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Archive for March, 2009

Herb Chicken and Roasted Potatoes

Herb Chicken and Roasted Potatoes

Chicken and potatoes.  Classic, satisfying and simple.  This dinner is especially simple because the same herb rub/marinade is used for both the chicken and potatoes.  So many different combinations of herbs and spices will work with this same concept.  Just mix the seasonings of your choice (or whatever happens to be in your fridge) in with some olive oil, salt and pepper.  Tonight, I used fresh thyme, rosemary, lemon zest and garlic.

Herb Marinade

Herb Marinade

Make enough to cover the chicken and potatoes for you and whatever lucky people you’re cooking for.  There should be enough oil so that the marinade is slightly liquidy, not a paste.

The chicken breast I used tonight was pretty large, so I split it in half so I had two thin fillets.  I place those in a shallow bowl and spooned over enough marinade to cover them lightly but thoroughly (I rubbed it on them with my hands to distribute evenly).

Chicken and potatoes, coated in marinade

Chicken and potatoes, coated in marinade

Leave the rest of the marinade in the bowl and throw in some cleaned and quartered potatoes.  Stir the potatoes around so they are also evenly coated.  Dump the potatoes out onto a baking sheet and roast in the oven.

When the potatoes are about 10 minutes from being done, saute the chicken breasts on the stove top.  Easy right?  I’m the worst at timing meals so that all the components are done at the same time, and even I didn’t mess this one up!

Dinner for Two

Dinner for Two

Prep Ranking: #2 – Weeknight Fare
Tastiness Grade: 7 out of 10

Recipes, simple as they are, after the jump.

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Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Dinner 1 – Spaghetti and Meatballs

I love making meatballs because they are fairly simple, very tasty, and give us 2 full meals!  The first night is traditional spaghetti and meatballs.  I never made meatballs until I was cooking for my husband.  I made a lot of spaghetti sauce with meat, but always thought meatballs were to time consuming and difficult.  Well, they certainly take a bit more time than making sauce with ground meat, but overall, its really not out of reach!

I use ground turkey (as usual) but of course good ground beef would be very good too.  They don’t need a lot of filler, but the addition of herbs, both dried and fresh, makes them very flavorful.

Meatball Mix

Meatball Mix

Now get your paws in there and mix ’em up.  No, there’s no clean way to make meatballs!  Once its mixed through, but not over-mixed, roll them into golf-ball sized balls and line them up on a baking sheet.

Meatballs Pre-Baking

Meatballs Pre-Baking

Bake them for just 20 minutes, then let them simmer in a jar of spaghetti sauce on the stove.

Meatballs Post-Baking

Meatballs Post-Baking

Boil up your favorite pasta, toast up some crusty bread, and you’re in business!

Prep Ranking: #2 – Weeknight Fare
Tastiness Grade: 8 out of 10

Spaghetti Dinner

Spaghetti Dinner

Dinner 2: Meatball Subs

Meatball Subs

Meatball Subs

Night two of our meatball extravaganza is Meatball Subs.  These are very easy once the meatballs are made.  Just split some crusty hogie rolls, fill it with meatballs and sauce, then top with mozzarella and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.  Bake for about 20 minutes and dinner’s done!

Tasty Leftovers

Tasty Leftovers

Prep Ranking: #1 – Make on the Fly
Tastiness Grade: 8.5 out of 10

Recipes for everything after the jump. Enjoy either one, or both!

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Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

I absolutely love fresh tomatillo salsa.  To me, its in a separate category from store-bought salsa.  Not to disparage the store-bought variety, It certainly has its place, and we’ve bought plenty of it.  But if you have the opportunity to get your hands on some fresh vegetables, especially when tomatillos are available, its really worth the small investment of time.  I also like the fact that I can make this salsa with natural ingredients and no added sugar.  It doesn’t need extra sugar when the veggies are this fresh!

Prepped Veggies

Prepped Veggies

This recipe is truly simple.  Just a little prep work of washing and chopping, then roast the veggies and blitz everything up in the food processor.

Roasted Veggies

Roasted Veggies

I roast the tomatillos, tomatoes, jalapenos and onion with oil, salt and pepper.  It takes very little time before everything is soft and roasted through.  Now if you prefer a “chunkier” texture to your salsa, this probably isn’t the method you’d want to use.  Roasting the vegetables makes them so soft that you’re not going to get a lot of whole chunks when all it said and done.  I prefer to make chunkier salsas only when tomatoes are perfectly in season, which is not in March!  I personally love the texture of fully blended salsas.

Blended Salsa

Blended Salsa

This salsa is fabulous just plain on chips, or mixed in to shredded meat for tacos, burritos or enchiladas.  You can freeze the extras as I am doing today with about 2/3rds of my batch.

Storing the salsa

Storing the salsa

Prep Ranking: #4 – Weekend Afternoon (it really doesn’t take long, but you have to think ahead to have the ingredients on hand)
Tastiness Grade: 9.5 out of 10 (as assessed by both me and Greg)

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

About 12 Medium Sized Tomatillos (husked, washed and quartered)
2 large Tomatoes (quartered and seeded)
1 large Onion (cut into large chunks)
2 Jalapeno Peppers (halved and seeded)
1/4 cup light oil (like Canola)
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

3 cloves garlic
1 Lime, zest and juice
1/2 cup water
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground corriander
1 tsp salt

On a large baking sheet, combine the first 7 ingredients through the black pepper.  Mix with your hands to coat the vegetables with the oil and seasonings.  Roast at 400F for 30 minutes, until veggies are very soft.  Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of the food processor, combine the garlic cloves, lime juice, and lime zest.  Once the veggies are roasted and cooled, pour all of the contents of the baking pan into the food processor (including all accumulated juices).  Pulse to chop finely for about 5 seconds.  Add the water, cumin, corriander and remaining salt.  Pulse once or twice more, then taste for seasoning.  Add more salt or spices if desired.

Store in the refrigerator or freeze in sturdy plastic containers.

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Banana Bread

Brown Bananas

You know what this means…

Banana BreadBanana Bread!!!  I really think that my husband purposefully allows bananas to get over-ripe just so I’ll make banana bread.  Truth be told, I don’t mind all that much!  It makes for a fabulous dessert or even breakfast treat.  This recipe is slightly altered from the one my mom has always made.  I don’t know exactly where she got it from, I checked Betty Crocker and its definitely not from there.  So if its similar to the one you use or have seen in a cookbook, I’m really not trying to rip anyone off here!  All I know is that this recipe works every time and is simply delicious.

You will need 3 or 4 medium sized over-ripe bananas.  I find that mashing them on a plate works the best.

Mashing Bananas

Mashing Bananas

The batter comes together very easily.  Once its smooth and completely mixed, just dump it into a regular loaf pan and bake.

Banana Bread BatterThe smells the come out of your kitchen while its baking are unbeatable!

Baked BreadThe bread comes out with a delicious crust on the outside and a soft and smooth interior.

Sliced BreadPrep Ranking: #2 – Weeknight Fare (easy prep, an hour to bake)
Tastiness Grade: 10 out of 10

Recipe after the jump.

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As my little blog here is still in its infant stages, I reserve the right to make some amendments as I go.  I have decided to start assigning some categories describing easy of preparation and time it takes to make the dish, as well as a grade of how tasty I think a dish has turned out.  I may even include my husband’s grading of a dish if I find his opinion to be acceptable 🙂

So here are the Preparation categories I will be using:

Ease of Prep Rankings:

#1: Make on the Fly – this  indicates a dish you can make in 15 minutes or less and will most likely have the ingredients on hand without a lot of advanced prep or shopping.
An example of a #1 Prep Ranking would be Eggs and Toast

#2: Weeknight Fare – this indicates a dish you can make in 45 minutes or less.  It requires a little bit of advanced planning including thawing meat or having specific vegetables on hand.  These are meals I would normally make if I have 30-45 minutes on a weeknight for our dinner.
An example of a #2 Prep Ranking would be My Sloppy Janes

#3: Slow Cook, Minimal Effort – this indicates a dish that can be assembled in the morning (as in, before work) but requires many hours (4-8 hrs) of cook time, usually in the slow cooker.  The dish may or may not require some extra time around dinner time once the meal has cooked.
An example of a #3 Prep Ranking would be a pot roast in the slow cooker, or something like shredded beef/chicken for tacos.

#4: Weekend Afternoon Project – this indicates a dish that will require at least a couple hours of prep/cooking time, usually in several stages.  These dishes also require some advanced planning due to unusual or time consuming ingredients.
An example of a #4 Prep Ranking would be my Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas

#5: Got all Day? – this indicates a dish or project that requires several hours.  Anything that requires several hours of time between steps (bread) or has multiple components (pies) are condsidered to be an all day project in my book.
An example of a #5 Prep Ranking would be Indian Beef and Spinach w/ Naan.

My intention in using these rankings is to make it easier to evaluate the recipes for whether you have time for them on a given day or not.

My Tastiness Grading is pretty straight forward.  A ranking from 1-10 will be assigned by me and sometimes my husband on how much we like this dish.  A “1” will indicate a total disaster that cannot be salvaged by tweeking the recipe.  A “10” is something that we couldn’t stop eating until we passed out on the couch with our belts bursting open.  I would consider anything 6 and over to be something I would definitely make again, sometimes with some alteration to the recipe.  If I intend to alter the recipe, I’ll always indicate in what ways I would make it next time…I don’t want others repeating my mistakes if its at all avoidable!

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Beef with Spinach and Naan

Beef with Spinach and Naan

We are being hit with a pretty random relatively serious Winter storm today.  Its the end of March and there is ice and snow on the ground.  But I’m not complaining, because to me, this is the absolute best kind of day to stay inside and cook warm and comforting food.  I had all the ingredients at the ready to make Indian Beef with Spinach from my new book “Quick and Easy Indian Cooking“.  I love Indian food and I usually make up recipes on my own.  This leads to very mixed results.  So sometimes I like to follow (gasp) and actual recipe.  I picked this Madhur Jaffrey book up in Denver last weekend and have been just itching to try out some of the delicious looking recipes.  My one complaint with the book upon first inspection is that the way she makes the recipes “quick” is by using a pressure cooker for many of them.  Well, that’s fine and dandy if you have a pressure cooker, which I do not…yet.  So since its a cold and dreary day, I decided to go the “Slow and Easy” route and use my slow-cooker instead.

As usual, I assembled all of my spices first.  Here we have (in powdered form on the right) cayenne, garam masala, coriander and cumin.  The whole spices on the left are cinnamon, cloves and cardamom pods.  Some bay leaves and salt round out the seasonings.

The Spices

The Spices

The next step was to assemble and very finely chop (in the food processor) the aromatics – garlic, ginger and onion.

The Aromatics

The Aromatics

Next, heat up the oil in a frying pan, add the whole spices and warm through in the oil.  Then add the finely chopped (almost a paste) aromatics.  Cook in the oil over high heat for about 5 minutes.

Cook the Aromatics

Cook the Aromatics

Now here’s the point I start to diverge from the recipe in cooking methods.  I placed a pound and a quarter of stew beef in the slow cooker along with a box of thawed and drained spinach.  I added water (2 cups) and the spices and stirred together.  Then I added the cooked aromatic mixture on top.  Stir through to combine, place the lid on the slow cooker and allow to cook over low for about 6 hours.

Assembled in the Slow Cooker

Assembled in the Slow Cooker

Then it was onto the bread.  Fresh Naan.  Why not try this out on a cold-snuggle-inside-kind of day?  Also in Denver, I had picked up the book “Bread” which looked to me to be the perfect beginner’s book for baking bread from scratch.  The book has several types and categories of bread, including flat-breads which is where I found the Naan.  I assembled and mixed the ingredients using my Kitchen-Aide mixer with the dough-hook attachment.  It appears to have worked perfectly and saved me 10 minutes of kneading by hand.  When most of the ingredients have mixed together, stop the machine and work the dough with your hands in the mixing bowl to incorporate all of the ingredients/crumbs that have accumulted at the bottom.  Once the dough has come together completely, turn the machine on low and allow it to “knead” with the dough hook for 9-10 minutes.  Now you can’t walk away from it during these 10 minutes because it occasionally needs assistance if the dough starts “riding up” the dough hook or if the dough seems to be stuck in the same position for a while.

Bread Dough in Mixing Bowl

Bread Dough in Mixing Bowl

I used the full cup of milk that the recipe called for and ended up with a beautifully tight and elastic dough.  Let this rise for 3-4 hours in a bowl covered with a towel, until about doubled in size.

Naan dough, pre-rise

Naan dough, pre-rise

After allowing the dough to rise for 4 hours, it was divided into 4 segments and rolled into 1/4″ X 6″ X 10″ flat breads.  I did take pictures of this process, but due to some very frustrating technical difficulties, many of my photos were erased.  Boo.  The naan was then baked under the broiler for about 2 min per side on a baking sheet.  Do NOT turn your back on the broiler…EVER.  Or else, you will end up throwing away your first bread like I did.  But the attention is worth the effort.  Nothing beats fresh bread, hot out of the oven!

Fresh Naan

Fresh Naan

This bread is slightly crusty on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.  It also soaked up the brothy portion of the Beef and Spinach beautifully.

naan

This dish was tasty but not perfect.  The naan was a perfect accompaniment because of the soupiness of it.  Also, it was a bit oily for my taste.  If I make this recipe in the future, I will omit about 1/3rd of the oil and reduce the volume of water.

Problems aside, it was a wonderfully warm and filling meal on this icy and snowy Kansas day.  Our home smells of Indian spices and fresh bread, and that alone is priceless!

Spicy Comfort Food

Spicy Comfort Food

Prep Ranking #5: Got all Day??
Tastiness Ranking: 6 out of 10

Recipes (along with my suggested alterations) after the jump.

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Two and a Half Weeks Later

Beautiful Bell Peppers

Beautiful Bell Peppers

Its truly hard to believe that these plants are the result of only 18 days of love, nurturing and the power of Mother Nature.

Day 18

Day 18

Day 18 - Side View

Day 18 - Side View

The project for this weekend is to begin transplanting.  At the very least, I need to get the zucchini in larger and deeper pots.  The tomatoes are not far behind.  I plan to use degradable pots, I’ll let you know what kind I end up with.  I may also start some flowers up this weekend.  We need lots of marigolds to protect our tender veggies from bugs and bunnies.

And the weather this weekend is a great reminder of why its so important to start seedlings indoors.  We are predicted to have some hard-freezing and possibly snow here in Kansas.  Yuck, how long will Winter linger??

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