Monday, July 23, 2012

Alive, just not cooking much

For anyone who may have noticed, there hasn't been a whole lot of action around here. Sorry if you've missed things. There's been a serious illness in the family, my kids have been a wreck, computer troubles, I've been feeling the need to stay on the same wavelength with my husband and we're expecting a baby girl any day now. I've not had a whole lot of motivation in the cooking department and recording anything that has been turned out is a feat I just haven't managed over the last several months. :( I wish I was one of those bloggers who can just keep things going and work ahead on posts for when the baby comes but I guess I just require too much sleep. On the bright side, we just had a brand new grocery store open just a mile down the street (after a wait of almost seven years!) and it's really fun and fancy. They have an olive bar and a specialty cheese station. Hooray! Hopefully, I'll get back in the saddle here after things calm down a bit more but I'm going to aim at checking in more frequently than I have been and maybe sharing some of the things we do eat when life gets so crazy. A quick idea I'll share with you from picking up easy things at the new grocery store was Fake-out Pasta Puttanesca and Quick Chicken Parmesan For the Pasta: 1 jar favorite pasta sauce (I just used a marinara) 1/2 cup assorted olives pitted and sliced (I just grabbed some from the olive bar) 2 tablespoons capers, drained 1-2 anchovy fillets (or about 1 tablespoon anchovy paste) optional Red pepper flakes to taste (I use about 1 teaspoon or a packet that comes with take out pizza : ) 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 pound favorite pasta, cooked (I used angel hair because is cooks fast) Shredded or grated Parmesan cheese to taste Directions: in a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium. Add olives, capers, anchovy fillets or paste (if using)and red pepper flakes and stir frequently until fragrant and anchovies have melted into the oil. Add pasta sauce and heat through, stirring occasionally. Serve over hot cooked pasta and top with shredded Parmesan cheese. Quick Chicken Parmesan 1 pound breaded chicken tenders from the deli 1/2-1 cup pasta sauce (can use some of sauce above or plain jarred sauce) 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese 2 tablespoons shredded or grated Parmesan cheese Directions: heat oven to 400 degrees. Place chicken tenders on baking sheet (for faster clean up, line baking sheet with tin foil first). If chicken is cold, heat in oven until warmed through turning over half way through. Once chicken is hot, top each tender with a spoonful of sauce and sprinkle shredded cheeses over top. Return to oven and bake until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with hot cooked pasta and remaining sauce (warmed first, of course). Thanks for bearing with me. Xoxo, Lauren

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mini Corn Dog Muffins

 All the goodness of the State Fair, wrapped up in a neat little package.  Nowhere near the mess of making actual corn dogs at home and kid (and mommy)-pleasing to boot!  These would make a great party food (or game food--Final Four games this weekend, how many brackets are totally busted?), but are equally appropriate at lunchtime.  Since the leftovers reheat quite nicely, they may even work for both purposes.  

Mini Corn Dog Muffins
1 recipe My Favorite Cornbread batter (see below)
1 package favorite hot dogs (I used Hebrew National Brand reduced fat hot dogs)
cooking spray
ketchup and mustard for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a mini muffin tin with cooking spray.  Prepare corn bread batter according to directions below.  Cut hot dogs into 1"-2" pieces (I cut each Hebrew National hot dog into 4-5 pieces).  Spoon about 1 tablespoon cornbread batter into each muffin cup.  Press hot dog piece into each muffin cup until completely covered by the batter.  Repeat until all muffin cups are full.  Bake at 400 for 15-17 minutes or until mini corn dog muffins are golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving.  Dip in ketchup and mustard.

Variation: You can also make full size corn dog muffins, just place 3 hot dog pieces into each regular muffin cup and bake for 18-20 minutes or until corn dog muffins are golden brown.
My Favorite Cornbread Recipe (adapted from Betty Crocker)
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine dry ingredients and set aside.  Beat milk and egg in a large bowl with a beater.  Stir in melted butter and stir into wet ingredients.  Add dry ingredients and stir just until combined.  Use batter for corn dog muffins as above (or for regular cornbread, bake in a cast iron skillet or baking dish with extra melted butter in the bottom at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean). 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Oven-Fried Onion Rings

In the past couple of weeks, I think I've learned a valuable lesson.  I come to realize it's best to avoid saying such phrases as "I feel like things are finally settling down" or "As soon as we get through this, I'll really be more on top of things."  Silly me, this week has been one big reminder that we are not in control.  And so the craziness continues.

That said, I felt like I couldn't delay any longer in sharing this recipe.  I ate so many of these onion rings that I had no room for any of the other items on my plate and kept eating even after I got stomach ache from being so full.  They were perfect crispy-crunchy thick-cut onion rings that my husband, a self-proclaimed onion ring-lover, declared some of the very best he'd ever had.  And, he pointed out, they don't have that distinctly fried aftertaste that a lot of onion rings have.

Oven-Fried Onion Rings
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature*
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
30 saltine crackers
4 cups kettle-cooked potato chips (I used reduced fat Ruffles brand and they worked great)
2 large yellow onions, cut into large rings
6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Adjust the oven racks to lower-middle and upper-middle positions and heat the oven to 450 degrees. 

Place 1/4 cup of the flour and corn starch in a shallow baking dish or pie plate.  Beat the egg and buttermilk in a medium bowl.  Whisk the remaining flour, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper into the buttermilk mixture.  Pulse the saltines and chips together in a food processor until finely ground (or just place in a gallon-sized freezer zipper bag and pound the heck out of them).  Place crumb mixture in a separate baking dish.

Working one at a time, dredge each onion ring in the flour-cornstarch mixture, shaking off the excess.  Dip in the buttermilk mixture, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl, then drop in the crumb coating, turning the ring over to coat evenly.  Transfer to a large place. (At this point, the onion rings can be refrigerated for up to 1 hour.  If you refrigerate them, let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking).

Pour 3 tablespoons of the oil on each of two rimmed baking sheets.  Place in the oven and heat until just smoking, about 8 minutes.  Carefully tilt the heated sheets to coat evenly with the oil, then arrange the onion rings on the sheets.  Bake, flipping the onion rings over and watching and rotating the position of the baking sheets halfway through baking, until golden brown on both sides, about 15 minutes.  Briefly drain the onion rings on paper towels.  Serve immediately. 

*If you do not have buttermilk, an easy substitute can be made.  Just mix together slightly less than 1/2 cup milk with 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice or white vinegar.  Allow mixture to sit for 5 minutes and stir before using. 
Recipe slightly adapted from: The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2011

Monday, March 5, 2012

Baked Kale Chips

Some people may try to tell you that these are a great substitute for potato chips.  Much like the baked doughnuts recipe I found on Pinterest is no substitute for Krispy Kreme, these are should not be compared to potato chips in my book.  That said, unlike the baked doughnuts (really, how can you beat a Krispy Kreme doughnut when they hand you one hot off the conveyor belt?), I might actually like Kale Chips better than their potato counterparts.  You heard me right.  Kale chips are tasty and crazily addictive. 

We all need to find more opportunities to get more produce in our diet and I've been especially aware of that lately.  Even though in "real life" (read: not pregnant) I eat more (and enjoy!) broccoli and spinach than most everyone I know, "Pregnant Me" has a hard time stomaching the thought of green things.  I know a lot of people who feel that way all the time, so I can feel their pain in the struggle to "eat our veggies."

Thankfully, these kale chips have been a really great way to get some of those vegetable servings in.  I actually even have to fight my two munchkins for them.  It's a good thing they're so fast and easy to make.

A quick word to the wise, though.  Make sure to check your teeth before leaving the house after eating.  I'm just saying...

Baked Kale Chips
1 bunch kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
coarse salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove kale leaves from stems and tear into bite sized pieces.  Wash and dry thoroughly (this is a place where a salad spinner really comes in handy).  Drizzle kale pieces with olive oil and toss to coat thoroughly.  Spread in an even layer on a cookie sheet (using two if necessary).  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  Bake until the edges begin to brown and kale becomes crisp but not burnt (10-15 minutes). 

Approved by these two Yahoos.

Recipe adapted from All Recipes

Sunday, February 26, 2012

New England Style Clam Chowder

Although I have always harbored a secret appreciation for Clam Chowder (and only the creamy New England style where the funny-looking clam pieces are hidden in a wonderfully rich and comforting broth filled with tender chunks of potatoes), I had never attempted to make such an intimidating sounding soup.

I've never gotten to enjoy it on Fisherman's Wharf in San Fransisco nor actually tasted it in authentic New England.  That said, I actually really liked the canned version and I have had it in a bread bowl at Disneyland and California Adventure theme park, so that's a pretty authentic experience right there. totally kidding. 

I was inspired to try my hand at making my own when the Superbowl came around.  I had really clever ideas of making New England (Patriots) Clam Chowder and then something New York-esque (pizza? bagels? coneys?  I didn't get that far).  Although I wasn't so on top of things then, I felt this recipe was still share-worthy.  It's still pretty wintery outside and now, being in the beginning of Lent and seafood specials abounding, perhaps there is an interest in some meat-free recipes? 

In making this soup, I also discovered something extremely interesting (strange).  Both of my boys could not get enough of the chopped clams.  Right from the can.  They were going to town on them and practically downed a whole can before I could stop them.  Who knew?  I'm not sure I recommend their favorite way to enjoy clams, but I whole-heartedly endorse this recipe. 

Serve with the accompanying recipe for sourdough croutons or be really authentic and pick up some bread bowls (you can definitely find them available at Panera Bread Company). 

New England Style Clam Chowder
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 (6 oz) cans chopped clams in juice (I ended up with less because of my two little clam-addicts)
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2 (or heavy cream if you're feeling particularly indulgent)
2 bay leaves
1 pound potatoes (Russet for a softer texture, red potatoes for a firmer texture)
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons cornstarch, if needed
2-3 additional tablespoons half and half, if needed

Sourdough Croutons
2-3 tablespoons butter
2 cups 1" cubes of sourdough bread
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add onions and celery and saute until softened, stirring often.  Stir in the flour and cook for an additional minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in the stock and clam juice (reserve clams for later), bay leaves and potatoes.  Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly (the mixture will thicken), then reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes).  Stir in the clams and half and half and gently reheat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  If soup is not thick enough, whisk together cornstarch and remaining half and half and stir into soup.  Stir until thickened.  Serve immediately, garnished with sourdough croutons or in a bread bowl! : )

For Croutons:
Melt butter in a large skillet.  Toss bread cubes in butter until brown and toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Add parsley and season with salt and pepper. 

Recipe slightly adapted from: Food Network's Dave Lieberman

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chili's Copycat Salsa

I am sure I have previously mentioned the fact that my husband is a salsa addict.  The man cannot get enough of the stuff and gets a little um, concerned when we happen to be out of it.  I, personally, am a salsa snob, but when it's good, I prefer more salsa than chip.  One salsa we can both agree on is the salsa from Chili's restaurant (which we especially enjoy on "Kids Eat Free Night" where we sit in the bar area during Happy Hour specifically because of the free chips and salsa...we're such cheapskates...). 

Since we don't eat out that often, and salsa is a staple in our house as well, I was pretty excited when I saw how easy the salsa could be to recreate at home.  I was even more excited/surprised to see how great of a salsa can come from canned tomatoes.  Knowing how much salsa we can go through, I have a feeling this will be in our regular rotation.

Chili's Copycat Salsa
2 cans whole or diced tomatoes, well-drained
1/4 cup white onion, cut into small chunks
1/2-1 small (4oz) can diced jalapenos (I went closer to half and it had a nice kick)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2-1 teaspoon coarse salt, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional, Chili's doesn't actually put cilantro in but I love the green color and fresh taste it adds)

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend or pulse until mixture is almost smooth.  Taste and adjust for seasonings.  Serve with tortilla chips. 
Recipe slightly adapted from: Six Sisters' Stuff

Thursday, February 9, 2012

P.F. Chang's Style Lettuce Wraps--Healthy Style

Confession: as I think of it, I'm trying to remember if I've even had P.F. Chang's Lettuce Wraps.  After trying this recipe and now knowing I can make a healthier version so quickly and easily, I'm not sure I ever will feel the need.  I am so excited about these, my mouth is watering and I am thinking about how quickly I can make them again. 

I have even bought a new can of water chestnuts (which happen to be one of the grand total of two foods my husband rejects--along with bamboo shoots of all things--and even he loved them!) in anticipation of my next batch.  Please don't omit the water chestnuts either, they just add the perfect crunch to this light, crispy, crunchy, savory dish.  

Seriously, I think these might be my new favorite food.   

P.F. Chang’s Lettuce Wraps
Serves 2-3

1lb ground chicken breast (or 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks and finely chopped in a food processor)
1/2 medium onion, minced
salt & pepper, a dash of each
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 inch nob fresh ginger, peeled & minced
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon natural peanut butter
1/2 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (or more if you like it hotter)
dash of fresh pepper
3 green onions, chopped
1/2-8oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained & chopped
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
10-12 large outer lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry

1. Heat a large, non-stick skillet on high. Add chicken, onion, salt & pepper, and cook until chicken is nearly done, stirring often to break up the meat. Add in minced garlic and ginger, and continue cooking until chicken is no longer pink.

2. Meanwhile, in a microwave safe bowl, combine sesame oil, soy sauce, water, peanut butter, honey, rice vinegar, chili garlic sauce and pepper. Microwave for 20 seconds, then stir until smooth. Add into the skillet and stir to combine.

3 Add green onion and water chestnuts into the skillet then cook for 1-2 minutes until the onions are soft and the water chestnuts are heated through.

4. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts, and serve with cold lettuce leaves.  Spoon chicken mixture into lettuce leaves and wrap lettuce around chicken

Recipe Source: Iowa Girl Eats