Friday, June 28, 2013

Creamy Italian Chicken

My hubby enjoys simple foods.  In fact, some of the foods that I just make up (mainly because it's the night-before-grocery-shopping) he enjoys more than my elaborate "weird and fancy" meals as he calls them.  So when I come across a very straight-forward, easy to modify and make meal, I give it a shot.  This recipe fit all of that, and I loved it too!  Maybe sometimes, the easiest way is to go simpler.  Hmmmmm......

{Creamy Italian Chicken}

{Sauting mushrooms, onions, and garlic}

{Add cream of mushroom, spices and rice} 

{Place everything in a crockpot}

{Cook on low}

{Add some parmesan!}

One year ago: Quark (savory yogurt sauce)

Creamy Italian Chicken

Serves 4

2 pounds chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint mushrooms, sliced
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup rice
Parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. Place chicken in crockpot.
  2. Heat butter in a skillet until hot; add mushrooms, onions, and garlic cooking until done.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, except cheese, and heat through.
  4. Pour mushroom mixture (carefully since it will be hot) into the crockpot over chicken.
  5. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  6. Check rice about 1 hour before service--you might need to turn the crockpot to high for 1 hour to finish cooking the rice.
  7. Serve with cheese.
Do you have any simple and easy to make recipes that are standards in your house?  I'd love to hear about them!

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Garlic Scape Pesto

I've probably mentioned before that my grandparents are growing garlic, and one of the perks (you know--besides GARLIC) is having garlic scapes in the early summer.  Garlic scapes are the stem of the garlic plant that would eventually flower.  However, when growing garlic, you want the plant to concentrate on the growing the bulbs and not the flowers so you pick off the stem once it curls in to itself.  This is called a garlic scape. 

{This is a garlic scape.  See how it's curled in on itself?  Also notice the light green/yellow part?  That would have become the flower if allowed to grow}

Garlic scapes taste just like garlic and can be used in any garlic application.  Because we had so many, not only from their garden, but because we bought some at the Farmer's Market, I wanted to preserve mine so I have it for the next few months (if it lasts that long).  I decided to make garlic scape pesto that can be used on potatoes, meats, and pasta.  It's yummy and VERY garlicky!

{I froze them in snack bags}

{I had to weigh my out because I had so much!}

{Give the scapes an initial chop before putting other ingredients in so you can get the other ingredients in}

{Add parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and lime juice}

{Blend until smooth}

{I served the pesto with baked potatoes}

Garlic Scape Pesto

Makes about 4 cups

1/2 pound garlic scapes
2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste**
  1. Place garlic scapes in a food processor until chopped.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
  3. Use or freeze.
**I wouldn't go crazy on the salt and pepper because unless you know what you are going to use it for, you don't want the pesto to make your dish too salty/peppery.

If you want to try some garlic scapes, they will most likely be at your local farmer's market.  If you live in Lexington, Blue Moon Farms is a garlic farm, and they had plenty the last Saturday!

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

BBQ Chicken Pulled Sandwiches

It took me YEARS (literally YEARS) to even entertain eating barbeque anything.  I didn't like the taste of it or anything.  Then I started working in a banquet kitchen that used Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce, and that was it--I was undone.  I cannot get enough of that BBQ sauce!!!  It's sweet and tangy but not too smoky--delicious!!!  Anyway, it was the night-before-the-grocery-store and all I had was some chicken and BBQ sauce.  The rest is history!

{With just two of us, it's kinda pointless to buy hamburger buns}

{Just mix 1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce and chicken in a crockpot}

{It was very runny after cooking, but shredding the chicken and letting the mixture cool thickened the sauce up.  If you can't wait for the BBQ goodness, then thicken with cornstarch or roux}

BBQ Chicken Pulled Sandwiches

Makes 4 servings

8 chicken thighs, bone-in and skinless
20 oz of your favorite BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's is a great one to try!)
  1. Place chicken in a crockpot.
  2. Pour BBQ sauce on top, lifting chicken to make sure they are bathed in BBQ goodness!
  3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  4. Turn crockpot off and allow to cool for about 1 hour.
  5. Shred chicken and stir.
  6. Serve on bread or buns.
You can do the same method with pork to get pulled pork sandwiches.  Grilling the chicken or pork beforehand to get a bit more smoky flavor--extra flavor bonus!

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday Tip: How to Roast Garlic

Have I mentioned lately that I love garlic?  Ah well--I LOVE GARLIC!!!  I love it anyway it comes (except in desserts--I did that once and NEVER again).  Roasting it?  So delicious--I confess, I might spread roasted garlic on a piece of bread and eat it....  I can't get enough.  So how do you roast garlic?  Good question!  That's the tip in our Tuesday Tip!

{Step 1: Grab your garlic}

{Step 2: Peel the outer pappers off (so the clove outlines start to show) and cut off the top to expose that garlicky goodness}

{Step 3: Take a piece of 1 square foot of foil and place garlic inside.  Drizzle garlic with about 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil (enough to coat the garlic), salt and pepper}

{Step 4: Wrap garlic up tight in the foil}

{Step 5: Place garlic in a oven (or toaster oven) set to 400 degrees and roast for 30-40 minutes or until the garlic is soft when squeezed}

{Step 6: When garlic has cooled, squeeze it out of the papers into another container.}

Step 7: Use however you need or enjoy some garlicky bread!

Pretty simple right?  I've heard that roasting garlic eliminates that "garlic breath" associated with using fresh garlic.  Not sure about that.  However, out of respect, I try to avoid it at the office because I share an office with someone. 

How will you enjoy your roasted garlic?

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Sesame Radish and Cucumber Salad

The hubby loves radishes; me not so much.  I am trying though!  I found this radish recipe in my 50 Shades of Chicken cookbook, and I thought that I would give it a try.  This salad is DELICIOUS!!!  It's light and perfect for a summer BBQ.  The hubby said it was "okay" but then he ate most of it (he does that A LOT--says something is just "okay" and then eats most of it).  The great part of this salad is that all the ingredients can be cut ahead of time and then tossed together right before service.  Otherwise, the radishes might bleed some color (like below) but is still delicious!

{I let it sit overnight before snapping a picture--still yummy though!}

{Make dressing and then add cucumbers and radishes right before service for better color}

Sesame Radish and Cucumber Salad

Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons sesame seed oil
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
8 oz radishes, thinly sliced
  1. Mix oil, juice, onions, ginger and soy sauce together.
  2. Add radishes and cucumbers.
  3. Serve immediately.
I am not a big fan of summer...  The heat kills me!  The one redeeming quality of summer is that there are fresh fruits and vegetables!  I have a slew of salads lined up using an array of summer goodies!  I cannot wait to try them and share them (if they pass my inspections and tests)!!! 

What are some of your favorite fresh salads?

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Jerk Chicken

Sometimes, you just want to getaway to some exotic locale and sit on the beach....  Unfortunately, your bank accounts tells you to quiet down!!!  *sigh*  when this happens, I get in a mood--I cook all kinds of exotic food and plan theme nights.  I had an 'island' moment--I wanted my favorite Jamacian Rice and Beans, and nothing goes better with an island theme than Jerk Chicken which is native to the Caribbean.  Naturally, I had a pina colada and enjoyed my delicious food!  Much cheaper although not the real thing....  Maybe someday!

{Jerk Chicken!  yes the skin gets that dark, but if you are like me, I don't eat it anyway}

{Chicken ready for the marinade}

{Bathing in jerk-goodness!}

{Can you believe I got a picture with it on the grill?!  I made very sure to tell the hubby that I wanted a picture of the chicken--not him with the chicken--he obliged!}

One year ago: Basil Steamed Corn

Jerk Chicken (adapted from 50 Shades of Chicken)

Makes 4 servings

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili flakes (use less if you like it less spicy)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 lime, juiced and zested
1 small bottle (about 2 oz) rum
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
8 chicken thighs with skin-on
  1. Mix all ingredients, except chicken, together until well combined.
  2. Pour marinade over chicken and marinate overnight.
  3. Grill chicken until done.
This dish goes well with Jamaician Rice and Beans!  How about you?  How do you quench the I-want-to-get-away bug?

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jamacian Rice and Beans

During culinary school, I ate sooooo much good food!  However, a few recipes stood out, not only for their simplicity (believe me--some of the recipes we made were CRAZY intricate) but great taste too.  This recipe was one of them.  I love taking classic staples, like rice and beans, and having it in a new way like with coconut milk, bacon, chili flakes and thyme.  It just screams SUMMER and fun!  I adapted it from the stove-top to the crockpot because who seriously wants to tend this, smelling delicious as it cooks, and not eat it all?

{Yummy rice and beans cooked in coconut milk and bacon!}

{Mix everything in a crockpot}

{Cook on low for 4-6 hours adding broth whenever it needs it}

{You might need to add more liquid as this cooks so be sure that you make this when are you home or will be out only for a little bit}

Jamaican Rice and Beans 

Makes 4 servings

5 strips cooked bacon, chopped (or 2.5 oz bacon bits)
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-13.5 oz can coconut milk
2-3 cups chicken broth (put 2 in first and go from there)
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili flakes (use less if you don't like it spicy)
1 cup brown rice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a crockpot.
  2. Cook on low for 4-6 hours, stirring occassionally and adding more broth if necessary.
  3. Serve.
PS--This goes FANTASTIC with Jerk Chicken!!!

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Black Bean Confetti Salad

I'm a sucker for easy side salads, but in reality who isn't?  When I saw this recipe for a black bean and pepper salad from my favorite food blogger, I knew I just had to make it.  Not only was it incredibly easy and healthy, but it was extremely delicious too!  I brought it to our Father's Day BBQ, and the salad was a big hit!  In fact, my mother claimed the rest of the salad and has been begging me for the recipe.  I am a mean, ungrateful child so I made her wait a few days ;o)

{Black Bean Confetti Salad}


{I love the colors of this salad from the peppers.  Learn how to cut peppers here}

{Mix black beans, cut peppers, and onions together}

{Add dressing and allow the salad to sit overnight}

Black Bean Confetti Salad

Makes 8 servings

2-15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
4 mixed-color bell peppers, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon cayenne peppers (use less if you prefer less spicy foods)
1 tablespoon dried cilantro (or 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped)
  1. Mix together beans, peppers, and onions in a large bowl.  If using fresh cilantro, mix it in as well.
  2. Mix remaining ingredients together in a microwave-safe bowl.
  3. Microwave on high for about 30 seconds or until honey and salt are dissolved.
  4. Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine.
  5. Refrigerate overnight for best flavor.
Do you have any healthy and easy go-to salads for the summer?  I would love to hear them because the Farmer's Market is in full swing, and all of those beautiful fruits and veggies are dying for me to try them!

PS--Your welcome, Mami!!!  Love your spiteful child <3

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday Tip: How to Make Meringue

Ahhh meringue!!!  This dessert used to be incredibly popular, but not so much today.  However, when making deliciously light cookies, merignue is my go-to choice.  It's also great for pie topping (you know--those sky-high white toppings with browned edges?  That's meringue!).  Meringue is fairly simple; although, it's one of those recipes that need your undivided attention and patience.

{Stiff Meringue}

Sweetened Meringue (stiff peaks)

Makes 2 cups

3 egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar (or 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar--this sugar will be a bit grittier)
Dash of salt
  1. Make sure that the mixer and bowl you are using is clean and dry.
  2. If the bowl is metal, fill a sink with hot water and place the bowl in the water.  The most important part of making a meringue is to make sure everything is warm--it helps the process.
  3. Begin whipping the egg whites on a medium-high speed.
  4. Egg whites will go through different stages of foaminess.  When it is white and foamy, add sugar and salt in same quantities until incorporated.
  5. Continue whipping egg whites on medium-high speed until it is solid white, shiny and the beaters are leaving streaks in the meringue. 
  6. Depending on the stiffness you need (soft, medium, or stiff) you will need to begin checking the meringue.  There is no magic time (unfortunately).  To check, stir the meringue with the beaters and center them in the bowl.  Pull the beaters straight up slowly.  If the "peak" mostly folds over that is a soft peak; if it kinda folds over that is a medium peak; if it hardly folds over it is a stiff peak. (see photos)
  7. Whenever desired peak is reached, use the meringue however your recipe states. 
  8. To make cookies, reach a stiff peak, drop onto a greased cookie sheet, and bake for 20-30 minutes at 300 or until they dry out (cookies should still be white not golden or brown) 
{Egg whites}

{Filling sink with warm water}

{Place bowl in warm water for about 1 minute.  Alternatively, if you have a free-standing mixer, then place your hands on the bottom of the bowl to keep it warm}

{This is foam stage 1--bubbly and yellowy)

{This is foam stage 2--bubbly and white.  Add sugar and salt here}

{After sugar and salt are incorporated, the meringue will start to get shiny which is good}

{See how the beater is leaving streaks--now you will need to check it every so often depending on the peak you are trying to achieve}

{To check peak stage--stir meringue with beater and center beater in bowl}

{Slowly pull straight up.  The "peak" mostly folded over so this is a "soft peak" stage} 

{This is the "stiff peak" stage}

If your meringue gets clumpy and watery--I'm sorry to say that you have went too far and broke it.  You cannot fix a meringue once it is broken.  You will have to throw it out and start over!

Start practicing!  I have some meringue-based cookies that I will be making and presenting to you!

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Monday, June 17, 2013

African Beef Sandwiches with Yogurt Mint Sauce

Why yes--this is another one of those crazy recipes from a far off place.  Hey--if I can't travel there in my physical form, my culinary skeels (yes skeels not skills) can take me there if only for one meal.  So until my financial situation catches up with my dreams, I will be content with making recipes like this North African-inspired beef sandwich.

{In lieu of pita, I ate it just like this--delicious!}

{Yogurt mint sauce to cool the tongue because this is spicy!}

{Put tomatoes, onions, and garlic in the bottom of the crockpot}

{Rub some love and garlic into that meat!}

{Put the spices right on the meat}

{Finished and ready to eat!}

African Beef Sandwiches with Yogurt Mint Sauce

Make 4 servings

Yogurt sauce:
10 oz Greek yogurt
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced into small chunks
1 teaspoon dried mint (or 1/4 cup fresh mint)

1-15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, 4 minced and the other cut in half
2-3 pound chuck roast
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use less if you don't like it spicy)
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes (use less if you don't like it spicy)
1/4 teaspoon ground all-spice (if you have cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper at home just use a dash of each--it's what I did!)

Pita Bread
  1. Combine the ingredients for the yogurt sauce making it the night before or morning of--either way let it sit for at least 8 hours.
  2. Place tomatoes, onions, and garlic in the bottom of the crockpot.
  3. Rub garlic on meat; place in crockpot.
  4. Cover meat with the remaining spices.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  6. Serve beef in pita bread with yogurt sauce.
How about you?  Do you make foods from places you would like to visit one day?  No?...  Just me?...  Well then I encourage you to try it!

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