Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Still alive

Since it has been over a week since my last post, I thought I would check in. I'm still here and still cooking, but life has been very busy and tiring these last couple of weeks of both the hubs and me. We've been trying to stay low key as much as possible as a result. I promise to get something new posted before Sunday though. :)

Happy cooking (and eating)!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Roasted Chicken two ways - slow cooker style


I love roasted chicken. Love it. Until about 6 months ago though, I could count on two hands the number of times I actually made one because I can never figure out how to keep the meat from drying out before it's fully cooked. Then a friend of mine let me in on a little secret - put the chicken in the crock pot! It seriously leaves the meat falling off the bones and helps it retain so much moisture that you would never know it had been cooking for 6+ hours. Plus, who doesn't love a good crock pot meal? Especially when it means roasted chicken on a weeknight!

I'm providing the instructions first and then my two favorite ways to season the bird after since the cooking method is the same. You'll love how simple these directions are.

1. Clean the bird.
2. Pat the skin dry and season the bird liberally, inside and out.
3. Put the chicken in the crock pot.
4. Put the cover on the crock pot and turn it on low for 6+ hours.
5. When ready, remove chicken from crockpot and put on a baking sheet in the oven breast side up. Broil for 3-5 minutes until skin is browned to your liking.
6. Eat chicken!

You can leave it in there as long as you want. It will probably be done in less than 6 hours, but use a meat thermometer to ensure you've reached the proper internal temp. Mine is usually cooking away for 8+ hours, so I don't have to worry too much about it.

Here are my favorite ways to season - remember to season the skin AND the cavity of the bird -

Clean and easy -
A liberal amount of garlic powder, onion powder, and dill.
Sea salt


Citrus -
1 orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
5-8 cloves of garlic, halved or whole
1 onion, sliced
Paprika
Sea salt

Season inside and out with paprika and salt. Stuff about half the lemons, onions, orange, and garlic inside the bird. Surround the chicken with the rest once it's in the crock pot.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Stuffed Peppers

Growing up, I hated bell peppers. Hated them with a firey passion. So much so that on stuffed pepper night I would hide the pieces of pepper under my placemat so that I could avoid eating them. Eventually my parents stopped fighting me and allowed me to just eat the rice mixture, which made dinner much easier.

At some point after getting married, I read some study that suggests that your tastebuds regenerate every 7 years, so as you get older, your tastes can change dramatically. At this point I decided to give green peppers another shot. Needless to say, I loved them. Then I decided I loved red peppers and yellow peppers and orange peppers. Now peppers are staple in my house and when I visit my mom, she buys me a pepper for stuffing.

The way I make stuffed peppers is different each and every time - here is tonight's variation. It might be my favorite so far!

Stuffed Peppers

1lb lean ground turkey breast
1 1/2 cups dry quinoa
1 cup brown rice
4 carrots, peeled, and chopped into small pieces
1 onion, diced
6 small cloves of garlic, minced
8oz baby bella mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
8 sweet mini peppers, any color
1 quart + 1 pint vegetable stock (or water)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Ground pepper to taste
4 tbsp dried parsley
3/4 bunch cilantro, chopped (stems removed)
1 cup shredded cheese (we used sharp cheddar) + extra for the top of the peppers
3+ bell peppers (we used green), tops cut off and seeds removed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the tops off the peppers. Remove seeds. Rinse peppers and set aside.

Rinse rice and quinoa. Cook in a rice cooker or a large saucepan with stock (or water). If you use a saucepan, cook until the rice and quinoa is soft and cooked through and nearly all of the water is absorbed.

Add oil to a 12 inch non stick skillet and heat over medium. Add garlic, onions, carrots, mini peppers, and mushrooms. Sautee until onions are translucent and vegetables are done to your liking. Season with black pepper to taste. (I prefer ours to be pretty tender, so I sauteed them for about 12 minutes.)

Once vegetables are done, put them in a large bowl and set aside. You'll mix the rice/quinoa mixture and the meat in later, so make it a big bowl.

Using the same skillet, brown the ground turkey. Season with dried parsley. Once meat is cooked through, add it to the bowl with the vegetables.

When the rice/quinoa mixture is cooked, add to the bowl with everything else. Add cheese and combine thoroughly. 

Fill peppers with the rice/veggie/meat mixture and top with more cheese. Put about an inch of water in an 8x8 baking dish, carefully add peppers, and cook at 350 for 25+ minutes. 25 minutes will give you a warm, but crisp pepper. Cook the peppers longer if you want your peppers softer.

Serve immediately with extra rice or cheese if desired.






Note: this recipe will make A LOT of leftover rice. You can make the same amount if you are making more than 3 peppers (I probably could have filled 6-8 additional peppers) or you could use less rice/quinoa/meat. I like to eat the rice by itself for leftovers, which is why I made so much.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Eggplant Grilled Cheese

I have a love-hate relationship with eggplant. I really want to love eggplant because it is so vibrantly beautiful. It taunts me with it's gorgeous shade of purple and makes me want to buy it. That and my two year old really seems to enjoy it. And on top of that, my husband actually loves it. That said, it's not really my favorite thing to cook with because if not cooked properly, it can become slimy and really, who wants to eat a slimy vegetable?

Anyway, this is an eggplant creation I can get on board with. So on board with it that we have actually had it twice in the last month. I even convinced our new roommate (who hasn't had eggplant before) to give it a shot and she said it was tasty. That must mean something. And, if that's not enough of a glowing recommendation for you, let it be known that this is a grilled cheese sandwich and anything smothered in melted cheese is automatically to die for. Even if you are not an eggplant lover, you should still try this one on for size. The crispy eggplant is a nice alternative to the gooey mozzarella.

This would be delicious with mushrooms or spinach added to it. Or bacon (because bacon makes everything better). Or avocado. Or jalepenos if you like a little kick. Honestly, I can't really think of anything that wouldn't be good on this sandwich, but at least with this, you'll have a starting point.

We made these (+bacon) for dinner on Valentine's Day, served with my favorite, bacon avocado salad. We were so full after dinner that we barely had room for dessert!

Eggplant Grilled Cheese

2 slices eggplant, approximately 1/3" in diameter
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 slices of bread (I use Dave's Killer Bread, my personal fav), buttered  on one side
1 egg
1/4 cup each cornmeal and breadcrumbs
2-3 tbsp oil for frying

Crack egg into a bowl. Lightly scramble together the yolk and the white. Add a little water if necessary to help combine.

Combine breadcrumbs and cornmeal in a separate bowl. Set both bowls aside.

Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Dredge eggplant in egg so that the entire piece of eggplant has been covered. Place eggplant in breadcrumb/cornmeal mixture and cover completely. Tap off excess breading. Place in frying pan when oil is hot. Repeat with second slice of eggplant.

Fry eggplant for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Flip and fry on the other side until golden brown. Remove from oil and set aside.

Remove oil from pan, but do not wipe the pan down. Return pan to stove and turn heat to medium-low. Place one slice of bread, buttered side down, in the pan. Top with cheese, both slices of eggplant, and the other slice of bread. Put a cover over your pan to help steam the sandwich. This will allow your cheese to melt without your bread burning. Cook until bread is cooked to your liking. Flip sandwich and replace cover, continuing to cook until cheese is melted and bread is crispy.

Serve immediately.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Back from a temporary hiatus + new recipe: Apple Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

It has been nearly a week since my last post - oops! Last week was kind of a whirlwind of a new roomie, long days at work, a cranky toddler, and getting ready to go out of town for an extended weekend. Needless to say, there was barely time for the cooking, let alone the documenting of said cooking!

But I'm back with a really delicious muffin recipe. Apparently I'm on a muffin kick. And by apparently, I mean that I am on a muffin kick. So much so that I made two different kinds of muffins tonight because I couldn't decide which one sounded better. My family and coworkers will be very happy.

My favorite muffin recipe is this delicious apple muffin recipe. I generally make it as is (although I always use all whole wheat flour), but tonight I decided to kick it up a notch. After my last batch of muffins that included quinoa turned out brilliantly, I thought I'd see what other kinds of muffins I could integrate quinoa into.

So ... here you have it. Muffin-heaven part 1.

Apple Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins
Makes 2 dozen muffins
 
3 tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt (Greek would also work)
1 cup pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin)
1 cup cooked quinoa (~1/2 cup dry)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
6+ tbsp cinnamon (be generous)
3 large apples, cored and cubed

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare muffin tins by spraying with nonstick spray or lining.

Rinse 1/2 cup dry quinoa before placing in a small saucepan. Add approximately 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer for 15-18 minutes, or until water is almost completely absorbed and quinoa is tender.

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time. Mix on low speed until fully incorporated. Add yogurt, pumpkin puree, and quinoa. Continue to mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Add dry ingredients. Mix well.

Fold in apple chunks and spoon batter into prepared muffin tins. You can fill your tins pretty full. The muffins will rise some, but not much.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 400 degrees and bake an additional 5 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out dry when inserted into the muffin.
 
Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. These muffins are delightful when served warm but are equally delightful when served at room temp.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sauteed Mushrooms

Is there anything in this world more fabulous than a mushroom sauteed in olive oil, butter, and garlic? I think not. They are a staple in our home because of their versatility and because of that, they deserve their very own post. That is all you really need to know before making this recipe. That and the fact that I could eat these straight out of the pan all day long.

Sauteed Mushrooms

8oz mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bellas)
4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
Ground black pepper and kosher salt to taste

Heat oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add mushrooms and butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Saute until mushrooms reach desired tenderness. (Mine usually cook for 8-10 minutes before reaching the perfect tenderness.)


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Avocado chicken salad

I love chicken salad sandwiches but I do not love mayo. This obviously presents a problem as mayo is generally the base for chicken salad. I've added avocado to smoothies before - the result of which was delightfully creamy. I also made this avocado sauce pasta and it was to die for. In my quest to add more vegetables and healthy fats to meals, I decided to throw in an avocado to see what happens. Needless to say, I think next time I'll probably throw in two avocados and cut the mayo down even more because this was really yummy! I served them on these rolls, which I have made two Sundays in a row because they are just that good.
Chicken Salad Sandwiches

2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 avocado, pitted and mashed
1/2 cup mayo
Pepper to taste
Bread, rolls, or tortillas for serving

Put chicken breasts in a large saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 35-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove from water and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, cut into bite size pieces.

Put chicken in a large bowl. Add chopped celery and avocado. Mash avocado with a fork. Add 1/4 cup mayo and mix together. Continue adding up to another 1/4 cup mayo until salad has the desired consistency and taste. Add black pepper to taste.

Serve immediately or chill until ready to use.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Crepes

Crepes.

What can I say about crepes? Delicious. Versatile. Savory. Sweet. Absolutely best thing ever.

The hubs and I had a crepe dinner party - we started with crepes filled with cheese, spinach, sauteed mushrooms, peppers, scallions, eggs, ham, and all the savory deliciousness we could come up with. Then we devoured chocolate and jam filled crepes. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night!

This is the crepe recipe I have in my recipe box - I have no idea where it came from originally, but it works equally well for savory and sweet crepes, although you could certainly add 1-2 tbsp sugar if you wanted the batter to be on the sweeter side.

Make these!

Crepes

2 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, melted

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on low speed until batter is thin and lump free. For best results, let batter sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to eliminate air bubbles.

Heat a 12" nonstick griddle pan over medium heat. Use a small amount of butter to grease the pan. Keep your butter handy, you'll probably need to rebutter the pan every 2-3 crepes.

Once your pan is nice and hot, pick it up off the heat with one hand. With the other hand, add approximately 1/3 cup batter, swirling the pan quickly to spread the batter as thin as possible. Cook for about 4 minutes (or until light brown) and then flip. Cook an additional 4 minutes (or until light brown). Repeat until all batter has been used.

To keep crepes warm, you can put them on an oven safe plate in the oven at the lowest heat setting possible.

Next time I make these I will try to take note of how many they made. I tripled the recipe for a dinner party and had enough for 4 adults and 2 kids, plus we still had about 8 leftover.