Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Iron Chef Coffee: Coffee-Stout Bread

Iron Chef strikes again, and this was a big one. Richmond Magazine chose our secret ingredient – look for the article coming soon! This was Iron Chef: Coffee.

What would happen, we wondered, when all of that caffeine entered our systems, when every recipe utilized coffee beans? Would this be a giddy, twitchy Iron Chef? Would we be running in circles? Would we be falling up stairs? Maybe. But that just added to the excitement, right?

I couldn’t help but set the mood for myself in my corn meal. Can you see my coffee cup?

1/2 cup hot strong brewed coffee (100° to 110°)
1/2 cup hot Guinness Stout (100° to 110°)
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/8 teaspoons salt
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon cornmeal

Make coffee, and heat stout on the stovetop. When both are hot, combine both ingredients in a large bowl. Add yeast into coffee mixture, stir, and allow 5 minutes to stand and dissolve. Add whole wheat flour and wheat germ to coffee mixture. Stir well, and then cover and let stand at room temperature for thirty minutes.

After mixture has become slightly bubbly (the original recipe called this sponge-like), lightly add 1 ¼ cups bread flour and salt. Add the bread flour a little bit at a time, while stirring until a soft dough forms. Bring dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (roughly 8 minutes). Add remaining bread flour 1 tablespoon at a time as dough becomes sticky. After kneading, place dough in a bowl coated with cooking spray. Turn to coat. Cover, and let rise a second time in a warm place for one hour.

Punch down dough. Cover and let rise again in a warm place for another hour. Punch down dough, and let rest for five minutes. Shape dough into an 8-inch (roughly) oval, and place on a baking stone sprinkled with 1 tablespoon cornmeal (see pic above). Lightly coat the surface of dough with cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place one last time for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut a quarter inch slash down the center. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until it sounds hollow when tapped.

Personally, I can say my house smelled amazingly, as did my car en route to the Iron Chef party. Though it wasn’t a winner for the night, this is definitely a recipe I’ll try again.
Happy cooking!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Chicken Cordon Bleu

My mom has a collection of cookbooks that rivals some bookstores and I used to secretly (and silently) snicker when she would sit for hours and “read” them. But recently I picked up a cookbook and went through it page by page…imagine my surprise that you can read a cookbook! Maybe the Iron Chef competitions have brought out the chef in me (who am I kidding) or maybe I’m just bored with the usual fare. Before you get too excited about the recipe, keep in mind that it’s from a cookbook called Calico Cupboards. It’s no culinary masterpiece, but it’s good, old-fashioned, simple cooking. While this is in the oven, grab a cookbook and start reading!

6 chicken breasts
6 slices of ham, thinly sliced
6 slices of swiss cheese
1 stick of melted butter
1 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika

I recommend that you cut the chicken breasts in half (lengthwise) so they’re easier to manipulate. Mix the bread crumbs (I used Italian bread crumbs) and the other spices in a dish. I didn’t have paprika so I threw in a few things from my pantry – thyme and even Montreal chicken seasoning – a bit odd, but it gave it a nice, spicy kick. Melt the butter in a baking dish. Fold the ham and cheese together and then fold the chicken in half, around them. Try to keep the cheese as tucked in as possible or it will melt all over the place. Carefully hold it all together to dip the outside of the chicken in the butter and then the bread crumb mixture. Secure with toothpicks. Make sure you count your toothpicks so you can get them all out once it’s baked. The recipe said to refrigerate the chicken for several hours or overnight…of course, I didn’t read far enough ahead to do that, so I just threw it into the oven right away. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.
(Photographic note: I didn’t think to take a picture of the dish right after I cooked it, but I had some in the freezer that I ate last night. The cheese didn’t freeze well, so the picture isn’t the best. Despite the look of it, it’s worth fixing again.)

(Click here for printable recipe)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Nutella Caramel Hazelnut Brownies

Oh. My. God. What did I do? I'll tell you what I did; it'll be our little secret. I bought Nutella. I can't believe in all of my 32 years I've never tried Nutella. Boy, have I been missing out. I could eat this all by its lonesome self. My diet is seriously in jeopardy. But, I had to make something with this stuff. And, I found it. This recipe is...to...die...for!!! If you like chocolate, caramel, and hazelnut you won't be disappointed.

1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
1/3 cups Cocoa Powder
1/4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 pinch Salt
1 cup Sugar
1/2 sticks Unsalted Butter (room temp)
2 whole Eggs
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1/4 cups Nutella - Melted (more If Desired)
1/4 cups Caramel Sauce - Melted
1 bag (8 Oz.) Small Bag Of Hazelnuts, Or More If Desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
First step is to incorporate in a small bowl the following ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Next, in a standing mixer; mix the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time. Then add the vanilla. Lastly, Gradually add the flour mixture. If you don't gradually add it cocoa powder will fly up in your face. Now, take an 8x8 baking pan and spray it with cooking spray. Add enough parchment paper so it creates little handles. Spread Half the brownie batter onto the paper. Add the caramel sauce (I just used caramel syrup that I had on hand) and spread over the batter. Add the remaining brownie batter and spread. At this point I added a little more caramel and a little of the Nutella. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the sides are firm and the middle is no longer jiggly. Take out of the oven and let cool. Press your finger tip gently on the brownie and add the melted Nutella and the hazelnuts (if desired). Feel free to add some caramel while you are at it. I didn't use hazelnuts because I didn't have any. I'm sure you could substitute walnuts or pecans and it would turn out just fine. Also, since I'm prepping for our big iron chef next Saturday, I incorporated a tsp of instant coffee granules into the flour mix. Not sure if it helped but I've heard coffee makes chocolate better!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pulled Chicken Barbecue & Sweet Potato Fries

Do you ever have a plan that you talk about that never seems to happen? I’m not talking about redesigning the kitchen or starting an organic herb garden. I’m thinking of much simpler plans: scrapbooking those photos, exchanging those Euros back to American dollars, writing a blog entry…
For about a year now, I have had a plan to make barbecue in my slow cooker. In the summer, I plotted; in the fall-time, I mused, but the seasons turned; I was distracted by hearty casseroles, then spring salads, then a new, Warsaw-inspired plan for making pirogues! (Yes, watch out. This is coming soon!)

Today, I finally did it, though, and I feel absolutely silly. This was easy! This was fabulous! My entire home smelled delicious for hours! To redeem myself, I added homemade sweet potato fries.

3 chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups ketchup
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons red hot pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix all ingredients (minus the chicken) together in crock pot (before it’s turned on). When mixed well, add chicken and coat thoroughly. Cook for 7-8 hours on a low setting or 3-4 hours on a high setting. After the time has passed, pull chicken apart with two forks. It tears apart easily in juicy, luscious pieces.

Sweet Potato Fries. (enough for 2 people)
(This one was a total experiment, but I’m calling it a huge success. If my oven only cooked evenly, it would have been perfect).

1 Large Sweet potato (yes, this really is enough for two people)
Olive Oil

Peel the sweet potato and then chop it into French fry-like strips. Put on a baking tray; drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Happy cooking!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Peach and Prosciutto Pizza

I have recently acquired a lot of free time, so much free time that I decided I would dabble a little in the kitchen. I visited the beautiful Carter's Mountain over the weekend which means I picked TOO many peaches. I thought if I picked my own ingredients it would make the whole cooking thing a little more interesting.

Better Homes and Gardens' August issue had an article titled "50 Ways to Eat a Peach". I started the cooking lesson by making peach mojitos since everyone knows cooking is a little easier with a tasty drink. The mojitos were a disappointment, they were just way too bland. Next I tried my luck making peach salsa and it was way too hot (maybe I shouldn't have used two jalapenos...hey, I'm learning). After feeling like Goldilocks looking for the perfect porridge, I began my final attempt with peaches and worked on a pizza.

The ingredients:
Store bought pizza crust
Balsamic Vinegar

BHG had this idea in their magazine, but I couldn't find the cheese they listed or fresh arugula, so I went with my own ingredients and still followed their general idea. You can read all about eating peaches at this link: www.bhg.com

Follow cooking directions on pizza crust for baking temperatures. Roll out the pizza crust and cover with olive oil. I also spread some garlic on the crust because pizza isn't pizza without garlic. Place thin slices of peaches on the crust. I used only one peach. Cover with cheese. Lay thin pieces of prosciutto on top of cheese and then cover with more cheese. Bake in oven until cheese is crispy.

Finally- something delicious! I thought the pizza was the perfect balance of sweet and salty without one flavor being overwhelmed by the other. The best part is that this dish is such a simple, easy, and quick recipe to finish. I am a beginner and I was able to complete all of the steps without a problem.
If you are trying to teach a 12 year old how to cook or playing in the kitchen with your four year old this is perfect. If you are an adult cooking, this would be a great appetizer for a summer cookout.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Bacon and Spinach Risotto

Healthy recipes are something that I always keep an eye out for, and ergo, CookingLight.com has always been a resource I’ve utilized. When I found a risotto there for 405 calories, with spinach, wine, onions, and Asiago cheese, I was intrigued. Not only did this sound awesome, but my husband would eat it. Why? Another main ingredient was bacon.

The original recipe and the one that I created differed slightly. I learned that Madiera can be substituted for Marsala, but unfortunately neither was in my wine cabinet. I found out other substitutions were sherry (again, not on hand), and a grape juice/brandy combination (creative, but again, not in the house). My version used a dry cabernet sauvignon. I also substituted a yellow onion for the shallots.

· 4 cups Chicken Stock
· 6 bacon slices, chopped
· 1 cup chopped shallots (I used a yellow onion)
· 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
· 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
· 4 garlic cloves, minced (I used garlic powder)
· 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
· 1/3 cup Madeira wine (see above)
· 4 cups baby spinach
· 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Asiago cheese
· 1/2 teaspoon salt
· 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Like a good cook, you should be thoroughly familiar with your ingredients before you get started. This is a great time to nibble on some Asiago cheese and taste test your wine, just to make sure all is up to par. After necessary ingredients have been proven acceptable, bring the chicken stock to a simmer (not a boil). This should be kept hot (not boiling) through the rest of the cooking time. While the chicken stick is warming, cook bacon until crisp. When finished, remove bacon from the pan but leave the juices (Yes, this is a Cooking Light instruction! Should we be wary?). Add onions, olive oil, garlic powder, and thyme (if it’s in your spice cabinet. I thought it was in mine, but apparently was out) until onions are tender. Add rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in wine, stirring constantly until the liquid is nearly absorbed (about 1 minute). Add in 1 cup of simmering stock, stirring until liquid is nearly absorbed (about 4 minutes). Add in remaining stock (a half cup at a time), stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed before adding more of the stock. Stir in spinach when almost all of the liquid is absorbed by the rice, and cook for one minute. Remove from heat. Sprinkle bacon, cheese, salt, and pepper.
This recipe was really good, and we'll be having it again. I'll fully admit though that I'm not going to do it in the bacon grease again. Every bite was baconly delicious, but I felt my arteries clogging by the last bite. Cooking Light, I don't believe you on this one.
Happy cooking!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Butter Chicken aka Chicken Makhani

I don’t normally cook (or eat, for that matter) Indian food. It’s not that I have anything against it. I think it’s more that most of the recipes seem to have a bunch of ingredients that aren’t already in my cupboard. And since my cup(board) runneth over with ingredients as it is, I don’t want to add to the problem. But this recipe, from Tasty Kitchen caught my eye because I already had most of it on hand and they all seem like pretty normal ingredients. So I thought I’d give it a try.

And OMG.

You guys, this was excellent. So flavorful. So intriguing. So lick-the-plate worthy. The sauce was so delicious I was literally eating it with a spoon (I actually think I might try making this as a soup sometime.) I suggest you make it immediately.

4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
5 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoons Black Pepper
½ teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
¼ teaspoons Ground Coriander
¼ teaspoons Cumin
¼ teaspoons Cardamom
1 whole Lime, Juiced
1 whole Onion, Diced
¼ cups Butter
1 can (14.5 Oz. Can) Tomato Sauce
1 can (14.5 Oz. Can) Petite Diced Tomatoes
1 ½ cups Whipping Cream
1 bunch Chopped Cilantro, to taste

Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and combine with garlic, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin, cardamom and lime juice. I actually didn’t have any cardamom, and I’ve heard it can be expensive. However, they say it’s a taste that cannot be replaced by any other spice, so I think I’m going to get some for the next time I make this. This time, I used about 1/8th of a teaspoon of ginger as a substitute. Marinate this mixture overnight. Or make it in the morning for an evening meal, as I did.

Melt butter in a saucepan and sauté the onion until it’s soft. Add the chicken and cook about ten minutes, then add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Steve and I don’t even like tomatoes, but they were really good in this recipe, so if you aren’t a fan, just bite the bullet and add them! Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, keeping the lid on (and keeping tomato splashes off your stovetop!) Remove from heat and add the cream and cilantro. Serve over rice.

This was somewhat spicy (like everything I make) but you can dial back the cayenne if you like. And the original recipe called for a full pint of cream, but I put in less and it was fine. After trying this, I think I may attempt more Indian recipes. And if they are all this good, I’m probably going to move to India. Just saying.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chicken Parmesan

One of my favorite go-to dishes when I was little, and visiting an Italian restaurant, was Chicken Parmesan. Perhaps because it's fried or perhaps because it's smothered in tomato sauce and cheese. Either way it's so yummy and comforting. To this day it's still one of my go-to dishes when visiting Olive Garden or Carrabas. One day, I thought I would try making it myself. However, I went with a cooking light version that while is very good it isn't the make-your-mouth-water because you know you are eating something so very bad for you. So, off I went in the vast expanse of the internet searching for that so-not-good-for-you Chicken Parmesan recipe. I found it on where else but the Food Network's website. It's really rather simple to make and boy is it good. I think I even prefer this version to most restaurant's. Seriously, give it a go and you won't be disappointed.

A couple notes:
I don't believe I've tried the Quick Marinara but I'm sure it's tasty. I just use one of my favorite jars of spaghetti sauce. I cut the recipe in half since I usually only cook for myself these days. Also, I use Italian Bread crumbs but I still add the thyme and oregano. I don't use fresh mozzarella but just the shredded packaged version. And, I serve mine with spagetti.

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 pounds)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 cups bread crumbs
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
6 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons whole milk
Vegetable oil, for frying
Olive oil, as needed
7 cups Quick Marinara Sauce, recipe follows
2/3 cup grated Parmesan, divided
1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Pour about a half cup of your tomato sauce into a baking dish and spread around. First thing you do is place each chicken in plastic wrap and pound them until they're thin...about 1/3 inch. In a large bowl, I stir together the 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, bread crumbs, oregano, thyme, and dash of black pepper.

Next, I placed the flour on a large plate. And, in another bowl, I whisk the egg and milk together. Place some oil in a skillet (enough to coat the chicken but not cover the chicken in oil...about a 1/3 of an inch of oil) turn to about medium-high heat. Normally, I put a little bit of water on my fingers and fling it into the oil pan to see if it sizzles. Perhaps not the best way to test the oil but it works for me. Otherwise if you have a thermometer make sure it's around 400 degrees.

Next, dredge a chicken breast in the flour and shake off excess. Then I dipped it into the egg mixture and finally dredge in the seasoned breadcrumb mixture. Shake off any excess breading and then I placed it in the skillet pan. I fry until it's a nice golden brown color and then place the chicken on a paper towel. I repeat the above steps with the next chicken. Once I complete the frying process I place both pieces of chicken in the prepared baking dish and pour spaghetti sauce over the chicken and then the cheese. Place in the 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until cheese is completely melted. While the chicken is cooking, this would be a good time to start boiling your spaghetti noodles.

Quick Marinara Sauce:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
7 cups whole, peeled, canned tomatoes in puree (about 2 (28-ounce cans), roughly chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

First you heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Next saute the onion, garlic, and Italian seasoning. Stir until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Then you add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes.

Stir in the salt and season with pepper, to taste. At this point feel free to add any fresh herbs you may have growing in your garden; basil, mint, etc. Pour into the baking dish or store in a tight container.

You can get the recipe here.

(Click here for printable recipe)