31 August 2009

Burgundy Pork Chops


Boneless pork chops baked in a savory mushroom and red wine sauce. I don't remember how I stumbled upon this recipe, but I tried it tonight and it is delicious. Of course, I changed a few things. Here's my version.


Burgundy Pork Chops

Ingredients:
4 boneless pork chops
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp flour
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup burgundy wine

Directions:
Cook chops in olive oil in skillet just until browned on both sides. Remove from skillet and place in a baking dish. Saute shallots and mushrooms in skillet drippings. Sprinkle with flour, salt and pepper. Blend in wine; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Pour over chops; cover with foil. Bake at 350° for 50 to 60 minutes or until tender.

Makes 4 servings.


The original called for onions instead of the shallots, but for some reason I think mushrooms and shallots go really well together. And I happened to have a shallot on hand that needed to be used up anyway, so I used that. But onion would be fine if that was all that was available. I also used olive oil instead of the original recipe's butter. I increased the mushrooms from 1 1/2 cups to 2 just because I love mushrooms and can't get enough. I had Baby Bellas on hand today--yummy!

I was a little short on time, so I didn't bake them for the full amount of time listed. I checked them after 30 minutes and the temperature indicated that they were fully cooked, so I took them out of the oven then. They were a bit on the dry side, as all boneless pork is prone to be. I think maybe next time I will allow more time and will bake them for longer. Maybe they get more tender as they bake. Also, I increased the amount of wine when I rewrote the recipe, because I think that if I bake it longer, I will need a bit more liquid in the pan. So I increased it from 3/4 cup to 1 cup.

I will definitely be making this again. It was a winner here tonight. Lena loved it.

Here are a few pics of the process.



Sauteeing the mushrooms and shallots. Mmmmmm! Always makes the house smell so good.



Thickening the wine sauce. The steam makes the sauce look pink, but it is actually deep red. Pretty.


In the pan just before going into the oven. So many mushrooms you can barely see the pork peeking out from under there!

30 August 2009

Zucchini Risotto


A creamy, flavorful rice dish I made for dinner tonight with fresh zucchini from our garden. I found the original recipe on Allrecipes. I made a few minor changes.

Zucchini Risotto
Ingredients:
9 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
2 medium zucchini, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper

Directions:
Bring stock to a boil in a medium stock pot, then reduce heat to a low simmer.
Heat oil in a large, stock pot over medium heat. Stir in onions and cook for 4 minutes, or until softened. Add the rice and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted.

Ladle in simmering stock, one ladleful at a time, stirring continuously. When liquid is almost completely absorbed by the rice, put in another ladeful and continue stirring. Risotto will become "creamy" and slightly sticky, yet still firm in the center, or al dente.

When almost finished, stir in the zucchini and thyme, adding stock as needed and stirring continuously. Season with pepper to taste.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition Information
Servings Per Recipe: 6
Calories: 375
Total Fat: 4g
Cholesterol: 9mg
Sodium: 720mg
Total Carbs: 70g
Dietary Fiber: 5g
Protein: 10g


This was so good. If you've never made risotto before, you should try it. It has a bad reputation of being a complicated dish to make, but it really isn't. It does take a bit more attention than traditional rice, but it's really not that bad and the end result is so worth it. Risotto is super creamy, but doesn't have any cream or milk in it. Instead of putting the rice and the water (or stock) together in a pan and letting it cook undisturbed for 15 minutes or so, you toast the rice in some oil and add warm stock a little bit at a time, stirring throughout. Stirring the rice makes the starch come out and that is what gives it the "creamy" texture without the cream. So delicious.

I made a few changes to the original recipe I found on Allrecipes. I increased the amount of zucchini called for quite a bit. The original called for only a half of a zucchini. I halved the recipe and used a whole one. Half of a zucchini for 6 servings is definitely not enough. Also, the original called for sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil. I thought it would be better without the tomatoes, and I didn't have fresh basil on hand. I had dried, but you can't add basil to a recipe while it's still cooking because it will turn black. If you add basil to it, add it after you remove it from the heat. It also called for 6 tbsp of parmesan to be mixed in at the end. I was going to do that, but forgot, and I loved it the way it was, so I omitted that from my amended recipe.

Here's a close-up picture of it. Check out the creamy goodness!



Tonight I served it with Herbed Cheese Stuffed Salmon, but it would go well with just about anything.

27 August 2009

My 100th Recipe!!


I am pleased to announce that I have just posted my 100th recipe on this blog! It was my Guacamole Rice. Wow, I can't believe I have blogged about 100 recipes! It's amazing to see how the recipes have changed since I started. And the pictures have changed a lot too, for the better, in just the last couple of months. (Thanks to some advice I received from a fellow food blogger.)

Blogger tells you each time you sign in how many posts you have. The Guacamole Rice recipe was my 120th, and according to my records, I have 20 non-recipe posts (restaurant reviews, equipment, etc.).

Thanks so much to all of you who actually read this blog. I have really enjoyed doing it the last 2 years and four months or so. Thanks to all of you who made comments. I love getting comments and hearing that other people have tried these recipes.

I'm looking forward to sharing another 100 recipes with you!

Guacamole Rice


I love Mexican food and have several main dish recipes that I make quite often. I always struggle to come up with decent Mexican side dishes. I've made Mexican rice in the past (basically salsa, black beans, and corn stirred into white rice), but we didn't really like it that much. I make a Sweet Corn Tomalito, like they make at Chevy's. I haven't blogged about that yet. It's really good, but quite a pain in the butt to make so I don't make it that often. So, I'm always on the lookout for good Mexican side dish recipes.

The other day I was watching Claire Robinson on 5 Ingredient Fix. She made something she called Green Goddess Rice. It doesn't have anything to do with the dressing; I think she named it that just because it was green. Anyway, it was a combination of avocado, lemon juice, and basil made into a sauce that was then tossed with the hot rice. I was intrigued. While watching the show, I immediately thought that I wanted to try it with different flavors. Instead of avocado, lemon juice, and basil, I wanted to try it with avocado, lime juice, and cilantro. You know, like guacamole. I had planned a Mexican main dish for last night and was going to make guacamole to go with it, but then I thought, why not turn the guacamole from just a condiment into an actual side dish?

And viola! Guacamole Rice was born.

Guacamole Rice

Ingredients:
1½ cups white rice, uncooked
3 cups water
Salt
1 small avocado, peeled, pitted, and coarsely chopped
1 cup packed fresh cilantro
½ lime, juiced
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
¾ to 1 cup water
Salsa (optional)

Directions:
Bring the rice, 3 cups water, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, stir, cover, and cook until water is completely absorbed, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the avocado, cilantro, lime juice, oil, and ¼ cup water in the jar of a blender and puree; season generously with salt and pepper. Add more water and puree until the mixture is the consistency of sour cream. Add salsa to the avocado mixture if you like.

Fluff the rice with a fork and gently fold the green dressing into the warm rice. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


Basically, it is just rice tossed with guacamole that is runnier than what you would use as a dip. So throw into the blender container anything you would usually put into your guacamole. I know most people put jalepeno in it, but since Jim and I don't really like them, I usually throw a couple of tablespoons of salsa in instead.

It was good. I read the reviews of the original recipe and they weren't exactly glowing. Some people liked it, but there were a lot of people who thought that avocado, lemon juice, and basil didn't go together at all. I'm glad I stuck with the classic combo.

It makes a really nice side dish for Mexican food. Last night I served it with my Baked Chicken Chimichangas. And it would go well with the enchiladas that I make too.

Lena absolutely loved this rice! I wasn't sure if she would like it or not. She eats almost anything you give her, but she had never had avocado before so I wasn't sure. She gobbled it down like nobody's business. I couldn't shove it in fast enough!

So Jim got his plate ready and showed me how pretty it was. He was so proud of himself. I told him to take it to the foodio so I could take a picture of it. He got all excited that something that he arranged was pretty enough for the foodio. :) It's the little things in life, really!


The green sauce on the chimichanga is my Creamy Cilantro Sauce.

Boy, I'm starting to get quite a collection of green rice recipes. This one turned out much better than the Coconut Cilantro Rice.


Special Note: This recipe was the 100th recipe posted on this blog! What an exciting milestone!

Baked Chicken Chimichangas


This is something that I have been making for years now. I first made them when we lived in Texas. The inspiration was Rachael Ray's Smoked Turkey Baked Chimichangas. I made them her way once and have been making them my way ever since. Here's my recipe.

Baked Chicken Chimichangas

Ingredients:
6 oz. cooked chicken breast, shredded
1 cup shredded slaw cabbage
1 cup tomato sauce
4 (12”) flour tortillas
½ cup shredded monterey jack cheese, 2%
Cooking spray

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°.
Place chicken in a bowl and season with taco seasoning. Add shredded cabbage, tomato sauce, and cheese. Toss filling to combine.
Line a baking sheet with foil. Place a cooling rack on top and spray with cooking spray.
Place tortillas in a kitchen towel and set in microwave. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. To build, pile ¼ of your filling in the tortilla. Tuck sides up and roll tortilla tightly. Repeat to make 4 large stuffed tortilla wraps. Place on the baking sheet.
Spray the wraps with cooking spray and bake until deep golden all over, 15 to 17 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Information (compiled myself)
Serving size: 1 chimi
Calories: 335
Fat/Sat. Fat: 10g/3.5g
Cholesterol: 40mg
Sodium: 1275mg
Fiber: 6g
Protein: 23g

A note about the nutrition info: the above info is for regular flour tortillas. Each tortilla contributes 210 calories, 6 grams of fat (1.5 of it saturated), and 600mg of sodium. Wow! I had no idea until I calculated it that they were so bad. I tried it once with a healthier tortilla, but the results weren't very good. They didn't crisp up in the oven and were just kind of chewy. And healthier tortillas are so much more expensive. If anyone tries this with a healthier tortilla and gets good results, please comment and let me know what brand of tortillas you used.



Here are a few pics of the process:


Place the filling off to one side for easy rolling.



Ready to go into the oven.



Golden brown and delicious! Pretty good for not having been deep-fried.

The reason I switched to chicken from the deli turkey was that I found the turkey to be a bit too salty when combined with the saltiness of the tomato sauce. The shredded cabbage is so good. I never would have thought to use it, but it makes a nice crunch, even after baking.



Here's one smothered with sour cream and Cilantro Cream Sauce and served with Guacamole Rice.

26 August 2009

Cilantro Cream Sauce


This is a recipe I made up myself. I was inspired by one on Allrecipes that was a spicy cilantro sauce. I love cilantro and thought it would be fun to make a sauce out of it. But that one called for 2 jalepeno peppers and was really spicy. I thought it would be nicer to have a cool, creamy cilantro sauce to balance the spicy flavors already present in the foods I would use the sauce on. So this is what I came up with.

Cilantro Cream Sauce

Ingredients:
1 handful fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
Salt

Directions:
Combine cilantro, lime juice, sour cream, and mayonnaise in a blender or food processor. Process until well-blended and smooth. Taste and add salt if desired.


If you like cilantro, you'll love this. It's basically a cilantro-flavored sour cream. Yummy! The first thing I put it on was Mexican Deep Dish Pan Pizza. So good. The cool creaminess of the sauce works so well with the spiciness of the beef and the salsa. It would also be great on tacos, burritos, taco salads, and pretty much anything you would normally put sour cream on.

I put it in a squeeze bottle for easy application.







The squeeze bottle makes it easy to drizzle on your favorite Mexican foods.

Kitchen Disaster: Slow Cooker in Flames


I decided that I need a new category for my posts: Kitchen Disasters. If this isn't a disaster, I don't know what is! As you can clearly see, I melted a portion of my slow cooker. Yeah, it takes real talent to catch a slow cooker on fire.

Okay, here's what happened. I have a severe outlet shortage in my kitchen. I only have outlets on one side, and they are clustered near the stove. The counter space is already taken up by my toaster oven and my microwave, so when I use my slow cooker, I set it on the stove top. This isn't usually a problem because usually when I use the slow cooker, I don't use the stove top.

Sunday night I was making Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin, and I decided to use the stove top to thicken up the cooking liquid into a sauce. So I poured out the liquid into a small saucepan, added cornstarch, and put it on to boil. I had moved the slow cooker back to the back burner thinking it was far enough away from the flame. I turned my attention to the mashed sweet potatoes for a second, and when I looked back I saw the front of the slow cooker engulfed in flames. Apparently it wasn't far enough away from the front burner!

After shouting out a few exclamations that I cannot share here, I was able to blow out the flames. Thankfully, nothing else caught fire and nobody was hurt. But the damage to the slow cooker had been done. As you can see, the flames melted the plastic casing that covers the heating element and it singed a bunch of the insulation. The display became warped as well. Afterwards, I did plug it in and it does still work, but since the element is exposed and the insulation burnt, I didn't think it was safe to keep using it. I saved the crock, lid, and thermometer, and trashed the main part.

I was so mad at myself for letting that happen. I received that slow cooker as a gift. I bought it with gift cards that we recieved as housewarming and Christmas gifts right after we bought our house. I wouldn't have gotten one that nice if I had been spending my own money. And then I went and ruined it.

I am replacing it. I can't go very long without my slow cooker. I use it at least once a week. And since I still have the parts for it, I decided to get the same model. I found one on Amazon that is the same model except the lid clamps on and it comes with a spoon that attaches to it. And it actually costs less than the original model and has a better performance rating.

I will be much more careful using my slow cooker on the stove top from now on!


25 August 2009

Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin



This recipe came from Allrecipes.

Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients:
1 (2 lb.) pork tenderloin
1 env. onion soup mix (I like Lipton’s Onion Mushroom flavor)
1 cup water
¾ cup red wine
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch (optional)

Directions:
Place pork tenderloin in a slow cooker with the contents of the soup packet. Pour water, wine, and soy sauce over the top, turning the pork to coat. Carefully spread garlic over the pork, leaving as much on top of the roast during cooking as possible. Cover, and cook on low setting for 4 hours. You can remove the cooking liquid, add cornstarch, and bring to a boil to make a gravy out of it. Or you can serve it on the side as au jus.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition Information
Servings Per Recipe: 6
Calories: 180
Total Fat: 4g
Cholesterol: 66mg
Sodium: 918mg
Total Carbs: 6g
Dietary Fiber: 1g
Protein: 25g


Contrary to the original recipe's title, I thought this was just okay. Mine came out kind of dry. I think it might be due to two factors: 1. My slow cooker is 6 quarts, so the cooking liquid didn't cover as much of the pork as it would have had it been in a smaller cooker. Not much I can do about that except add more liquid. 2. Since we had just gotten back home from out of town the night before, my pork wasn't completely thawed when I put in the cooker. To make up for this fact, I cooked it on high instead of low. That very well could have dried out the pork more. So next time I make it I will make sure the pork is completely thawed and I will cook it on low instead of high. Because most of the reviewers say this comes out pull-apart tender and mine wasn't anywhere close to that.

I had decided to thicken the cooking liquid to make a sauce out of it. I took it out of the slow cooker and put it in a small saucepan. I first put in ½ tsp cornstarch and let it come up to a boil. It didn't seem to be thickening at all. So added another ½ tsp and brought it up to a boil again. It thickened up a little, but not as much as I was expecting. So I served it the way it was. It was still runny enough that it ran all over the plate. When Jim went to eat the leftovers the next day, he said the sauce was really thick. I don't know why I have problems getting cornstarch to thicken sauces. I guess I have to make a day in advance! Either way, the "sauce" was really tasty. It almost had a deep, beefy flavor to it. Probably from the red wine. It was really good.

I served this with Mashed Sweet Potatoes.

So, the only bad thing about this dish was that it was the one I was making when I ruined my slow cooker. :( Yes, I actually caught my slow cooker on fire. I doubt too many of you are that talented! Here's what happened: I set my slow cooker on the stove top when I use it because outlets are scarce in my kitchen and there isn't enough counter space near the outlet. When I took the liquid out to make the sauce, I scooted the slow cooker back to the back burner and put my small saucepan on the front burner. I thought it was far enough away. I start mashing my sweet potatoes on the other front burner and I happen to look over and I see the front of my slow cooker in flames. Apparently it wasn't far enough away. I blew it out and the fire didn't spread, but my slow cooker was ruined because the plastic covering the element and the insulation had melted away and the display melted also.

So, be careful and don't make the same stupid mistake I did!




Looking forward to trying this recipe again with better results.





Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken



I got this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens. I've made it twice now and have changed it up a bit. Here's my amended recipe.

Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken

Ingredients:
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (½ cup)
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
½ cup pitted dried plums (prunes)
12 oz. butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 thin chicken breasts (2 large), cut into large chunks
2½ tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup couscous
1 cup water or reduced-sodium chicken broth

Directions:
In a 4 to 5 quart slow cooker combine onion, carrots, plums, squash, broth, chicken, and seasonings. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours.

When ready to serve, bring water or broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Add couscous, remove from heat, and cover with lid. After five minutes, remove lid and fluff couscous with a fork.

Remove chicken, fruit, and vegetables from slow cooker with a slotted spoon. Serve over couscous. Spoon some of the cooking juices on each serving.

Makes 4 servings.


It came with nutritional info, but I have changed it so much that it wouldn't be even close to accurate.

The original recipe called for 8 bone-in chicken thighs instead of the breasts. I don't usually have thighs on hand and Jim prefers breast anyway, so I thought I would try it with the breasts. Works just fine. The way I make it, it's more of a stew. I think the original is supposed to be a large piece of chicken with some vegetables on the side. But I like it better this way. It's easier to serve.

Also, the addition of butternut squash is mine. Butternut squash is traditional in Moroccan stews (see my Lamb Tagine recipe). Meijer sells butternut squash, already peeled and cubed, in handy little 12 oz. bags. It's in the produce section next to pre-washed spinach and broccoli florets and stuff like that. So handy! I like butternut squash, but I am such a wimp that I physically cannot peel or cut the darn things because they are so hard. They are the biggest pain in the butt to prepare. So I am willing to pay a little bit extra and take the help from the store on this one. The squash is really good in this dish. It doesn't get all mushy like it did in the tagine that I made. It stays in chunks.

The other thing I changed was that I doubled the spices from the original recipe. It was suggested by a reviewer on the BHG site and we really like Moroccan spices so I tried it that way. Perfect. I think it would be pretty bland left at the original amounts.

The original recipe didn't say to serve it over couscous, but it was kind of a no-brainer for me. Couscous is also very traditional in Moroccan cooking and it makes the perfect bed for the flavorful stew.

If you are home while making this, keep an eye on it. Since I use breasts instead of thighs, it probably doesn't need as much time as stated. I keep forgetting to write down how much time I leave mine in. A lot of it depends on how firm you like the carrots. I like mine with a little bite left to them.


Going into the slow cooker. So colorful and pretty!


Peanut Butter Banana Sticks


This is another Rachael Ray recipe that I tried recently. She made it as part of a breakfast meal, but I think it makes a great afternoon snack. Kids would love it.

Peanut Butter Banana Sticks

Ingredients:
½ cup peanut butter
2 tbsp honey
1 cup granola
2 large bananas
4 popsicle sticks or chop sticks

Directions:
Place the peanut butter in a shallow dish and microwave on high for 20 seconds to loosen it, then stir honey into it. Crush granola either by using a food processor or by placing in a Ziploc bag and smashing with the back of a large spoon. Peel and cut each banana in half across the middle. Insert a popsicle or chop stick into the cut end of each half-banana. Roll each banana half in the peanut butter sauce, then in the granola. Serve immediately. Eat the bananas right off the sticks, but serve on a plate to catch the crumbs.

Makes 4 servings.


This is so simple and super yummy. The only thing I changed was the method of coating the bananas. Rachael had you spreading the peanut butter/honey mixture on with a spatula, then sprinkling with the granola. I think rolling it works much better and you get better coverage. Hers were only covered on one side.



19 August 2009

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

Sorry for the less-than-appetizing picture. I had a hard time photographing this dish. The sauce makes it kind of funny-colored (red on green) and the broccoli kept rolling around.

This is from Allrecipes.

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

Ingredients:
1 lb. boneless beef sirloin steak or beef top round steak
1 tbsp vegetable oil
½ can condensed tomato soup
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
¼ - ½ tsp Chinese Five Spice powder
3 cups fresh or frozen broccoli florets
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
4 cups hot cooked rice

Directions:
Slice beef into very thin strips.
Heat oil in skillet. Add beef and stir-fry until browned and juices evaporate.
Add soup, soy, vinegar, garlic powder and spice. Heat to a boil. Add broccoli and cook until tender-crisp. Serve over rice.

Makes 3 servings.

Nutrition Information
Servings Per Recipe: 3
Calories: 620
Total Fat: 14g
Cholesterol: 65mg
Sodium: 1570mg
Total Carbs: 85g
Dietary Fiber: 4g
Protein: 37g


Despite what the picture shows, this is a really yummy dish! It's a super easy and quick way of making beef and broccoli stir fry. I never would have thought to use tomato soup, but it really works.

I decreased the amount of concentrated soup. The original called for a whole can, but a couple different reviewers suggested using less. So I used half and I think it was good that way. Also, the original called for red pepper flakes instead of the Chinese Five Spice. That was a change also suggested by reviewers. I had Five Spice on hand and had never used it before so I thought it was the perfect time to break it out. I used ¼ tsp. I didn't know how spicy it would be, so I was conservative with it. It was good, but I think next time I will try ½ tsp. The spices gave it really great flavor, but I didn't notice much heat. I think a little heat would be nice. So I will increase that next time. The mushrooms were my addition as well. I didn't have any when I made it last night, but I will definitely use them when I make it next.

The original said it made four servings, but Jim and I finished almost all of it. I amended the nutrition info for 3 servings. Note: The nutrition info is for the original recipe, so it includes the whole can of tomato soup, red pepper flakes instead of Five Spice, and no mushrooms. The tomato soup change will decrease the sodium by a whole bunch and probably some calories and carbs too.

18 August 2009

Oxo Mandoline



This year for Mother's Day I received a mandoline slicer. I had wanted one for a while so I was very pleased! My knife skills are pretty bad so I need all the help I can get with slicing veggies and fruits. Lena (with lots of Daddy's help) got me the one that was recommended by Cook's Illustrated Magazine and was shown on an episode of America's Test Kitchen where they compared mandolines.

It's the Oxo Good Grips V-Blade Mandoline Slicer. Check it out on Amazon. The V-shaped blade was recommended by Cook's Illustrated over the straight-edged blade.



It has four different thickness settings. They range from 1/4" to 1/16". It stands up on little rubberized legs for great stability. You can also lock the blade closed when you store it.


Some of the extra blades are stored on the underside of it for convenience. It comes with like 5 different blades.

Here are a couple of things I have done with it so far.


Beautiful potato slices for my Muffin Tin Potatoes. This would have been a horrible mess if I had to slice these by hand.


I know these look like potato chips, but they are actually crinkle-cut slices of yellow squash. Fun!


It has a julienne blade too. I julienned this carrot for my Rice Pilaf.

The mandoline also does cubing, and dicing. But I haven't done those yet. I'll post pics when I get around to it.

I highly recommend this mandoline. It's so fun to use and it's only about $30. Well worth it in my opinion.

I also recommend checking out America's Test Kitchen Equipment ratings whenever you are looking for a new kitchen gadget. They have tested all kinds of things, from spatulas to digital scales. Note: You do have to register on the website to be able to view equipment ratings (and recipes). But not to worry, all you have to do is enter your email address. It's not a paid subscription. And they don't send you junk mail, so it's well worth it for the valuable information.

16 August 2009

Blackberry Peach Dessert Sauce


Ok, not the greatest picture (should have left off the whipped cream), but you get the idea. I picked up some fresh blackberries at the farmer's market in Middleville on Friday. I thought a sauce for ice cream would be the perfect use for them. This is an amended recipe of one I found on Recipezaar.

Blackberry Peach Dessert Sauce

Ingredients:
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup water
1 cup fresh blackberries
4 fresh peaches, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
2 tbsp lemon juice

Directions:
To make a simple syrup, bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved. In a blender container, combine the simple syrup, blackberries, peaches, and lemon juice. Puree until smooth. Chill thoroughly.

Serve over ice cream, cheesecake, angel food cake, pancakes, waffles, or anything else you can think of. Blend with ice cream and milk for a delicious peachberry milkshake.

Makes 2-3 cups.


The original called for blackberries and raspberries, but I didn't have any raspberries. I was going to do double the blackberries but I didn't have enough. So I threw in some peaches. I think if I were to make it with peaches again, I would cut back on the amount of sugar in the simple syrup. The peaches were really sweet and the sweetness kind of drowned out the tartness of the blackberries. Maybe I will go ahead and make the whole amount of simple syrup and add it to the blender container a little bit at a time, tasting it for sweetness in between.

The perfect summertime treat!

13 August 2009

Brown Sugar Glazed Salmon


A super simple recipe I found on Allrecipes.

Brown Sugar Glazed Salmon

Ingredients:
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 (6 oz.) boneless salmon fillets
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°.
Season the salmon with salt and pepper and arrange onto a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Whisk together the brown sugar and Dijon mustard in a small bowl; brush mixture evenly onto top of salmon fillets. Bake until the fish flakes easily with a fork, 10 to 15 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Information
Servings Per Recipe: 4
Calories: 330
Total Fat: 16.2g
Cholesterol: 83mg
Sodium: 368mg
Total Carbs: 15g
Dietary Fiber: 0g
Protein: 29g

I really didn't change much here. The original called for the salmon to be cooked under the broiler, but since I had another dish that was baking at the same time, I baked them. My fillets were small enough (the skinniest ones I have ever seen!), that it took almost no time.

I really didn't think I would like this very much, but it was great. I thought the mustard would be too strong, but the combination of it and the brown sugar was the perfect flavor complement to the salmon. Absolutely delicious.


I served it with Muffin Tin Potatoes and Italian Peas.

Italian Peas


This one comes from Allrecipes.

Italian Peas

Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil or butter
½ onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. frozen green peas
1 tbsp chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh basil, finely chopped
Fresh oregano, finely chopped.

Directions:
Heat olive oil or butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic; cook about 5 minutes. Add frozen peas, and stir in stock. Season with salt and pepper. Cover, and cook until the peas are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add fresh herbs.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition Information (using olive oil instead of butter)
Servings Per Recipe: 6
Calories: 106
Total Fat: 5g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 159mg
Total Carbs: 12g
Dietary Fiber: 4g
Protein: 4g


These were pretty good, but I made a couple of changes. The original recipe called for 2 cloves of garlic and I found the end result to be a bit too heavy on the garlic. It's unusual to hear me say that, because I love garlic, but it was just too much in this dish. So I would only add one next time. I also cut down on the onion a bit.

The only other thing I changed was the addition of herbs. The original didn't call for any herbs and when I tasted it, I felt it needed a little something. Onion and garlic alone didn't make "Italian" enough for me. So I added some dried basil and oregano. It helped, but I think fresh would be better. So I will definitely try that next time.


I served them with Brown Sugar Glazed Salmon and Muffin Tin Potatoes.

12 August 2009

Muffin Tin Potatoes


This is a recipe that Melissa D'Arabian made on the pilot episode of her new show during the finale of The Next Food Network Star. She calls them 5 Minute Individual Potato Gratins, but I renamed them because they take much longer than that!

Muffin Tin Potatoes

Ingredients:
Cooking spray
2 large russet potatoes, thoroughly scrubbed and thinly sliced
½ cup cheese, shredded
1 shallot, finely chopped
Salt
¾ cup heavy cream

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375°.

Spray 12 muffin tins with vegetable spray. Layer potato slices, cheese, and shallots into each muffin cup. Sprinkle salt in between each slice of potato. Top each gratin with 1 or 2 tbsp of heavy cream. Cover with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, removing the foil halfway through cooking time. Invert gratins onto plate and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings.


I changed a couple of things from the original. She said to peel the potatoes, but I didn't think that was necessary. I just scrubbed them really well. I think they are better with the skin on. I used my mandolin to slice them. Worked beautifully! I am a new mandolin owner and am still amazed at how pretty things look when I use it! My knife skills are pretty bad, so I love using my mandolin. I set it on ⅛” and that seemed to be the perfect thickness. Any cheese will do; I used colby jack.

The original recipe calls for 2 green onions instead of the shallot. Jim doesn't really care for onions that much and I was making another dish with onions in it, so I decided to use a shallot instead. We love shallots. They have the best flavor. The shallot was perfect in this dish. That's one thing I will not change when I make it in the future.

The original says to salt the potatoes after layering and topping with cheese. That didn't make much sense to me. When I layered the potatoes, I sprinkled a bit of salt in between each of the layers. I find potatoes need a lot of salt. I didn't use a lot, just a light sprinkle. But I think that is more effective than salting just the top after you put the cheese on.

The only other thing I changed was to use whole milk instead of heavy cream. I don't keep heavy cream on hand because I never use it. I thought the milk would work just as well. Actually, it didn't. I noticed when they came out of the oven that they were really watery. I think the milk may have separated a little bit because I also noticed milk solids. So I guess that wasn't the best idea. I'm not really sure if they need cream; I might try it next time without and see what happens.

Even despite the milk issue, they were delicious. Jim raved about them. They don't look very pretty, but they taste great. The shallot flavor works so well with the potatoes and cheese.



Not a great picture, but this is them getting ready to go into the oven.


My perfect mandolin slices.


I served them with Brown Sugar Glazed Salmon and Italian Peas. Note: I put four potato gratins on my plate for the pic, but that ended up being too much for one side dish serving. I would figure 2 or 3 per person.

Melissa's new show, Ten Dollar Dinners, airs Sunday afternoons at 12:30 on Food Network. I missed the first episode but am looking forward to watching the rest.

08 August 2009

Toasted Ravioli



As you might know, Jim and I spent three out of the first four years of our marriage in St. Louis. We both attended grad school there. This week I was pleased to find a recipe for a dish that is unique to the St. Louis area, toasted ravioli. You can find it on the menu of most places in St. Louis, but I have yet to see it offered anywhere else. We used to order it from Imo's. We didn't like their pizza (much to the chagrin of the natives), but we loved the toasted ravioli.

Toasted ravioli is fresh ravioli that is breaded and fried. Delicious. Filled pastas (ravioli, tortellini, etc) are some of my favorite foods. So when I saw Rachael Ray make it on an episode I had DVRed a few weeks ago, I was very excited to try it.

Toasted Ravioli

Ingredients:
2 eggs
Splash of milk
Salt and pepper
1½ cups Italian bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan
¼ cup parsley, chopped
12 large fresh ravioli, about ¾ lb.
3 tbsp olive oil
Marinara sauce for dipping

Directions:
Beat eggs and a splash of milk seasoned with salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Combine bread crumbs with cheese and parsley in a second dish. Coat the fresh pasta in egg then bread crumbs. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a skillet then toast the ravioli until deep golden, 3 to 4 minutes on each side.

Serve with marinara sauce.

Makes 2 servings.


Awesome! Hilary was here the night I made it and we gobbled it all up! It really does taste just like the kind they make in the Lou.

I really didn't change much about the recipe. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the large raviolis when I went to the store that day, so I used regular-sized ones. It really doesn't make any difference, except it takes longer because you have to bread and fry more of them to equal the same number of servings. But they taste just the same. Rachael's recipe called for spinach and cheese ravioli, but I don't see why you can't use any kind you like. We used Buitoni Four Cheese Ravioli, but even one with a meat filling would be fine. I saw that Buitoni has a new kind, called Wild Mushroom Agnolotti, that I can't wait to try.

I didn't have fresh parsley, so I used a smaller amount of dried. She said to use either milk or half & half in the egg, but I don't keep half & half on hand. Milk worked just fine.

If you look at Rachael's original recipe, she included a recipe for a red pepper dipping sauce to go with the ravioli. Jim and I don't like red pepper, so I omitted the sauce. I picked up a yummy jarred marinara sauce, Classico Florentine Spinach and Cheese. It's really good. It has spinach running through it and it gives it a great flavor. I really like spinach. It made a great dipping sauce for the toasted ravioli.

Using the small raviolis would make a nice party dish.



I hope you try this. If you do, please leave a comment and let me know what kind of ravioli you used and how it turned out.

Vegetable Curry


This is one of Alton Brown's recipes, from his show on spices.

Vegetable Curry

Ingredients:
1 (1 lb.) bag mixed frozen vegetables
⅔ cup plain yogurt (lowfat is fine)
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp freshly ground coriander
⅛ tsp freshly ground cinnamon
2 medium cloves garlic, crushed
¼ tsp sugar
½ tsp kosher salt

Directions:
Poke several holes in the bag of frozen vegetables and microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes or until thawed. Drain and set aside.

In medium mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt and cornstarch. Set aside.

Heat oil in a 10”, non-reactive saute pan over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds, fennel seeds and mustard seeds, cover pan with a splatter screen, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to pop. Once they begin to pop, turn the heat down to medium, and add turmeric, onion powder, coriander, cinnamon, and garlic. Saute until garlic turns golden brown in color, approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Gently add the vegetables, sugar, and salt, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until vegetables are heated through. Remove vegetables from heat, pour into bowl with yogurt mixture, and stir to combine. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Super yummy. The spices aren't overpowering, so don't let the long list of spices deter you from trying this. It called for dried red chiles, but I left that out. Without those, it isn't spicy at all, it just has really great Indian-style flavors. If you like a little heat, you should add them.


The veggies getting coated in the spices in the pan. I tasted one before I tossed them with the yogurt and I think it would be good that way too. If you don't like plain yogurt or have dairy issues, or you just don't have yogurt on hand, you should try it without.

Tip: The turmeric stains horribly. Bright yellow. So be careful what utensils you use in making this dish. I accidentally used a white silicone scraper and now I have a yellow silicone scraper!


When Jim saw it, he said, "It's pretty! Use it for Easter!" I scrubbed it with some SoftScrub, and it lightened a little bit, but it's still yellow.


I served this with Peanut Chicken. I know, one is Asian and one is Indian, but they were still good together.



Slow Cooker Peanut Chicken


This is a recipe I found on a slow cooker recipe website a few years ago. I saved it, but never tried it. I stumbled upon it in my recipe files when I was doing my meal planning for August and decided to finally try it.

Slow Cooker Peanut Chicken

Ingredients:
¼ cup peanut butter
2 tbsp peanuts, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp onions, minced
1 tbsp cilantro, minced
1 clove garlic, crushed
⅛ tsp fresh ginger, grated or minced
4 chicken breasts
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp butter, melted
12 oz. chicken broth
1 tbsp cornstarch
4 servings white rice, cooked

Directions:
Mix peanut butter, peanuts, 2 tbsp soy sauce, onion, cilantro, garlic, and ginger. Spread on inside of each chicken breast. Roll up; close with toothpicks. Place in slow cooker.

Mix remaining 2 tbsp soy sauce with honey, butter, and broth; pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours. Remove chicken from pot. Turn power to high. Dissolve cornstarch in small amount of cold water; stir into sauce. Cook on high for about 15 minutes. Spoon sauce on chicken and serve over white rice.

Makes 4 servings.

This was really good! I don't know why I never tried it before. We love Thai-style dishes and dishes with peanut sauce on chicken or salmon. And I love my slow cooker, so this was right up our alley!

I changed just a few things. The original recipe called for parsley instead of cilantro. I don't really care for parsley very much and cilantro is more common in Thai-style dishes. It also called for red pepper sauce. We don't like red pepper, so I omitted that. I think next time I make it I will throw in some other kind of pepper or something to add a bit of heat to the dish. But it was okay without it.

I noticed that the chicken got a little bit dried out on top where they stick out of the cooking liquid. I'm not sure how to fix this. When I noticed it, I basted them a couple of times with the liquid and that seemed to help. The only other option is to increase the liquid so that it covers the top of the chicken. That might be a problem when you go to make the sauce, though.

I will say this: it was not a cinch to put together. It took a while to collect all of the ingredients and prep the chicken to go into the slow cooker. I honestly think it took me the greater part of an hour. But I am kind of slow and it was worth it anyway. Just keep that in mind if you are planning on throwing it together before you leave for work in the morning. To speed things up, you could put together the peanut paste and the cooking liquid the night before and store them in the fridge. Then in the morning, you would just have to spread the paste on the chicken, roll them up, and put in the slow cooker with the cooking liquid.

Here are some pics of the process:


Spreading the peanut paste on the chicken breasts. I use chicken breasts that have been split in two because the ones I buy are so incredibly thick. I wouldn't have been able to roll up a full one.


I used a lot of toothpicks to secure the rolls. Make sure you roll from the smaller end up toward the larger end.


Into the slow cooker with the cooking liquid. Notice I use Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners. They are so great. They make clean-up as easy as pulling out the bag and throwing it away. Highly recommended.


I served the peanut chicken with Alton Brown's recipe for Vegetable Curry. What a great meal!