30 June 2011

Another yummy salmon recipe.  I love pairing fruit flavors with salmon.  They just go together so well.  In the past I have done orange, lemon, and blackberry, but last night I tried apricot.  The recipe came from Taste of Home.

Apricot Glazed Salmon

4 salmon fillets (4 oz. each)
¼ tsp salt
⅓ cup apricot spreadable fruit or jam
1 tbsp white wine
½ tsp fresh ginger, grated
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place salmon on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Season with salt.  In a small bowl, combine the spreadable fruit, wine, and ginger.  Brush apricot mixture over the salmon.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.  Sprinkle each fillet with 1 tbsp of the toasted almonds.

Makes 4 servings.

This recipe is super easy, but so tasty!  The apricot has just the right amount of sweetness on the salmon.  And to be honest, I thought the almonds were there just to make the dish look pretty.  But after one bite, I realized that they really added a lot to it.  The little bit of crunch they give is amazing.  It really makes the dish "pop".

The original recipe called for equal amounts of the apricot stuff and the white wine.  But I wanted my glaze a little thicker, so I didn't use as much wine.  I just didn't want it to all run off the salmon when I put in the oven. And as it was, some did spread out onto the pan.  

This recipe is definitely going into my regular salmon rotation.

I served it with roasted broccoli and some Teeny Tiny Potatoes.  Have you ever tried these potatoes?  They are so good.  I boiled them for a few minutes (they are so small they don't take long), drained them, and tossed in a pat of butter.  After the butter melted, I tossed them with a spice blend I threw together containing onion powder, garlic powder, and a little bit of smoked paprika.  It was really good!

29 June 2011

This is a side dish I created last night.  It's a really simple way to "dress up" plain white rice.

Ginger Scallion Rice

1½ cups long grain white rice
¾ tsp salt
2¼ cups water
2” piece of fresh ginger, sliced into coins
2 scallions

Place rice, salt, water, and ginger in a medium saucepan.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the scallions on the bias, not going too far into the white part.

When the rice is done, remove and discard all of the ginger pieces.  Add the sliced scallion and fluff with a fork.

Makes 4 servings.

Since the ginger infuses its flavor into the rice, you don't have to be too fussy with it.  I didn't even peel it.  Just make sure you cut it into big enough pieces that it will be easy to fish them out later.

Jim liked this a lot better than I thought he would, considering that he doesn't like onions.  He thought it was really pretty and that it should be called "Confetti Rice".  I think I will try it with jasmine rice next time.

I really like the crunch that the green onions give it.  It went perfectly with my Slow Cooker Tropical BBQ Chicken.

A new slow cooker recipe I tried out last night.  It comes from Taste of Home.

Slow Cooker Tropical BBQ Chicken

8 chicken drumsticks, skin removed
¾ cup ketchup
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
4 tsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp cornstarch
¼ cup water

Place chicken in a 4-6 qt. slow cooker. In a medium bowl, combine the ketchup, orange juice, brown sugar, vinegar, oil, cilantro, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder; pour over chicken.  Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 180°.

Remove chicken to a serving platter; keep warm. Skim fat from cooking juices; transfer 2 cups to a small saucepan. Bring liquid to a boil.  Combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Gradually stir into the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve over chicken.

Makes 4 servings.

This was pretty good.  I buy chicken drumsticks when they go on sale for less than a dollar a pound and stock up.  I remove all the skin and freeze the drumsticks individually so that when I am ready to use them, I can choose however many I need.  They make for really easy and cheap meals.

I really didn't change this recipe too much.  It called for leg quarters instead of drumsticks. I think you can use any cut of chicken you like.  Just keep in mind that if you are using boneless, that it won't take as long to cook.  I reduced the vinegar by one tablespoon and the garlic powder used to be garlic salt, but I don't keep that on hand.

The chicken was done before my sides were, so I did the step where you take the chicken out and thicken the sauce, and then I put the chicken and the thickened sauce back into the slow cooker while the sides finished cooking.  So the chicken was nice and coated in the sauce by the time I served it.

While it looks like a really long list of ingredients, it comes together very quickly and is perfect for a busy weeknight.  I served it with Ginger Scallion Rice and Asian-Style Zucchini.

28 June 2011

I have a new favorite cookbook.  How To Grill by Steven Raichlen.  You may remember Raichlen; he had a grilling show on PBS called Primal Grill.  I saw this cookbook on tv and checked it out from the library.  As I was reading through it, I was marking the pages I wanted to copy for future reference, and realized I wanted to copy all of them!  The great thing about this book is that it's not just a cookbook full of recipes.  In fact, most of the book isn't recipes, it's step-by-step instructions on how to grill any food you can think of.  It also has all the information you need to start grilling, even if you've never done it before.  What I like about it is all the instructions for grilling things you wouldn't normally think to grill, like this garlic bread.  I want to try all the veggies and side dishes in there!  I knew that I couldn't try everything in 3 weeks, so I went out and bought my very own copy.  If you like to grill, I highly recommend this book.  Here's the recipe for the garlic bread.

Grilled Garlic Bread

1 loaf French bread (20” - 24” long)
12 tbsp salted butter, room temperature
4 cloves garlic, grated
¼ cup fresh herbs, finely chopped
¼ cup Parmesan, grated

Preheat grill to medium-high.  

Cut the bread sharply on the diagonal into ½” thick slices.  Arrange the bread slices on a tray or baking sheet.

Place the butter in a medium bowl and cream it using a spatula.  Add the garlic, herbs, and Parmesan and beat until the butter is light and fluffy.  Using a spatula or pastry brush, spread the garlic butter on both sides of the bread slices.

When ready to cook, place the buttered bread on the hot grate and grill until golden brown on both sides, 1 to 3 minutes per side.  Don’t take your eyes off the grill for a second, as the bread will burn quickly.  If it starts to burn, use tongs to move the slices to a cooler area of the grill.  Remove from the grill and serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings.

I was out of butter, so I used a tub spread instead.  That worked just fine and I will probably use that instead of butter in the future, so my dairy-allergic daughter can eat it.

The recipe in the book called for parsley, but since I don't like it I substituted fresh chives because that's what I had I had in the fridge that day.  I think any fresh herb would be good and that makes it easy to compliment your main dish.  Also, I increased the garlic a tad bit.  I like my garlic bread nice and garlicky!

Like I said above, I can't wait to try more recipes from this book.  In the past we have pretty much only grilled meat, but I figure since we already have the grill going, why turn on the oven or stove top to make the sides?  I definitely want to branch out in terms of grilled side dishes.  So stay tuned for more to come!

27 June 2011

This is the pasta salad I made for a church cookout this weekend.  It was a big hit.  I got the recipe from last month's Food Network Magazine.  It was an article about "Mix and Match Pasta Salad." You choose whatever kind of pasta, proteins, veggies, mix-ins, and dressing you like and it tells you how much of each to use.  Here's how I made mine.

Pasta Salad

½ lb. medium shells pasta
1 cup matchstick carrots
1 cup frozen peas
1 green onion, sliced
½ cup bacon, cooked and crumbled
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
1 clove garlic, grated
½ cup Parmesan, freshly grated

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse in cold water.  Transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, blanch carrots and peas by steaming or boiling until crisp-tender, then drain and cool in cold water.

Add carrots and peas to pasta.  Throw in the green onion and bacon.

Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic, and Parmesan.  Pour over the pasta mixture and toss.  Chill before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

The magazine didn't say how many servings it makes.  But on my box of pasta, it says 1 lb. serves 8, so 4 is my best guess.  I quadrupled the recipe for the church cookout.  I used the microwave to blanch the carrots and peas.  I use The Pampered Chef's microcooker, but if you don't have one of those, put the veggies in a bowl, add water, and cover with plastic wrap.  Cook the peas and the carrots seperately.  The peas will only take about 2 minutes, while the carrots can take up to 5 minutes, depending on how thick your matchsticks are.  Be careful not to overcook the peas.  The reason they are in there is because I love how sweet they are when they pop when you bite into them.

I know some people like their pasta salad a little creamier than this.  If that's you, multiply the dressing ingredients by one and half.

This is a really easy recipe that will taste really good at all of those Fourth of July cookouts you're invited to!

24 June 2011

I am always on the lookout for side dish recipes that can be made in the slow cooker while my chicken roasts in the oven.  That way they can both be done at the same time and don't have to take turns in the oven.  I definitely found a winner in this recipe.  It comes from the blog A Year of Slow Cooking.

Slow Cooker Garlic-Stuffed Baked Potatoes

4 large Russet potatoes
8 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp olive oil

Wash the potatoes and pat dry.  Carefully slice each potato crosswise every ½”, almost but not all the way through.  The potato should start to separate a bit like an accordion.  Place as many garlic slices as you can into each potato slit.

Nestle the potatoes into a 6 quart slow cooker.  Don’t worry if they don’t all sit on the bottom; it’s okay if they just nestle against each other.  Sprinkle liberally with salt.  Combine the melted butter and the olive oil and drizzle it over the top of each potato, trying to get it into the slits, if possible.  Cover and cook on high 2 to 3 hours.  The potatoes are done when a knife inserts easily and the potato flesh is fluffy.  

Makes 4 servings.

These potatoes are so good!  I know that 8 cloves sounds like a lot of garlic, but when it slow cooks like this, it just gets all soft and sweet.  These potatoes definitely have a nice garlic flavor to them, but it's not overpowering.  I highly recommend using The Pampered Chef's Garlic Slicer.  It slices the garlic paper thin, much thinner than I could ever do myself.  And it's really easy to use. It's the perfect tool for this application.  (No, I don't sell Pampered Chef, I just really love their products!)

The original recipe suggests serving these with sour cream, and I'm sure they would be good that way, but we loved them just as they were.  

A note on the cooking time: mine were perfect at 2 hours and 45 minutes.  My husband was working late last night, so I turned the slow cooker to "warm" until he got home and the chicken was done.  They were in there another hour or so before we ate.  They got a little bit more done, but not overdone.

The raw potatoes with raw garlic.

I have a feeling this is going to be one of my go-to potato dishes for busy weeknights.

23 June 2011

My newest meatless main dish.  I saw a recipe for cheese-stuffed portobellos in last month's Food Network Magazine and I thought it sounded awesome.  Then I read through it and didn't really like the way they made them.  They used ricotta, which I don't like, and they put it on top of the breadcrumbs.  I thought it sounded really weird to put the breadcrumbs on the inside.  Wouldn't they just get soggy?  So I started brainstorming and came up with my own version of cheese-stuffed portobellos.  I used Laughing Cow cheese instead of the ricotta and put the breadcrumbs on top so they would get browned and crispy.

Cheese-Stuffed Portobellos

4 (6”) portobello mushroom caps
1 tbsp olive oil
1 pkg (8.75 oz.) Laughing Cow Cheese 
1½ tsp lemon zest, finely grated
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tsp fresh herbs, finely chopped
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp olive oil

Remove stems and gills from mushroom caps.  Preheat the broiler.  Brush a foil-lined broiler pan with 1 tbsp olive oil.  Place mushrooms gill-side down on the pan; broil for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pop cheese wedges out of the foil packets into a small bowl.  Add lemon zest and stir to combine.  In a separate bowl, combine Panko, fresh herbs, Parmesan, and 2 tsp olive oil.  Stir to thoroughly distribute the olive oil.

Remove mushrooms from broiler and turn them gill-side up on the pan.  Season with salt.  Spread cheese mixture evenly over each mushroom.  Top with breadcrumbs.  Return to broiler and broil another 1-2 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown.  Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

They turned out really well.  The addition of the lemon zest to the cheese really makes a difference.  The brightness of the lemon zest really cuts the richness of the cheese.  Jim really liked that part.

I didn't specify which fresh herb to use.  You can use whatever you like.  I felt like trying something new, so I grabbed Savory, which I had never used before.  It worked well in this dish.  Most people would probably choose parsley, but since I don't like it, I have to get creative with substitutions.  

I used Creamy Swiss Laughing Cow cheese, but it would be good with any of their varieties. Next time I would like to try it with the Mozzarella, Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil variety, and use basil as the fresh herb.

I served this on a bed of "risotto".  I put that in quotes because, as you can see in the picture, it doesn't look like risotto.  So much of my attention was focused on the ingredients for the mushrooms that I did not tend to the risotto like I should have and it turned out more like regular rice.  Oh well!  I also served this with roasted asparagus.

Jim raved about this dish, so it will be going into my regular meatless main rotation!

14 June 2011

 As I mentioned yesterday, my daughter turned one earlier this month.  I threw a party for her with the theme "The Very Hungry Caterpillar."  I got tablecloths, plates, and cups with the design on them and then made food to go with it.

This is the cake I made.  Please keep in mind that I am not a baker, and this is my first time doing any kind of character cake, in fact, only my third time doing any kind of frosted cake at all!  I goofed up the green frosting for the cupcakes, and the fondant on the head kind of sunk into the crevasses on the cake, but other than that it turned out alright.  I chose chocolate cake because that way it killed two birds with one stone: a cupcake and a piece of chocolate cake.

 It was a really hot and humid day, about 94 degrees, so the frosting on the cupcakes was melting and maybe that's why the fondant did this?

As for food, I served (almost) all of the food the very hungry caterpillar ate.  (I was not about to bake 3 cherry pies in addition to doing the cake!)  I also drilled holes in all the food to make it look like a caterpillar ate through it.

I made fruit kebabs with apples, pears, plums, strawberries, and oranges.  I served them with a honey ginger fruit dip.  I was going to give you the recipe for that, but it didn't turn out perfectly, so I will tweak that recipe and post it later.

 A closer pic of the fruit so you can see the holes.

 The "sausages".  I did cocktail weenies in a honey mustard sauce.  The sauce didn't thicken up like my test batch did, so I will have to play with that one too and post it later.

 Swiss cheese, salami, and pickles.  The "salami" was actually summer sausage because it worked better than real salami.  I served this with crackers.
 Watermelon.  I didn't drill holes in it because it was kind of crumbly.

 My happy little birthday girl.

13 June 2011

My youngest daughter turned one about a week and a half ago.  Her birthday was on a Friday.  We were throwing a party for her on Saturday, but I still wanted to do something special for her on her actual birthday. A couple of months ago, I saw these "Tie-Dye" Pancakes on A Little Bit Crunchy, and as soon as I saw the first picture, I thought "Those would make perfect birthday pancakes!"  So Eva's first birthday was the beginning of a new tradition in our house.  (I made special pink pancakes for Lena on her last birthday, so the thought was already there.)  Here is the recipe for the pancakes I will be making every February 28th and June 3rd for the next 17 years or so!

Birthday Pancakes

1 egg
1 cup flour
¾ cup milk (soy is fine)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 tsp sprinkles, plus more for sprinkling
1½ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla
2 tbsp water, or more if necessary
½ tbsp sprinkles

Beat eggs with whisk until fluffy.  Add in flour, milk, oil, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Stir to combine.  Add sprinkles but don’t stir too much because the colors will run a little bit. 

Heat griddle or pan.  Pour about 3 tbsp of batter in pan and cook until pancake is puffed and dry around the edges.  Turn and cook other side until golden brown.

Meanwhile, combine powdered sugar, vanilla, and water.  Add more water if necessary to reach desired consistency.  You want it to be a little on the thick side so that it doesn’t just invisibly soak into the pancakes.

Stack a few pancakes on a plate and pour glaze over the top.  Sprinkle sprinkles on top and around the plate.

Makes 6 servings.

I didn't use the pancake recipe from A Little Bit Crunchy, because it called for buttermilk and Eva is allergic to dairy.  I found a recipe that called for regular milk and I used vanilla soy instead.  This pancake recipe is from Betty Crocker, I believe.  I've never had much luck cooking pancakes, but these turned out pretty well.  They are nice and cakey, which I have never been able to achieve before.

 We put a candle in the pancakes and sang "Happy Birthday" to Eva.  You can see that she loved it!  Daddy helped her blow out the candle.

She still only has four little teeth, which aren't even in all the way yet, so I cut up the pancakes in little pieces for her.  She absolutely loved them.  

We had extras leftover, so I put pieces of wax paper in between them and put them in a freezer bag and froze them.  I pulled out two this morning for breakfast.  They freeze and reheat really well.

Happy Birthday, Eva!

02 June 2011

I know it's not really soup season, but we had soup for dinner last night.  It was our meatless meal of the week, so I made a spinach and cheese quiche and had this soup with it.  I got the inspiration from a recipe I saw on Food.com, but made mine completely differently.  Here's how I made mine.

Roasted Carrot and Parsnip Soup

1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into ½” slices
1 lb. parsnips, peeled and cut into ½” slices
Olive oil
½ large onion, diced
3-4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
¼ tsp dried thyme

Preheat oven to 400°.  Place carrots and parsnips on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt.  Roast in oven 30-40 minutes or until veggies are soft but not too brown.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a soup pot.  Saute onion in oil until beginning to get soft.  Add roasted veggies, 3 cups stock, and thyme.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes.  Turn heat off and puree using a stick blender or in batches using a regular blender, adding more stock if necessary to reach desired consistency.  

Makes 4 servings.

Pretty simple really.  And it's really tasty.  The carrots give it a nice sweetness while the parsnips give a hint of spicyness.  The recipe I saw used only half a pound of parsnips, but I decided to give the parsnips and carrots equal billing.  They are really good together.

Roasting the veggies gives the soup an added dimension of flavor.  Just make sure they don't get dark brown; it will give your soup a "burned" flavor and will make it an unappealing brown color.  (I know this from the last time I tried making soup out of roasted carrots.  That one didn't turn out so well!)

I really like pureed vegetable soups and am happy to add this one to my repertoire.