Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Balsamic Glazed Chicken Thighs (or Breasts)

Balsamic Glazed Chicken Thighs (or Breasts)

1 1/2 T. vegetable oil
1/2 stick butter
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
3 T. balsamic vinegar
1 c. red wine (or substitute chicken stock)
1 T. capers
1/4 c. kalamata olives, pitted
salt and pepper
parsley for garnish

Heat oil and butter over high. Add the chicken thighs to the skillet careful not to crowd pan. Sear each side until the chicken is golden, about 1 minute per side. Remove to baking dish.

Add the onion and garlic to pan, until the onions are soft. Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, red wine (or stock if you are substituting), capers, olives and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Bring to a slow simmer for 10 minutes.

Pour the balsamic glaze over the chicken and place in a 350° preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until the chicken has just cooked through. Remove from the oven, garnish with freshly chopped parsley and serve.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie
Adapted from Fanner Farmer’s Famous Dish

3+ cups (1 lb) ground beef 1 cup beef broth
1-2 lg. garlic cloves salt
1 onion, diced 4-5 medium red potatoes (w/ skin)
4 –8 T. butter (divided) 1 bag peas & carrots, frozen
4 T. flour 2+ cups cheddar cheese, shredded

1. Cut potatoes into quarters, cover w/ cold, salted water and boil gently for 15-20 minutes. Drain. Taste for salt. Add pepper & more salt if necessary and 2-4 T. butter. Mash. Set aside.

2. While potatoes are boiling preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Cook peas & carrots in microwave according to package directions. Drain and add salt/pepper. Set aside.

4. Brown beef with garlic and onion. Set aside.

5. In same pan you used for browning beef melt 4T. butter and stir in flour. Cook for a few minutes over medium heat until smooth and blended (must cook to gewt rid of flour taste). Slowly add beef broth. Cook at least 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add beef mixture. Salt and pepper as needed.

6. Layer to edges meat mixture evenly in 1 ½ quart casserole dish. Spread peas & carrots over meat. Spread mashed potatoes on top. Add cheese. Bake for 35-45 minutes until cheese is beautifully brown.

Note: I usually divide this into two smaller casserole dishes and freeze one for later. To recook frozen Shep. Pie just thaw 24 hours in refrigerator bake 45-ish minutes at 350.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Steak & Portobellos with Sweet Soy Ginger Sauce

We had a change of menu this past week with Valentine's Day and all the hoopla around the "holiday" (if you can call it that). For my gift to my husband I made him the meal he's asked me to make for the past 7 years. It is a meal I have avoided at all costs. It is a meal I know I'm not qualified to cook, steam, roll or present. For my Valentine I attempted the meal I knew I should not -- I made sushi. I will spare you the details and spare you the recipe. In the future, God-willing and the kids-behaving, I will make sushi again and describe it for you. Until then, make Steak & Portobellos with Sweet Soy Ginger Sauce.

This is a nice switch from the regular meat and potatoes standby; however, it is not for the faint of heart...I mean faint of pallet. The sauce is very bold and will kick-up the flavor a few notches. If you like foods with an Asian flare, this is a meal for you.

Appearing for the very first time, my very own food photography. Tah-Daah! I think the photo is pretty good considering the entire family was sitting there waiting to eat while I arranged food. Except the four-year old, she wasn't waiting to eat, she was waiting to throw a dinner tantrum proclaiming her distaste for mashed potatoes and meat. Apparently she doesn't consider hot dogs to be meat. And now that I think about it, she is probably right. Are hot dogs meat?

Steak & Portobellos with Sweet Soy Ginger Sauce

Adapted from Isabel Cruz's recipe in Cooking Light Magazine

2-3 portobello mushroom caps (more would suit me fine - I could skip the steak completely)
1 lb. boneless beef shoulder steak (I often use those really thin slices of beef - I don't know the official name)
Olive oil
Sesame Seeds for garnish


1/4 c. chopped green onions (with green stems)
1/4 c. soy (I use low sodium)
1 t. fresh, peeled, chopped ginger (original recipe calls for more, add more if you like)
1 T. brown sugar
1 T. dark sesame oil
1 T. honey dash nutmeg
1 clove garlic, minced

1. Prepare sauce by combining all 8 ingredients in food processor until smooth. Set aside.

2. Remove gills from under portobellos (use a spoon) and slice caps.

3. Heat a nonsick pan over mediun-high heat. Coat with olive oil. Salt and pepper steak. Add steak and cook on each side until browned. Remove from pan. If using beef shoulder, slice diagonally. If using a thinner cut theres no need to slice it.

4. Toss mushrooms with a few tablespoons of soy mixture; add to pan. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from pan.

5. Return steak to pan and cook to desired doneness.

6. Plate steak and mushrooms together. Drizzle with remaining soy mixture.

Serving Note: I usually serve over jasmine rice, but tonight I will serve it with my
lower-fat version of
Pioneer Woman's Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes. I will make extra mashed potatoes for Shepherd's Pie later this week.

Kid Friendly Adaptation: Don't drizzle their sizzle (you know...their meat...don't drizzle any sauce over it)! The sauce is waaaay too much for the kiddies. And when I made the garlic roasted mashed potatoes, I set aside a bowl full of regualr mashed tators sans roasted garlic.

Apple Cranberry Pork Pinwheels

Do you need an impressive dinner that will wow your husband's boss, make an "outlaw" an inlaw or trick the disapproving mothers in the Mom's Club into thinking you belong in their exclusive snotty organization? If so, visit Martha Stewart's blog; I'm sure she has a ton of ideas for you.

If you need something that tastes really good, looks respectable and pleases YOU deeply, look no further. This is a tried and true recipe that I added to my dinner rotation a few months ago. In the future I plan on stuffing this CENTER CUT pork loin with some other ingredients, but for now, this chutney filling is oh so good. It has a little sweetness and a little sourness; just like me!

I serve the Apple Cranberry Pork Pinwheels with baked sweet potatoes and a small salad. You serve it however you like, but please, do yourself a favor and just serve it.

Apple Cranberry Pork Pinwheels
This recipe is my adaptation of Elise Bauer’s adaptation of a Cook’s Illustrated Recipe (basically it’s a third party recipe)
Chutney Filling
1 cup orange juice or apple juice
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp onion, grated
1 1/2 cups dried apples (I call this the fruit of my loin)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (this is the fruit of my loin too)
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
½ t. ground mustard (or a few squirts of yellow mustard will work)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Pork Roast
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 pound boneless center-cut pork loin roast (short and wide - about 7-8 inches long and 4-5 inches wide). I don’t know my cuts of meat, but I think this “center cut” part is important because I have twice NOT purchased the “center cut” version and twice been very disappointed because it is two small pieces of pork wrapped together to look like one big one and thus making it impossible to make this beautiful dish beautiful. So buy the CENTER CUT pork roast.

1. Put the small children down for a nap, as you are about to handle raw meat. You never know what they will do while you have salmonella hands from wrangling raw pork. My luck is someone will snort a Cheerio up his/her nose and need some sort of medical attention while I stand there, hands held up in the air, and say, “I have raw meat hands, honey. You are going to have to take care of it alone. Just blow your nose. Blow. Come on now, blow harder. Dang it, I am about fed up with you. Would you just give it a good blow already!” Note: The coaxing it takes to get kids in bed is the most challenging part of this recipe. Put the pork roast in the freezer for 30 minutes to make it easier to cut.

2. Bring all the filling ingredients to simmer in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until apples are very soft, about 20 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the liquid. Use a rubber spatula to press against the apple mixture in the sieve to extract as much liquid out as possible. Pulse apple mixture in food processor, about fifteen 1-second pulses (or just chop it up small like I do). Set aside. Since I usually start dinner when the baby is napping around 2:00, I stop here and finish reduction right before I serve dinner. So skip to step 3 for now and come back to step 2 when the roast is almost ready to serve. Return liquid to saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, set aside and reserve this liquid for use as a glaze.

3. You will be "double-butterflying" the pork roast. Lay the roast down, fat side up. Insert the knife into the roast 1/2-inch horizontally from the bottom of the roast, along the long side of the roast. Make a long cut along the bottom of the roast, stopping 1/2 inch before the edge of the roast. Click here to see Elise’s demonstration double-butterflying. You can also see her version of this recipe, but I must say it is lacking because nowhere does she mention putting her kids down for naps, salmonella hands or cheerios in one’s nose. I feel that my minor changes have made all the difference in the final outcome of the dish.

4. Season the inside of the roast well with salt and pepper. Spread out the filling on the roast, leaving a 1/2-inch border from the edges. Starting with the short side of the roast, roll it up very tightly. Secure with kitchen twine at 1-inch intervals. Season the outside of the roast generously with salt and pepper. Since Wal-mart is hiding the kitchen twine these days I got creative recently. I made aluminum foil “ropes” and wrapped a few around the loin. Granted they aren’t as pretty as twine, but they worked.

5. Place roast on a rack in a roasting pan, put in 350 degree preheated oven, on the middle rack. Cook for 45 to 60 minutes, until the internal temperature of the roast is 160 degrees.

6. When roast is almost ready, return to step 2 and reduce your glaze.

7. Brush roast with half of the glaze and cook for 5 minutes longer. Remove the roast from the oven or grill. Place it on a cutting board. Tent it with foil to rest and keep warm for 15 minutes before slicing.

8. Slice into 1/2-inch wide pieces, removing the cooking twine (or aluminum foil home made ropes) as you cut the roast. Serve with remaining glaze.

Serves 6-8 normal people (or 2 ravenous adults)

And one last note: Pat slow smoked the pork roast with some wood chips a few weeks ago . The memory make me speechless. Umm Umm Good! Man, that guy sure knows how to please a woman!

Kid Note: They like the meat, but the looks of the chutney discourages them. Maybe if you put the pinwheel on a stick and call it a lollipop they'll eat it? But probably not.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Whole Enchilada

I know this isn't really Mexican food. I am sure it isn't even close. But it makes a decent meal that my kids like and my husband loves. We aren't from Mexico so we don't really care if it is authentic. In fact, I buy my margaritas premade from a bottle too. Shameful? Maybe. Really yummy and potent? Definitely! Actually, if I were you, I'd skip the recipe below and just have the margarita for dinner.

Cream Cheese & Chicken Enchiladas

4 cups chicken, chopped
One 8 oz. package (1/3 less fat) cream cheese
One 10.75 oz. can cream of chicken soup
One 4 oz. can diced green chilies, with juice (use two cans if you like a mild kick)
One 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
10 (approximately) tortilla shells, 7-inch diameters
One 10 oz. can enchilada sauce
2-3 cups shredded cheese (I use Fiesta Blend, use what you like)
3 green onions, chopped (include the pretty green tops too)
chopped cilantro
shredded lettuce

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Pour a little enchilada sauce on bottom of 13x9 pan to prevent sticking.
2. Combine first 5 ingredients and scoop 3/4 of mixture into each tortilla shell. Roll shell and place enchiladas side by side in dish.

3. Pour remaining sauce over entire dish of enchiladas and sprinkle with cheese.

4. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes.

5. Sprinke tops with lettuce, cilantro and green onions and serve.

Note some changes to the original recipe:

~ I only use one can of green chilies because of the kids, but if I was making it for myself I'd...well...I'd probably just go to a real Mexican joint and forget about this pseudo-Mexican-home-cooked-bologna. Or I'd stick to the original recipe and use 2 cans of green chilies plus add some jalapenos and habaneras for good measure.

~ The original recipe calls for 6 cups of cheese. Yes, I said SIX cups of cheese. Do you think that was that a type-o in the cookbook I used? I am sure it is delicious that way, but I like my ass to fit on this chair while I pound out this delicious blog entry. I sprinkle maybe 2 cups of shredded cheese over the top. It's enough to cover the whole enchilada (and then some).

~ And don't forget the most important ingredient to this meal. See below.

Roasted Chicken Legs with Caramelized Onion Sauce

Roasted Chicken Legs with Caramelized Onion Sauce

1. Melt only a 1/2 stick butter (for about 20 legs) and mix in 1 Tablespoon of Paula Deen's House Seasoning (House Seasoning: 1 cup salt 1/4 cup black pepper 1/4 cup garlic powder Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months).

2. Cut the skin off the legs (to eliminate some fat) and place legs on broiler pan, brush with butter mixture and sprinkle more seasoning on top of the legs. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

3. Pull out legs and rebrush tops with butter. Broil for about 10 minutes until brown.

4. Pull out legs again, flip them over and brush bottoms with butter and sprinkle with seasoning and broil for 10 more minutes.

While the legs were acookin', start Ashley's Caramelized Onion mixture from this delicious recipe she published on her blog. Follow her directions (sans chicken), and add about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of chicken broth in step 2, then reduce. Turned off heat and set aside.

When the chicken legs are out of the oven, put about 6 or 7 or 8 or 9 legs into the caramelized onion mixture and heat through. Set aside the rest of the chicken legs you baked for a future meal (in our case, we are making Chicken Enchiladas tonight and possibly Chicken Pot Pie another night).

Ashley's Cheesy Orzo Recipe

Make it! It is awesome and a HUGE kid hit! I have to admit I burn the bottom every time, but I am blaming it on my electric range (I prefer gas). I am going to start adding stuff to it. I think it would be good with some frozen green peas mixed in and maybe some mushrooms.

Mixed Green & Toasted Walnut Salad with a Vanilla-Pear Vinaigrette
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine (December 2005).

I made 1/2 this dressing recipe and still had entirely too much.

Vanilla-Pear Vinaigrette
1 (15-ounce) can pear halves in juice, undrained
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Real Bacon Bits and a dash of ground red pepper

1. Drain pears, reserving 1/3 cup pear juice.
2. Combine pears, juice, vinegar, and remaining ingredients in a blender; process until smooth.


1 cup vertically sliced red onion
2 (10-ounce) packages Mediterranean-style salad
2/3 cup Vanilla-Pear Vinaigrette
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

To prepare salad, combine onion and lettuce mix in a large bowl. Add Vanilla-Pear Vinaigrette, and toss well. Sprinkle with walnuts.

I am not a baker. I do not bake, nor do I make dessert on a regular basis. But this cake is easy, fast and fortified with pecans for good health. I first made this recipe on Christmas morning, 2007, and the hubby loved it. He does not usually eat dessert and does not have a sweet tooth. So for him to rave over it...it is worth making again.

Fake Birthday Cake (aka: Sour Cream Cinnamon Breakfast Cake)I got this recipe off some lady's blog. She said it came from The Bridge Street Inn Bed and Breakfast in Charlevoix, Michigan.

4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup oil
1 pkg yellow cake mix
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup chopped pecans


1/4 cup brown sugar
1 T cinnamon

1. Beat eggs until fluffy. Add sugar and beat again. Blend in cake mix, sour cream, oil and nuts.

2. Pour 1/2 batter into greased bunt pan.

3. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over batter. Swirl lightly with a knife.

4. Pour remaining batter on top.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes.Tonight we are having Cream Cheese & Chicken Enchiladas. They are so easy! I'll be back with that recipe later!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Beef Carnitas

Beef Carnitas (the Non-Latina, Busy Soccer Mom Version)

Beef Chuck Roast
Goya Adobo Seasoning (look on Latin food isle or you could probably use garlic powder, s & p)
1 medium onion, halved
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeno pepper
2 cups chicken broth
14 oz. can tomatoes
Cilantro (a hand full of fresh or maybe just a teaspoon of dried)
Shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend and some mozzarella)
Sour Cream
Guacamole (I usually make my own, but I highly recommend the brand Wholly Guacamole. Find it in the produce section at Wal-mart. It is actually as good as my homemade version and probably cheaper)

1. Season the roast well with Adobo powder. Top, bottom, & sides! Shake it. Shake it. Shake it, Momma.

2. Put first 8 ingredients into crock pot. Turn on low and go about your business.

3. When ready to eat use a strainer to retrieve the chuck roast and shred it into smaller pieces. Also retrieve some tomatoes (dice them up) and some onion slices. Place on a warm flour tortilla, top with cheese, guacamole, sour cream, salsa and more fresh cilantro.

4. Enjoy the easy and filling meal.

My kids loved this. When I told them we were having beef for dinner they made ugly faces, their heads began to spin and high-pitched siren sounds came out their mouths. Then I changed the name from beef to burritos. The terrible noises stopped, but by the looks on their faces they still were not convinced. Then I let them assemble their own (mainly meat and cheese) and hid the tomatoes and onions out of their peripheral vision. Suddenly it was manna from God. My daughter informed me she wanted it for breakfast tomorrow morning only tomorrow she wants it to be flat (i.e.: a quesadilla), with just cheese and pickles. I guess that means she liked the Beef Carnitas. I hope you do too.