Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sunday Cooking - Chicken, Pancakes, and Egg Salad

I started this blog in order to make notes about recipes I try and to record other general food thoughts.  However, I find myself not wanting to post unless I have a photo and that is just silly.  Because I made things this weekend that I need to make note of, but after a week of taking A LOT of photos at a work event, I couldn’t bring myself to take any pics.  So here are my notes...

Marinated chicken breasts (based on Food Network recipe)

I make these and then freeze them and just heat them up for dinner every once in awhile.

- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- ½ tsp each of dried oregano, herbs de provence, dried parsley, dried rosemary
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and white pepper
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast, each about 6 ounces

Mix it all together and marinate chicken for 8+ hours then grill.

I still have trouble grilling chicken.  It seems to take much longer than the recipes suggest to cook through.  I know the pan got too hot, and I’ll adjust that next time, however then the chicken will just take longer.  I’m not sure how to fix this issue...  and I hear different things - cook until juices run clear or cook until the internal temp is 165.  Well, by the time the internal temp gets to 165, there are no juices left!  So what is correct??  Am I being too cautious?  Any tips are welcome.

The marinade however was super yummy and easy.  I would add just a little lemon or lime next time.  I may even try one of my flavored balsamics.

Melt in your mouth pancakes

I really have been craving pancakes lately.  But I want super soft, melt in your mouth pancakes and no recipe I’ve ever tried gives me that.  So, I searched again.  And again, every pancake recipe claims to be “melt in your mouth”, but they are the same ingredients and same technique that I’ve tried before with blah results.  Then I found this one from bobanahalf.com.  I found it fascinating that he used club soda and thought, I’ll give this a shot!  It seemed easy enough.

I will say, they were delicious!!  And I definitely feel I have found my go to pancake recipe.  They just sort of dissolved in your mouth and they tasted so buttery, even though there is no butter.  In fact, they are only 87 calories a pancake!!

Next time I will make the full recipe - the recipe makes 18 pancakes and I simply did not want to stand there and make 18 pancakes, so I scaled it to 6 which was not a lot of batter.  And because of that, I made the pancakes very small because I wanted to get 6 servings out of it.  They were a bit pathetic, but still tasty.

I also think the batter needs to be a little more liquid.  I only added a splash of milk at the end and I think it needed a bit more.  It probably would’ve been easier for me to get my 6 pancakes if the batter had not been so thick.

And again, my pan got too hot.  I need to watch that, I’m pretty bad about it.


Egg Salad

I had some “extra” eggs and wanted to use them up so I threw together a quick egg salad.  I decided to try the baking soda trick I’ve been seeing around the internet - add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water to help with the peeling later.  It actually worked quite well.  They were pretty easy to peel.

- 5 hard boiled eggs
- 1 pickled, diced finely
- 2 tablespoons pickle juice
- 1 teaspoon mayo (I used Vegenaise)
- 2 teaspoons greek yogurt
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon fennel salt (I got this from Williams Sonoma recently... it’s delicious! I couldn’t find a link to it though)
- ½ teaspoon paprika

Boil eggs, then split them, putting the yolks in a bowl.  Mash up the yolks.  Dice the whites (finely) and mix them with the yolks.  Add the remaining ingredients, stirring after each addition.  Chill.  Serve on toasts or with crackers or fresh veggies.  It’s a bit chunky, so it would be nice in a celery rib or endive leaf.

I like the chunkiness, but I think I would like to try dicing the whites more finely next time, or whiz everything up in food processor to make it more blended.

I would like to add celery and maybe try celery salt instead of the fennel since I think the celery flavor would be really good in here.

Add more pickles.  :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Father’s day meal

Last Sunday I made my husband a Father’s Day meal.  We have no kids, but we have a 17 yr. old cat that he has been a wonderful guardian of since she was 4 weeks old.  Also, the week prior was a bit stressful, so I thought he deserved a yummy meal.

He said he wanted the Cheat’s pizza that I made a few weeks ago, but wanted to try some different toppings.  After some discussion and looking at various pizza recipes, we settled on tomatoes with scallions, spinach, mozzarella, gruyere and balsamic vinegar.

It came out pretty delicious.  I bought cherry heirloom tomatoes and halved or quartered them based on size.  Then drizzled them with olive oil and really good balsamic vinegar.  I added chopped scallions and let the mixture marinate for a bit while I made the crust.

I made the crust exactly like I did a few weeks ago with just flour and water based on Jamie Oliver’s recipe.  This time I did leave it in the pan on the stove a bit longer and it did result in a slightly crisper bottom.  I filled it first with the tomato and scallion mixture.  Then nestled yummy pieces of fresh mozzarella into the tomatoes.  Covered the whole thing with baby spinach and topped it with shredded gruyere.  It came out more like a deep dish pizza this time and the flavors were fantastic!  I would probably add a little basil next time.  Also, I think I would dessicate the tomatoes a bit first just to get some of the liquid out.  It was very saucy.  Which wasn’t bad, but made it more of a “fork and knife” job.  We also drizzled a little of the balsamic on top right before eating.  Yum, yum!


Balsamic tomato quick pizza
Serves: 4

1 ½ cups of self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
½ cup Of warm Water
1 pint Cherry Or Grape Tomatoes, halved or quartered
2 Green Onions, White And Most Of Green, diced
Couple Of Good Glugs Of Balsamic Vinegar And Good Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
1 ½ cups Baby Spinach
1 ball Good Mozzarella, sliced or torn into pieces
4 ounces Grated Gruyere Cheese
Little More Balsamic & Olive Oil

Put diced tomatoes and green onions into a bowl and coat with olive oil and balsamic, and a little salt and pepper.  Stir and let sit while you make the crust.

Turn the heat under the frying pan up to high and dust a clean surface with flour. Put 1½ mugs' worth of flour into a food processor, then half-fill the same mug with tepid water and add to the flour with a pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil.

Whizz until smooth, then tip on to the floured board. Sprinkle the top of the dough and the rolling pin with flour (the dough will be quite wet, so be generous with the flour).

Roll the dough to a 1cm (½in) thickness. Drizzle olive oil into the pan, then dust the dough with flour again and very lightly fold it over into a halfmoon shape.

Lightly fold the half-moon in half, then move the dough to the pan and unfold it, pushing it down into the sides of the pan. If you don't have a pan this big, don't cook all of the dough at once, halve it and make two pizzas.

With crust on hot stove, pour tomato/onion mixture into crust, with all juices.  Nestle mozzarella pieces into tomatoes.  Cover entire top with spinach.  Completely cover spinach with grated gruyere.  Drizzle olive oil over whole pizza.

Put the pan under the hot grill for 4 or 5 minutes, until golden and cooked through.  Remove it from the grill, transfer it to a wooden board and drizzle over a little extra balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil and take straight to the table.


For a side dish, he chose corn fritters.

It’s a bit of an odd side dish with pizza but corn is so good right now and we both love it, that these sounded yummy to both of us.  I used this recipe.  I didn’t change anything and they came out ok.  This was definitely the best corn fritter recipe I have tried.  The corn was really sweet and the paprika made the flavor nice and smokey.  I find that the ideal corn fritter I have in my head never actually materializes... they just never taste quite the way I want them to.  The flavor isn’t quite what I imagine and the texture is usually drier than what I’m looking for.  I’m honestly not even sure I know exactly what I’m looking for, but maybe I need to play around and see if I can create the corn fritter that I crave.

For dessert, I knew I wanted to make him some donuts and I chose a baked apple fritter donut because he loves apple fritters.

I used this recipe but I didn’t want to use canned apple pie filling, so I looked around for a natural apple pie filling recipe and combined several to come up with my own.  I diced up an appled really small and mixed with a bit of brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice and then let the mixture sit and get thick for a little bit.  They came out pretty yummy, but admittedly very ‘fall’.  The cinnamon and nutmeg and apple together are such fall flavors, that it was odd to eat them in June.  But the donut was so nice and moist and the bits of apple were perfect, little, juicy bursts of flavor.  I will most definitely make these in the fall... mmmm with a caramel glaze... ooh I can’t wait!!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In Season: Apricots

Every year, for Christmas, my husband’s brother and sister-in-law give us a Harry and David Fruit of the Month subscription.  We love this!  We love getting fresh, in season fruit every month.  All of a sudden, just on our doorstep.  It’s awesome.

This month it was 16 apricots and a big, beautiful pineapple.  I used the pineapple in my weekly fruit salad and I normally give the apricots away cause I’ve never really liked them, but this year I thought I would try some apricot recipes and give them another shot.  I wanted to do a sweet dish and a savory dish.  I chose this almond apricot tart for the sweet and these pork, apricot and red onion kebabs for the savory.

Almond Apricot Tart

I chose the tart because it looked yummy, but also because I had all of the ingredients already.  And I was a bit curious about the frangipane because my husband and I both love almond paste.  Unfortunately, it was pretty much a bust.  I should have listened to the one review that said the frangipane melted out of the pastry.  I thought maybe that person had just done something wrong since no one else mentioned that, but mine did that too.  And maybe we are doing something wrong, but I’m not sure what that would be.  It could be prevented by putting the tart in a pie or tart pan, but I didn’t like the flavor enough to even try again.  It just wasn’t that exciting.  And we really didn’t like the apricots.  They were bitter and mushy.  In the end, I ate one piece, my husband ate one piece and then I just ate the frangipane off (because that did actually taste yummy) and tossed the rest.  Oh well.

Pork, Apricot, and Red Onion Kebabs (well, stir fry really)

Then I attempted the Pork, Apricot, & Red Onion Kebabs.  This recipe called for 8 apricots and apricot jam.  I had 10 apricots left after the tart, so instead of buying apricot jam, I cooked down the extra 2 apricots and with a little sugar and lemon juice and made my own jam.  I was pretty happy with this.  It was tasty (a good balance of sweet and tart) and perfectly jammy.

I bought skewers just for this recipe and I had fun making my kebabs.  Then I put them on the stovetop grill and they promptly fell apart.  Hmph.  But they were smelling pretty good, so my husband suggested I just slide everything off the skewer and saute it together.  That worked pretty well.  I’m still not really sure how this recipe is supposed to work since the apricots get mushy almost immediately and it takes awhile to cook the pork.  Once I started the saute, I tried to take the apricots off before they got mushy, but I couldn’t do it fast enough.  It ended up being this kind of sweet and savory stir fry.  The apricots became jammy and I basted the pork and onions in more of the apricot jam and everything was slightly sticky and roasted.  This dish is really good - the flavors go really well together.  The saltiness of the pork works so well with the tartness of the apricots and that sweetness of the roasted red onions.  Plus the addition of the jam and the apricots gooeyness make the dish very luscious.  And bonus!  I checked the calorie info on it and it’s very healthy!  It even fits into my weeknight calorie budget, so I had some leftovers this week for dinner.  And I will say, it gets better with age.  The flavors meld together even more and it’s quite delicious.

Pork, Apricot and Onion Nutrition

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tastee Donuts

Growing up in New Orleans, I spent many a weekend and half my summers with my Dad’s parents.  And one of my fondest memories is my Paw Paw going out on Sunday morning before I woke up and getting donuts.  He didn’t always go to the same place - it always depended on where his errands would take him.  Sometimes it was Tastee Donuts (this video cracked me up), sometimes McKenzie’s, sometime other places that are so long gone that I don’t remember the names.  I had a favorite type of donut at every location, but my MOST favorite was this donut from Tastee that was a glazed donut, with a chocolate frosting and pastry cream piped into the hole.  Loved.It.  I was always so excited when I saw the bag.  It was the perfect donut... you get the glazed (which is just always good in a simply pure way, like vanilla ice cream), with a little chocolate (because you always want a little chocolate), with filling (because I, for one, can NEVER decide if I want a regular donut or filled).

A few months ago I purchased donut pans because I started looking at the recipes and 1) they looked yummy and 2) one donut fit easily into my weeknight dessert calorie budget.  I couldn’t believe it!  I could have donuts!  Every night!!!  I knew I had to get the pan.

The first donut I made was chocolate, of course.  They were very yummy.  Nice and dense and chocolatey.  It was perfect because it felt like a substantial dessert and at 160 cals a piece, I was in heaven.

As my husband and I were enjoying them he said “Could you overfill the pan and make a place to put filling?”  And the lightbulb went off in my head!  I thought ‘I could make the Tastee Donuts donut!!  I wanted to do it right away!  But, of course, life happened and I never got around to it.  But it was always there, in my mind.  And then this past weekend I had some time and I wanted something fun to go with the pizza.  Also, I had pastry cream that I had already made.  So it seemed like the perfect time.  I started with this basic donut recipe.  They are so incredibly easy to make.  And, because they are being baked in a pan, it was very easy to spread the dough over the center piece and create a “well” for my pastry cream.  It worked perfectly.

Then I made a “quick” chocolate ganache.  Admittedly, I probably should’ve taken a little more time with this one.  It worked and it tasted ok, but it could’ve been so much better.  I tossed a few chunks of dark chocolate into a bowl with a little half and half and some Via coffee grounds - because everyone knows a little coffee makes chocolate taste better.  Well, I put a little too much grounds for the amount of chocolate and my ganache had a distinct mocha flavor.  Also, I think it needs to be more of a chocolate glaze - ie: a higher milk to chocolate ratio - like you would find on a chocolate glazed donut.

Next, the pastry cream.  I just put a few tablespoons of my leftover pastry cream in a ziploc bag, cut the tip and piped it into the center.  I was pleased with how this came out.  It worked perfectly in the donut, but more so, the pastry cream defrosted wonderfully.  It’s been in the freezer for about 3 weeks and I just took it out of the freezer in the morning and by the afternoon it was defrosted and tasted great.  I saved off a small amount to eat with the leftover donuts throughout the week and re-froze the rest.  I love not wasting food.  Especially good, yummy pastry cream.

This donut made me so, so happy.  I still have some tweaks to make and it’s a cake donut, not a good old, fried, glazed donut, but they were close enough to make me giddy with Tastee Donut memories.  I finished the last one tonight and I will not wait so long to make them again!

This is just for the donut, since I had no idea how to figure out the ganache and cream

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Easiest. Pizza. Ever.

Look at this yummy pizza!!

Seriously - took less than 15 minutes from nothing to pizza.  As I mentioned previously, Michael and I have been obsessed recently with Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes.  He does a whole meal (usually an entree, side, salad, and dessert) within 30 minutes.  And these dishes are 1000 times better than that “other” 30 minute meal show.  The other day he made a pizza by whizzing up 1 ½ cups of flour, ½ cup warm water and a little oil in the food processor for 30 seconds, turning it out onto a board, rolling it out, putting it in a pan on the stove, dressing it and then sticking it under the broiler for 5 minutes.  It looked amazing, but I couldn’t believe a pizza crust THAT easy could be good.  So we decided to try it this past weekend.  It is so, so good.  Very tender and perfectly doughy.  I needed to leave it on the stove just a few minutes longer to get the bottom of the crust more crispy, but still I loved it the way it was.

The hardest part about this dish was purchasing the pepperoni.  We went to Whole Foods and it was busy!  I stood in line for probably close to 30 minutes.  However it was well worth it... this pepperoni was fantastic!  I would definitely recommend using the absolute best ingredients.  It’s such a simple pizza that you can’t hide anything - you want need to highlight the wonderful toppings.  The only “cheat” I did was in the sauce.  I love Whole Foods 365 basic marinara, and we had some in the fridge, so I just used that.  We bought fresh mozzarella and parmesan cheese and it was just so good.  We will definitely be making more and more of these.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chicken, Artichoke and White Bean Spezzatino

This is a great soup recipe.  I’ve had it in my recipe collection for several years since I saw Giada make it, but I never got around to it until now.  First - it starts with fried pancetta. Right there, you can't go wrong. Then everything is sautéed in the pancetta fat. I mean really... that will make anything good. But I’m excited because I feel like the base soup flavors can be adapted to make lots of different varieties.  Just change the protein, vegetable and bean and you have entirely new soup!  I have several ideas I want to try... pork sausage with corn and red beans or turkey with peas and aduki beans.  And I used purple basil - I had never used that before but it was super tasty. Very intense and the little purple bits in the soup were so pretty. The soup is also super easy to make, which is always helpful.

Pear and Blue Cheese grilled cheese sandwiches

Here is another dish my husband and I made last weekend.  We used this recipe.  This was just for our lunch, nothing special, but it sounded so yummy and easy (and I was already cooking so many other things) we figured why not?  We used VERY ripe Taylor Gold pears and, despite what the recipe suggests, a VERY strong roquefort cheese - but the two flavors worked really well together. Also, unfortunately, we could not find brioche with raisins, which I would imagine tastes amazing.  But we got a nice, small loaf of brioche that was soft and buttery. They were very easy to assemble and make and a perfect sunday lunch!  After they were grilled, I drizzled mine with a yummy local honey. The buttery bread; soft, sweet, juicy pears; strong, intense, velvety blue cheese; and sweet honey were a perfect combo!