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Archive for December, 2010

This is the one recipe that always reminds me of growing up in Richmond.  My mom had a repertoire of dishes that were pretty common (tacos, spaghetti, ham and beans, etc) but there was this one dish that I have never seen anything like since.  In our household it is just called Chicken and Broccoli.  But that doesn’t do it justice.  It is a comfort food like no other.  Every time I smell marjoram or sherry, I am immediately transported back to my house in Richmond.

I’ll let you judge for yourself but for me, this dish always hits home.


Serves 5

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter

1 lb raw chicken (I typically use the strips of chicken, but you could use breasts or a pre-cooked chicken)

1.5 16 oz bags of broccoli

3 tbsp marjoram

2 tbsp flour

1 can chicken broth

1/2 cup sherry

1/4 cup cream (I use fat-free half and half)

1 package swiss cheese slices

(I always serve over wild rice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt butter in saute pan on stove.

Place frozen broccoli in a microwaveable bowl, add a tbsp of water, and cover.  Cook in microwave for about 7 min to defrost.  Put the broccoli in a 9 x 13 in glass baking dish.

Add chicken and 2 tbsp marjoram to pan with butter and cook until there is no more pink in the chicken.  Cut the chicken into chunks.

With a slotted spoon, remove chicken from butter marjoram mixture and place on top of broccoli in baking dish.

In pan with butter and marjoram, add flour 1 tbsp at a time to make a roux.  Once the mixture is thick like batter, add the can of chicken broth a little at a time into the roux, stirring and pressing to get rid of any lumps.  Add the last tbsp of flour and 1/2 cup of sherry and cook for 1 minute.  Finish off with the cream.

Pour sauce mixture over  the chicken and broccoli in baking dish.  Top with slices of swiss cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly on top.

Serve over wild rice.

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Cookies!

I don’t make many desserts, in general, but I love them.  When I watch the show with the two sisters who make cupcakes in Georgetown, I have to go get cupcakes immediately (the more icing the better).  I am always “that girl” who wants to just see the dessert list at restaurants, I just can’t help myself.

The only cookie I make on a relatively regular basis is the thumbprint cookie.  They are great to give as gifts at Christmas time and they are easy to change up if wanted.  Best of all, they are so easy!

I’ll tell you how I made them tonight and then give a few possible alterations to shake it up.

Poppyseed Almond Thumbprints

Makes about 24 half-dollar sized cookies.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter room temp (or softened for 10 seconds in the ‘wave)

1/4 cup brown sugar packed

1 egg

1/2 tsp almond extract

2 tsp poppy seeds

1 cup flour

Flavored jam to fill the prints (I used strawberry and apricot on this batch)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Mix butter, sugar, and egg together.

Stir in poppy seeds, almond extract, and flour a little at a time.

Roll dough into balls about the size of a large cherry.

Press the back of a 1/4 tsp or your thumb into each ball to create an indentation.

Fill each indentation with your choice of jam.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Possible alterations:  use vanilla extract instead of almond extract, add 1/4-1/3 c peanut butter, top the cookies with coconut before baking, roll the cookies in nuts, use lemon curd instead of jam, great lemon or orange peel into the dough…the list goes on and on!

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What a week!  My old PC finally gave out for good last week and was going to cost more than I wanted to spend to fix.  SO I broke down and got a Mac!  After an uphill battle to get online – 3 days later – I figured out the problem on my own (at least temporarily).

Long story short – in case you are having a problem similar to mine (my Mac kept saying ‘invalid password’ or ‘connection timeout’ or the speedtests on would come back utterly slow when another computer in my house had a perfect connection), switch channels on your router (done on the IP address given in your router box).

This may make no sense, but it worked for me and I am back online…time to post!

So, I hate buying chicken broth or veggie broth and knowing how much sodium is in it, when it doesn’t even taste that great.  I decided the best thing to do was try to make my own.  I have been making my own for about a year now and it has really been a great way to save money, having something that I know is fresh, and always have broth on hand.

As a note, I typically freeze the broth in several different sized containers and plastic bags and then I do a couple of ice cube trays full.  Each ice cube is about 1 oz. each.  I weigh all the containers on my scale and stick a little sticker on top so I know how much is in each…trust me – you will forget by the time you go to use them!

Servings:  App. 15 cups

Ingredients:

Any combination of vegetables but be sure to include tomatoes, carrots, celery, and red onion or yellow onion or both – make sure to leave on the skins to add color to the broth!  I keep a bag in the freezer that I add all my leftover scraps from other recipes in (see the picture above).

Optional Veggies:  green/red peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, potatoes

Veggies to avoid:  broccoli, cauliflower – will strongly overtake flavor of broth

At least 10 whole peppercorns

Any combo of herbs, but I like parsley, thyme, and sage

A little soy sauce

A little worcestershire sauce

Salt

To make:

Put all frozen veggies and herbs/peppercorns into a deep stainless steel pot.  cover all the way with water don’t go all the way to the top of the pot as you will risk boiling over, but you can get about an inch and a half from the top.

Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over medium heat for 1-2 hours.  Add salt, soy sauce, and worcestershire sauce to taste.

Note:  the soup is not going to taste the same as boxed.  The first time I made this, I thought it tasted watery but learned later that I needed to adjust the salt and soy sauce to taste – however it will never be as salty and full as you would get from a box.  Once you get used to your broth not being as salt crazy as the boxes, you will take more notice of the flavor layers from all the different veggies.

Take the lid off pot and cook for another 30 minutes or so.  Let cool for 15-20 minutes.

Pour all veggies and broth through a fine mesh sieve/strainer.  Apply pressure to veggies to try to get as much liquid from them as possible.

Ladle broth into containers of different sizes (I usually do a couple of 3 cup bags/containers, 4 or 5 1 cup containers and 1-2 ice cube trays full.

Thaw as needed (note that sometimes you may need a little extra when you thaw them so that is where the ice cubes come in very handy!).

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Oh my goodness. This was by far my favorite meal in weeks.  I’ll caveat that I didn’t drain quite enough liquid off the beans before mashing them so they were a little more runny than I had planned, but I put them on tostada’s instead of in stand-up taco shells and they were phenomenal.  So you know what led me down this path, I was inspired by these beans, but I made a few tweaks based on my preferences.

 

I wasn’t even planning on making Spanish Rice but I was craving it at the last-minute, so I threw a few things in a pan and out came the most delicious Spanish Rice I have ever had.

Enough talk – let me just tell you how to do it yourself.

For the beans:

2 cups dried pinto beans

2-3 cups water or broth (enough to cover beans by about an inch)

1 sweet onion

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp mexican style chili powder

2 cloves garlic

1 can enchilada sauce

1 can diced green chilis

Rinse the beans and place into the slow cooker.  Cover with water or broth about an inch above the beans.  Add enchilada sauce, garlic, onion, green chilis, cumin, and chili powder.  Set slow cooker on high and cook for 6-8 hrs.

Once cooking time has completed, drain the extra liquid out (freeze it off to use in future dishes!).  Blend all ingredients together with an immersion blender.  You can add some shredded cheese here if you want, but I think they are great without it!

For the Spanish Rice:

2 cups white rice

1 onion

1 can diced tomatoes and green chilis

1/2 c corn

2 cloves garlic

1 diced jalapeno (seeds/veins removed)

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

2 tbsp tomato paste (start with a little and add as needed – I freeze the rest of the can of tomato paste and cut off slices as needed)

1/2 cup broth (veggie, chicken, or I used the leftover bean liquid from above)

Cook the rice in a rice cooker or according to package instructions (make sure you rinse it first).  While rice is cooking, cook the onion with a little olive oil over medium heat until translucent.  Add in jalapeno, garlic, chili powder, tomatoes, cumin, and corn to onion in pan.  Cook for 5-10 minutes.  Add in cooked rice to the pan and stir them all around.  Stir in tomato paste and broth to taste and desired consistency.

Note:  As I mentioned above, because my beans weren’t thick enough to hold their own in a stand up taco shell, I heated the corn hard taco shell in my toaster oven and then broke it in three pieces to use as a tostada shell instead.  I assembled the beans, a little cheese, lettuce, sour cream, and taco sauce on top.  Served with a side of Spanish Rice.

Oh so tasty.

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I know, again, you may be thinking, really???  Yes, really.  While up front my lunch de jour may not sound appetizing to all, it was very tasty.  Trust me – they are like little bites of luxury when roasted!

I think most people, as children, were turned off by brussel sprouts because some parent decided that boiling them until they were mushy was the only approach.  My parents never made brussel sprouts for me, so I never developed that aversion.  In fact, I didn’t even know what they tasted like.  Imagine my astonishment when I stumbled across them in a cheesy funnel filled with these little cabbages that were crispy and greasy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. 

After having them for the first time, months passed and I didn’t get the nerve to make them on my own, but on a trip with a coworker, he told me about how his wife made them.  I finally broke down and decided to give it a whirl.

The result of this way to simple recipe?  Crispy popcorn like sprouts with a soft and toasty inside.  I could eat an entire bag of them.  They also happen to match nicely with my Smashed Cauliflower from last night and a little dollop of butter.

Serves 3-4 for a light lunch

What you need:

1 bag (about a lb) of brussel sprouts (trim off the stem and peel bag the leaves until you get to the cleanest layer – cut in half or leave whole)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp salt

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 375 degree F.  Pour olive oil onto aluminum foil, sprinkle salt and pepper on oil.  Place brussel sprouts on top and roll around with hands until they are all oiled and peppered/salted.

Wash your hands and pop them in the oven for 30 minutes.  Shake the pan halfway through so you can get all the edges crispy.  If you like them less done or more crispy, adjust the time up or down 10 minutes.

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Before you avert your eyes, you need to know that these were an unexpected and delightful surprise.  I love potatoes, and while these were not “just like mashed potatoes’, they were a nice switch and felt indulgent the same way a bowl full of potatoes do.

I did not go into these with high hopes and didn’t even follow a recipe.  I basically just boiled the cauliflower with a few select ingredients and used my hand mixer to mash them up with some cheese.  Voila – tasty smashed cauliflower.  I was pleasantly suprised.  They were cheesy, creamy, and flavorful without any butter or cream!

I served them up with last night’s leftovers (beef brisket) but I think they would be great with just some veggies along side.

Try them – you won’t be disappointed (however, if you are, I take no blame :)).

Serves 4 as a side dish.

Simple, simple, simple:

1 head cauliflower (stem removed, broken into medium size florets)

1 clove garlic

3 cups chicken or veggie broth

2 oz gouda

1/2 cup shredded italian blend cheese

Throw your cauliflower florets into a pot and add the veggie or chicken broth along with a little pepper and the garlic.  Throw a lid on your pot and bring to a boil.  Once to a boil, continue boiling covered for 10 minutes.  After ten minutes, take off the lid and continue boiling over medium heat until the cauliflower is soft (mine took about another 5 minutes).  Once soft, remove the pot from the heat and drain almost all of the liquid out of the pot, leaving the cauliflower and a tiny bit of liquid in the pot.  Add in the cheese and get out your immersion blender (you could also use a food processor if that is what you have).  Blend to your desired consistency and enjoy.

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Did I mention I’m not a big meat eater?  I especially find it almost impossible to eat meat that I prepare.  So why, you might ask, did I decide to venture out and make slow cooker beef brisket?   A challenge, I love a challenge.  Plus, I typically assume that slow cooker equals easy (and a relatively low volume of touching the meat).

I went to this little restaurant in the slightly more upscale part of town and one of my friends ordered the beef bourguignon (reminding me of the movie I love so much, Julie & Julia) and everyone tried it and loved it yet I didn’t try it because I have issues with meat.  I admit, I regretted not trying it!  So I decided to tackle beef brisket in hopes that it would be somewhere near as good as my friends meal looked.

Easy right?  That’s what I thought until I realized that making this would force me to come face to face with something very scary – a large (and I mean huge) 6 lb piece of brisket, raw.  Looking at various recipes, I came to terms with the fact that I would have to cut off the fat from the brisket with just my hands and I knife, which really exceed my expectations – not in a good way.  But, at my sister’s insistence “You are doing a cooking blog, push your limits” in other words “Get over it.”  So, I did.

I should state up front that this recipe is my modified version of Ina Garten’s (who has one of my favorite shows, sets, and recipes) Beef Brisket recipe.  I used most of the ingredients that she did, but I used the slow cooker instead of the oven roasting method and therefore prepped the meat a little differently.  I prefer to use a slow cooker whenever possible because it is easy and you get home and your house smells wonderful.

How did the beef brisket turn out?  While my slow cooker overflowed several times (I would suggest using a smaller cut of brisket than I did, or a bigger slow cooker) and I couldn’t fit in as many onions as the original recipe called for, it was phenomenal.  The beef shredded with just the touch of the fork.  I had to call in reinforcements (true meat eaters) to ensure my taste buds were correct and the delightful sighs they made after taking their first bite told me all I needed to know.  It was a success!!!

Will I be cooking meat every night?  No.  But now when/if I do crave it or if I need a good dish to take along, I have a great recipe to lean on.

 Serves:  4-6

Ingredients:

4 – 6 lb beef brisket

1 bunch celery (cut into 1-2 inch chunks)

1 lb carrots (cut into 1-2 inch chunks)

3 onions (halved, sliced)

2 28 oz cans tomato sauce

6 bay leaves

1 tbsp oregano

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp pepper

1 tbsp chopped garlic (3-4 cloves)

Into the pot:

Trim the fat from the brisket and cut brisket into 3 inch wide strips (ended up being making my brisket about 4 sections).  Rub each section of brisket with the salt and pepper and place into the slow cooker.  Cover brisket with the 2 cans of tomato sauce.  Add the garlic, oregano and bay leaves.  Place all vegetables on top of meat.

Cover and cook on high for 6-8 hrs.  If you are using a slow cooker, make sure you use a small enough cut of meat and enough vegetables so that they do not come all the way to the cover as the beef and vegetables will produce extra liquid and you will risk overflowing.

I served this along side hashbrown casserole and spooned some of the extra sauce, carrots, celery and onions over the beef to keep in moist.

I am planning on doing a puree with all the leftover sauce and veggies to freeze off and use as gravy in the future.  It might also make a great soup base.  I’ll post pictures following.

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