Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I didn't manage to get a photo of this recipe (instead, I'll share a shot from my parents' backyard--really it doesn't do justice how beautiful my Dad's landscaping really is--he's one very hardworking, talented guy!). At first thought (at least in my mind), Crock Pot dishes seem better suited for wintertime and the need for cozy, comforting meals. That said, using the Crock Pot in the summer means keeping the kitchen cool and hey, we're always busy so it's nice to have an easy, hands off meal anytime of year. I was introduced to this Southwestern Style Crock Pot Chicken recipe by my family while I was home visiting this past week. It's become one of their staples (and my mom doesn't cook anymore, so you know it's easy). My sister who's currently dancing in New York also makes it in her tiny apartment all the time (proof that it needs minimal equipment, makes minimal mess and is a really healthy option). I definitely felt it was worth sharing with you!
Southwestern Crock Pot Chicken
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of any icky bits if necessary (about 3 chicken breasts, straight from frozen is just fine and won't affect the cooking time)
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (plain or a Southwestern flavor, if desired)
2 cups favorite salsa
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 8 oz brick cream cheese
Set a large crock pot on high heat. Place chicken in bottom of crock pot. Dump beans, entire can of tomatoes and salsa over chicken. Sprinkle garlic powder, cumin, chili powder and salt and pepper over mixture. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or until chicken is tender. Use two forks to shred chicken. Unwrap cream cheese and set on top of chicken mixture. Return cover and allow to sit for another 30 minutes. Stir in melted cream cheese. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve over hot cooked rice or as a filling for tortillas or topping for nachos.
adapted from recipe by Nutritional Weight and Wellness recipe for Cream Cheese Crock Pot Chicken
Monday, June 27, 2011
I decided these cupcakes don't need much of an introduction.
Vanilla Custard. Good.
Topped with a cherry. All very good.
This is not the first appearances for recipes of both the pastry cream and chocolate ganache (you can see them featured in such posts as cream puffs and strawberry pie--as long as you promise not to make too much fun of my terrible photography). I think the moral of the story is that it can be really satisfying to have a few recipes up your sleeve that can be reworked in so many different ways. Here's to a mash up. Of sugar. Sweet.
p.s. These seem like they might make a cute addition to a 4th of July celebration. There's something a bit patriotic feeling about them.
Boston Cream Cupcakes
1 batch yellow cupcakes
1 batch pastry cream
1 batch chocolate ganache
maraschino cherries for garnish
To assemble: Use a serrated knife to slice the tops of the cupcakes off right where they meet the paper liner. Spread a generous amount of pastry cream on the base of the cupcake. Replace the top of the cupcake and dip the top or spread a thick layer of the chocolate ganache on the top of the cupcake. While ganache is still wet, top with a maraschino cherry. Store leftovers in the refrigerator (the cold cake with the cream is really fabulous).
1 box yellow cake mix (I used butter recipe golden)
1 stick (4 ounces/8 tablespoons) butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup warm water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, butter, sour cream eggs and water. Mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl. Mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Spoon batter into paper liners and bake according to cupcake directions on box. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
Pastry Cream Filling
Note: For a full box of cake mix worth of cupcakes (about 18-24), prepare a double batch. This will fill about 12
2 cups milk or half and half
1/2 cup sugar, divided
3 tablespoons corn starch
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium sauce-pan, combine milk, 1/4 cup of sugar and salt. Bring milk to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently.
While milk is coming to a simmer, combine remaining sugar and egg yolks in a medium bowl. Stir in corn starch, one tablespoon at a time, until fully incorporated and mixture is thick and lemon-colored.
Slowly add a ladle-full of steaming milk to egg mixture, stirring constantly, to help temper the egg mixture (brings up the temperature of the egg mixture slowly so you don't get scrambled egg yolks). Continue to add remaining milk, slowly and stirring constantly. When all of milk is added, return entire mixture to the sauce-pan and stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat. Allow to boil (still stirring) for 1-2 minutes or until mixture is thick. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.
Pour pastry cream into a shallow dish and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to keep from forming a skin on the top. Allow to fully chill in the fridge.
You can also use pastry cream recipe for cream pies and other pastries!
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups good quality chocolate chips or bar chocolate chopped into small pieces (I like a combination of milk and dark chocolate, personally)
In a small, microwave-safe, bowl, heat heavy cream until it comes to simmer (about 30 seconds-1 minute--watch very closely so it doesn't boil over!). Remove from microwave and stir in chocolate. Stir constantly until chocolate is fully melted and mixture becomes thick and shiny. Use immediately. If mixture becomes too hard, microwave on high for 15 second intervals, stirring well until softened.
And for your (mostly my) enjoyment...
|Notice the little hand creeping in the background...|
|Maraschino cherry bliss...|
Thursday, June 23, 2011
My dad has a deep love for the Farmer's Market. He also shares a love of all things involving gardening and landscaping and I certainly enjoy reaping the benefits. When he goes to the Minneapolis Farmer's Market, he enjoys sharing his favorite booths with us. One of the "must stops" is Tollefson's Family Pork stand. I have heard it said "Bacon is the gateway meat" and if that's true, I think the bacon from this Minneapolis-local and dedicated family farm might push anyone flirting with Vegetarianism right into a full-blown carnivore.
I had been dreaming of a way to use this really incredible bacon and this BLT Panzanella Salad seemed like a perfect way to feature it alongside some great summer flavors. Panzanella is usually an Italian bread and tomato salad (a good way to use up stale bread). But as "They" also say, "Everything's better with bacon," so this version was a bit of a take on a BLT that was enhanced with creamy avocado. I also got to use fresh basil from the garden (Hallelujah! That is a joyous summer rite of passage!), topped it with some sliced grilled chicken (so officially it turned more into a "Club Panzanella Salad, I suppose) and called it a day. A very delicious day.
Panzanella Club Salad
1/2 pound thick cut bacon
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
1 ripe avocado, cut into bite sized chunks
5 ounce box of washed salad greens (or about 6 cups lettuce of your choice in bite-sized pieces)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons (chiffonade), plus more for garnish
1 loaf Ciabatta or French Bread, cut into 1" cubes (day old is fine)
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
Sliced grilled chicken, optional
Cook bacon until crispy. Remove from pan and reserve 2 Tablespoons drippings for bread cubes. Cut cooled bacon into 1" pieces. Set aside.
Toss bread cubes with bacon drippings (or 2 tablespoons olive oil, if you prefer). Spread in an even layer on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until slightly crispy and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
Pour vinegar in a small jar or bowl. Stir in mustard, maple syrup and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle in olive oil and whisk or put lid on jar and shake furiously until smooth and well combined. Adjust salt and pepper as needed. Set aside.
To assemble: In a large bowl, combine lettuce, basil leaves, halved tomatoes, avocado chunks, croutons and bacon pieces. Pour over vinaigrette and toss well. Garnish with fresh basil leaves as desired and serve immediately.
Adapted from Alton Brown's TBL Panzanella recipe
|My Dad and older son enjoying the Farmer's Market|
|Playing in Grandpa's Garden|
|inspecting how everything's coming along...|
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Sometimes recipes with very good intentions fail miserably. Then, like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, they are reborn and soar. This is one of those dishes. Seeing a whole bunch of limes sitting on my parents' counter, I set out wanting to make a coconut lime pie. Without a recipe, I started guesstimating and both the graham cracker-coconut crust and the coconut milk-lime filling didn't turn out quite the way I was hoping. The crust was too crumbly and I had doubt that the filling would set up enough to be able to be sliced into a pie. The moral of the story is that it's okay to improvise. When we layered the filling and crumbled crust with whipped cream, these made for delicious enough desserts that everyone licked their dishes clean and is fighting over the leftovers. Be encouraged to turn your culinary missteps into a new hit!
|pay no attention to the strange, small chair in the background...that's just a bonus feature of my mom's house...|
Coconut Lime Custard Filling:
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 can coconut milk (about 14 oz)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lime zest
Coconut Graham Cracker
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 6-7 whole sheets)
1 cup shredded coconut (mine was unsweetened from the health food store, but you can use sweetened instead)
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Whipped Cream for serving
thin slices of lime for garnish, if desired
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make graham crackers into graham cracker crumbs. I like to do this by putting them into a gallon sized ziplock bag and whacking the heck out of them but a food processor would work nicely as well. Stir in coconut and then pour in melted butter. Once thoroughly mixed, pat mixture into a pie pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to fully cool. Break into pieces if using as a crumble.
To make filling, place egg yolks in a small bowl and stir until smooth. In a medium sauce pan, stir together sugar and corn starch. Whisk in can of coconut milk and lime juice. Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, remove from heat and stir tablespoonfuls, one at a time, into the egg yolks (adding the hot mixture to the egg yolks slowly while stirring constantly is called "tempering" and it is done to prevent you from getting scrambled eggs). Once you have added about half of the coconut mixture into the egg yolk mixture, pour the egg yolk mixture into the pan and return to medium heat and stir constantly until mixture again reaches a boil. Pour into a wide shallow dish (or on top of cooled pie crust recipe if you're wanting to be daring--it did actually set up fairly well) and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of filling. Chill in the fridge.
To assemble parfaits:
In a tall glass, layer crumble, filling and whipped cream as desired. Garnish with additional crumbs from the crumble and slices of lime, if you like!
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
I had a very sweet friend say that while she was watching The Next Food Network Star she was thinking of me and wondering what I would've made for the challenges. I have always watched that show and thought "I could do that!" (to the tune that I--to my embarrassment--have actually auditioned a couple times. I actually got a bit of positive feedback in a previous season's audition rounds but that's as far as it ever went). On the other hand, I have also watched the show and thought, "There's no way on Earth I could do that! I am so not cut out!"
One of the things that always goes through my head when I watch the show is that the food I cook is not flashy enough for the show. It always seems like the contestants make really complicated sounding sauces and use exotic ingredients. While I think this is interesting and I enjoy the challenge of using lesser known items and techniques, my cooking style definitely is aimed at accessibility. I want to make things that aren't intimidating and use ingredients that every day people have actually heard of and can find in their own local grocery store. Still, since I feel like I have a strength in coming up with dishes made from what's on hand, I have always thought the challenges looked really fun.
Since we got rid of our cable this past Fall, I thought I wouldn't get to see the show I enjoyed so much, but thanks to Hulu, I am getting to see the episodes. They don't post right away, and since I've had a really busy week I'm pretty behind in viewing, but I suppose as more episodes go on, there might be marathons played and maybe these thoughts (although probably not interesting) might be more relevant.
First Episode Challenge:
Brunch or Breakfast Dish that is "You on a Plate":
I would probably make something along the lines of a breakfast sandwich with a "frizzled egg (see my poached fried egg post)," slices of ripe tomato, freshly ground black pepper and tangy goat cheese broiled on an whole wheat English muffin (maybe finished with some ripe, creamy avocado slices?). Why is this me? Born out of ingredients on hand, it comes together in a snap. It's on the healthy side with the whole wheat muffin and a simple, slight twist on an original, familiar food (the poached-fried method on the egg rather than just a fried or plain poached).
It doesn't seem very fancy compared to what the other contestants put out there...oh well, it's "me" and accessible to other home cooks.
Also, to anyone else who's watching the show...oh my goodness, how awful does Penny come across in the editing? Who's your favorite contestant on the show?
p.s. For real recipes this week, I'm hoping to make a BLT Panzanella Salad, a Coconut Lime Pie and Boston Cream Cupcakes...we'll see how that pans out and if it does, I'll definitely share my results!
Monday, June 20, 2011
Chicken Cordon Bleu Grilled Sandwich
1 English muffin (or bread, hard roll or croissant)
about 2 ounces (about 1/4 cup) shredded cooked rotisserie chicken
2 slices deli ham
1 slice (about 1 ounce) Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon brown or Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons butter
In a small bowl, stir together mustard and honey. Spread on inside of English muffin. Layer chicken, ham and cheese. Squish both sides of sandwich together. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Cook sandwich in skillet, pressing down with a spatula until browned on each side and cheese is melted (about 2-3 minutes on each side).
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
My experience with mint chocolate chip takes me back to the fluorescent stuff served at my brother's birthday parties. This mint chip is a little more understated. The mint flavor is subtle, but refreshing and creamy with bursts of chocolate. If you haven't made homemade ice cream before, don't be turned off. It's really easy and you'll feel so satisfied with your accomplishment (and knowing exactly what went in there). If you don't have an ice cream maker, see my note below on a make-shift version using an ice cube tray and a blender!
Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
2 cups half and half
about 10 fresh mint leaves (still on the stems are ok...you're just steeping them)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup cream (I used whole milk because that's what you have with a one-year-old in the house)
1/2 cup semi-sweet miniature chocolate chips
more fresh mint for garnish
Put the half and half in a sauce pan over medium-high heat and bring just to a boil, stirring. Add the mint leaves and allow to steep in the hot milk for 20 minutes. Remove mint leaves.
Mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of milk to make a slurry (a thick liquid where all the cornstarch is dissolved so that you don't get little cornstarch "beads").
Whisk cornstarch mixture into warm minty half and half along with sugar. Return to medium-high heat and stir constantly until thick. It will be done when the mixture thickly coats the back of a spoon and a line drawn with your finger remains intact. Stir in the remaining cream or milk.
Allow to cool, then freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions. When ice cream is almost completely frozen, stir in the chocolate chips. Garnish with fresh mint as desired.
Note: if you don't have an ice cream maker--or do but can not find the paddle anywhere and suspect perhaps your child squirreled it away somewhere--you can do a B team version of ice cream. Pour the cooled mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze completely. Put the frozen cubes into a blender, add a splash of milk to help blend things up (adding more as needed). Blend until mixture is thick and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and serve right away as depending on how much milk you added, it may more closely resemble a "Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Shake." This style also doesn't refreeze as well, so act fast!
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Currently, my 17 month old son's diet consists of four food groups: milk, eggs, fruit and spoonfuls of peanut butter. Seriously. Hoping to appeal to his love of peanut butter and wanting to avoid heating up my kitchen this evening, I whipped up these Cold Peanut Noodles (he wasn't convinced, but the rest of us liked it!).
This is one of those recipes that comes together as quickly as it takes to boil water and cook the noodles. A quick Asian-style peanut-sesame dressing and crunchy vegetables are tossed with pasta for an easy and delicious warm weather dish. Feel free to personalize the dish with your own favorite veggies--I think sliced snow peas or thawed frozen shelled edamame would be great! Although substantial enough on its own, we rounded our noodles out with some grilled chicken on the side!
Cold Peanut Sesame Noodles
8 ounces thin spaghetti or angel hair (can substitute rice noodles as well)
1 small cucumber
1/2 red bell pepper
1 medium carrot
3 green onions
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white wine or water
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 clove garlic
1-inch piece fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
Prepare noodles "al dente" according to package directions. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water until cool. Shake the colander to remove as much water as possible and transfer to a large bowl.
(This next part can be done while waiting for the water to boil and the noodles to cook)
Cut the cucumber into matchstick sized pieces. Thinly slice the red bell pepper. Peel the carrot and cut into thin matchsticks. Thinly slice the green onions, white and green parts, reserving a small amount for garnish at the end. Roughly chop the cilantro, also reserving some for garnish. Add everything except reserved garnishes to the bowl of noodles.
In a blender or food processor, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, wine, lime juice, sesame oil, honey, garlic and ginger. Blend on medium speed until smooth, adding a tiny bit of water, if necessary, if mixture is too thick. Once dressing is completely smooth, pour over noodle and vegetable mixture, tossing to combine. Transfer to a serving platter, if desired, and garnish with reserved green onion and cilantro. Serve immediately.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
It is definitely summertime! With temperatures climbing and a thoughtful friend bestowing upon me a huge bunch of fresh mint, I had been thinking about the refreshing combination of lime and mint all the days I was laid up last week (I hurt my ankle due to an unfortunate run in with a trampoline). There was not really any cooking to be had (read: rotisserie chicken was our very dear friend) and what little kitchen action that did happen was focused on shortcuts as I rolled around the kitchen on a trusty office chair. At my soonest opportunity, I wheeled over to the blender and zipped up this quick version of a mojito flavored slushie. I am not much of a drinker, so I omitted the rum that would officially make this a mojito, but that makes it an all-occasion and family-friendly treat (feel free to make it "grown up style," if you prefer). As I was injured and lazy, this mojito slush is also missing some other more traditional elements: there was no lime squeezing and no "muddling of mint leaves with sugar," just the employment of easy, accessible limeade concentrate. And, I actually liked that shortcut so much that even now when I am only slightly limping around my kitchen, I'm looking forward to using it again.
Virgin Mojito Slush
serves 1 (feel free to multiply for additional servings)
2 ounces limeade concentrate
1 cup ice
5-7 fresh mint leaves
water or sparkling water as needed
fresh lime wedges and mint leaves for garnishing
In a blender, combine limeade concentrate and ice. Pour in about 1/2 cup water or sparkling water (adjust liquid amount to desired consistency). Add mint leaves. Blend on high until slushy or mixture reaches desired consistency. Pour into glasses and garnish with mint leaves and lime wedges.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
This salad is really a vehicle for the balsamic drizzle. I have seen balsamic reductions on fancy restaurant menus before and had thought it was too involved for me. I'm telling you, this quick technique for reducing balsamic vinegar with a little bit of sugar has really opened my eyes to a whole realm of possibilities. The sweet and tangy, intensely-flavored syrup tastes amazing (like scraping your finger to get the last little bit out of the dish after you've used it all up good), makes for a very simple yet sophisticated presentation and can add deep dimension to savory and sweet dishes alike. Try it over salads, pasta dishes (it would be especially good on top of a creamy, cheesy sauce like Alfredo, grilled chicken or steak (and a sprinkle of crumbled blue or gorgonzola cheese), even on fresh strawberries with ice cream...yum.
Paired with delicate ribbons of fresh summer vegetables, this combination that appears elegant and intricate is crisp, refreshing and insanely easy.
Shaved Vegetable Salad with Balsamic Drizzle:
2 small zucchini
2 medium carrots, peeled
1 small yellow squash (optional)
1/2 cup very thinly sliced red bell pepper (optional)
1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion (optional)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
(makes about 2 tablespoons...feel free to make more as needed)
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
For Balsamic Reduction:
In a small skillet or sauce pan, stir together balsamic vinegar and sugar. Turn heat to medium high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until mixture thickens a bit and is syrupy. The whole process will only take a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Using a vegetable peeler, shave very thin slices off of the zucchini and squash, rotating when you reach the seeds of the zucchini and squash so that you're just left with the core of seeds (very much like the recent post on Zucchini Fettucini). Discard the core and place ribbons into a medium sized bowl. Repeat process with carrots (only you won't have a core of seeds, but at some point when the carrot gets a little flimsy, you have a crunchy little snack). Add to the bowl. Mix in bell pepper strips and onion, if using (for the picture above I only used carrot and zucchini). Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
To assemble, toss shaved vegetables with dressing. Season with additional salt and pepper as desired (this is also where you could certainly throw in some nice freshly chopped herbs like basil or something, too, I just didn't have that on hand nor the inclination). On individual salad plates (or one big plate), drizzle a small amount of the balsamic reduction in a fancy (or haphazard if you're like me) pattern. Using salad tongs, pile a portion of the vegetable salad onto the plate (use a twisting motion with the tongs to give the salad "more lift" and visual interest on the plate. Repeat with remaining plates. Drizzle with additional balsamic reduction as desired. Serve immediately.
Note: Salad can be assembled with the dressing in the bowl up to an hour ahead and kept in the refrigerator (you could also keep the shaved veggies and prepared dressing refrigerated separately for longer). Just make sure to add the balsamic reduction on immediately before serving because it gets absorbed into the salad and loses some of its flourish very quickly!
Adapted from: Pampered Chef Spring-Summer 2006 Recipe Booklet
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
This is a nostalgic recipe. My mom would make this cookie a lot while we were growing up. It's one of those recipes that we were always bound to have the ingredients on hand. She'd throw a batch together by memory as we were getting ready for school and the first tray would be out of the oven and into our lunch boxes before we ran out the door to catch the bus. On those days, we'd come home to rows of the chewy, chocolatey oatmeal cookies cooling on the counter. How she didn't eat them all while we were away and they were sitting out like that, I'll never know, but they were always a welcome sight!
Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks or 16 tablespoons) butter softened or margarine
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick cooking rolled oats
1 cup milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg, water and vanilla and mix thoroughly until fully combined. In another bowl or on a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Stir into wet ingredients and mix just until a soft dough is formed. Stir in oats and chocolate chips. Drop cookie dough by tablespoonfuls about 1" apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-12 minutes or until cookies are set, but centers are still soft (not wet). Remove from oven, allow to cool 5 minutes on cookie sheet, then remove with a spatula and transfer onto a cooling rack or layers of paper towels to finish cooling. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.