Friday, December 31, 2010

Fresh Tomato Soup

Lately I've been trying to find a delicious tomato soup recipe. I made one not too long ago and was completely disappointed. I think it tasted pretty good, but I didn't care for the texture. It was very grainy, and in a soup that is not a good thing. I think the reason it was so grainy was because it called for Parmesan cheese. And, when I used my immersion blender it broke it up into grainy pieces. I could be wrong, though. Maybe it was just my cooking technique that messed it up. Who knows. Anyway, I decided to try another tomato soup recipe. The one that I tried last night was from the Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook. By the way, I highly recommend this cookbook if you don't have it in your arsenal. I thought the soup looked grainy once I blended it but the taste was perfect. I think I will still try another recipe maybe one that is called Tomato and Basil Soup. However, I recommend this recipe. I thought it had a wonderful taste and it was very warm. And, last night was definitely a comfort food night! I think it would go wonderfully with a delicious grilled cheese sandwich. Enjoy!

3 medium tomatoes, peeled and quartered
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 c chopped onion
1/2 c chopped celery ( 1 stalk)
1/2 of a 6 oz can of tomato paste (1/3 c)
2 tbsp snipped fresh cilantro or basil
2 tsp instant chicken bouillon granules
1 tsp sugar
Few dashes bottled hot pepper sauce
Snipped cilantro or basil for garnish

I used 6 tomatoes from a vine because they were a tad on the small side. The recipe doesn't call for this, but since it says peeled tomatoes, I took a large pot of water and brought to a boil. I placed the tomatoes one at a time into the boiling water for about 30 seconds. I then transferred the tomato into a bowl of ice water. This helps to make the peeling process that much easier. Once the tomatoes were peeled, I sliced the tomatoes and remove the seeds. You don't have to do this, but I did. Chop up your onion and celery. Take a soup pot and add the onion, celery, tomato, water, tomato paste, the basil ( I used this instead of cilantro), bouillon granules, sugar, and hot pepper sauce. I didn't have hot pepper sauce, but I did have Pickapeppa. So, I used that as my hot pepper sauce. Also, I added a couple dashes of garlic salt. Bring this to a boil. Next, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer with a lid on the pan for about 20 minutes. You want the celery and onion to be tender. Remove from heat and cool for about 10 minutes or so. It says to place half the soup into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. However, I have an immersion blender, so I used this to blend my soup. Then return to the stove (if you used the blender) and heat the soup. For some reason the recipe doesn't call for salt or pepper. But, I felt it definitely needed salt. So season with salt and/or pepper to your liking. I garnished my bowl with some basil.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies with Reeses Pieces

For my co-workers this Christmas I decided to make them a batch of cookies. But, not just one batch; three batches! However, I'm going to spare posting all 3 recipes on this blog. Instead I chose to post the most unique out of the 3. The other two I made were your standard chocolate chip (The New Best Recipe) and oatmeal raisin (The New Best Recipe) cookie. If you like peanut butter, reeces peanut butter cups, and reeces pieces then you will loooove this cookie. I certainly did. This recipe doesn't call for the reeces pieces, but I was originally going to make a reeces pieces chocolate cookie. I came across this recipe and thought it sounded yummy. So, I threw in the reeces pieces as an added touch. It was deeelicious! Hope you like!

1 3/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 c butter, softened
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c peanut butter
1 egg beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp milk
30-40 miniature peanut butter cups, unwrapped.

First set your oven to around 350-375 degrees. The recipe calls for 375, but I set mine to 350. Just know your oven and you'll be fine with either temp. The next thing you need to do is take a medium bowl and combine the flour, salt, and baking soda. Whisk together and set aside. Then take the bowl from your mixer and add the butter, sugars, peanut butter and cream until fluffy. Next add your beaten egg, vanilla, and the milk. Mix together well. Then slowly add in your flour mixture. I stirred in my Reeses Pieces next.
The recipe didn't call for this but I put the mixture into my fridge for an hour to chill. I find this helps shaping the dough into balls much easier. Once the dough is chilled remove from fridge and start shaping into little balls. Now, the recipe says to place the cookies onto an ungreased mini muffin pan. I don't have one of these and didn't want to spend the money to buy one. So, I just put some parchment paper on a cookie sheet and placed the cookie balls on the sheet. Bake for about 8 minutes. However, keep an eye on them. If the cookies look like they're browning on the bottom then remove from oven. I burnt the bottom of some of mine. Remove from oven and immediately press the peanut butter cups into each ball. Cool and place cookies on a cooling rack. Enjoy!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Shredded Chicken Enchiladas

I love Mexican food. And yes, Texas, I know that the food you get at the restaurants around here (like Casa Grande or El Toro Loco or Mexico) is not “real” Mexican food. It’s been Americanized, watered down for the masses, and totally compromised. And I love it. In fact, whenever I get “real” Mexican food, I don’t like it as much. I’m sorry, maybe that makes me some sort of chilaquile neophyte, but if that means I can get spicy meat and cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla, then that’s ok by me. These chicken enchiladas would not fly in Mexico City, but in my house… I mean, mi casa, they rock.

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jars enchilada sauce
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 pickled jalepenos (from a can), minced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup shredded Monterrey jack cheese, divided
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped, divided
Flour tortillas
Cooking spray

This meal does take a little bit of time to pull together, so make sure you aren’t starving or you’ll give up halfway through and order a pizza. Start by preheating your oven to 425 degrees. Pour your enchilada sauce into a deep skillet. Add the garlic and cayenne pepper (to taste) and heat to a boil. This happened pretty quickly for me, and also became quite messy. Don’t wear white. You’ve been warned.

While the enchilada sauce is heating, sprinkle your chicken breasts with kosher salt and pepper. Then submerge them in the sauce and lower the heat to low. Cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through. The recipe I had (from A Sweet Pea Chef) said this would take about 15-20 minutes, but I guess my breasts were huge (yeah!) because it took about twice as long. I also flipped mine over halfway through because the tops were peeking out of the sauce and not cooking as quickly. Once they are cooked all the way through (check it!) take the chicken out of the sauce and put them both aside to cool.

When the chicken is relatively cool, shred it using the two fork method. Hold one fork in the chicken and scrape the other one away from the fork. It’s time consuming but it’s really the best way. Put the shredded chicken in a large bowl. Add about a quarter of each kind of cheese, the jalapeños, and the cilantro. I also added some of the enchilada sauce. The recipe calls for half the sauce to be added, but I only put in enough to hold the mixture together—about ¼ cup.

Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray. Then get out your flour tortillas and spoon some of the chicken mixture in the middle, and roll up your tortilla. Place it in the baking dish with the seam side down. Once you’ve done this with all the tortillas, put them in the oven for about ten minutes just to get them a little golden brown. Take them out and turn the oven down to 400. Pour the sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle the rest of the cheese over top. Loosely cover with foil and cook for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil (try not to pull off the cheese) and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the cheese starts to look tasty. Serve with sour cream and a Corona. Even if it’s not real, authentic Mexican, it tastes really good.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sugar Cookies with Lemon Zest

In years past, we used sugar cookie recipes with adorable cookie cutters of stars, candy canes, ornaments, and Christmas trees that always went into the oven delightful and came out these ambiguous blobs with holiday sprinkles. They weren’t pretty, but they were admittedly delicious with a tall glass of milk.

This year, we were determined to get it right. We simplified – partially out of determination, partially because we couldn’t find our cookie cutters. And through that simplification, we discovered a new recipe that is sure to last for years and years to come.

How gorgeous are these cookies?
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cups sugar plus additional sugar for topping
2/3 cups vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. grated lemon zest

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs until blended. Add sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and lemon zest. Mix thoroughly. Stir in the dry ingredients, and again, mix thoroughly. Chill this mix in the refrigerator, covered, for 30 minutes or more.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare sugar plate for sugar topping.
After 30 minutes, scoop out cookie dough with teaspoons, and form into small balls. Drop balls onto cookie sheet roughly 2 inches apart.
Wet the bottom of a flat-bottomed glass under faucet, and dip glass bottom into sugar plate. Sugar should stick to the glass. Stamp cookie on cookie sheet, pressing down slightly, giving it a sugar topping. Repeat process for all cookies: wetting the glass, placing it in sugar, and stamping dough.
Bake cookies until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.

Just like our Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, the smaller the balls you make, the better these seemed to turn out.

Happy baking!


(Click here for printable recipe)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lee's Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

My friend Lee and I have a Christmas-time tradition. Last night was our 5th annual Christmas cookie baking day. Now that I type that, I realize we need a better name. Christmas-palooza. Cookie Festivus. Sugar Eve. I guess we’ll keep working on that.

However, naming aside, this is one of my favorite baking days of the year. There are tall glasses of milk involved. Often tall glasses of wine as well. With holiday music caroling in the background, we cover my kitchen in flour like it was some kind of holiday fairy dust, returning the season to childhood origins.

I wanted to post these recipes separately. This first recipe is Lee’s discovery. I have it marked in my cookbook as Lee’s Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. Where the original recipe came from, I have no idea.

These are delicious and beautiful!
Semi-sweet chocolate chips
Vegetable oil
Granulated sugar
2 Eggs
Baking powder
Powdered Sugar

Melt 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate. Mix chocolate with ¼ cup vegetable oil, 1 cup granulated sugar, and 1 tsp. vanilla. Fold in 2 eggs, one at a time. Mix in 1 cup flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, and ¼ tsp. salt. Once all ingredients are mixed well, refrigerate for 4 hours or more.
After chilling, with a teaspoon, scoop out a small amount of the mixture, and form into a ball with your hands. Roll the ball in powdered sugar until it is fully covered, and then place the ball on the cookie sheet. Separate balls by 1 ½ inches or so.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until your finger leaves no permanent mark when you press on it.

1) The smaller the chocolate chips, the easier it is to melt them. 2) The smaller the balls you create, the better the cookie. It’s taken us years not to end up with gigantic cookies that are moist in the middle but too crisp on the edges. Now, this cookie comes with a mantra: small balls! small balls! 3) The longer you refrigerate the better this seems to work. Plan ahead! 4) If you’re talking a lot when you’re forming the balls and work too slowly, the mix may get warm and stick to your hands. If this happens, either start working faster, or stick the mix back in the fridge for a few minutes.
When these cookies come out of the oven they look like snowflakes. The powdered sugar has broken apart where the cookie has grown just beautifully. These are cookies made for a tall glass of milk.
Happy baking and happy holidays!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pumpkin Gooey Bars

1 package of yellow cake mix (I use betty crocker)
1 egg
8 - 10 Tbs of butter (the more butter the softer), melted

1 (8-oz) package of cream cheese, softened
1 (15-oz) can of pumpkin
3 eggs
1 tsp of vanilla (a tiny drip more won't hurt)
8 Tbs of butter, melted
1 (16-oz) box powdered sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven 350 degrees

Combine cake mix, egg & butter. Mix well with electric mixer. Pat mixture into bottom of lightly greased 13 x 9 inch baking pan. For the filling beat cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth in a large bowl. Add eggs, vanilla and butter, then beat together. Next add powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and then bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Be careful to not overbake. The bars will continue to set even out of the oven. The middle of the bars will be slightly jiggly when taken out of the oven.

The bars are great on their own or with whipped cream.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mushroom Bourguignon

I am a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore. I’m sure my ancestors back in the caveman days were eating pterodactyl and saber-toothed tiger on a daily basis. (Yes, I know that’s historically impossible, but stick with me here.) My husband is cut from the same (loin) cloth. So the thought of making a meal without meat? Not going to fly in my house. That is, until I saw the photo of this gorgeous mushroom bourguignon on Smitten Kitchen. It looked so rich and thick and… well, meaty. We had to try it. And it did not disappoint. Portobello mushrooms are considered the steak of mushrooms and live up to it in this dish. It’s the perfect thing for a cold night (and we’ve been having a lot of those lately.)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 pounds Portobello mushrooms, in 1/4-inch slices
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup full-bodied red wine (we used a Bordeaux)
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup pearl onions, peeled (thawed if frozen)
Egg noodles

Get out your trusty Dutch oven or whatever you usually make a big ol’ pot of soup in. Add one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter and heat over high heat. Sear the mushrooms, stirring them around. In about 3 to 4 minutes they should begin to darken but not release any juice yet. Remove them and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions, carrot, thyme and a good amount of salt and pepper. Cook it for ten minutes. It should start smelling fantastic. This is about the time that Steve started thinking he might actually enjoy the meal. When the onions are slightly brown, add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Now pour in the wine and deglaze the pan (get all the brown bits from the bottom of the pot). Put the heat back on high to reduce the liquid by half. About now it starts smelling a lot like strong red wine. It’s not great. But don’t be afraid—I didn’t taste the wine outright in the final dish. Once it’s reduced, add the tomato paste and broth, plus the mushrooms and any juices they’ve released. Bring the liquid to a boil and then lower the temp to simmer for 20 minutes. If you are adding pearl onions (we couldn’t find any!) add them after the 20 minutes and simmer for another 5.

Combine the remaining tablespoon of butter with the flour until combined (I zapped it in the microwave for 15 seconds to make it easier). Stir the mixture into the sauce until it’s mixed in and the sauce thickens. Simmer for another ten minutes. If you want an even thicker sauce you can turn up the heat and boil to reduce until it’s where you want it. Taste it and season it, then serve over egg noodles with a healthy spoonful of sour cream!

It’s by no means easy, but it’s also not the most complicated meal I’ve ever made. And it’s worth it. Plus, when someone asks you what you had for dinner last night, you get to say, “Mushroom Bourguignon” and totally put to shame the leftover meatloaf they probably had.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cinnamon Swirl Bundt Cake

In my opinion, I think in order to be a good cook or baker you need to be really good at following directions. If you don't then you can pretty much guarantee that the recipe will turn out horribly. In baking it's especially important to follow the recipe. I think it has something to do with dealing with sugars, flour, butter, and measuring exactly. Well, this happens to be one of those occasions where I read the instructions, but I didn't properly follow them. However, my inability to follow instructions turned out perfectly. Okay, I did try to take out the cake too early from the bundt pan thus messing up the cake aesthetically. But, when I took a bite out of that cake it was so moist and the crumbly cinnamon part of the cake (one part I messed up) was wonderfully tasty. I've been wanting to make a cinnamon cake or a cinnamon coffee cake and this recipe definitely hit the spot. It was very moist, filled with plenty of cinnamon, and it was deeeelicious. Thanks to divine-baking for the recipe! Enjoy!

1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
¾ cup dark Brown sugar

First thing in the morning, I took out the butter and 3 eggs in order to let it come to room temperature. The recipe didn't call for this, but since Barefoot Contessa always thinks it's a good idea I decided to go for it. When I was ready to start baking I preheated the oven to a 400 degree temperature.
I took the 3/4 cup of brown sugar (I used light brown) and cinnamon and 1/4 cup of white sugar. Mix together and set aside.

Next, I took my mixing bowl and put the 3 eggs along with 1 1/2 cups of sugar and mixed well. Then, I added the sour cream and butter. Mix well. I had placed the flour, baking powder, and baking soda into a small bowl. Now, gradually add the flour mixture into the mixing bowl. Mix well. Add the vanilla and nuts (I omitted the nuts). Stir well. Okay, this is where I messed up. I ended up adding an additional 1/4 cup of sugar into the mixture. Take your lightly oiled bundt pan and pour half the batter into it. Now, this is the second part where I messed up. You are supposed to pour the entire cinnamon mixture onto the batter. And, then pour the remaining batter on top. Well, I poured half the cinnamon mixture onto the batter, poured the remaining batter on top, and then added the remaining cinnamon mixture on top of that. I'm really glad I did that, because it had a nice crunchy topping. Cook the cake for 8 minutes at 400 degrees and then turn the temperature down to 350 degrees and cook an additional 30 minutes. Well, it ended up taking me an additional 50 minutes to cook the cake. Not 30 minutes. I had to stick a toothpick in it to make sure it came out clean before I took it out of the oven.
The third part where I messed up was removing the cake from the bundt pan before it properly cooled. So, make sure that you remove it from the pan after it's cooled completely.

Now, you can make the icing to go on top of the cake if you so desire. To make the icing take 4 cups of powdered sugar and 3-8 tbsp of milk. Gradually add the milk a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the consistency and taste that you like. Pour onto the cake. I ended up using about 3 1/2 cups of sugar and about 5 tbsp of milk.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Apple Pie

My grandma was known for her pies. She never made cakes that I can remember. She did have some tasty cookie recipes, but if there was one recipe that said “Grandma” it was pie. She made pumpkin pies, custard pies, strawberry rhubarb pies, and of course, apple pies. I remember afternoons spent helping her make crusts, and using the leftover scraps to make our own little desserts (that usually tasted pretty bad). As a child, I had no idea that my Grandma wasn't just having fun. She was doing real work. Hard work! Apple pie is one of those things that seems so simple, and yet it’s so hard to make. And that’s the kind of challenge I can’t pass up.

This recipe is a mish mash of a few different recipes. I took the crust and modified the filling from Smitten Kitchen, and the crumbly top from Very Culinary. It has a lot of steps and is definitely a full day of baking, so I would save this for a weekend or holiday when you have plenty of time.

The Crust
My grandmother always used Crisco (vegetable shortening) in her crusts, and a lot of people swear by it. But I went for an all butter crust. I halved the recipe at Smitten since I was only making a bottom crust. If you are making a top and bottom, double it.
1 ¼  cups flour
½  tablespoon sugar
½  teaspoon salt
1 sticks unsalted butter, very cold
½ cup cold water, with ice cubes

The very cold butter is a must, so don’t take it out of the fridge until you are ready to use it. I actually cut mine into cubes and then put it back in the fridge to let it harden again. Whisk together the dry ingredients and then add in the butter cut into small cubes. This part calls for a pastry blender, which I don’t have, but will be getting after attempting to make this without one. You can just get your hands in there and try to break up the butter and incorporate the flour, but a pastry blender makes it so much easier. And they are cheap—around $5-$15 depending on where you go. When the butter is the size of tiny peas, drip in about a third of the water (no cubes). Use a rubber spatula or your hands to bring the flour and butter together into a dough. You may use more of the water, but add it very slowly (by the tablespoon, preferably) and don’t use too much. Once the dough is… well… doughy, form it into a small ball, wrap it in plastic, and put it in the fridge for two hours.

When you’re done, it’s time to roll out the dough. I’m going to let you read Smitten’s tutorial on it since she explains it so well. Just remember to be patient and go slow.

The Filling
I modified this recipe from Smitten based on the ingredients, her comments, and the fact that I was adding a sugary top, so I didn’t want so much sugar in the filling. I used gala apples, but you can use granny smith or macintosh, or whatever you prefer.
Gala Apples (about 6-8 medium)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Peel and cut up the apples, keeping the slices as uniform as possible. Cut the apples into fours, and then each fourth into fours. Use your common sense here as far as the amount of apples goes. If it seems like way too many, it probably is. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together, then mix them all into the apples, making sure they are all covered. Pour them into the bottom crust.

The Topping
I like a crumble top so much better than a regular dough top. I just think it brings the right sweetness and flavor to the whole thing. I modified this crumble top from a crumble bar recipe, again, halving it because I didn’t need as much. I also opted not to use the egg it called for, and didn’t miss it.
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 ½ sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Mix the dry ingredients together well, then add the butter on top and incorporate it the same way you did with the dough (again, a pastry blender would help here). When the butter pieces are pea sized, you can sprinkle it on top of the apples, making sure the whole thing is evenly covered.

To cook your pie, preheat the oven to 500 degrees, with a lipped baking sheet on the bottom most rack. To be honest, I’m not sure why you do this, but it was in the instructions, so I did it. When you’re ready to put in the pie, turn it down to 425 and bake for about 20-25 minutes. You want the topping to get a little golden brown, but not burn. Then turn the oven down to 375 and cook for 30-35 minutes more.

Overall, this turned out pretty tasty for my first recent try. A couple things I’d do differently… I made the mistake of cooking a little less than the recipe called for and the apples were a touch too crisp for my liking. I also like a juicier filling, so I might add a few tablespoons of milk or butter the next time. Finally, I had to roll the dough out twice because I got the size wrong the first time, which I think made it a little chewier, so if you can get it right the first time, good on you!

Well, there it is. Like I said, it’s not a simple recipe, but it’s pretty impressive and tastes great. And who knows, someday maybe you’ll be the pie lady in your family.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Restaurant Review: Aziza's on Main

I guess you could say we are a service industry kind of family. My Dad worked for a long time as a Restaurant Manager for places like Applebee’s, Olive Garden, and Ponderosa. My first job in high-school was working as a salad prep at the Olive Garden on Midlothian Turnpike. My sister started out hosting at Applebee’s on Hull Street. I eventually stopped my service industry career as a server at Sundays’ in Brandermill my senior year in high-school. And, I say good riddance. My sister, on the other hand, has continued to work as a server (mainly part-time) for 10+ years. Her latest venture is at a little spot on Main Street called Aziza’s. I have to say of all the places any of us have worked in the restaurant industry this is by far the best one.
Aziza’s is a restaurant owned by a Lebanese family. The Chef is Billy of Billy Bread notoriety. The set up at Aziza’s is interesting. On the right side of the restaurant it has a bar with tables and chairs and is very quaint and cozy. On the left-side is their “deli.” They make pre-made desserts, hummus, and sandwiches. And, in the back of the restaurant is their new brick oven. As a side note; their pizza’s are delicious! And, they'll be giving classes on how to make bread!

My aunt, mom, and I went to Aziza’s one Sunday for brunch. The service is wonderful. Okay, I’m biased, but really they are very attentive and knowledgeable. We decided to order their hummus and taboli with sliced pita bread.

I love their hummus, however I’ve heard that people have had better hummus elsewhere. Maybe so, but I think their hummus is very fresh and flavorful. My aunt enjoyed it too.

For the main course, I had the ham and swiss sandwich. My mom and aunt had the black beans on toast with a fried egg.

I loved my ham sandwich. I thought the bread was toasted to perfection and the ham was very tasty. All of their sandwiches come with a side salad with a vinaigrette dressing. I think the salad is okay. My mom and aunt very much enjoyed their black bean dish. They thought it was very warm and packed plenty of flavor.
I couldn’t resist getting one of their cream puffs for dessert. It ends up we took one of the last cream puffs and it was only noon! Seriously, if there are any left, get a cream puff when you go. It’s homemade creamy, chocolatey, deliciousness. It can easily be shared between 4 people. They're big!

I’ve been to Aziza’s many times, and I think it’s a wonderful place for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Please check it out and you won’t be disappointed.
My rating: 5 sporks out of 5.
Location: 2110 E Main Street Richmond, VA 23223
Cuisine: Seafood, Meat, Pizza, Homemade Bread
Pricing: $$

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Iron Chef Pumpkin: Smoky Cheese and Pumpkin Mini Quiches

For this Iron Chef the secret ingredient was pumpkin. I chose to make an appetizer. I definitely was not going to go all out and try a whole bunch of different recipes like I did with Iron Chef Coffee. But, I did try two different gnocchi recipes that while turned out okay it just didn't make me go; wow! My mom came across this recipe and sent it to me. I did not do a dry run, and just decide to go with it. I mean how can you go wrong with something that includes cheese and bacon and puff pastry?? Well, it didn't go wrong, but it wasn't wowza enough to be a winner. Oh well. I'll win of these darn iron chefs one day. ;0) Alas, I would definitely make this again.

3 sheets ready rolled puff pastry
2 slices bacon, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2/3 cup mashed pumpkin
1 cup grated smoked cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 pinch nutmeg
1 slice bacon, extra
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
First thing you want to do is chop up your bacon and onions. Toss it into a saute pan and cook over medium to medium hight heat until bacon is crisp. I believe it took about 10 minutes. At this point while the bacon is cooking you can go ahead and get out your dethawed puff pastry and take a fluted cookie cutter (about 2.75 inches round) and cut out your dough. I cut out about 18 pieces. Drain your bacon and onion mixture onto a paper towel or into a colander. Now, take a bowl and mix your mashed pumpkin (or pumpkin puree like I used) cheese, milk, nutmeg, and egg. Once the bacon mixture has cooled add it to your pumpkin mixture. I fried up about 3 more pieces of bacon. Take your dough and add it to your little mini quiche pans (or shallow patty pans). Take a small spoonful of the pumpkin mixture and place in the dough. Add a small bacon strip on top of the dough. Bake for 30 minutes or until the puff pastry is golden brown.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Giada's Nutella Cookies

Giada de Laurentis is the Queen of all things Nutella. I, on the other hand, have just started experimenting with recipes that involve Nutella. So, one evening I figured I should look for some Giada recipes to try. Afterall she loooooves Nutella so her recipes have to be good, right? Right. I am in serious heaven with this versatile ingredient. And, Giada's cookies are seriously yummy. If you are craving chocolate give this recipe a try. You will not be disappointed.

1/2 c butter, softened
1/2 c nutella
1/2 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven @ 375 degrees
The first thing I always do when making cookies, brownies, or cake is to combine all the dry ingredients (unless specified otherwise). So, go ahead and get a small bowl and combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a standing mixer, add the sugars, the nutella, and butter. Stir until the ingredients are fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and stir until incorporated. Gradually add in the dry ingredients at low speed just so the flour doesn't spray all over. Once the dry ingredients are incorporated in the batter add in the chocolate chips and stir. Add the dough to the cookie sheets and bake from 6-10 minutes. The first time I made these cookies I had to throw away the majority of them because I overbaked them. This time I baked them for 8 minutes, and it was still a minute too long. But, I didn't have to throw these cookies away. They were just a tad crisp.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Tonight was an expedition, a cooking quest. Why? I have no idea! This was a simple and straight forward recipe, one that promised amazingly delicious rewards, one that I’ve been excited about since I heard that someone still needed to take on the mac & cheese for Thanksgiving. Maybe it was just the anticipation that caused the chaos.

But somehow I found myself running around the kitchen, annoyed why my sauce wasn’t thickening when apparently some ghost (or myself accidentally) turned off my burner, mixing breadcrumbs in butter for a topping and splattering them across my stove-top, convinced that this amazing recipe, this wonderfully cheesy delectable meal was going to be a total flop.

However, somewhere in the madness, mouth-watering exquisiteness arose. Thanksgiving will be amazing, but wow am I happy I did a trial run!

1 pound elbow macaroni
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 tbsp powdered mustard (I know, this is me who doesn’t like mustard! I was scared!)
3 cups milk
½ cup yellow onion (finely diced)
½ tsp paprika
1 large egg
8 ounces shredded cheddar

3 tbsp. butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350.
Boil pasta. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Once melted, whisk in the flour and mustard, and keep it moving until it is smooth and free of lumps. Stir in milk, onion, and paprika. (Of course, I did this in too small of a pot, so think ahead!) Simmer for about ten minutes.
Temper* the egg. Stir in ¾ of the cheese. After it has melted fold the macaroni into the mix. When thoroughly mixed, pour into a casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
Melt the remaining butter and toss with bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs.
Bake for 30 minutes.

Lessons learned:
*To temper means to adds ingredients gradually of different temperatures. In this case, adding cold egg to a simmering sauce might cause scrambling, rather than an even blended texture.
When a recipe says prep time 15 minutes, cook time 30 minutes, be wary. Sometimes they lie.

I also ended up adding in cubed ham here. While easy and a good addition, this won't be part of the Thanksgiving recipe, so I didn't include it here.
Happy cooking!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

I promised one of my fellow bloggers that I would make my favorite chicken pot pie recipe and post it. Well, here it is. I have never thought of myself as a chicken pot pie lover. Maybe it has something to do with working for Applebee's for several years when I was in highschool. You see they served a chicken pot pie and while it was popular, I didn't like it. I thought it basically tasted like your average frozen pot pie dish. Not that I really knew what a chicken pot pie frozen dinner tasted like, but I'm sure it tasted something like Applebee's version. Anyway, so I never really cared for pot pies. Until I tried this recipe from my favorite cookbook The New Best Recipe. Wow. It's super delicious and the pie crust topping is very flaky. I don't add peas to this recipe because I can't stand peas. But, I do boil a couple potatoes and crumble it up into the chicken and veggie mixture. I hope you like it!

1 recipe Savory Pie Dough (see below)
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium-large onion, chopped fine
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 small celery ribs, chopped
Salt and ground pepper
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c milk
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 tbsp sherry
3/4 c frozen peas, thawed (optional)
3 tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves (optional)

Savory Pie Dough Ingredients
1 1/2 c unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
3-4 tbsp ice water

Pie Dough Recipe
First you need to make the savory pie dough, and set aside in the fridge until ready to use.
You will need to mix the flour and salt into a food processor and pulse several times until mixed. Put the shortening into the processor and gently coat the flour over the shortening. Pulse with five 1 second pulses. Now, add the butter and continue pulsing until the flour is a pale-yellow and the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Turn the mixture into a medium bowl. Sprinkle 3 tbsp of the ice water into the mixture. Take a rubber spatula, and stir the mixture together while pressing with the back of the spatula to flatten the dough. If you need to add the additional tablespoon of water because it seems to flaky then go ahead. I only needed the 3 tbsp of water. Now, take the dough and form it into a shape of a ball. Then flatten it onto a floured surface and from a 4 inch disk. Wrap with plastic and place in fridge.

Chicken Pot Pie Recipe
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
The recipe indicates that you need to put the chicken and 2 cups of the chicken broth into a stock pot and cook until the chicken is done. I had already cooked the chicken, so I just set aside the chicken and the chicken broth for later. If you cook the chicken in the broth, when you remove the chicken set aside the broth for later.

Chop up your veggies, and set aside.
Take your stockpot and place the oil in the pan and turn up the heat to medium-high. Once the pan is nice and hot add the onion, carrots, and celery. Sautee until tender. It says to sautee for 5 minutes, but I sauteed for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. I transferred the veggies to a medium sized bowl and then I shredded/chopped the chicken and placed in the veggie bowl. I also added the potatoes I had boiled earlier and broke them into little pieces. Take the same pot, and heat the 4 tbsp of butter over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add the flour and cook for about a minute. The flour and butter will look like a large lumpy lump. Just go with it.

Now, add the reserved chicken broth, milk, and thyme. Bring it to a simmer, and keep stirring until thickened about a minute or two. Season with salt and pepper till it tastes right to you and then add in the sherry. I only used about 1 tbsp and a half of the sherry. That's just my preference. Now, I take the chicken mixture and pour it into the pot, and stir to combine it together. If you like peas and parsely add it now. Adjust the seasonings if needed. Pour the mixture into a 13x9 baking dish or 6 12-oz ovenproof dishes. I use a round casserole dish. And, yes, the mixture comes up all the way to the rim of the dish.

Now, take your pie dough from the fridge and placed it on a floured surface and roll it with rolling pin till it's 15 by 11 inch rectangle. In my case, I just rolled it so that it would cover the round casserole dish. Transfer the dough to your dish, and you may need to trim the sides of the dough if it hangs 1/2 inch on the side of the dish. I do trim it some and then I stick the trimmed parts on top of the dough. Tuck the overhanging dough back under itself so the folded edge is flush with the pan lip. At this point you can get creative and flute the edges, or you can just leave it as is like I do. Make sure you gently slice four 1 inch slits in the dough, so steam can escape in the oven. Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Around 25-30 minutes for large pot pie. Or 20 to 25 minutes for smaller pies.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Seared Chicken Breast with Quick Pan Sauce

Some nights I really don't want to cook. Or, it would be really nice to make something that is super easy and quick. Especially on those nights when I'm just too exhausted to put in the effort of making something homemade. But, homemade is always better, right? Right. So, I went searching for a quick chicken recipe, and came across this one. The nice thing about this particular recipe is that the site includes several different pan sauces you can make. I chose a Rosemary and Dijon sauce. Seriously, this recipe was very easy and very quick. Just how I like it on those nights when you just want to kick back and take it easy. Hope you like it!

4 skinless chicken breasts
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
flour for dredging
Ingredients for pan sauce (See below)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil

Pan Sauce
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 Tablespoon brown sugar

First thing I did was wrap the chicken breast in plastic wrap and pounded the chicken with a meat tenderizer. I wanted to thin it out a bit before searing it.
Next, take some salt and freshly ground pepper and sprinkle it onto the chicken (both sides) generously. Take about 1/2 cup of flour and put it onto a plate. At this point, you can go ahead and combine your ingredients for the pan sauce. Set aside.
Now, go ahead and take a skillet and heat 2 tbsp of the butter and the oil over medium heat. Dredge the chicken breast in the flour and shake off any excess flour. Go ahead and turn up the heat to medium-high. When the pan is good and hot, add the chicken breast. Go ahead and flour however many more breasts you are making and add to the pan. Let cook for about 4-5 minutes. Do not touch it. Then, beginning with the first breast you had added to the pan turn it over and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes.
At this point, I turned on the oven to about 125 degrees and I took my chicken breast and placed it on a plate. I placed the plate into the oven so that the chicken would stay warm. Now is the time, to prepare the pan sauce. You will add the ingredients for the pan sauce directly to the skillet and bring it to a boil. Keep stirring while scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan until the sauce thickens. Go ahead and add the last tablespoon of butter. Spoon the sauce over the chicken. Serve immediately.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Angel Food Cake

In my family it's always been a tradition to have mom make a birthday cake. Whatever birthday cake we want she'll make it. Dad always chose German Chocolate Cake, my sister would mix it up from pies to yellow cake with chocolate icing, and I, too, would mix it up. But, one cake I've chosen as my birthday cake on more than one occasion has been Angel Food Cake. Sometimes, my mom will make a strawberry whip to go with it, and it's delicious. Angel Food Cake can be a temperamental cake to bake. I don't always get it right, but when I do boy is it good. This particular cake was good, but I thought I overbaked it by a couple minutes. It was a tad on the dry side. Trust me, you do not want a dry Angel Food cake. Give it a try, and I'm sure it won't be the last time you bake this particular cake.

This recipe was adapted from The New Best Recipe cookbook.

1 cup sifted plain cake flour
1 1/2 cup sifted sugar
12 large egg whites (1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp) at Room Temperature
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp juice from 1 lemon (optional)
1/2 tsp almond extract

First you want to move your oven rack so that it's near the bottom half of your oven. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. You will need a large tube pan, with a removable bottom.
The first thing I did was take the flour and 3/4 cup of the sugar and whisk it in a small bowl.
In case you are wondering what you do with the remaing 3/4 cup sugar just set it aside in another bowl. A word about the egg whites. I used 12 eggs, but I ended up needing an additional 3 eggs in order to get to 1 3/4 cups. Once the egg whites are properly measured (and at room temp) whisk the eggs at low speed while using a standing mixer. Be sure you mix it until just so the eggs are broken and just beginning to froth.
Turn the mixer to medium speed and add your cream of tartar and salt. Beat until the egg whites form soft, billowy mounds. Now, you are going to take the small bowl you set aside with your 3/4 cup sugar and 1 tbsp at a time add it in the mixing bowl (at medium speed). The whites should begin to look shiny and form soft peaks. Now, you will add the vanilla, almond extract, and lemon juice (optional). Beat until just blended.
Next, place the flour and sugar mixture into a sifter and sift about 3 tbsp at a time into the whites. Gently fold in the flour/sugar mixture with a rubber spatula. Continue doing this a little at a time until the flour/sugar mixture is no more.
Now, you will gently pour the batter into your prepared tube pan. Give the pan a couple taps on the counter to release any large air bubbles.

Bake until the cake is golden brown and the top springs back when pressed firmly. It will take anywhere from 45 minutes to 60 minutes.
I believe it took me around 45-50 minutes to bake. Invert the pan and let cook for a couple hours. Before releasing the cake from the pan, take a knife and run it around the edge of the pan. You should be able to release the cake from the pan. You will need to cut the slices by using a long serrated knife and by sawing gently.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pizza Puffs

Pizza is practically a religion in our family. We probably eat it at least once a week. Ok, maybe two times. Or more. Don’t judge. Anyway, when I saw that this appetizer managed to get all the delicious flavor of pizza into a two-bite package, I knew it would be a winner. It’s such an easy recipe, and it’s infinitely customizable—just like a pizza. I started with the basic pepperoni, but you could sub in any kind of meat, cheese, or veggie you want to make your perfect pizza puff! I found this recipe on Susi’s Kochen Und Backen Adventures, via Tastespotting

3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
4 ounces pepperoni cut into small cubes
Your favorite pizza or marinara sauce for dipping

Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees and spraying a 24 mini-muffin pan (or two 12s, like I did). Whisk together the flour and baking powder, then whisk in the milk, egg, salt and Italian seasoning. If you want to add any other kind of seasoning, now would be the time. Then add the cheese and pepperoni and stir (don’t whisk… I made this mistake and the whisk plus pepperoni and cheese doesn’t really work.) Now portion them out into the cups. I decided to sprinkle just a little more mozzarella on the top of the cups (you could use any cheese) to give it even more of a brown crust. Cook them for about 22 minutes and serve with microwaved marinara or pizza sauce. It’s just the thing to satisfy your occasional (or not so occasional) pizza craving!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Chicken and Dumplings

For those who know me well; you'll know that I'm not a big fan of winter. As a matter of fact, I really detest winter. I'll take a 100 degree day over a 30 degree day every single time. But, if there's one thing I do like about winter it's the food. Warm, comforting, and yes, fattening food! One of my favorite meals of all time during the cold months is Chicken and Dumplings. Probably my favorite part is the dumpling, and it definitely keeps me warm on those cold winter nights. The recipe I use is from one of the best, fatten-you-up, comfort food cooks of the south; Ms. Paula Deen. The dumpling I use, well, not sure where I got that recipe from, but it's delish. Enjoy!

1 (2 1/2-pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 teaspoon House Seasoning, recipe follows
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of celery or cream of chicken soup

2 c flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp melted, butter
2/3 c. milk
Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. In a separate bowl combine the milk, egg, and melted butter. Pour liquid mixture into flour mixture, and stir quickly. Wait till the end before adding pieces of the dough to the soup.

To begin, I prepped my vegetables by chopping them and setting aside. Also, I did not use an onion. Instead I used 4 carrots. I also just used about 2 pounds of chicken breast. Placed the chicken, carrots, celery, 2 bay leaves, the chicken bouillon cubes, and the house seasoning into the pot and cook until the juices from the chicken run clear. It took about an hour. Also, about the house seasoning. I just guesstimate everytime, by taking a teaspoon and pouring a little of the garlic powder and pepper, and add more of the salt into it.
Once the chicken is cooked thru, remove it and wait till it cools. Then either shred the chicken or cut it into small pieces (however you prefer). Add back to pot and then add in the can of soup. This time I used cream of chicken, but it really doesn't matter which one you use.

Paula recommends adding 1/4 cup water and 2 tbsp of corn starch (stir together) to the pot of soup if it is not thick enough. I usually do follow this step, and I add it in twice. I also usually add a couple sprinkles of dried thyme to the soup as well. I also add more salt and pepper. Last it's time to add the dumpling dough to the pot. I just grab some of the dough and roll it in my hands and drop into the pot. Cover with a lid and bring to a rolling boil.
Cook until the dumplings are cooked thru. It usually takes about 10-15 minutes for this to occur. Keep in mind that the soup is usually really hot when serving. Enjoy!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs

So. I am clearly a teenage boy trapped in a thirty (ok thirty-one) year old’s body. Because something about this recipe sounds so dirty to me. Those spicy, honey-brushed thighs. It’s something straight out of a trashy romance novel like “His for the Taking,” or “Baby Don’t Forget My Number.” (Those are real titles, by the way. Yes, people get paid for stuff like that). “Erica let her jeans fall to the floor, revealing her spicy, honey-brushed thighs.” I mean—right?

Anyway, regardless of the title, these thighs are seriously tasty, and pretty darn easy to make. Thigh meat in general is juicier than breast meat, so there’s that. I was surprised to find this recipe on Cooking Light, actually (via My Recipes). I always thought thighs were bad for you. But this recipe calls for boneless, skinless thighs, which helps the health factor. It also cuts down the cooking time significantly. This might seem like a lot of spice, but the honey really balances that out, so I may actually put a little more spice in next time.

2  teaspoons  garlic powder
2  teaspoons  chili powder
1  teaspoon  salt
1  teaspoon  ground cumin
1  teaspoon  paprika
1/2  teaspoon  ground red pepper
8  skinless, boneless chicken thighs
6  tablespoons  honey
2  teaspoons  cider vinegar

Start by preheating your broiler. Then mix all the spices together in a bowl. Toss in those thighs and make sure they are good and covered with the spices before putting them on a broiler pan (which you have coated with cooking spray). Then just broil the chicken for 5 minutes, flip ‘em and go for another 5.

In the meantime, mix honey and vinegar in a small bowl. I read a tip that if you spray your tablespoon or measuring cup with cooking spray it helps the honey come out instead of coating the utensil. It worked moderately well for me. I usually just eyeball it to avoid the problem. Anyway, just brush the mixture on one side of the chicken, making sure you coat it well. Broil one minute. Repeat on the other side and broil one more minute. And you’re done! Do not try this with bone-in thighs! You’d have to increase the cooking time significantly, and probably wouldn’t want to broil it.

There you have it. Juicy, tasty, slighty trashy, spicy honey-brushed thighs. I bet this would be a big hit rubbed on breasts too. Chicken breasts. Get your mind out of the gutter. 

(Click here for printable recipe)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Oatmeal-Basil Meatballs

Apparently, I like to experiment with my meatballs. The first time I ever attempted meatballs was in June for Iron Chef Melon. Now, those were some amazing meatballs, even though the recipe was a bit unique (those meatballs were served in a watermelon puree - the Iron Chef winner of the evening, I should add!).

Tonight, I tried meatballs again. I started with my ground turkey and tossed it into a bowl, only to realize that I had no breadcrumbs. How do you make meatballs without breadcrumbs?
I went to the internet, and of all of the options, I was intrigued with the idea to swap out oatmeal for breadcrumbs. Those of you that think this is odd, keep in mind, last time I experimented with meatballs, this brought us to watermelon puree. Oatmeal is rather tame in comparison.

So apparently, I’m not fated to make normal meatballs. I am, however, fated to make awesome meatballs. This recipe is a purely original creation. I’m not saying it’s an original idea, just not inspired from any website or cookbook. I always keep my fingers crossed when I attempt such things, but this one was a huge success. De-lish.

1 pound lean ground turkey
1 egg
½ cup uncooked oatmeal
Basil (about 5 shakes of the spice bottle, or to taste)
Garlic powder (about 5 shakes of the spice bottle, or to taste).

In a bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly (this is best done with your hands). Form mix into small balls. Brown in a skillet. Either mix with spaghetti directly or cook for a minute in spaghetti sauce before mixing with pasta, (I did the latter).
This was simple and delicious.

A tip: Something that I have regretted on both occasions in my life when I have made meatballs is that I have taken the ground meat out of the fridge, dumped it in a bowl, and dove straight into the mixing and such, throwing my hands right in. Doing so just after the meat is pulled from the fridge is the hand equivalent to brain freeze. I’d suggest letting the meat sit outside of the fridge for a few minutes before starting.

Happy cooking!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Iron Chef in R Home Magazine

As many of you already know, our most recent Iron Chef party (Iron Chef Coffee), hosted in Cara's lovely home, is featured in the November/December issue of R Home Magazine. The article was written by our own Kris Spisak and features some gorgeous photos of our delicious food and bright smiling faces! I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy yet, but I'm chomping at the bit to see how it turned out. Be sure to check it out! The magazine is available on newsstands now!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Slow-cooker North Carolina style Barbecue

My husband had a really depressing weekend last week. His Phillies, who were expected to easily make it to the World Series, fell to “The Freak,” the San Fran Giants’ Tim Lincecum. His Eagles and their ever-going quarterback controversies had a heart-attack inducing loss to Tennessee. He's collecting tied games in his fantasy league. What do you do with a husband with a playoff beard with no playoffs? I knew I had to do something to cheer him up. Isn’t the way to any man’s heart through food?

Personally, I love a different type of barbecue, but Frank’s favorite barbecue is North Carolina style: vinegar based. Any excuse to use my slow-cooker and have my house smell glorious for hours of the day is worth using, though.

1 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Three chicken breasts

Stir all ingredients (minus chicken) together inside crock pot. When thoroughly mixed, add chicken breasts. Cook on low for eight hours. When it’s ready, using two forks, shred chicken (this is really, really easy). Serve alone or on a bun.

Honestly, this recipe didn’t impress me, but as I said, I’m not a huge vinegar based barbecue fan. Frank, on the other hand, absolutely loved it, eating ever last bit of the left-overs for lunch the next day. So maybe it was awesome, and I just didn’t appreciate it. If you’re a NC-style barbecue fan, I hope you like it!

Happy cooking!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Salsa Chicken Casserole

I’ve always had a go-to chicken burrito recipe that I serve on occasion, but when it comes to Mexican, my menu ended there. I have a bit of a weakness for good tortilla chips and salsa, an adoration for cheese, and find exquisite glory in a perfectly timed cold cervesa. More Mexican dishes in my repertoire seemed only logical, right?

Stick a slice of lime in your Corona and serve this casserole for dinner. You won’t be disappointed by its ease, simplicity, or flavor.

2 cups uncooked white rice
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Shredded Cheddar cheese
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
¼ onion
1 ½ cups salsa.
(I fully admit using a pre-made salsa is cheating – sweet, glorious, getting-dinner-on-the-table-with-ease cheating)

Cook the rice. Cube the chicken and sauté it until cooked through (I spiced mine with pepper). In a small bowl, combine salsa, cream of chicken soup, and chopped onion.

After everything above is finished, in a casserole dish layer cooked rice, chicken, salsa-soup mix, sprinkled layer of both cheeses, cooked rice, chicken, salsa-soup mix, sprinkled layer of both cheeses, etc…

Stick in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (or until the casserole is bubbly).

Happy cooking!

(Click here for printable recipe)