.

I looked around online and found the ingredients for Ras Al Hanut - it makes a TON.  The first time I did it I reduced everything down to a small amount.  Now I do the whole thing and store it in an old spice jar.  Saves a ton of time if this meal becomes a staple at your house.  If you don't have the more esoteric ingredients (mace, cardamom) - I think that's fine.  It may not hurt to pick up a few but I think it can be SUPER expensive to build up your spice cabinet with things you won't use again.  If you live nearby, just call me - I have them all and could just give you some.  :)

ras al hanut
1 TB allspice
2 TB cumin
3 TB ground black pepper
2 TB ground cardamom
1 TB cayenne pepper
2 TB Cinnamon
1 TB ground cloves
3 TB ground coriander
1/2 TB ground ginger
1/2 TB ground mace
1/2 TB ground nutmeg
3 TB turmeric
1 TB thyme
2 bay leaves
It makes a lot and this is reduced from the recipe I found that called for 4 TB of things and you had to toast/grind it yourself.  You can find this online or in spice markets (if you live somewhere that they have that sort of thing.  Flower Mound, TX most definitely does not have a spice market.)

Here's Bobby's recipe.

I actually met Bobby when I was on vacation in the Bahamas a few years ago and I told him how much I loved this recipe.  Then I hugged him and insisted on a photo... Not sure he's MY biggest fan but I sure did enjoy meeting him!

The Menu: November 14, 2010

Sunday: Moroccan Chicken
This is my absolute favorite meal.  Savory, sweet, spicy, fresh and I've made it so many times that I don't have to look at the recipe anymore. 

Monday: Pork, Greens, Butter Beans & Cornbread
Possibly the easiest meal on the planet thanks to those Glory canned greens.  I'm sure a "legit" Southern cook would be appalled, but as a Minnesota girl - I think it's fantastic!

Tuesday: Frittata
Basically this is breakfast for dinner, but if you tack a fancy Italian name on it, it sounds cool and still tastes awesome.  We're doing it with red peppers, Canadian bacon, asparagus and baby Swiss cheese.

Wednesday: Taco Night
Honestly, who doesn't love taco night?

Thursday: Chicken Piccata
Pounded, breaded chicken sauteed with butter, garlic, capers & mushrooms then tossed with pasta & lemon juice.  Yum.  One more reason to make this week go by fast!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Smoked Brisket Nachos

So I'm going to be really upfront about this recipe.  It's a ripoff of my black bean & chicken nachos except our friend, Grant, smoked a brisket and we did nachos with the leftovers.  It's absolutely fantastic.  But you need to have a source for the meat.  Any smoked meat would work - but this is how we make it...

Tostitos - the round ones - plain
1 can black beans, rinsed/drained
1 can corn, drain/rinse
1 bunch cilantro, wash/chop (optional)
1 jalapeno, seeded/minced (optional)
shredded Mexican blend cheese
leftover smoked brisket, chopped

Spread the chips in a single layer in a wide, shallow plate/platter.  Sprinkle with a small amount of cheese.  Top with beans, corn, meat, cilantro and then a generous layer of cheese.  Repeat if desired.

Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or a bit longer if you're doing two layers.

Serve with sour cream & salsa. 

This meal, and the many variations we've come up with... always, always a hit.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ratatouille Pasta

Okay, I've tweaked this quite a bit from a few different ideas.  The big revelation for me came from Food & Wine where a guy made subs with ratatouille and a goat cheese spread.  It's a really terrific combination.   The ratatouille can be tweaked to your hearts content. 

I like to chop all of the veggies into bite sized pieces and then saute them individually.  That's for a couple of reasons: I can get started cooking one while I'm chopping the next and because it makes a ton, I think it's good to do it in smaller batches so that you can get each thing properly cooked (and room in the pan = caramelization and that means flavor). 

Prep (you can do this a day before or, if you're a fast chopper, while your water is heating for the pasta).

1 med eggplant, peeled & cut into bite sized pieces (NOTE: if you have time, I like to toss it in a colander and put a TB or so of kosher salt over it and allow it to set for 30 minutes or so.  This will pull a lot of the moisture out of the eggplant and seems to remove any of the bitter taste that eggplant can sometimes have.  Then just rinse it off and proceed.)

2 red peppers
1 zucchini
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
thyme - to taste but several sprigs or about a TB dried
olive oil

saute each item in olive oil & garlic.  Add thyme, salt & pepper and set aside. 
(you can do everything up to here a day or two ahead of time and just reheat the night you make the pasta)

Once it's all done, add it back into the pan and add a can of diced tomatoes (drained) and some more thyme.

Cook your pasta (I like Rigatoni - but whatever works for you) and when it's almost done, pull out about a cup of the cooking water and set it aside, then drain the pasta.

Into the hot pasta pot, pour the veggies, the pasta and one log of goat cheese, sliced into small chunks. Toss it all together and allow it to melt and get all silky.  If things seem a bit dry, add in about half of the pasta water and keep tossing.  The moisture will absorb and you'll just have a beautiful pasta.

Some additions that could be really good in this?  A can of black olives and maybe some sauteed mushrooms? 

Let me know if this recipe is confusing ... it's kind of convoluted to type out but really simple when you're tossing it all together.  This will feed an army and still have some left for lunch the next day.  I haven't tried it but I'm guessing it'll freeze well too.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Restaurant Night

It sounds much fancier than "leftovers" and goes to the idea that everyone chooses what they want to eat (or they do buffet style and have a little of several things). 

A quick scan of the fridge/freezer (and a comment from my husband about needing to lighten up his lunches a bit) made me realize that I could afford to take a night off from cooking.  (Good thing because we have a girl scout meeting at six!).

The choices for tonight include:
Chicken Chili
Chicken Noodle Soup
Pork & Stuffing
Cheese Soup

I really have been cooking my "Autumn Favorites"!  


Monday, November 8, 2010

White Chicken Chili

Yay for the crockpot on a busy, chilly day!!  I found this recipe in a low-carb cookbook years ago and it's a stand-by in our house.

1 lb Dry White Northern Beans (soaked overnight)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 TB oregano
1 TB cumin
1/2 tsp ground cloves (go ahead - it seems weird but really subtle and good)
1 BIG can chicken broth (5 cups)

Put all of the above together in crockpot and cook on low all day.

When you get home, add:

2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped
1 can diced green chilis
1 jalapeno, seeded & finely chopped

Serve with monterey jack cheese, sour cream and Frito scoops (they're so wrong, but SO right!)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Roast Pork, Stuffing & Cranberry Chutney

I will do a whole post about Cranberry Chutney when we get closer to Thanksgiving.  It's become my signature item on the big day, but it's equally as wonderful with roast pork, chicken or turkey.  I got this recipe from a friend many years ago and my only tweak has been to consistently double the recipe.  So here's my version, amd sometimes I even double this.  The ginger in it acts as a preservative so it keeps for weeks at the back of the fridge.  It's also a wonderful hostess gift this time of year, in a nice glass jar.

1 bag fresh cranberries, rinsed & picked over
1 7 oz bag dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 1/2 C brown sugar, packed
2/3 C dried currants
1/4 minced fresh ginger (peel it and then put into food processor until finely chopped)
1/4 C apple or cranberry juice (or water)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne

Combine it all in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan and heat over medium until all of the sugar is melted and glossy (no visible grains when you stir).  Turn up the heat and bring to a rolling boil.  Allow it to boil hard for 3 full minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool in a glass bowl. 

I was thinking of a more "roasty" roast, but all they has was a loin.  So I'm going to coat the outside with pepper, sage, salt and thyme and then sear it in a heavy cast iron pan on all sides.  Then into the oven at 375 for about an hour (I use a meat thermometer and follow the instructions on it).

This is how my grandmother made it, except she made her own breading.  I buy the Pepperidge Farm cubes.  Everything else is same:

1 stick butter
1 white onion, finely chopped
3-4 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 eggs - scrambled
Bread cubes
Salt & Pepper

Saute the onion & celery in the butter.  Pour the bread into a large bowl, pour over the butter & onions/celery.  Stir to coat everything in the butter.  Pour over the raw eggs and season with sage (1-2 tsp) and then ground pepper (put in pepper until you think "that's too much" then do a bit more) and a bit of salt.  If the cubes are still really dry you can add in some chicken broth but my husband HATES soggy bread so I usually err on the side of drier stuffing.

Put the stuffing into a casserole dish, cover tightly with foil and bake alongside the pork.  Yummers.

This weeks menu!

It is finally cool enough to cook like it's autumn.  Yay!

Sunday:  Pork Roast with stuffing and cranberry chutney
  A simple pork roast seared then roasted in the oven until it's tender.  Served with a simple sage/bread stuffing and cranberry chutney. 

Monday: White Chicken Chili 
  A little prep on Sunday night and then this simmers all day.  Perfect after a late season soccer game when topped with sour cream, cheese and Fritos!
Tuesday:  "Restaurant Night"
We call it "Restaurant Night" because that sounds so much fancier than "Leftovers" - and everyone gets to pick their favorite so it's like a restaurant.

Wednesday:  Ratatouille Pasta
I'll prep most of the Ratatouille ahead of time then let it rest.  On Wednesday, we just cook the pasta, toss in the cheese & veggies and it's a wonderful, quick weeknight meal.
Thursday: Brisket Nachos
We got some leftover smoked brisket from a friend.  It will hold in the freezer a few days and then we use it to top black bean & corn nachos with a smoky twist.  This is a definite fan favorite!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chicken Soup

My husband has a cold.  This is the male equivalent of a woman dealing with the flu, breast cancer and malaria.  At the same time.  Needless to say, he is laid low for the weekend by the sniffles.  In an attempt to revive him for his poker game tonight (and rescue my chick-flick night with our daughter) I am making him chicken soup. 

Seems like it could be handy this time of year so here's a bonus Saturday recipe for you:

1 whole chicken cut up (if you can get a "roasting chicken" it should have more flavor than a fryer and you could probably ask your butcher to cut it up... or go all caveman/Julia Child like I did today with the bonus of truly horrifying any nearby first graders by butchering the chicken yourself.)
I also added an extra package of chicken breasts because the meat will be so yummy and I like a LOT of chicken in my chicken soup...  OKAY - so:, start by making the broth:

Chicken parts - bones & skin intact
1 onion - skin & all  - just wedge it
3 carrots - cut in half (or just the tops/bottoms - saving the good parts for later)
bottom & tops of a bunch of celery (save the salks for the actual soup)
1 TB whole peppercorns
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coriander seeds (optional)
5-6 whole cloves (optional)
2-3 smashed garlic cloves

Put all ingredients into a large, heavy bottomed stock pot, fill with COLD water to just cover everything.  Cover and place over med-high heat.  As soon as it starts to boil, turn it back to simmer and simmer about 45 minutes. 

As it boils, there will be a frothy scum on the top - that's perfectly normal.  Just scoop it off and toss it away. 
after 35-45 min, pull out the "good" pieces of chicken (breasts, thighs) and set aside.  Allow the rest to come back up to a good simmer and cook another 45 min or so. 

When the "good" chicken is cooled, pull it from the bone and set aside (in fridge).

Once the broth has cooked and the chicken is falling apart, veggies are super soft/over-cooked, pull out as many large bits as you can and throw them away.

Strain the broth (cheese cloth works great but just passing it through a strainer would be okay too) into a bowl or other pot. Throw away the solids. 

Clean out the pot you started with.  In some butter, at the bottom of the pan, saute:
1 onion chopped fine
3-4 stalks celery, chopped fine
3-4 carrots chopped fine
once the veggies are translucent, pour in the chicken stock and add some additional veggies (all of these are optional):
1 chopped red pepper
1 handful green beans chopped
1 C frozen corn
1 zucchini chopped
1 poblano pepper
Sm bag of cheesecloth with: rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, tarragon or whatever is left in your garden.  Or - if you have whole/fresh herbs, tie them with some kitchen twine.

Simmer all together for 10 min, add back in the original chicken and simmer another 10 min.
Remove the boquet garni and serve over freshly cooked noodles.

Okay - here's a weird thing of min, and you can do what you want here.  You CAN add the noodles right into the soup and simmer until they're soft (about 10-15 min).  This is great, tastes fantastic and works beautifully that first day.  However, I find that the noodles don't hold up very well even until the next day, let alone if you freeze the soup.  So... I like to actually cook the pasta separately in very salty water and add them to the bowls and then pour the soup over the noodles.  But you're free to do whatever you want here.  It's really just my OCD tendencies that drive me to do this extra annoying step. 

Happy eating!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Mom's Cheddar Cheese Soup

This soup makes me happy.  It just does.  It's nothing like "Beer Cheese Soup", which I happen to find very thick, gloppy and kind of gross.  This is fairly light and full of yummy vegetables.  I like the flavor of chicken broth in the base, but you could use vegetable broth or (like my mom) use water.  It's super easy and very adaptable.  Also a GREAT way to use up the little bits of vegetables that you have left over at the end of the week!

3 C Boiling Water (you get to use that fancy kettle!)

1/4 Onion (finely chopped) (mom uses the dried onion in a bottle, but I prefer fresh )
1/4 C Butter
1/4 C flour
2 C milk
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
VEGGIES - chopped to bite sized, whatever floats your boat but here's what's going into my soup: asparagus, green beans, corn, red pepper, zucchini, red potato, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, celery and maybe a jalapeno (if it isn't squashy - it's leftover from last week)

Bring the stock (or water) to a boil and toss in all veggies except the onion.  cover and simmer for 10 minutes.  DO NOT DRAIN!

In a separate sauce pan, saute the onions in the butter until translucent.  Add the flour and cook for about a minute (just to get that raw floury flavor cooked out) then slowly add in the milk and stir until all the lumps are gone and it's a thick, velvety sauce.   Add the shredded cheddar cheese to this sauce and stir in until all lovely and melted (mouth is watering).  Pour the cheese sauce into the soup and mix to combine.  Let it come to hot, but NOT BOILING. 

Serve with a nice, hot loaf of crusty bread and a little pot of butter. 

And a big glass of wine.

About all of those veggies: I literally grab one or two of things.  Like, 1 potato (and it's small), I've got some leftover carrots & celery.  I held back a few stalks of asparagus from dinner earlier this week -- but if you do use a TON of veggies and it's too much veg to broth - just increase things proportionally.  I will often do this with 1/3 C each of the butter/flour and increase it to 3 cups of milk and add an extra handful of cheese.

This is a VERY forgiving recipe.  You can use whatever you have on hand and alter to suit.  I happen to have some left over thyme in my fridge so I'll add some of that - but whatever works for you and you happen to have handy, will probably taste excellent.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chicken Parmesan

Mmmm... it's like chicken nuggets for grown ups.  Everyone loves this stuff... and it's actually pretty easy, just a little prep work, a few extra dishes and some planning but it's SO worth it.

Heat oven to 375 & start the water for the pasta

1 Pkg boneless/skinless chicken breasts - trim & pound these so they're an even thickness
2 eggs - beaten
1/2 C flour (season with salt & pepper)
1/2 C breadcrumbs (seasoned or add some Italian seasoning - thyme, oregano, basil)
1/2 C grated parmesan cheese

1 jar pasta sauce
1 box spaghetti
mozzarella (fresh or shreds or slices - whatever you've got handy)

put out three shallow bowl:
A): flour, salt & pepper
B): 2 eggs beaten
C): breadcrumbs & cheese

dip your trimmed, pounded chicken into the flour so there's just the slightest coating over the whole piece.  Then into the egg, making sure it's fully coated, and then into the breadcrumb mixture.  This is very messy and I find that tongs are the best tool for me. 

Lay your coated chicken out on cookie sheet and repeat with the rest of the chicken. Bake for 15 minutes then flip the chicken.  The chicken should be cooked through - if so go ahead & top each piece with a spoonfull of spaghetti sauce, then top with fresh mozzarella cheese and pop back into the oven for 5-10 min (cheese should be bubbly).  If you find that the chicken isn't quite done at that 15 minutes, flip it, pop it back in the oven for 5-10 min before the sauce/cheese step.

While the chicken is baking, get the pasta in the water and heat up your spaghetti sauce.

Drain the pasta & toss with the remaining spaghetti sauce.  Serve the chicken next to the pasta, add a salad and maybe some garlic bread if you're "carbing up" and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pasta Fagioli - Crockpot version

I found this online somewhere a year or so ago and have tweaked only slightly...

Brown up a pound of ground beef (or turkey)
add a diced onion and cook until onion is translucent then put into crockpot with the following ingredients:

1 can Cannelini beans (rinse/drain)
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 C leftover spaghetti sauce (or small can of Ragu or tomato sauce with the Italian herbs)
3 carrots - chopped
3 ribs celery - chopped
1 box of beef broth
1 tsp EACH: oregano, thyme, parsley

cook on low for 8 hours. 

When you get home, add 1/2 box of pasta shells, crank the heat up to high for 30 minutes.  The pasta will have cooked and soaked up much of the broth.

Serve with a salad and a nice, hot loaf of Italian bread.

SO satisfying after a soccer game on a chilly night!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tandoori Chicken

I think I mentioned that I found this in Family Circle magazine a year or so ago.  They had you do it in chunks and skewer it, but that's a bit too much effort most evenings.  So I just do the whole chicken breasts and then chunk them after cooking.

1 pkg boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 TB minced Garlic
1 TB crushed Ginger
2 TB Canola Oil
1 TB (or to taste) Curry Powder
Mix all the above together and let sit for 5-10 min while you start the rice, heat the grill, etc.

Make one pot brown rice (I make the 45 minute kind so plan accordingly - but whatever works for you).

Take 1 bunch of asparagus, trim the ends & wash it well.  Drizzle with olive oil and grill - just until bright green with little char marks. 

While the chicken is grilling and the rice is cooking, take 1 cup (1 carton) of plain, fat free yogurt and add the zest & juice of one lime.  Mix well & set aside.

Bring the chicken in off the grill and allow to rest for 3-5 minutes then chop the chicken and asparagus into bite sized pieces.  Put the rice in a shallow bowl, top with chicken & asparagus then a good dollop of the sauce.