Thursday, September 09, 2010

Santa Fe Chicken

Here's a quick and easy dump recipe. This stuff is delicious either scooped out on chips or rolled up in a tortilla.

Santa Fe Chicken

1 bag frozen chicken breasts (2-3 lbs)
1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can corn (drained)
1 cup salsa (I don't recommend black bean and corn, well, because there's already black beans and corn!)

Dump everything in the crock pot. Crock it until the chicken all falls apart (all day on low or all afternoon on high). You can add 4 ounces of cream cheese for the last 1/2 hour or so if you want a creamier stuff!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Crock Pot Beef Stew in Mushroom Cream Sauce

Tonight, I made a dinner that, I have to admit, was absolutely fantastic.  I wish my stomach were bigger so I could hold more; that's how good it was.  Jamie loved it, too.  It was crock pot-ized beef stew.  The beef was so tender it practically melted in my mouth.  The vegetables had the perfect amount of "done-ness" and there was just enough spice to put a little bite in the taste, but not knock your taste buds off.  I used what ingredients I had on hand and just added what looked to be the right amount.  Sorry, no exact measurements in this recipe.  I tend to ignore measurements and judge amounts by sight.

1 lb. stew meat, cut up into cubes
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
4-5 medium red potatoes, quartered
1/2 a small-sized bag of baby carrots
1 family-size can of cream of mushroom soup
Chicken broth (it's what I had; beef broth would have added a more beefy flavor)
Dried Fennel seed
Dried crushed Rosemary
Garlic powder (or cloves)
Onion powder
Black pepper
White wine (red wine would have added a more robust flavor, but I only had white)
Cooking spray or approx. 1 TBSP olive oil

In spray coated or oiled medium skillet over medium-high heat, add the stew meat.  Generously coat the meat in black pepper, garlic powder, and rosemary.  If you elect to use garlic cloves instead, you would add diced garlic cloves to the raw meat.  Stir in pan to coat well.  Keep stirring and tossing the meat until it is well browned.

Once meat is browned well, add about two cups of wine.  Stir and allow to simmer for a few minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate.  Add approximately 2 cups of broth.  Lower heat to medium-low, stir well.  Allow to simmer for a few minutes.  Pour meat and any scrapings from the bottom of the pan into crock pot.

Dump onions, carrots and potatoes on top of meat.  Pour can of cream of mushroom soup over the top.  Add more broth or water to thin out the soup.  Dump in some fennel seeds - probably about the equivalent of 1 TBSP.  Add lid to crock pot and cook on low for 5 to 7 hours.  After 5 hours have passed, use a dipper to pull out a few of the vegetables to check for doneness.  In my case, the food was about perfect after the whole seven hours had passed.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.  I have a feeling I'll be making this a lot this winter when the temperatures get chilly again!

*Note that there's no added salt in this recipe.  Between the wine, the broth and the cream of mushroom soup, I figured there was already more than enough sodium in this recipe.

**If you've an allergy to mushrooms, cream of celery soup would work, too.  It's hard to find a "family sized" can of cream of celery, so you may have to use two small cans, instead.  I imagine this would also taste good with chicken breasts and cream of chicken soup, as well.  I'll be doing lots of experimenting with slow cooker recipes as grad school continues, so I'll be sure to let you know!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Easy Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is easy and yummy. You can use canned or fresh veggies, whatever you happen to have. Here's how I made it.

1 lb. rotini garden twirls
1 whole green (or red, or yellow) bell pepper (you can use more if you like)
1/2 chopped vidalia or yellow onion
1 - 2 cans diced tomatoes, or fresh
1 bottle of the Vidalia Onion Vinaigrette sold at Sam's Club (don't remember the brand)
Grated parmesan cheese to taste
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Cook the pasta, drain and rinse with cold water. Add to large bowl with lid. Chop and dice bell pepper(s), tomatoes and onions, add to pasta. Pour in vidalia onion dressing and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Jamie and I loved this as a side dish. It also went over well at a church potluck dinner. If you want to stretch this to be a one-dish lunch, you can hard boil and dice some eggs to add to it or diced chicken breast or ham chunks. We had it both ways. This will be a regular dish during the hot summer months at my house!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Update on Yearly Menu and Giveaway!

Having my menus planned out is saving me a lot of grief (and money). True, I don't always follow exactly what the menu plan says; I often switch days around based on what I feel like eating. But knowing what I have available to fix and having a plan in mind for several different meals has been lifesaving. We eaten junk/fast food a lot less since I made my plan, and I've even lost a couple of pounds! Woot!

Also, just wanted to let you know you need to jump over to my blog because I'm hosting a giveaway of a 6 qt pre-seasoned, cast iron dutch oven. I can just imagine all the yummy things you can make in it. Go check it out now!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Carrot Fry

Carrot Fry*
by my mother-in-law

4 green chilis, halved
1/2 an onion, sliced (we use red)
7 curry leaves

Heat some oil and add these first three ingredients, and stir until the onion starts to brown a bit.

Add about 6 shredded carrots, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder

Cover and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add a little dry, unsweetened coconut, stir it in and cook for 2 or 3 more minutes.

*It's called a "fry" becuase it doesn't have a sauce. If it has a sauce, it's called a "curry."

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Deep Fried Pickles

I can't believe it's been almost a year since we visited Jenn in San Antonio, but that how time goes. While we there, we tried an appetizer at a steakhouse on the Riverwalk that Tom and I had never encountered before:

Deep Fried Pickles.

I cannot remember if the batter was smooth or crumbly, crisp and crunchy, or soft and chewy, but I cannot forget the sensation of biting into a pickle and feeling an explosion of garlicky brine, hot like broth, similar to the satisfying crunch of a cold pickle yet completely unfamiliar. The heat reduced the saltiness and amplified the dill and pepper taste.

My mind and tastebuds were transformed.

Tom's nephew came to visit us for his spring break a few weeks ago. One night while he was here we made fresh burgers and french fries. It was only the second or third time we've worked with that much hot oil in our kitchen. While going into the fridge for some lettuce and cheese, I spotted a jar of Nathan's Kosher Dill Halves on the top shelf. It would be a shame to let all that heat generated from making french fries go to waste....

Deep Fried Pickles
1 cup AP flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
A few grinds of fresh black pepper
1 cup water or flavorful liquid
3 - 4 thick pickle halves, halved, thirded, or quartered length-wise depending on size and preference
Approx 1/2 cup cornstarch
Approx 2-3 qts canola oil in a heavy pot, heated to 375

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt and pepper together to thoroughly combine then stir in water. Once a smooth, thick consistency is reached, set batter aside for 15 minutes. Heat oil to 375-385 degrees. Coat pickle spears in cornstarch so that all surfaces are lightly dusted, tap or brush off any excess. When oil and batter are ready, dip 3-4 dusted spears into the batter, covering completely. Lift and allow excess batter to drip off, then add one spear at a time to the hot oil, making sure it is submerged completely. Add 3-4 spears to the oil at a time, adjust temp at necessary to keep between 375-385. Fry each spear for 2-4 minutes until golden brown and batter is cooked through. Lift from oil carefully with a metal strainer, spider, or slitted spoon and let dry on a cooling rack set inside a metal pan. Let oil come back to temperature and repeat process for remaining spears.

Let the pickles cool long enough that they won't burn your your tongue, but not too long that you miss out on the distinct difference of the hot brine. This batter creates a thin crispy outer layer housing a chewy, light interior surrounding the pickle. The cornstarch lets the batter bond with the pickle and keeps it from sliding out of the batter completely during cooking and eating. As for serving size, I agree with Michael Pollan--eat all the junk food you want as long as you make it yourself.

Misadventures in Cooking

Yes, I double posted. So sue me.

Last night, I was craving something sweet yet spicy all at once. Then I started thinking, "How would a curry with peaches in it taste?" So I set to experimentin'. I modified another recipe for curry I found, sauteing some garlic cloves and half a sweet onion, then adding sausage links, curry powder and dried mustard powder. Then I added some chicken broth, put a lid on it and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Then I added a can of sliced peaches, recovered it and let it simmer for 8 more minutes. I didn't think it tasted too bad, but still wasn't quite what I was looking for. Also, Jamie apparently didn't like it at. all. I had forgotten one all important thing: Jamie hates peaches (unless it's my peach cobbler). If I experiment again with this, I'm going to try it with orange slices or mangoes instead of peaches and I'll add some red bell pepper strips and/or tomatoes, as well as a green vegetable of some sort (asparagus maybe?) to add some color and extra nutrients. I'm also going to use chicken instead of sausage. I'm also going to use more spices. I want my mouth to feel hot from the spices but cool from the fruit all at the same time. Any suggestions from my cooking friends on how to accomplish that?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Meal Planning

I've noticed that I have a bad habit of not feeling like cooking - mainly because I have no idea what I have available to cook - and grabbing some take out or ordering pizza for dinner, instead. This adds up quickly. So, in an effort to save money and better realize what I have in the pantry and fridge/freezer, I'm making a calendar with meals all laid out. I'm going to try to come up with meals and ideas on a 25-30 day rotation. This way, I don't get tired of having the same thing on the same day of the week every week, and I get some variety. This should also save me money at the grocery as I'll know exactly what I'll need for the week and will only buy (theoretically) what is needed that week. To help save money, I also am utilizing Excel to list out all the groceries I buy at all the different stores, listing their most current prices per item, and leaving space to mark which items and how many of each I need. This should help me to better budget my grocery money, as well. I'm also going to try to buy more locally grown items at the farmer's markets down here. I'm trying for more responsible food consumption. Becca posted a lot on her blog about her efforts. What about you all? Do you have a favorite cheap recipe to share? Any budget-friendly ideas? How do you save money at the grocery? Please let me know!

Monday, March 15, 2010

More White People Food

(Let me know if you're offended, and I'll stop calling it that.)

Daniel started a new job (yay!) and wanted to take white people food to work for lunch for a while. We've been using some new recipes, and some that we'd been experimenting with for a while. Here are two I really like.

Barbecue Chicken Pizza (check out Pioneer Woman's, too.)
This recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens. It's really just a recipe for crust, and has some suggestions for toppings, so we just followed the guidelines and went with what we liked.

2 3/4 to 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I like King Arthur)
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (120 to 130 F)
2 tablespoons cooking oil or olive oil (I used olive.)

1. In a large mixing bowl combine 1 1/4 cups of the flour, the yeast, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; add warm water and oil. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl. Beat on high speed 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can. (Notice you don't have to mix the yeast and water separately first--I'm no good with yeast. Also, I used a hand mixer, but I think this would be way easier in a Kitchenaid deal. I had to keep turning it off and shaking the dough-ball down. It kept climbing up the beaters.)

2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes total). Divide dough in half. Cover; let rest for 10 minutes. Use to make Pan Pizzas or Thin-Crust Pizzas. (I freaked out a little when my dough was not smooth and elastic after I kneaded it, but then after it rested for 10 minutes, it was gorgeous.)

Pan Pizzas: Grease two 11x7x1 1.2 inch or 9x9x2 inch baking pans. If desired, sprinkle with cornmeal. (I didn't.) With greased fingers, pat dough onto bottoms and halfway up sides of prepared pans. (Mine kept slipping down, and it looked really thin in some places. I even had to seal a little hole. All was well after baking.) Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly double. (30 to 45 minutes). Bake in a 375 oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until brown. Spread sauce onto hot crust; top with meat, vegetables, and cheese. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes more or until bubbly.

Thin-Crust Pizzas: Grease two 12-inch pizza pans or baking sheets. If desired, sprinkle with cornmeal. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough portion into a 13 inch circle. Transfer to pans. Build up edges slightly. Do not let rise. Bake in a 45 oven about 12 minutes or until brown. Spread sauce onto hot crust; top with meat, vegetables, and cheese. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes more or until bubbly.

We usually make pan, because that's what we like (duh), but this time we tried the thin crust to save an hour (an hour!). So first we did the thin, and had that for dinner, and then I did the pan for the next day's lunch. Indeed, we still like the pan better, but the thin was fine for time saving.

Here are the suggestions for making pizzas:
Spread one 15 ounce can pizza sauce or one 10 ounce container refrigerated Alfredo sauce over each hot, partially-baked crust.
--For each meaty pizza, add 1 lb cooked and drained Italian sausage or ground beef, 6 ounces sliced pepperoni, or 1 cup cubed cooked ham or Canadian-style bacon.
--Additional toppings could include 1 cup of your favorite vegetables, such as sliced green onions, sliced pitted ripe olives, sliced fresh mushrooms, and/or chopped sweet pepper for each pizza.
--Finally, sprinkle 2 to 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese over your toppings on each pizza. Finish baking according to the Pizza Dough recipe.

Daniel and I used Sticky Fingers Memphis Sweet barbecue sauce, a rotisserie chicken from the store, a can of sliced black olives, and slices of a red onion and a bell pepper coated in olive oil and grilled on the George Foreman. The first few times we made pizza at home, we used "Pizza" cheese. This time we used part-skim mozzarella. (I couldn't tell a difference, but it made Daniel feel like he was eating less fat. Can you believe he eats cheese now? He used to not even want to walk next to the cheese in the grocery store. It freaked him out.) Anyway, yummy! The pepper and onion are super mild if they're grilled until soft. My mom ate it once, and she hates bell peppers. (My parents are wonderful house guests. My dad hates strawberries and ate homemade strawberry sauce on his pancakes that same visit. You should have them over.) We've also made this when we cooked thicken ourselves. It tastes the same, just takes a little longer. I probably poached it and then may have put it in the skillet or on the grill for a minute. I might try spreading some garlic on the crust next time I make this.

The Easiest Pasta Ever.
We don't make our own pasta at this point, but may someday. But we do make sauce. This is based on a Rachel Ray recipe. I have learned a lot from her over the years. I'll just give you the three recipes based on the same basic one, and then I'll tell you my variations.

Basilico: Tomato-Basil Sauce

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes, or diced in juice if you like chunky tomato sauce
20 leaves fresh basil, roughly cut or torn

Heat olive oil and garlic in a deep saucepan over medium heat. when the garlic speaks, add tomatoes and heat through. Stir in basil leaves and reduce heat to low. Simmer until pasta of choice is cooked until al dente. This is enough sauce for up to 1 1/2 pounds pasta.

Marinara Sauce
In addition to the ingredients for Basilico Sauce, you will need:
3 stems fresh oregano, leaves stripped from stems and chopped
A palmful of fresh flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Follow method for Basilico, adding the other herbs and pepper when you stir in the basil.

Arrabiatta: Spicy Tomato Sauce
In addition to the ingredients for basilico, you will need several shakes crushed red pepper flakes, about 1/2 teaspoon

Follow method described in Basilico Sauce recipe, adding the crushed red pepper with the garlic when first heating the oil.

So I just make it with whatever I have, and we almost never have canned tomatoes (though I like them and am trying to convince Daniel that we should try them sometimes because the tomatoes we get aren't very flavorful and because I hear there is more lycopene in them than in fresh tomatoes.) So I just quartered several roma tomatoes, because that is what we have, and put them in the food processor. One time I made this we didn't have fresh basil, so I used dry. The sauce was sour, so I had to add a little sugar. The next time we had plenty of basil and I used all of it and the sauce was not at all sour, but not to sweet, either. We like this recipe. We have a couple other recipes for cream type sauces (Better Homes and Gardens), and one with portabellos (from Rachel Ray), but this is my favorite because it tastes so fresh and can be reheated well. (The cream sauces get a little clumpy when they cool.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Riverwalk "Pickles"

Tooz, David and I went downtown to the Riverwalk and Farmer's Market one Saturday afternoon (Jamie was with his BB). We got hungry, so we looked for stuff to eat. David got chili. I didn't see anything that tempted me, and Tooz got a San Antonio snack specialty. Some people call it "Riverwalk 'Pickles'". Some call it cucumbers. Whatever it was, it was delicious! Basically, it's sliced peeled cucumbers, pickle juice, lime juice, salt, and a special type of Chili seasoning called "Tajin". Sounds disgusting, but tastes delicious! It's an easy to make, cheap, low calorie snack.

1 large cucumber
Splash of dill pickle juice
Splash of lime juice
Splash of vinegar (if desired)
Salt to taste
Tajin to taste

Tajin is a type of flavor enhancer containing salt, chili powder, garlic and other super-secret spices. It contains no msg. It is low in sodium. It has very few calories, if any.

Basically, you just peel and slice the large cucumber and put it in a bowl big enough to hold all the slices. Pour over the top dill pickle juice, lime juice and vinegar to taste. Add a dash of salt to taste. Then, start shaking on the Tajin. Put as much or as little as you want. It isn't really that spicy, but it has enough kick that you know it's there! It's a very interesting sensation to have the cool of the cucumber, but the heat of the chili powder on the back of your tongue. It's really really tasty!