Friday, December 10, 2010

Red Pepper and Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breast

We made this meal the other night because we wanted something new to do with a chicken breast. Roasted red peppers and spinach seemed like a good place to start.

Red Pepper Stuffed Chicken Breast Recipe
Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4

4 boneless chicken breasts pounded
2 oz cottage cheese
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
2 red bell peppers
1 cup baby spinach
1/2 cup milk
½ cup water
Salt and pepper
1 tbls starch mixed with 1 tbls of water

Cut bell peppers in half, remove seeds and stem. Place on cookie sheet cut side down and in oven on broil. Broil for 10 minutes or until skin starts to blacken and bubble. Plunge peppers into ice water for 10 seconds. Peel and discard skin of peppers. Turn oven down to 400 degrees. Lay out pounded chicken flat on a flat surface. Sprinkle salt and ground black pepper on chicken. Lay out 1/4th spinach on each chicken breast. Add cottage cheese and garlic on top of spinach. Top with roasted red peppers. Roll each chicken breast, wrap with cotton string to secure and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in baking dish with water and cover dish lightly with foil. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes or when internal chicken is 155 degrees. Pour drippings into a saucepan and mix with milk. Heat over medium heat, salt and pepper to taste, and mix in starch mixture to thicken. To serve remove string from chicken, slice into half inch rolls and top with sauce.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Homemade Pasta With Turkey Meatballs

 I started this project because I wanted to try an Italian sausage recipe with ground turkey. Unfortunately, the sausage came out poorly and I ended up eventually throwing it away. After the failure, I had some left over meat so I decided to try to make some meatballs. I did not want to use egg because I wanted a lower fat meatball and the turkey did not need extra moisture. The meatballs needed a sauce to live in so a red sauce is where I went.
The sauce was created with the season and taste method. It is very important to taste what you are cooking before you serve it and when you are cooking from scratch without a recipe then it is even more important to taste as you go. This is of course as long as what you are cooking does not pose a risk if eaten raw. You do not want to taste a raw piece of chicken since it is widely accepted that raw and undercooked chicken poses a health risk. Meatballs and sauce is a great meal but really needs to be enjoyed on a roll or noodles. I chose noodles.

For the noodles, I used a basic pasta recipe that works with one cup of flour to one egg and a half tsp of flour. Since I do not have a dough roller, I could not make spaghetti so I rolled out the dough on the counter and cut into long strips with my pizza cutter. My pasta ended up being closer to a thin fettuccini a thicker ribbon than linguini though they were not uniform with some thicker than others. The pasta noodles were great. They were not heavy like pressed noodles are. Cutting the noodles was the most time consuming part of the meal.
I was able to make this meal in about an hour and a half of constant cooking because I was not prepared and I made things out of order. If I would have started by making the pasta dough, then started the sauce followed by the meatballs, and then finish the pasta I think the time could be cut down to under an hour.

Pasta waiting to be boiled
 Pasta Sauce Recipe
Time: 40 minutes largely unattended
Servings: 4

16 roma tomatoes skinned and seeds removed
2 tsp fresh garlic
1 1/2 tsp mortons light salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 packet sweetener

Coarsely chop tomatoes and add to saucepan with other ingredients. Heat to a simmer and let simmer for at least 30 minutes stirring occasionally to allow flavors to meld. (If adding meatballs, can add them after first 20 minutes of simmer.

Turkey Meatball Recipe
Time: 30 minutes
Servings: About 20 meatballs

1 lb 90% lean ground turkey
2 1/2 tsp parsley flakes
3/4 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Oil or cooking spray
Mix all ingredients except oil in bowl. Divide and roll into 3/4 oz balls. Brown balls on all sides in oiled skillet over medium heat. Simmer in spaghetti sauce for 10 minutes or until balls are cooked through.

Pasta Recipe
Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6.

2 cups of flour
1 tsp light salt
2 eggs
dab of water if needed

Measure dry ingredients into a food processor with metal blade attachment and pulse two times to combine. Add eggs and process for 30 seconds add water if there is flour that has not combined into the dough. Divide into 4 equal sized balls and let sit for at least 5 minutes (may be covered in plastic rap and saved for 3 days.) Roll out each ball to a thickness of 1/8th inch cut as thin as desired with knife or pizza cutter. (Can use dough roller with cutter head to roll out and cut dough). Drop cut noodles into well-salted boiling water and cook until desired tenderness. Well take less time to cook the noodles than does to cook dried packaged noodles. Uncooked noodles can be well floured in a freezer bag and stored in freezer for up to a month.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cajun Style Grilled Shrimp

Being far from, the ocean seafood is not as common as land animals in my part of the country. Since shrimp is treated pretty well by a freezing process, grilled shrimp is a quick and easy seafood dish. The most time consuming part of the entire dish is peeling the shrimp since grilling the shrimp takes less than 6 minutes. The great thing about cooking on the grill is fewer dishes to cleanup when you are done.

Cajun Style Grilled Shrimp Recipe
Servings 2
Time: 20 minutes

1-pound raw peeled and deveined shrimp with tails
3/4 tsp oregano
3/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
3/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Cooking spray or olive oil

Preheat grill on high. Rinse shrimp and pat dry with paper towels. Mix spices together and toss with shrimp. Thread on skewers or put in grill basket. Brush or spray lightly with oil. Grill for 3 minutes, flip and grill for another 2-3 minutes or until center meat is no longer translucent and outside is pink.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

When I think of macaroni and cheese, three different visions come to mind:
  1. A blue box (the mac and cheese we had most often)
  2. Some kind of inedible mushy casserole with bread crumbs on top
  3. A creamy wonderfulness made with ultra processed "cheese food"
If allowed I would have eaten macaroni and cheese for most meals if my parents would have let me. Unfortunately for me, my dad was not the biggest fan of the blue box. Now that I am older, I understand why we were not fed the bright orange fake food. The boxed stuff is barely cheese, has very little flavor, (other than salt) and does not feel grown up. The macaroni and "cheese food" was a dish I was very fond of growing up but I can no longer get behind a soft cheese that does not need to be refrigerated.

Luckily, the French knew what to do. They have a basic cream mother sauce called béchamel sauce. Add some cheese to that and you have what they call mornay sauce. Add cooked macaroni and you have a cheesy and creamy macaroni and cheese that tastes great and not from a box. You can use any kind of cheese to make this so you can get as creative as you want but in the name of simplicity and for the"just like my momma use to make" feeling I go for a cheddar flavored macaroni and cheese.

Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
Time: 30 min
Servings 2

3 cups Cooked Macaroni
2 tbsp Butter
2 tbsp All Purpose Flour
1 cup Milk or Cream
1/2 cup Shredded Medium Cheddar
1 1/2 tbsp Cream Cheese
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Melt butter in 1 qt saucepan on med-low heat and whisk in all-purpose flour. Continue to Whisk mixture over the heat until the mixture is bubbling for about 5 minutes and the mixture no longer smells like flour. Slowly whisk in milk one to two tablespoons at a time until all milk is incorporated and sauce is smooth. Warms sauce until hot enough to melt cheese, whisk the cream cheese into the sauce until melted. Add cheddar cheese one quarter at a time, making sure the previous quarter is melted completely before adding the next. Add salt and pepper to taste, mix sauce with cooked macaroni and serve.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Early Morning Lunch cooking

I enjoy taking leftovers for lunch at work. Unfortunately, there are times that I do not have leftovers in the fridge. This morning was one of those days. I could have had egg salad sandwiches but I was hankering for chicken. I grabbed a chicken breast out of the fridge and saw mushrooms in there. I thought in my head that chicken with sautéed mushrooms in some kind of sauce. I did not have any cream so there would be no cream sauce, no stock of any kind was available but I did have some white cooking wine. Also in my fridge, I found some minced garlic and capers. I cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and sautéed in some olive oil. Once the chicken was cooked, I removed from it from the pan and cooked the mushrooms and garlic.

The mushrooms started to stick to my stainless steel skillet so I added some wine to deglaze the pan and continued to cook the mushrooms in the wine adding more wine each time the mushrooms start to stick. Once the mushrooms darkened and became tender, I decided to go back to the fridge to see what else I could put in there. Digging deep in the fridge I found some sliced scallions from a week before. The capers and scallions went in at the same time. I added the chicken back into the pan along with the chicken so that I could let the flavors come together. I added more wine and waited for the alcohol to boil off. I remember watching an Epicurious podcast where they added cold butter liquid to make some kind of sauce so I turned off the heat and added a chunk of butter and sprinkled with kosher salt and ground pepper. I did not end up with sauce but I did have lunch. The chicken was tender. The dish had the sourness of the capers but was not overpowering.

What I learned:
  • That I need to learn the name of the butter sauce and how to make it. (maybe called tempering, anyone know?)
  • 6 in the morning is a great time to cook creatively but a bad time to try to remember to take pictures or remembering measurments.
Question for you:

 What is the best meal that you have made Ad Hoc? Has the dish become part of your meal rotation?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Polish Cowboy Breakfast

My last post got me reminiscing about the scramble of my childhood, “Cowboy Breakfast”. This week I decided to make it. I made it on a morning that I had a day off so that I could spend time savoring the meal. I put some olive oil in a pan, started the potatoes and got the rest of my ingredients together. I made sure to leave the skin on the potatoes to add flavor. I when I went to the freezer for some bacon I was stopped in my tracks, kielbasa sausage! It was low fat turkey kielbasa but still savory and tender. Tasty enough that you wonder what kind of chemicals and fake food to which you are exposing yourself. No longer am I making the cowboy breakfast of childhood I am making “Polish Cowboy Breakfast”. Choosing between pork can be a rough decision but I chose correctly. Just reinforces that improvisation can bring you pleasant surprises.

olive oil not shown

Polish Cowboy Breakfast Recipe
Time: 30 min
Servings 1-2


2 eggs
1 small or medium potato cut into half-inch pieces
1 tbls olive oil
3 inches of kielbasa sausage
Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat oil in a skillet with a lid on medium heat. Cut potato, cook in skillet moving potatoes as little as possible (maybe four stirs) until brown, and tender (10 minutes). Cut kielbasa into bite sized pieces put in skillet and heat until warm. Add eggs and scramble until done. Add Salt and pepper to suit your taste.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Vegetable Scramble

There are some evenings that you do not really feel like spending a lot of time cooking your dinner. This is where eggs come in. Eggs are quick, easy, and can be made many different ways. My favorite way to make eggs is to scramble them, they are easy and as long as they don’t get burnt then everyone is happy. My favorite way to eat them is to fry them but I do not make fried often because frying an egg at 5:30 in the morning is not an appealing task. The other night after eating chicken for the past week, we decided to have eggs for dinner. We had some vegetables that we wanted to fill out the eggs. Some people would say to make a frittata but we do not have an oven safe skillet. My answer to that is a scramble.

A scramble is where you cook the scrambled eggs with the precooked fixings. Growing up my favorite breakfast was when my mom use to make what we called cowboy breakfast. Cowboy breakfast was a scramble made with country style potatoes and bacon. Every time I eat that meal, it brings me back to Saturday mornings around the breakfast table with my folks and siblings. It seemed to be always sunny and we usually had orange juice and pancakes or toast. Alas, no bacon of childhood in this scramble, but this is still a great meal.

Vegetable Scramble Recipe

Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 1

2 eggs beaten
4 stalks Asparagus woody parts removed and cut into bite sized pieces
4 button mushrooms sliced
2 tbls diced red peppers
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a nonstick pan sprayed with Pam over medium-high heat. Sauté all vegetables until tender. Add eggs to vegetables and cook until done. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with toast if desired

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Strawberry and Blueberry Crepes

Recently I had a little bit of time so I decided to make some crepes.  The crepe recipe I used is adapted from basic Crepe Recipe in the first edition of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.   The recipe made one dozen crepes, so I made a quarter of a recipe since I was cooking for just myself.  Since I had never made a crepe before I had to get the technique down.  I did not have the a crepe pan so i used a nonstick skillet. The second of my three crepes was the best.  The first crepe was too thick because the batter was not runny enough.   I added about a tablespoon of water to the remaining batter so the second crepe was beautiful. The third crepe was lumpy because I poured the excess batter from the second crepe out of the pan back into the bowl so there was partially cooked batter in my batter bowl. 

I wanted a rolled crepe with filling inside so I decided I would use berries.  Strawberries are something that thinks I could eat at every meal.  They are the first place I head towards in the store.  I was not sure how to make the filling so I decided to blend the fruit in the blender.  This made fruity syrup but I wanted some more chunks so I put some cut strawberries and the syrup in a pan on the stove to heat it all up. 

Once the fruit was warm, I put the chunks inside the crepe and rolled it up.  Drizzled the some syrup on the top of the crepe and finished with a dollop of whipped cream on top.  The flavors were great together the fruit was just sweet enough to cut the tartness of the fruit without the meal tasting like I was eating at IHOP.

Strawberry Blueberry Crepes Recipe
Crepe recipe that highlights the fruit and not just the sugar.

Time: 45 min

Servings:  1 (2 or 3 Crepes)

9 small strawberries
¼-cup blueberries
1 tsp of sugar
¼-cup flour
¼-cup milk
One medium egg white
1 tsp canola oil or melted and then cooled butter
Dash of salt

whisk flour, milk, egg white,oil and salt together. If you still have lumps, it is ok.  check the consistency of the batter, it should be thin enough to run thinly across a pan when tipped. If it is too thick, add water a teaspoon at a time. let set while you make the filling. 

Wash,core and slice strawberries putting half into a blender and setting half aside. Wash blueberries, remove stems, and put half into blender.   Blend fruit until smooth. You can run the pure through a strainer to remove seeds but it is not necessary. Transfer to small saucepan and put on medium heat.  Add remaining fruit and sugar to the pan and heat to simmer and remove from heat. 

Heat an eleven-inch non-stick or buttered skillet on medium heat. Otherwise, grease the pan with butter, oil or cooking spray.  Once pan is hot, pour ¼ cup of the batter into the pan and tilt the pan to cause the batter to cover the entire bottom of the pan.   Pour the batter that does not set right away out of the skillet and let what does not pour out cook until the underside is brown. Flip and let the second side brown, remove and stack on a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Build crepes by spooning filling on to crepe and roll like a burrito.  Top with more filling and whipped cream. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

As Homemade as Possible #1: Cheese Ravioli 3 Course Meal

Dinner: Creamy Cucumber Gazpacho, Breadsticks, Cheese Raviolis, and Chocolate Ice Cream
1 hour 45 minutes

After a week of waiting, it was finally time to make raviolis from Mark Bittman’s first edition of How to Cook Everything. I was so excited i didnt take pictures. I used the Egg fresh pasta for the noodles and the basic cheese filling for the insides. I wanted to make everything from scratch but chickened out and picked up Newman’s Own marinara sauce. Since the meal was only for two people, I made a half recipe of everything but the noodles. We still ended up with leftovers.

The breadsticks were started first using the food processor. They needed to rise for 45 minutes before you make the breadsticks. I was making a half order since there is no need for two people to eat 24 breadsticks. About half way through I forgot that I was cutting the recipe in half. I ended up using whole recipe amounts of oil, honey and salt. This caused the need of more flour to be used to have dough that is not just a pile of stickiness. The breadsticks were brushed with melted garlic butter while baking.

Chocolate ice cream took more time than I thought it should. Slowly heating milk on medium low heat is like watching paint dry. Once the milk was added to the egg mixture, it became custard quickly. I cooled the mixture in ice water and put in the ice cream maker while we were eating. The ice cream churned for only 10 minutes and then put into a plastic container and allowed to harden in the freezer. I used 1% milk for the milk and half-and-half instead of heavy cream to make the ice cream lighter on the fat end.

The gazpacho was the most knife intensive dish of the evening. Cucumbers, peppers, jalapeños and cilantro must all be chopped before being put into a blender. Not much cutting in general but still the most of the evening. Since I did a half recipe, only one and a half tablespoons of lime juice was needed. I used most of the juice from one lime. One lime should have 2 tablespoons of juice.

The raviolis were the easiest dish of the evening. The dough was made with only eggs salt and flour; and the filling is made with eggs, ricotta, mozzarella, and parsley. It is important when you are rolling out the dough to roll the dough as thin as possible; a thickness of 1/8th inch is what I rolled. The dough will plump in the water. The recipe tells you to separate the dough into 5 pieces. It is important to cut into equal pieces to make your job easier when you try to match the sheets of pasta together for the top and bottom of the ravioli.

Thoughts on the meal:
Overall, it came out pretty well considering that all of the recipes were new. The ice cream was great with the changes I made and would be even better if made with heavy cream and whole milk. The cheese mixture needed more flavoring, more salt and or a stronger cheese. The cookbook had a variation for using parmesan instead of fresh mozzarella. The noodles were perfect, no changes needed there. The gazpacho was too sour; the juice from one lime was too much juice. The breadsticks were dense but very tasty; maybe making them to recipe would be helpful next time.

What I learned:
  • When cutting a recipe in half, it is important to remember that you are when each ingredient is introduced
  • Measure the juice from a lime-Do not assume that it is and average lime and therefore 2 tablespoons of juice
  • When making bread, a food processer cuts down on kneading time
  • The only way to tell if, food is tasty is to taste it

Monday, March 15, 2010

Weight Watchers Mexican Meatloaf, Garden Salad, and Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

Weight watchers Mexican meatloaf, garden Salad, and garlic mashed potatoes.
This evening we had a Mexican meatloaf made from a recipe from a Weight watchers pamphlet. This easy to make recipe took me 10 min to prep and 1 hour to cook without any effort while it is the oven. The nice thing about this recipe is that it is low in calories and fat and is very moist. The moistness may have been because instead of a broiler pan, I cooked the loaf in a stone bread pan. It has a nice southwest flavor without being too overpowering. The enchilada sauce is a nice change to ketchup or tomato paste that I associate with meatloaf. 
Garlic mashed potatoes seemed to be a nice fit with the meatloaf and using half and half instead of skim milk makes the potatoes creamy without using any butter. I used garlic salt instead of fresh garlic this time. Fresh garlic will be in my next batch and future batches.
A garden salad goes with almost any dinner. Our salad today was made with iceberg lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, dried cranberries, sliced almonds, and sunflower seeds. We topped this with our favorite dressings and enjoyed.
What I learned:
  • I need to chop onions smaller so that they will be soft in the meatloaf. Finley chopped is better than coarsely chopped.
  • Half and half and fresh garlic make better mashed potatoes than skim milk and garlic salt.