Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pintester Movement: Lebanese Stuffed Onions

Do you read the blog Pintester?  I recently discovered it and totally fell in love.  Sonja's writing is hilarious and I love seeing what she does with all the popular pins on Pinterest. So, when she recently announced the Pintester Movement, I knew I had to participate!  Sonja challenged everyone to test out pins outside our comfort zones - something we otherwise might not make.  The pin I tried was Lebanese stuffed onions from Steamy Kitchen.  This is definitely different than anything I've tried before - it involves boiling onions and then using the softened layers as a wrapper for little spiced meatballs.  I was also nervous about adding soaked-but-uncooked rice to meatballs - was it really possible that it would get fully cooked inside the stuffed onions?  No way to know but to give it a try!

The assembly of the stuffed onions was actually way easier than I thought it would be, and it was fun rolling the onion layers around the meatballs!  I had about twice as much filling as I needed, so I made the rest into mini meatballs that I cooked up and served with a little onion gravy.  However, once my onions got in the pan, I started to have more problems.  As you can see from the picture, my onions did not get nice and browned like in the original pin. The filling also had some issues.  First of all, I used ground turkey, which was probably a mistake - a meat with more fat might have stayed juicier.  With ground turkey, though, the meatballs became really dried out because of the long cooking time and the uncooked rice - I think it sucked up a lot of moisture from the meat.  The rice itself was also a problem.  It just did not get cooked all the way - some grains were okay, but others were definitely on the crunchy side.

That said, the flavors here were really good.  The spice combination worked well together, and I liked the idea of stretching ground meat with rice.  My mini meatballs made with the extra filling were actually really tasty, and cooking them in broth meant that the rice was able to cook all the way without drying out the meat.  I could see making these stuffed onions again, but with two major changes.  First, I would stick to ground beef or ground lamb like in the original recipe - this isn't a place to try and skimp with a healthier meat.  Second, I would pre-cook my rice both to make sure it got soft enough and to keep the rest of the dish from getting too dry.

Lebanese Stuffed Onions (adapted from The Food and Cooking of the Middle East, via Steamy Kitchen)

1 cup white rice
2 extra-large onions
1 T tomato paste
2 tsp cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground turkey [Next time, I'd use beef or lamb]
2 T olive oil
2 T cider vinegar
3 pinches of sugar

1. Pour the rice into a medium bowl, and cover with cool water.  Set aside.  [Next time, I would cook the rice instead of just soaking it.]
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cut off the top and bottom of each onion and remove the weeks.  Make a cut down one side of each onion and cut out a very thin wedge.  (If this seems confusing, there's a great video at Steamy Kitchen that I found helpful!)  Put the onions in the boiling water and cook 10-12 minutes, until the layers are soft and flexible.  Drain and let cool.
3. Drain the rice completely.  Put it in a large mixing bowl, and add the tomato paste, cinnamon, salt, cumin, coriander, cloves, pepper, and ground turkey.  Mix together with your hands until everything is well combined.
4. Separate the layers of onion.  Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture on each onion, and loosely roll the onion up into a torpedo shape.  [You will probably have extra filling - you can either cook up and stuff more onions, or cook the remaining filling as mini meatballs.  I made mini meatballs, browned them along with the pieces of the onion that were too small to stuff, and then cooked them in broth until the rice was cooked and the broth was reduced.]
5. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the olive oil.  When it is hot, add the onions, seam-side down.  Let cook 2 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly browned.  [Note: I'd extend this step to make sure the onions really got browned here.]
6. Sprinkle the vinegar and sugar over the onions.  Cover the pan and turn heat to low.  Cook 20 minutes, or until the meat and rice are fully cooked, flipping the onions over halfway through.

Also - if you'd like to follow me on Pinterest, you can do so here!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Roasted Potato Salad with Poblano Mayo

Last year over Memorial Day weekend, Tim and I moved into our new apartment together!  This year, we decided to commemorate the occasion with the first meal we cooked when we moved in: cheeseburgers and potato salad.  Doesn't hurt that it's also perfect Memorial Day food.  I made the potato salad and Tim cooked up the burgers for a delicious meal.

This potato salad is a fun twist on the classic.  It actually involves making your own mayonnaise, which I don't think I've ever done before - it was way easier than I anticipated!  Instead of being boiled, the potatoes are roasted alongside poblano chiles, garlic, and green onions.  This makes them super creamy on the inside and a little crispy on the outside.  Then, one of the poblanos is whizzed up with roasted garlic, egg yolk, vinegar, and oil to make a creamy mayo for tossing with the potatoes.  I loved the flavor of the mayo - just a tad spicy with great flavor from the chiles.  Definitely a recipe I'll be making again!

Word of warning: the mayonnaise recipe makes about twice as much as you need for the potatoes, I'm assuming because it's a pain to try and split one egg yolk.  You could try making a half recipe, or just save the extras in the fridge for smearing on sandwiches.  Because this mayo has raw egg in it, this is definitely a potato salad that cannot sit out at a picnic or barbecue for long, so just be aware of that.

Roasted Potato Salad with Poblano Mayo (adapted from Fiesta at Rick's, via Serious Eats)
Serves 4

1-1/2 pounds small new potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
Vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
2 large poblano chiles
4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 green onions, roots and any wilted leaves removed, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil or olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a large baking sheet with foil.  Toss the potatoes with oil, salt, and pepper, and arrange on one side of the roasting pan (they'll take up about 2/3 of the space).  Roast 10 minutes.
2. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and toss the potatoes.  Toss the poblanos and garlic with oil, and add to the empty side of the baking sheet.  Scatter the green onions over the potatoes.  Return the baking sheet to the oven, and roast for another 10 minutes.
3. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and toss the potatoes again.  Flip the poblanos and garlic over.  Return the baking sheet to the oven, and cook for another 10 minutes.
4. Place the poblanos in a bowl and cover with foil.  Let everything cool for about 20 minutes.
5. Peel the skin off the poblanos, and discard the stems and seeds.  Chop up the peppers into bite-sized chunks.  Place half the poblanos in the a blender and add the roasted garlic, egg yolk, vinegar, and 1/2 tsp kosher salt.  Blend until smooth.  While the blender is running, steam in the oil slowly and continue to blend until a thick, smooth mayonnaise forms.
6. Combine the potatoes, green onions, and remaining roasted poblanos in a medium bowl.  Add about half of the mayonnaise and stir to combine.  Taste and adjust for seasoning.  Serve at room temperature, or chill and serve cold.

A delicious Memorial Day feast in honor of our first meal in our new apartment last year!  Cheeseburgers, potato salad, and peas from our CSA.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mexican Pork and Beans in the Slow Cooker

I am so in love with this new taco recipe.  It's super easy and makes a ton of food, and the filling is also flexible - if you don't want to do tacos, you could serve it in tortas, with eggs, or wrapped up in a burrito.  This is a great dump-and-cook recipe for the slow cooker - there's no real prep, just stirring the sauce ingredients together and then pouring them over the pork and beans.  Dried pinto beans will certainly work here, but for a really special treat, try using heirloom beans.  I had a bag of Rancho Gordo yellow eye beans on hand, and they cooked up with a velvety texture and fantastic flavor.  Even with paying extra for special beans, this is still a bargain meal since pork butt is an inexpensive cut of meat.

Mexican Pork and Beans in the Slow Cooker (adapted from Pinch of  Yum, original recipe here)
Serves lots

2 pounds pork butt or pork shoulder
1 pound dry yellow eye beans (or use pinto), rinsed and drained
6 ounces (3/4 cup) beer (measure the liquid, not the foam)
15 ounce can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 very large or 2 medium jalapenos, minced (remove the ribs and seeds if you want a milder dish)
1 T chili powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cumin seeds
1-1/2 cups water
Warm tortillas and taco fixings, to serve

1. Place the pork butt in the slow cooker, and pour in the beans around the pork.
2. In a large bowl, combine the beer, tomatoes, garlic, jalapenos, chili powder, salt, cumin, cumin seeds, and water.  Stir everything together, and then pour over the pork and beans.
3. Cook on low for 8 hours.
4. Remove the pork from the slow cooker and place in a bowl. Shred with two forks, and then return to the slow cooker.  If things seem dry, add a little more hot water.
5. Serve in warm tortillas with your favorite taco fixings.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Citrus-Sour Cream Cake

I made this tasty cake for dinner with one of my old roommates. It was so much fun to cook and eat together again!  We teamed up to make roasted chicken (a variation on this recipe), purple potatoes, salad, and of course, cake for dessert.  This cake was so yummy - it had a tight crumb but wasn't heavy, was perfectly moist from the sour cream, and was sweet without being overpowering.  My only complaint was that the citrus flavor wasn't very strong - you could taste it, but it was more of a hint of citrus.  Next time, I would probably add twice as much citrus zest or maybe a little lemon or orange oil.  Definitely top this cake off with a little whipped cream for an even more special dessert - I thought it was the perfect combination!

Note that you definitely do need either a springform pan or another pan with equally tall sides to make this cake - the amount of batter will not fit in a standard 9-inch cake pan.

Citrus-Sour Cream Cake (adapted from Cake Keeper Cakes, via Buttercream Barbie)
Makes one 9-inch round cake

1 cup light sour cream
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1-3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 T butter, softened
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 tsp citrus zest (I used a combination of lemon and orange)
1/4 cup citrus juice (I used a combination of lemon and orange)
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, to serve.

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and spray a 9-inch springform pan (with tall sides) with oil.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla.
3. In another small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
4. In a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar, and citrus zest.  Cream together until fluffy.  Add the flour and sour cream mixtures in alternating additions, beating well between each addition.
5. Drizzle in the citrus juice, and use a rubber spatula to gently fold the juice into the batter.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 45-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs attached.
7. Serve warm or room temperature, topped with whipped cream.

Dessert perfection topped with a little (okay, a lot!) whipped cream.

Here's a shot of our meal from Instagram - I've become obsessed! Love the color of those potatoes!  You can follow me here if you like.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Apple-Rhubarb Crumble

This crumble is a perfect spring dessert.  We're still getting apples in our CSA box, but rhubarb has recently started turning up as well!  The two combine really well as the base for a crumble - the apples hold their shape and add sweetness, while the rhubarb melts down into a perfect sweet-tart mush.  I really like the simple topping here - it's full of oats and nuts for crunch, but it still forms together into nice clumps of tender pastry.  With a little lightly sweetened whipped cream on top, this crumble is heavenly!

Apple-Rhubarb Crumble (adapted from The Kitchn, original recipe here)

For the filling:
2 cups diced rhubarb (about 3-4 stalks)
4 cups peeled and diced apple (about 4 apples)
3/4 cup sugar
2 T lemon juice
3 T cornstarch
1 tsp ground vanilla beans (or substitute vanilla extract)

For the topping:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, softened

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a 1-1/2 quart baking dish.
2. Toss together the fruit, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, and vanilla.  Scrape into the baking dish.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, oats, pecans, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt until well combined.  Cut the butter into several pieces and add to the flour mixture.  Work in with your fingers, a fork, or a pastry cutter until large crumbs form.  Sprinkle evenly over the fruit.
4. Bake the crumble for 25-30 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the toppings is lightly browned.  Let cool about 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Strawberry-Banana Pancakes

These are really interesting pancakes - no eggs, no sugar, and lots of bananas!  I liked that they were moist, and the banana flavor really came through.  The berries were cooked into the pancakes, which made flipping a bit fussy but also made the berries warm and juicy.  I also liked that these are relatively healthy, as pancakes go - but they do taste pretty 'healthy', so be prepared that these aren't your classic fluffy buttermilk pancakes.  That said, the pancakes are still very tasty, and also filling - these will keep you going a lot longer than regular pancakes!  I de-healthified them a bit by spreading them with Trader Joe's Cocoa-Almond Spread (basically Nutella but with almonds); syrup and bananas are another great option - that's what Tim went with.

Strawberry-Banana Pancakes (adapted from Tasty Kitchen, original recipe here)
Serves 2

1-1/2 ripe bananas, mashed (about 3/4 cup)
2 T plus 1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup whole grain corn flour (such as Bob's Red Mill)
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
2 T canola oil
Spray oil
1 cup chopped strawberries

1. Using a blender or food processor (I used an immersion blender), puree the bananas until smooth.  Add 2 T of the milk, and again puree until smooth.  Add the remaining 1 cup milk, and puree.
2. Add the flour, corn flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine.
3. Add the oil, and whisk to combine.  Let the batter sit for about 15 minutes.
4. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  When it's hot, spray with a little oil.  Ladle the batter into the skillet in small circles, and sprinkle some of the strawberries on each pancake.  When the batter begins to bubble, very carefully flip the pancakes.  When the pancakes are cooked through, transfer to a plate and keep in a warm oven until all the pancakes are cooked.
5. Serve the pancakes with syrup and chopped bananas, or with chocolate-almond spread (my favorite!)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Egg Noodles in Rich Chicken Curry Sauce

Whew, it has been a pretty crazy week! We had a wonderful time at the wedding - it was at the Jefferson memorial, so pretty!  Then we headed down to Charlottesville to see the sights and visit old friends.  And finally, after a loooong flight back to California, I proctored my students' final exam and did a ton of grading.  If you, like me, are in need of a simple, warm dish to curl up on the couch with, this curry chicken with egg noodles is the perfect choice.  The curry sauce sounds like it might be out-of-control spicy with both curry powder and curry paste, but it's actually perfectly balanced.  Warm spices combine with sweet coconut milk and salty fish sauce to create a fantastic sauce.  Of course, you could serve the chicken over rice, but I really liked it over egg noodles for a little something different.  I found these in the refrigerated section at the grocery, but the original recipe recommends using any egg noodles you find (whether Asian or Italian).

Egg Noodles in Rich Chicken Curry Sauce (adapted from The Kitchn, original recipe here)
Serves 4

Coconut oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
1/4 cup curry powder
15 ounce can coconut milk
1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 T sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
3/4 pound fresh or dried egg noodles 
Vegetable oil
Roasted chopped peanuts
Lime wedges

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add enough oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan (I used a couple of spoonfuls, your mileage may vary).  When the coconut oil is melted, add the garlic and shallots.  Cook for a minute or so, until softened.  Add the curry paste and curry powder, and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
2. Pour in the coconut milk, chicken broth, fish sauce, and sugar.  Gently whisk the sauce to eliminate any large lumps.  Add the chicken thighs, bring to a boil, and then lower heat to a simmer.  Simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Remove the chicken from the sauce using tongs, and place on a cutting board.  Working carefully to avoid burning yourself, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, scraping off any visible bits of fat as you go.  Return the chicken to the sauce and simmer for another 15 minutes.
4. While the sauce is bubbling away, cook the noodles according to package directions.  Drain, and toss with a little oil to keep the noodles from sticking.  Try to time things so the noodles and sauce are done at about the same time.
5. Serve the sauce over the noodles.  Serve with cilantro, peanuts, and lime wedges to squeeze over the bowl.

Posing with friends before the ceremony...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Lemon Cake in the Food Processor

I'm at a friend's wedding in Washington, D.C., but I hope you'll all enjoy this cake while I'm away!

This cake won't win any beauty contests, but it is incredibly delicious, so that's definitely forgivable.  I was pretty worried when I pulled this cake out of the oven...even though a tester came out clean, the center was sunken and the top of the cake was all bumpy and unevenly browned.  However, one taste and I was in love! The cake is super moist, with lovely lemon flavor.  All the lemon flavor comes from the zest, so it's floral rather than sour.  This might not be one to serve for company, but if you want a super easy cake to enjoy after a casual dinner, I'd say this recipe is a winner! 

Lemon Cake in the Food Processor (adapted from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts)
Makes one 8-inch round cake

Butter and flour, for the pan
1 cup flour
3/4 cup plus 2 T sugar
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 T vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Zest of one lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour an 8-inch round springform pan.
2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor.  Pulse a few times until the ingredients are combined.  Add the cream and oil, and quickly pulse 10-12 times, until the ingredients are moist and beginning to clump together.  Add the eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice, and pulse 5 times.  Scrape the sides of the bowl, and then pulse 5-6 more times, until the ingredients are just combined.
3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake 30-35 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cod with Bok Choy and Broken Ginger Dressing

Fine Cooking recently had a feature on cooking fish in a sous-vide-inspired style at home.  I was not in the mood to try and keep a pot of water hot-but-not-simmering on my stovetop, but the flavors in one of the recipes sounded fantastic enough that I didn't want to pass up the recipe entirely.  Plus, we got baby bok choy in our produce box, which moved this recipe into the must-make pile!  Despite skipping the sous vide (and substituting cod for $24-a-pound bass), this dish turned out really well.  The method for preparing the bok choy is super easy and results in crisp-tender stems with slightly wilted leaves - perfect.  The sauce that goes over the fish has great ginger flavor and a little kick from crushed red pepper flakes. Definitely a winner!

Cod with Bok Choy and Broken Ginger Dressing (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Serves 2-3

3 T minced shallot (from one small shallot)
3 T vegetable oil, plus more for the pan
2 T soy sauce
1-1/2 T rice vinegar
1-1/2 T olive oil
1 T grated fresh ginger (from a piece of ginger about 1-1/2 inches long)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
1 garlic clove, minced
4 heads of baby bok choy, root ends removed and leaves separated
2 medium scallions, light green parts coarsely chopped
1 pound cod

1. Combine the shallots, vegetable oil, soy sauce, vinegar, olive oil, ginger, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.  Add a generous pinch of salt.  Stir together with a fork, and set aside.
2. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add a little bit of oil and the garlic.  Stir together for about a minute, until slightly softened.  Add the bok choy, arrange in an even layer, and then cover and reduce heat to medium low.  Let cook for 5 minutes, until the boy choy is crisp-tender.  Remove the lid, turn off the heat, and stir in the scallions.
3. While the boy choy is cooking, heat another non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a little bit of oil.  When the oil is hot, add the fish.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Cook about 5 minutes, flipping the fish once, until cooked through.
4. Serve the fish over the boy choy, and top with the ginger dressing.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Pantry Pasta

I love trying new recipes, and I'm usually game to try something a little more complicated or out of the ordinary for dinner, even on a weeknight.  But sometimes you do just need a dish that you can get on the table quickly (or in our case the couch...our apartment is tiny and we have no room for a table!).  This pasta dish is fantastic because it's fast and it uses ingredients I tend to have around the house so it doesn't require a trip to the grocery - at worst, maybe I'd have to run to the corner store to pick up artichokes or an onion, but mostly I tend to have these things around.  I really like how the flavors of a few simple ingredients combine here - briny artichokes, sweet peas, salty cheese - yes, please!  What really makes this dish shine, though, is the toasted panko breadcrumbs.  They're totally worth the extra step, and the sauce/topping will still be done by the time you boil water and cook pasta.

Pantry Pasta (adapted from Chocolate Shavings, original recipe here)
Serves 4

1 pound dried pasta (I used rigatoni)
Olive oil
1/2 cup panko
1 T minced fresh oregano (or sub dry - we have some growing on our porch)
Salt and pepper
1 medium red onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
7.5 ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it generously, and cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  When the pasta is al dente, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and then drain the pasta.
2. While the pasta is cooking, drizzle some olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the panko and oregano, and season generously with salt and pepper.  Cook until the breadcrumbs are golden and crispy, 7-8 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
3. Wipe out the skillet and return to medium heat.  Add a bit more oil, and then add the onions and garlic.  Cook until softened and browned, lowering the heat and/or adding more oil as needed to prevent burning.  Stir in the artichokes and peas, and cook until warmed through.
4. Add the cooked pasta along with about half the pasta water to the skillet with the vegetables.  Stir until combined, adding the remaining pasta water if needed to form a loose sauce.  Stir in the lemon juice.
5. Ladle the pasta into bowls, and top with the Parmesan and the breadcrumbs.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Secret Recipe Club: Salt-Marinated Steak

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Anne of Authentic Simplicity.  The day I chose a recipe from her blog, my boyfriend and I had both had a really long week - he had a big project at work that kept him there until 1 am one night, and I was catching up from being away at a conference in Chicago.  So, I wanted to make something special for dinner to celebrate the arrival of the weekend! In our apartment, "special dinner" most often means steak, and luckily Anne has a fantastic steak recipe on her blog!  I love her method of marinating the steak with lots of salt.  I've made dry-brined turkey that involves a similar method, but since a steak is much smaller than a whole turkey, the marinating time is only 20-30 minutes.  The salt rub made the steak super moist and flavorful - and it was so easy!  I was a big fan and I'll definitely be using this technique again in the future.  Thanks, Anne!

On the side: braised carrots with cumin seeds and potato salad.

Salt-Marinated Steak (adapted from Authentic Simplicity, original recipe here)
Serves 2

1 pound tri-tip steak
2 T fresh basil, minced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil

1. Pat the steaks dry.  Sprinkle with the basil, and then season very generously with kosher salt.  Rub the salt and basil into the steak.  Set aside for 20-30 minutes.
2. Rinse the salt and basil off the steaks, and pat them dry.  Season with freshly ground black pepper.
3. Heat grill pan (or skillet) over high heat.  Pour a little oil on a paper towel, and rub onto the grill pan.  Add the steaks, and cook for a few minutes on each side, until the steak is cooked how you like it.
4. Transfer steak to a cutting board, cover with foil, and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Pizza Chicken

This chicken recipe is like pizza, but with a chicken breast instead of pizza crust!  It's a great way to fit a little extra protein in your day, and it's so yummy (and gluten free to boot!) I made mine with pepperoni, but you could use any favorite pizza toppings here.  Whichever toppings you use, the key to this recipe is the step where you brown the cheese in a hot oven (using the broiler would work too, but it always scares me a little!) - browning the cheese gives it that really tasty pizza flavor and really 'makes' the dish.  I found that leftovers were not as good when reheated, so plan to make just as much as you're going to eat in one meal.

Pizza Chicken (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 4

Olive oil
1 medium clove garlic, minced
16-20 slices pepperoni, cut into small pieces
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1-1/2 cups marinara sauce
2 T chopped fresh basil
4 chicken breast cutlets (4-5 ounces each)
Salt and pepper
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1. Heat a bit of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and pepperoni and saute until the garlic begins to brown, about 2 minutes.  Add the oregano and stir for about 30 seconds.  Add the marinara sauce, bring to a boil, and simmer about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the fresh basil.
2. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees, and place the oven rack on the highest slot.
3. Wash the pan, and then return to the stove.  Heat enough oil to barely cover the bottom of the pan over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper the chicken cutlets, and then cook in the oil until cooked through (time will depend on thickness of chicken pieces). 
4. Line a baking sheet with foil.  Place the chicken on the foil, and then divide the sauce evenly among the pieces of chicken.  Divide the shredded cheese among the chicken pieces.
5. Cook until the cheese is browned and bubbling, 5 minutes or so (keep a close eye on it).

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

BBQ Chicken Meatballs with Zucchini

Do you read the Recipe Girl blog?  I'm a big fan, so I was excited to see that Lori recently released a new cookbook.  I snagged a copy right away, and was excited to page through it and take in all the tasty recipes.  I have to be honest that I adapted the heck out of the first one I tried...I know it's not necessarily the best way to test out a new cookbook, but the recipe turned out great anyway!  The original recipe was for shrimp in barbecue sauce with zucchini.  I selected this recipe because we had tons of squash from our CSA box that I wanted to use up, but unfortunately the only shrimp at Trader Joe's was frozen, which didn't really appeal.  I ended up picking up a package of their chicken meatballs, which actually worked really well as a substitution! Obviously not a substitution you'd want to use in every dish, but the meatballs were fantastic in the savory barbecue-zucchini sauce and the whole dish was comfort in a bowl.  Tim and I both agreed that this was a fun twist on meatballs!

BBQ Chicken Meatballs with Zucchini (adapted from The Recipe Girl Cookbook)
Serves 4

5 slices thin-cut bacon (or 2 slices thick-cut bacon)
Olive oil
1 cup chopped sweet yellow onion
12 ounces prepared chicken meatballs (such as Trader Joe's brand)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup white wine
1-1/2 cups thinly sliced zucchini
1-1/2 cups canned tomatoes (I used a mix of diced and sauce)
1/2 cup bottled barbecue sauce
2 tsp minced fresh oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
Feta cheese, to serve
Israeli couscous, orzo, rice, pasta, or crusty bread, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and set a rack on the baking sheet.  Lay the bacon on the rack in one layer, and cook in the oven until crispy.
2. While the bacon is cooking, cook your starch according to package directions (see the end of the recipe for suggestions).
3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add enough oil to just coat the bottom of the pan, and then add the onion.  Cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened, about 5 minutes.
4. Stir in the meatballs, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes or so, until the meatballs get a little browned on the outside.  Pour in the wine, and stir until it is just about evaporated, about 1-2 minutes.
5. Stir in the zucchini and cook 3-4 minutes, until slightly softened.  Add in the tomatoes, barbecue sauce and oregano, and let the mixture bubble away for 4-5 minutes.
6. Chop the bacon into small pieces, and add it to the meatballs; stir to combine.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper if necessary (mine was already pretty salty, so I didn't add more).
7. Place a scoop of your starch in a bowl, and then top with the meatball mixture and a sprinkle of feta cheese.