Monday, October 29, 2012

Garlic Chicken and Potatoes

So I'm learning a lot about myself in this week of No Cooking Dinner.  For one, I think about food, and what I'm making for dinner, and what I might bake today, and what sides am I going to make tonight, and what dessert would be good this week, way too much.  Taking all that away to focus purely on my family is weird.  But good!  Yeah, totally good and awesome therapy to put all things in perspective.  I am spending more time snuggling with Kieran on the couch, playing tic-tac-toe with Gavin, or watching the boys "race" little push carts around the living room.  It's nice to worry less about dinner, and have more time to absorb the life happening around me.
I made marinated tomatoes to round out the meal.

But anyway, I did make this dish last week, and it's fabulous.  I'm really not sure what I love more about this recipe: the minimal hands-on prep time, that it essentially all cooks in almost one dish (well, you use a little skillet to make the sauce but I'm not going to count that), or the fantastic flavor!

Garlic Chicken and Potatoes
Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine
Prep time: 5 minutes   Cook time: 35 minutes

2 lbs small red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp ground cumin (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
Pinch of red pepper flakes
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, the cumin, salt, and pepper to taste. Spread in a large baking dish and roast until the potatoes begin to brown, 20 to 25 minutes.
Little potato cubes with just a touch of cumin.

2.  Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet over medium low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly golden, about 1-2 minutes [Keep a close eye on it! Minced garlic burns quickly]. Remove from the heat and stir in the brown sugar, lemon juice and red pepper flakes.
My pan is dark so you can't see the warm brown color of the sauce real well.

3.  Remove the baking dish from the oven, push the potatoes to the sides and arrange the chicken breasts in the middle. Season the chicken with salt and drizzle with the garlic mixture. Return to the oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
Just shove things aside to make room.

4.  Remove from the oven; transfer the chicken to a cutting board and slice. Add the parsley to the baking dish and toss with the potatoes. Serve the chicken with the potatoes and lemon wedges. Drizzle with the pan juices.
Almost finished!

If you're like me, you may be thinking that Garlic Chicken is going to have that strong, spicy GARLIC flavor to it.  You'd kinda be wrong though.  The garlic ended up having this sweeter, almost roasted flavor to it, which was oh-so-lovely on the juicy, tender chicken!  The potatoes cooked up to this soft, comforting perfection.  Truly this was such a comfort food meal that I can't wait to make it again!!

p.s. Even GAVIN liked this and asked for seconds!  That's such a rarity that I always feel compelled to let you know when I have a Gavin Approved dish.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

So. Much. FOOD

Between kicking my cold/sinus infection in the butt, and chasing my 17-month-old all over the place, I'm sorry to say I haven't had a chance this last week to really sit down and write up some recipes.  I've been cooking!  Believe me, I've been cooking.  But uninterrupted time (HA!) with my computer?  Yeah, that's hard to come by right now.

BUT, I will have some time coming soon.  Because this next week I plan on hardly cooking at all.  Yes, you read that right.  Pretty much all of the meals I've been making lately have produced more servings than our little family can possibly eat.  And as much as I love leftovers, there's just so much of it!  Seriously, between my fridge, freezer, and pantry we could probably eat for a month.  So I've decided that I'm not cooking this next week until we've eaten through ALL the leftovers in the fridge AND at least one freezer meal I've squirreled away. 

Then I should be able to use my usual dinner cook time to tell you about some of the other things I've concocted lately! :)
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Thursday, October 18, 2012

This Week's Menu

Have you ever had one of those weeks where things just refuse to go the way you planned?  Yeah, me too.  So suffice it to say meals did not end up all nice and neat the way I'd outlined them to be last week.

But let's try this again, shall we?

  • Thursday: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and fruit salad
  • Saturday: Takeout or Freezer Find.  I plan on crafting all day long so I'll leave the precise menu up to Rob.
  • Monday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and steamed veggies
  • Wednesday: New Recipe! Simple Perfect Enchiladas, rice, steamed veggies
Happy planning!!
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

I have been wanting to try making chicken masala for a while.  And now that it's Fall and I want to use my slow cooker as much as possible, this recipe is just about perfect!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
Recipe slightly adapted from Meal Planning 101
Prep time: 20 minutes, PLUS marinading time   Cook time: 6-8 hours

Chicken Tikka:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
1/4-1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 10 thighs)

1 onion, diced
2 inches fresh ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced

1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (5.5oz) tomato paste
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp tikka paste OR mild curry paste with a tbsp of lemon juice
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried coriander

1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 cup cream [NOTE: I used whole milk because that's what I have, but cream would be even better]
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

1.  THE NIGHT BEFORE: Stir together the yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, salt & pepper into a bowl or resealable plastic bag.  Add the chicken and coat the chicken completely with the marinade, cover and place in the fridge for at least one hour or overnight.  [I'm totally recommending overnight, which is why I highlight doing so ahead of time]
Keeping plain yogurt on-hand makes these kinds of marinades much easier & cheaper.

2.  THE NEXT MORNING: Turn your oven to broil. Take the chicken out of the marinade (discard the marinade) and place the pieces on a broiler pan. Place under the broiler about 6-10 inches from the heating element and broil on each side about 10 minutes.
That's a LOT of chicken!

3.  While the chicken is broiling, OR you could also do this the night before, heat a tsp or two of oil in a small skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes to soften. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a few more minutes until the mixture is nice and fragrant. Place the mixture into your slow cooker.
The trifecta of good smells

4.  Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, garam masala, tikka paste (or curry paste & lemon juice), cumin, chili powder and coriander into the slow cooker as well. Stir together. When the chicken is done broiling, add them straight to the slow cooker and stir into the sauce.  Cook on HIGH for 4-6 hours or on LOW 6-8 hours.
I got curry paste because I thought I'd use it more than tikka paste


5.  Just before serving stir in 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala and salt if it needs it (this means you need to taste it for seasoning, which I highly recommend). Then stir in the cream and fresh cilantro. Serve a chicken thigh with lots of sauce over hot rice, basmati if you're got it.
The meat just falls apart in this glorious sauce.

So I realize from all the seasonings listed, that this seems like it might have "bad spice," as Gavin calls it.  If heat is your thing, this dish can be as hot as you like.  What I made wasn't super hot, but did have lots of rich, flavorful seasoning to it.  There was just enough heat to feel this pleasant warmth, but nothing uncomfortable or eye-watering.

Not only were our bellies happy when I made this, but there was totally enough to have friends over, PLUS leftovers, PLUS I put some in the freezer for later!  WAHOO!!!  Once we eat through those freezer offerings, I will be making this again. :)
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Thursday, October 11, 2012

This Week's Menu

I love how when I'm feeling inspired, meal planning takes just a few minutes.

To me, nothing is more inspiring than crispy-cool Fall weather.  Suddenly soups, stews, and roasts are dinner options again!  And life is wonderful... 

  • Thursday: Cheddar-Broccoli soup with sour dough bread (thank you Jenny I. for putting this on my mind!!)
  • Saturday: New Recipe! Sesame Shrimp Fried Rice
  • Sunday: New Recipe!  Bears Brats with some kind of potato and salad. And just an FYI, my boys don't care for the spiciness of bratwurst so we always do hot dogs for them on brat nights.
  • Tuesday: Leftovers
  • Wednesday: Pancakes (a Gavin request) and fresh fruit if my boys haven't consumed it all.
Happy planning!!
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Five Layer Mexican Dip

One of my favorite things in the Food Universe is to either develop or discover a recipe for something that is NOTORIOUSLY bad for you and make something good, without sacrificing flavor.

Actually, I prefer this version to it's more fattening, seven-layer counterpart.

5-Layer Mexican Dip
Recipe from Ellie Krieger
Prep time: 20 minutes   Cook time: 8 minutes

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon minced chipotle pepper in adobo
4 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
2 ripe avocados
4 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion
1 tablespoon finely diced jalapeno pepper
3/4 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar

1.  Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until they soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more.
One step for TWO layers!

2.  Put half of the onion mixture into a food processor with the black beans, chipotle pepper, 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, cumin, water and salt. Puree until smooth. Set aside.
Prepare to be pulsed.

3.  Add the corn to the skillet with the remaining onion mixture and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro leaves.
I heart cilantro.

4.  In a small bowl mash the avocado with the remaining lime juice. In a medium bowl toss together the tomatoes, scallion and jalapeno, if using. Season tomato mixture with salt and pepper, to taste.

It was REALLY HARD to keep from snacking.

5.  Spread the black bean dip into the bottom of an 8 by 8 glass baking or serving dish. Top with the corn mixture, spreading it out to form a single layer over the beans, repeat with the avocado, then the tomatoes. Top with cheese.

Now, is this version as easy as putting together a 7-Layer Dip?  No.  I'll admit it!  It's much easier to open up some cans and plastic containers and layer them all together for a fantastic party spread.  But if you'd like to feel a twinge less guilty eating a yummy Mexican dip, sometimes the tradeoff is doing just a little bit of work, like cooking up the bean and corn layers in this recipe.  I'll say though that these layers are WORTH the few extra minutes to put together!!  The beans are smokey and spicy from the chipotle pepper.  I love how the corn kernals burst in my mouth.  And the avocado and tomato layers are so cool and refreshing; and the cheese just brings it all together.


p.s. At the party I went on Saturday, after two hours there was only about a cup of this left.  And I'm fairly certain that the rest was consumed not long after I took my boys home for bed. ;)
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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Six Week Muffins

Ok so I really thought that everyone grew up with these muffins.  But maybe I'm crazy because everyone I've mentioned these to has given me That Crazy Look and asked "um, what are six week muffins?"

They're wonderful, handy to have around, and DANG TASTY is what they are!

Six Week Muffins
Recipe slightly adapted from my mom
Prep time: 15 minutes   Cook time: 20 minutes

1 (15.5oz) box Raisin Bran cereal
5 cups flour
1/2 box raisins
2 cups sugar
5 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
1 quart buttermilk
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1.  In the largest bowl you have (or use a big stock pot, that works too), mix the Raisin Bran, flour raisins, sugar, salt, and baking soda.
There's a LOT in the bowl; mix carefully.

2.  In a separate bowl combine the buttermilk, eggs, oil, and applesauce.
Basic wet ingredients

3.  Carefully pour the buttermilk mixture into the cereal mixture and mix well.
REALLY mix carefully; the bowl is almost overflowing!

4.  ENJOY NOW: Preheat oven to 400.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin and fill with the batter.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Just snip the corner and pipe the batter into the muffin tin.

5.  ENJOY LATER: If your family goes through muffins like crazy, keep the batter in a container in the fridge for up to six weeks.  Scoop out enough batter to bake as many, or as few as you'd like to eat.  OR if your family goes in spurts with eating muffins, store the batter in the freezer.  I like to put mine into 1-quart bags, which holds about 12 muffins worth of batter.
A hot, fresh muffin with butter is HEAVEN

If you haven't figured it out from the directions above, the "Six Weeks" part of the name is how long the batter will last in your fridge.  And if it can last six weeks in the fridge, imagine how long it'll keep in your freezer!  I don't know exactly because honestly I end up baking these up fairly quickly.

These are soooo handy to have around!  If you're constantly on the go, what's easier than grabbing some muffins as you dash out the door?  If you, or your loved ones, crave hot meals in the morning, what's easier than scooping out some batter and baking it while you hop through the shower?  And if time is never on your side, what could be easier than whipping up a giant bowl of muffin batter and portioning it out as needed?  Instead of always mixing up a 12-muffin mix, this has you set up for quite a while!
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Thursday, October 4, 2012

This Week's Menu

As with all babies, Kieran doesn't care what my chores are or what my day looks like when he's mad at the world at 11:25 p.m.  And 11:55 p.m.  And 12:08 a.m.  And 12:32 a.m.  And 4:18 a.m.  But despite my sleep-deprived headache that wants to rear it's ugly head, I still need to come up with a food game plan for the upcoming week: 

  • Saturday: We're off to celebrate a friend's birthday, potluck style!  I'm still trying to decide what to make.  I'm sure my fridge, freezer, and pantry will be dictating the selection.
  • Wednesday: Leftovers
Happy planning!!
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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

Every time I make a new dish, we tell Gavin the same thing.  We tell him that taste buds are always changing so he always needs to taste whatever it is that I've made.  Even when I make something he's hated in the past, he has to try it again.  Because taste buds really do change.

This dish is a perfect example of how taste buds can change.  I used to hate French Onion Soup.  Now, thanks to Rob, I love it.  And I particularly love this recipe, because it's classic, easy, and all goes into the slow cooker.

Can I get an amen?

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup
Recipe slightly adapted from The New Creative Crock Pot Cookbook
Prep time: 20 minutes   Cook time: 8-10 hours

4 large onions, sliced
1 stick butter
1/2 cupish red wine, optional
6 cups beef stock
1 tsp salt
1 french baguette, sliced and toasted
Shredded mozzarella cheese

1.  In a large skillet, saute the onions in butter until caramelized.  Add the flour and mix thoroughly.  Deglaze the skillet with red wine, if using.
I set the heat low and took a fast shower while these caramelized.

2.  Pour onion mixture into the slow cooker.  Add the beef stock and salt.  Cover and cook on LOW 8-10 hours (or on HIGH for 4-5 hours).
Let the slow cooker do the work!

3.  Ladle the soup into oven proof bowls and top with the bread and cheese.  Broil in the oven until the cheese is melted.
Mmmm, bread.
I love this soup.  I love it for it's richness, it's simplicity, it's comfort.  I love that I can make a giant pot of this for Rob and I and freeze half of it for another time.  I love that we can spontaneously invite friends over and have plenty for everyone.  And I especially love that my taste buds changed so that I could happily share this recipe with you.
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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ranch Chicken Sandwiches

I don't really have much of an introduction to this recipe.  Except to say that my Resident Picky Eater loooooooooooooved this sandwich.  Really. Loved. It.  In fact, Gavin took one bite, turned to me and said I could make these again.
I couldn't find the camera after our trip so these were taken with my phone.

In my world, praise doesn't really get any higher.

Ranch Chicken Sandwiches
Recipe slightly adapted from Ree Drummond
Prep time: 10 minutes   Marinating time: 2-4 hours   Cook time: 8 minutes

4 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup Dijon mustard 
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp lemon juice
Crushed red pepper flakes optional
6-7 pieces thick-cut bacon
Grated sharp Cheddar
Your choice of whole wheat or multi-grain bread (I used fresh whole wheat bread but multi-grain buns would have been awesome too)

1.  Lay each chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper and pound to an even thickness.  I went with about a 1/4" thick.  If you are working with larger chicken breasts, cut them in two, lengthwise, using a very sharp knife.  You ultimately want thinner pieces of chicken so they cook faster and are easier to eat on a sandwich.
Fat chicken

Skinny chicken.  And yes, I forgot to thaw them out AGAIN.

2.  Next, make the marinade. In a large bowl mix together the honey, mustard, paprika, salt, pepper to taste, lemon juice and crushed red pepper flakes if using. Stir to combine.

3.  Add the chicken to the marinade and toss to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge, 2 to 4 hours.
Don't throw this away!
Add lemon juice, EVOO, salt & pepper for a fast salad dressing.

4.  While the chicken marinates, cook up the bacon however you prefer.  I like to bake mine in a 425 degree oven on a broiler pan.  Though this is a hands-free method, you do need to keep an eye on it to avoid burning it.  Because it's no fun setting off the fire alarm that's right next to the kitchen.  The kids get all freaked out, the dog won't stop whining, waving a broom at it doesn't work and it's just a pain to take the thing apart to get the battery out.  I'm just saying....  ANYWAY, however you choose to cook your bacon, reserve 1/4 cup of the bacon grease and pour off the rest of the grease.
Bacon in the oven stays nice and flat; perfect for sandwiches!

5.  When you are ready to cook the chicken, remove it from the marinade and cook it under the broiler for about 3 to 4 minutes each side. Brush a little reserved bacon grease on the chicken as you cook it. You could also grill the chicken (inside or outside) OR cook the bacon and then the chicken in a skillet on the stove top; whatever works for you.  Hurray for options!

6.  When a couple of minutes cooking time are left, lay 2 pieces of bacon onto each chicken breast. Top with some Cheddar and allow it to melt.  Load with the bacon-and-cheese covered chicken goodness onto your bread of choice and enjoy!

It seems that whenever I make something new that I'm sure Gavin will like, he'll find some random, miniscule reason to dislike it.  So imagine my happy surprise that he liked this sandwich so well!  The chicken is sweet from the honey, tangy from the mustard, with just a little heat from the paprika and red pepper flakes.  Combine that with crispy, salty bacon and melty sharp cheesy goodness and you have a FLAVOR EXPLOSION happening in your mouth.  It's. AWESOME!!  

p.s. Leftover chicken breasts would also be divine chopped up on a tossed salad.  Just in case you're looking for a reason to cook up extra chicken. ;)
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