Friday, December 31, 2010

Pre-Resolution Pumpkin Flan

Canned Pumpkin and Condensed Milk
 Featured Ingredients: Libby's Pumpkin and Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

The New Year is upon us.  This year I'm ringing in 2011 in a much different way. Last year, I celebrated the arrival of 2010 in Times Square courtesy of NIVEA with an invitation to a party at the Hard Rock Cafe and a hotel room one block away. It's the only way you would catch me in Times Square on New Year's Eve.  I could never stand out in the cold for hours upon end cooped up in a pen.  More power to those who can dig deep and accomplish this.  It's the same kind of admiration I have for the people who go on Survivor. Miss a meal.  Forget about it.

I received the invitation to Times Square unexpectedly. During the week between Christmas and New Year's the VP of Marketing extended an open invitation for a casual lunch to any one in his area. About 9 people accepted.  At the lunch everyone was talking about their plans for New Year's Eve in Times Square.  I sat quietly eating nibbling on my salad. "You are going to New Year's Eve?" he asked me.  I sort of shrugged my shoulders and shook my head no.  "Oh, but you went last year," he said. I smiled an awkward smile and shook, my head no again. He asked, Why? He thought maybe I turned it down. I sat silent with a perplexed look on my face. I didn't feel comfortable saying in front of everybody that, I wasn't asked to participate.  An invitation was offered to me on December 30th. I really did appreciate it. Maybe the VP Marketing felt embarrassed by that conversation at lunch, I'm not sure.  I didn't go this year as that VP has now gone overseas to work at the parent company and as a part of his objectives in the U.S. he reduced his head count by, unfortunately, eliminating the department I used to work in this year. 

So since my family is now functioning on primarily one income and whatever I collect from unemployment, I am a lot more price conscious. I spend a lot more time in the bargain aisle these days. A dwindling item right now is canned pumpkin.  With the holidays drawing to a close you may be pumpkined out.  This is a great time however to stock up on this seasonal goodie, in case you get a craving for it come March. Or if you just can't get enough of this squash here is a dessert that is easy and elegant as it is rich and decadent.  It's not the best choice if you are starting a weight loss resolution come tomorrow.  But tomorrow is the weekend  and maybe you could start fresh on Monday!

I made this Flan for Thanksgiving this year.  It was a nice switch from traditional pumpkin pie.  I didn't post it then as I was still very busy with aforementioned day job.

Pumpkin Flan

3/4 cup sugar
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cups solid pack pumpkin puree
5 large eggs
1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 ground ginger
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt

1.  Make Caramel. - Get a clean 9 in deep dish glass pie dish.  Set aside.  In a small saucepan, stir together sugar and 2 tbsps water. Whisk together and bring to simmer over medium-high heat.  Let cook but don't stir but periodically swirl pan to heat caramel until it is a rich amber color about 5 minutes.  Immediately pour caramel into pie plate, turning plate to coat evenly.

2. Set a pot of water to boil. Separately, place rack in lower tier of oven and preheat to 325F.    In blender of food processor, combine condensed milk, pumpkin, whole milk, eggs, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt and process until smooth.  You may need to do this in two batches depending on the size of your appliances. Pour into prepared dish.

3. Set pie dish in a large shallow roasting pan and add enough hot water to reach halfway up the side.

4. Bake for 50-60 minutes until center barely jiggles when dish is shaken. Remove from hot water and and let cool on wire rack for 1 hour.  Put flan in refrigerator to chill.

5.  When ready to serve run a knife or thin offset spatula around the outside of the dish to release flan. Set large flat serving plate upside-down on top of pie dish and quickly invert both.  Let flan release onto plate.

Pumpkin Flan
 Enjoy the calories. Wherever you are ringing in 2011, I wish you all a Happy New Year. 

Happy New Year 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bean Burgers with Avocado Lime Spread

Featured Ingredients: Goya Black Beans and Goya White Beans

Goya Beans
This is a wonderful dish for Meatless Mondays or Fiber Fridays or whenever you are channeling your inner herbivore.  Usually food that is fast, easy and cheap is not synonymous with good, take a very famous fast food chain, for example. This dish however, covers all the aforementioned characteristics not to mention nutritious.

These burgers stand up to any commercially produced veggie burger. They are not bland.  Two kinds of chili powder and cumin add a smoky flavor, depth and bit of heat, which balances nicely with the lime in the avocado spread. Topped with cheddar cheese, juicy tomato and red leaf lettuce and there's a burger worthy of any high end joint.

Bean Burgers with Avocado Lime Spread

Make Avocado Spread first
Scoop out 1 ripe avocado
Add juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp fresh cilantro
Finely diced red onion to taste.
Avocado Lime Spread
Bean Burgers 1 can Black Beans (Drained and Rinsed)
1 can White Beans (Drained and Rinsed)
You will need 2 cups total of beans (you will have some left over)
1/4 red onion roughly chopped
1/4 cup potato flakes
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp chili powser
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder (this is a lot smokier than the regular chili powder)
1/2 tsp cumin
1 egg
1/2 grated cheese (use any combination hard cheese, mozzarella* monterery jack, cheddar) *if using mozzarella do not use the fresh kind as it is too wet.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor (It's that easy)

Pulse until it's the consistency of ground beef/paste. Burgers should retain a little texture. Shape into 6 patties.  It is easier to remove patties when ready to cook if you put them on parchment paper.
Uncooked Bean Patties Ready for Skillet
 Heat oil in a non stick skillet.  Put no more than 4 patties at a time.  Do not over crowd pan. Fry burgers until brown on both sides about five minutes per side.  Cover skillet with lid to help promote cooking process.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Thai Peanut Noodles

Carnation Evaporated Milk
Featured Ingredient:  Carnation Evaporated Milk.

I've been sorting through my binder of recipes over the last couple days selecting candidates for future entries.

This recipe was adapted from a health magazine from 2004.  It was part of a selection of lower fat kid friendly dishes. I added a few items to balance the sweet and the savory ingredients and create some dimension to the sauce. It is still kid friendly, as it is not spicy. If you like spicier, for that extra kick I do like to add Sweet Chili Sauce.  Fresh ginger adds a nice little bite too.  I didn't have any fresh ginger on hand so I used dried.

Thai Peanut Noodles
4 servings

12 oz. Thick Spaghetti
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tsp pure sesame oil.  (There are two kinds.  The one you cook with and one you use for flavoring.  I used the one you use for flavoring).
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 tbsp organic soy sauce
1/4 tsp dried ginger or 1tsp fresh ginger* If using fresh ginger see step 4 and do not add into sauce ingredients
2 tsp honey
2 tsp vinegar
4 scallions (whites and greens for sauteing - save some for garnish)
1 clove garlic minced
1 cup cucumber sliced thin
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup frozen sugar snap peas
Toasted Sesame Seeds

1. Cook spaghetti accroding to package directions

2. While pasta cooks, in a medium size bowl combine peanut butter, oil, milk, soy sauce, ginger, honey and vinegar and whisk until smooth.  Mixture should not be thin.

3. Bring a small amount of water to a boil, enough to fit snap peas, boil until tender.  Drain and rinse with cold water to retain bright green color.

4. Heat oil in small skillet and sautee scallion and garlic for 1-2 minutes to release aromatics. If using fresh ginger add it along with the scallion and garlic. Remove from heat.  Put in carrots and snap and toss with aromatics. 

5. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add sauce.  Toss with pasta. Fold in vegetables.  Garnish with green parts of scallion and toasted sesame seeds.

Peanut Noodles with Toasted Sesame Seeds

Monday, December 27, 2010

Chicken Stew with Scallion Cornmeal Dumplings

College Inn Chicken Broth
Featured Ingredient: College Inn Chicken Broth 48 oz. (Industrial Size)

How do you define comfort food? I would like to know.

For me, three things immediately come to mind... Macaroni and Cheese, Mashed Potatoes, and Chicken Stew with Dumplings.

Yesterday the Northeast got hit with one of the worst blizzards in 14 years. Our fate was nothing worse than little cabin fever by the end of the day.
After fighting the crowds at the grocery store earlier that morning I came back with the contents to this wonderful creation.

This recipe was adapted from a little cookbook called Cheap Eats, that I received about as long ago as the last big snow storm. The author and I share a similar philosophy, nourishing, hearty family meals for about $10. The recipes in the book are even classified by season.  This one falls in winter, exactly where it belongs. I'm the only person I know who actually looks forward to the colder months. You just can't enjoy the warmth and the comforting smells your oven or Dutch Oven emits in the middle of summer.

Chicken Stew with Dumplings

1.25 lbs boneless chicken thighs fat removed and cut into stew like pieces
1 medium onion chopped
2 cups carrots
1 cup celery
5 cups College Inn chicken broth
1 tsp marjoram
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 small bay leaves
Dash of black pepper

Scallion Cornmeal Dumplings (Recipe follows)

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil on medium heat in a 5 quart Dutch Oven, sautee onion, carrots and celery until onion is translucent to release aromatics.  Remove to plate. 

Add additonal olive oil if needed and sautee chicken pieces until lightly golden on outside. Add vegetables back to pot and add broth, marjoram, thyme and bay leaves.  NOTE: I used the not low sodium chicken broth for this and the recipe did not need any additional salting.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile stir together dumplings:

1 cup plus 2 tbsps all-purpose flour
2 tbsps cornmeal, preferably yellow
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsps minced scallions, including green tops
3 tbsps chilled solid vegetable shortening or butter (I used shortening)
1/2 cup milk

In a medium bowl, mix the first 5 ingredients.  Cut the shortening or butter in with a pastry cutter or rub it into the mixture by rubbing your hands together until it resembles coarse meal.  Add milk and stir until a soft dough forms.

Drop the dumplings by rounded tablespoonfuls into the hot liquid around the pot.  To give each little guy room to expand. You will get about 12 dumplings.  Cover with lid and don't peek for 20 minutes.  You are actually poaching biscuits.

The beauty of these dumplings is that they help thicken the stew. Ladle into wide shallow bowls and be comforted.
Chicken Stew with Scallion Cornmeal Dumplings

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Chocolate Pudding Cake

Hershey's Chocolate Syrup
Featured Ingredient: Hershey's Chocolate Syrup

Every Christmas Day for the last 15 years or so, we go to my in-laws for dinner.  Translation to my two kids: Round 3 of Christmas Presents.

Each year I am in charge of dessert. Usually more than one. And each year, I bring something different. The ironic thing is I always seem to try out recipes for the first time for this task. Since I hadn't made this cake before, I was very intrigued by the recipe's chemistry.  I was surprised for a cake recipe that it didn't call for eggs.  I've heard of no flour, but no eggs?  I guess if you put in eggs, it would set the pudding? I even went online to find another recipe as I thought it was a print error. 

The method didn't seem logical. You pour the batter into the pan and dump chocolate syrup mixed with hot water over the top, which sits like a pool. But somehow the watered down syrup seeps into the batter, and transforms into a luscious pudding under a moist cake like brownie. I might just have to have some right now.

This recipe is from an old cookbook that is collection of recipes from Family Circle, that in fact was a gift from my mother-in-law. The recipe is for an 8 X 8 pan.  Double it for a 9 X 13. Lining the bottom of your oven with foil is also not a bad idea as the pudding bubbles up the sides like chocolate lava.

Chocolate Pudding Cake

1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsps unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsps butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup Hershey's Chocolate Syrup
Ice Cream or Fresh Whipped Cream - Recipe follows

Heat oven to 350 F.  Coat pan with non stick cooking spray

Mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and walnuts (if using) in a large bowl.  Stir in milk, butter, vanilla until blended.  Scrape into prepared pan. (How easy is this?)

Whisk together hot water and chocolate syrup in a small bowl.  Pour over cake batter in pan.

Bake for 35 minutes or until cake is set and pudding bubbles up on sides.  You can stick a tooth pick in the cake and it should come out clean except for the pudding on the bottom. Cool cake on a wire rack.  Serve cake warm or at room temperature from pan with whipped cream and/or ice cream.  The taste of a cake with the ease of a quick bread.
Chocolate Pudding Cake with Fresh Whipped Cream
Whipped Cream.

1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
2 tbsps Confectioner's Sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (Minimizes weeping of cream - but not necessary)

In a cold stand mixer bowl combine all ingredients. With whisk attachment whip cream until soft peaks form.

(Plate courtesy of my husband - Christmas present).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

White Bean Salad

Navy Beans and Sliced Beets
Featured Ingredient: Goya Navy Beans, Del Monte Sliced Beets

Another Christmas has come and gone. I had promised some new uncanny goodies in my last post and I intend to deliver.

This one my mother used to call "Vinegretas." I'm sure it has many other names depending on the family, but to make life easier for the English speaking folks, let's just call it White Bean Salad.

This is a staple at my Christmas Eve Dinner. I serve it along with Breaded Filet of Lemon Sole. It is a my go-to side dish and would actually be good any time of year.  It is a healthy, hearty, filling salad with tender and toothsome textures and little bit of crunch.  The hard boiled eggs add creaminess to the dish.  If you are looking for a taste of no nonsense old country cuisine... this salad is for you.

White Bean Salad - Makes 4 Servings

1 15.5 oz can navy beans (or any small white bean) - drained and rinsed
1 8.25 oz. can sliced beets  - diced
1/2 cup diced dill pickle
1cup frozen peas and carrots (you can also substitute a can of these in a pinch)

1-2 hard boiled eggs finely chopped (depending how much egg you like)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1 to 2 tbsps olive oil for "Shine"

In a small bowl combine beans, diced beets and pickle.

My husband has one of those dicer tools and he goofs on how much better his "knife skills" are than mine. I prefer a more homemade look and I can achieve similar cut sizes without using the tool. The diced beets and pickles looked like shimmering jewels atop little bed of pearls (see below). And in nature, precious jewels don't come in uniform size.

White Bean Salad... In Progress

Hard boil eggs.  Put eggs in cold water and bring to a boil.  Reduce to rolling boil and boil 5 minutes.  Take eggs off heat and let sit in the hot water off the heat for 15-20 minutes. Remove eggs and run under cold water.  Peel eggs and finely chop

Boil the frozen peas and carrots until tender. Drain.

Add peas and carrots and eggs to bean mixutre. Toss salad.  Season with salt and pepper. 

Finish with 1 to 2 Tbsp Olive Oil.  Toss once more to coat.  The "shine" recommendation came from my grandmother as it gives the salad a nice glossy sheen.

The beets also give the salad a pretty pink tint, along with your fingers!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pantry and Pride

We had plenty of leftovers from last night's meal, so I took advantage of "Cook Once... Eat Twice" and all I had to do was some dazzling reheating.  So I thought I would give you a little peek behind the curtain and the source for my inspiration.

I'm loaded up in preparation for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  As I mentioned in my last post, I'm Lithuanian and on Christmas Eve we celebrate Kucios. It's a meat-free evening meal, similar to the seven fishes celebration. It has become a part of my DNA and even though my parents are no longer with me, keeping the tradition alive, reminds me of home. My kids like this holiday, as after dinner it's a free pass to open gifts, which has always been a part of the tradition.
Wouldn't you know that one of the main staple dishes qualifies as Uncanny Goodness. I'm looking forward to sharing it with you after I make it tomorrow.  If yout tastes don't deviate too far from "American Bistro" this salad is not for you.  But if you crave a taste of the old country, definitely give it a try!  It's not just for Kucios anymore.  

For Christmas Day at the in-laws I will be making Chocolate Pudding Cake... so look for that recipe too.

Have a great holiday! I'm glad I finally finished wrapping gifts.  My cat Rex even offered to pitch in.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cold Winter Night Kielbasa with Slightly Smashed Potatoes

Sapporo Beer
Featured Ingredient: Sapporo Beer

OK, so this product, is not what you might expect as the featured ingredient, but it qualifies as a can, and it's a very tasty beer.

The next thing you probably wouldn't expect is, the recipe is for a Eastern European inspired dish.  It's East meets East or rather East meets EATS! I've  seen some different variations on Asian Fusion.  Last week on Top Chef they had David Chang the Chef from Ma Peche in New York, which has a French/Asian theme. So here is my take on Asian Fusion - Polish/German cuisine with literally a splash of Japan.

I'm a first generation Lithuanian. My parents came over as teenagers with their parents during World War II when the Soviet Union took over their country.  I don't have them any longer, so unfortunately I couldn't share this familiar meal with them.  I'm not the best food stylist and my available plate choices are not necessarily ideal, but I'm about real food for real people. For this photo, I used some of my mother's plates that she used on special occasions in their honor. As this dish seemed very much at home on an Eastern European table.

1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/4 scant cup full of light brown sugar
1 lb kielbasa.
1 medium onion chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
7 large red potatoes cut in quarters (about 3 lbs)
1 3/4 cup veal stock (or beef stock)
1/2 cup Sapporo Beer  - You'll have plenty left over to have with dinner
Dash of dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 Granny Smith apple - medium dice
1Tbsp butter
olive oil as needed
salt and pepper as needed

Whisk the mustard, vinegar, brown sugar and worcestershire sauce in a separate bowl.  Set aside.

Cut Kielbasa on the bias in 1 inch pieces

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil on medium heat. Brown the kielbasa in a Dutch Oven until it gets some color.  Remove from pot and set aside.

In remaining fat saute onion and garlic until onion is translucent. Add salt. (Give the onion a head start and add garlic when the onion is close to reaching the desired state).

Add stock and beer and raise pot to high heat until it begins to boil then turn down to a simmer.

Stir in mustard mixture and return kielbasa to pot. Add bay leaves and thyme.  Simmer for 20 minutes.   At the 20 minute mark, add the chopped apple and simmer for another 10-15 minutes - so that the apple still has some shape and is tender.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

In the meantime peel potatoes and boil in heavily salted water until tender. Once potatoes are tender, drain. Leave a tiny bit of water on the bottom of the pot.  Add 1 tbsp butter and salt and pepper.  Return potatoes to pot and gently stir to incorporate butter sauce.

Serve with Rye Bread and a Salad

Kielbasa with Potatoes
 A great example of cooking with beer. This dish is wonderful with complementary layers of flavors that unfold as they land on every taste bud. Sweet, tangy, savory with hit of herbal.  If you are calorie counting... just eat the salad

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Crab Bisque

Crab Meat and Evaporated Milk
Featured ingredients:  Refrigerated Canned Crab Meat; Evaporated Milk. 
This dynamic duo, with the help of some other additions, yielded a smooth, creamy, fine dining quality bisque. Not too thin or too thick with a mild flavor of the sea and subtle notes of sherry and tomato.  I only used 2 canned ingredients.  But this recipe calls for stock and tomato paste, which also come in cans.  I didn't used the canned kind in this recipe so they are not featured, but could be easily substituted.

Preparing this bisque reminded me of culinary school.  It's the first place I used Fish Stock.  That scent coupled with Mirepoix and Herbs shot me back to Mod 1.  If you are not familiar with Mirepoix, it a French Term meaning mixed finely diced vegetables and is a flavor base for sauces, stews, soups. developed with a ratio of 50% onion/25% carrot/25% celery.  

The vegetables and herbs simmer with the stock for 20 to 30 minutes and the liquid used for the soup strained.  You are going to run what's left after 30 minutes through a strainer and discard the vegetables, herbs and only use the liquid and the aromas and flavors they leave behind.

1 cup crabmeat
1 carrot diced
1 small onion diced
1 celery diced
3 small cloves garlic
2 scallions chopped
2 ripe tomatoes diced
2 tbsps olive oil
salt & pepper to taste and as needed
3 tbsp sherry (I used a good quality one I bought at a liquor store).
2 cups Fish Stock or Seafood Stock (I used Kitchen Basic's Brand)

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp tomato paste
1 cup 2% Evaporated Milk
Dash Paprika or Cayenne if you like it spicier
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a sautoir (there's culinary school again)...round skillet with high sides on medium low heat. Sautee carrot, onion, celery, garlic green onion and tomatoes.  As you know carrots, celery and onions can vary in size.  For best results try to stay true to the 50/25/25 portion rules as mentioned above.  You just want to "sweat" the vegetables until tender, (soften them without getting any carmelized brown color). Stir in sherry and season with salt and pepper. Cook over high heat for about 3 minutes. Add  stock and bring to a rolling boil.  You can also add the parsley stems to the mixture (another tip I learned from Culinary School). Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for at least 20 minutes.

In a sauce pan melt 2tbsp butter and whisk in 2 tbsp flour to make a roux.  Stir over low heat until it is a pale blond color, a couple of minutes.

Strain soup through a colander into the saucepan with the roux. Whisk liquid to incorporate roux and start to thicken bisque.  Add tomato paste, evaporated milk, and paprika.  Simmer about 5 minutes stirring soup frequently until mixture begins to thicken.  Add crab and cook until heated through.  Add parsley.

Yields 4 servings.

Crab Bisque

I served this with a salad of red leaf lettuce, arugula, cherry tomatoes and Roasted Red Pepper dressing.

Friday, December 17, 2010

2011 Food Trends - Canning Comeback #1

The December 16th online edition of Progressive Grocer, a highly respected trade publication, featured an article on the 2011 Food Trends.  The study came from  "

"In conjunction with CultureWaves, Mintel International and International Food Futurists, (The Food Channel) released the much-anticipated Top Ten Food Trends for 2011, which identifies the most significant food trends that will drive how people eat throughout 2011, from buying to cooking to consuming."

“The new economy has created a boldness and willingness to change how we work, how we cook and how we eat,” said Kay Logsdon, editor of The Food Channel. “All of our 2011 trends reflect that in some way”

The trend listed as #1 is "The Canning Comeback", gaining popularity for both health and economic reasons. 

Some of us never left... so come and join me. 

Attached is a link for the rest of article.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chicken Cacciatore Bake with Rice

Featured Ingredients
 Today's featured ingredients are a trifecta of flavors:  Diced Tomatoes, White Beans, Chicken Broth

Ah, the one pot meal.  One of my favorites after a long day. There is something magical about throwing a bunch of ingredients into a Le Creuset dish and having it yield a protein, a starch and some vegetables a mere 35 minutes later.

As an aside, My 5 Quart Le Creuset dish, is the best cooking investment I ever made, next to my stand mixer - and I got it on sale at discount store. It's worth its weight in gold.  I'm not sure why, maybe the way it distributes heat, that food cooked in it, just ends up tasting better compared to any other pot I've used.  I also love that it works as well on my range top and transfers safely to the oven.

This is a recipe I adapted from a torn out page of an old Working Mother magazine.  It is only recently I took literally hundreds and hundreds of torn pages that I have been saving in file folders and organized them in a 3 inch binder.  Those recipes that I like, and would want make again, go into another "test kitchen" binder.   This recipe will definitely find a home in the latter binder.
Chicken Cacciatore Bake with Rice

2 tbsp olive oil
1.75 lbs bone in skinless chicken thighs (5 pieces) - Thighs are great as they don't dry out like breasts
1 medium onion chopped (1 cup)
3 small cloves garlic - finely chopped
3 celery hearts sliced in 1/2 inch pieces (1 cup)
3 carrots sliced in 1/2 inch pieces (1 cup)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup uncooked white or brown rice (not quick cooking)
1 can 14.5 oz. chicken broth
1 can 14.5 oz. diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 can 15.5 oz. white beans (rinsed and drained)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375F

Heat 1 tbsp oil in an oven safe sauce pot over medium high heat.  Sear chicken on both sides to get some golden color -- about 3 - 4 minutes per side. Once a "fond" or crust begins to develop the chicken won't stick.  Remove chicken from pan set aside.

Heat additional tbsp of oil - Add onions, celery, carrot, garlic, and cook for several minutes until onions are soft.  Lower temperature to medium and add herbs and rice and stir until everything is coated in oil.  Sautee for a couple minutes to "toast" the rice.

Pour in broth, tomatoes and beans and gently combine.  Add chicken back to pot and bring pot to a simmer.  Cover pot with lid.  Transfer to oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until liquid is almost all absorbed and bubbly, rice is tender and chicken is cooked to 180F.  Sprinkle with fresh parsley.

Scoop and Serve.  Clean one pot.

Chicken Cacciatore Bake with Rice

Monday, December 13, 2010

Moussaka Personal Pizzas

Tomato Sauce
 Featured Ingredient:

Del Monte Tomato Sauce

Sometimes I feel like I am playing an eternal game of "Chopped" in my kitchen. What can I make with what I have. I make it a challenge to use up as much as I have without having to go buy too many more ingredients. Like most mom's we are trying to stretch our dollar, so my strategy is probably no different than a lot of you out there. My ingredients need to be a bit more traditional though, unlike the Food Network show. Kudos to those chefs who make something edible out of a basket full of snapper, cotton candy, salsify, and mache.

It was Friday and I wanted pizza. I had sausage but decided to go a different direction. I had ground lamb and figured I could take the base of a Moussaka recipe and use that as a topping, as both pizza and moussaka call for a tomato product and have a creamy cheese like finish.

Here's the recipe:

16 oz. Refrigerated prepared Fresh Pizza Dough. (Buy the stuff in the plastic bag)
1 tsp Olive Oil
3/4 lb Ground Lamb
1 small onion (about a 1/2 cup)
3 small cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves (not ground)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 can Del Monte Sauce
1 ball Sorrento Fresh Mozzarella
1/2 cup Romano Cheese
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Cooking Spray

Heat olive oil in skillet.  Add onion and sautee until almost translucent.  Add garlic and sautee for 2 minutes.  Add lamb to pan. Season lamb with cinnamon, oregano, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.  Sautee lamb until browned and cooked through. Set aside until dough is rolled out.


Preheat oven to 450F

Thinly slice mozzarella cheese and grate Romano cheese and Heat Tomato Sauce in a small saucepan.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and spread a light dusting of cornmeal to prevent dough from sticking.

Separate Pizza dough into 4 equal sections and roll into a ball.  Roll out each ball into a disc about a 1/8 inch thick.  Make a border by building up the side.

Put on baking sheet.  Assemble Pizzas.**  First put sauce;  then Lamb Mixture; then Mozzarella cheese, top with Romano cheese.

Bake about 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is thoroughly melted and bubbly.

**(Cook's note: I put the dough in the oven for 5 minutes before assembly to get it going, as I've had experiences where I've had the pizza but the dough that was under the sauce gets wet and never rises well.  The dough does start to rise in the middle, and you lose some of your well, but I punched it down and gained some of it back and was very happy with the end product.  You can also assemble it on the raw dough.)

Moussaka Pizza
Hot and bubbly.  Right out of the oven.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Chocolate Chip Coconut Milk Muffins

Coconut Milk
 Featured Ingredient: Coconut Milk

I love baking to no end... in fact more than cooking savory dishes. My challenge was to come up with not only savory dishes, that can be created with canned goods but some sweet options.  My son, Teddy likes to eat chocolate mini muffins for snack almost every day (that we get from the store).  I figured this was a good opportunity to experiment as well as provide my son with a homemade but not too sweet snack!

I normally use sour cream or buttermilk as my "secret ingredient" for baking, so I thought coconut milk, with its creamy texture and percentage of fat might make a good substitute.  I would recommend adding banana or toasted coconut to the top to make this a more tropical treat, but my son is picky - so we went with straight chocolate chips.   I'd like to hear what you would add.

Chocolate Chip Coconut Milk Muffins - Yields 12 standard size muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter - room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 tbsp Coconut Milk
1 cup Ghiradelli Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray muffin tin cups with cooking spray
2. In a bowl sift flour, baking powder, and salt
3. With a hand or stand mixer cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
4. Add vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
5. Add 1/2 of flour mixture.  Beat until incorporated. Add remaining flour mixture alternately with Coconut   Milk. Do not overmix or muffins will be tough.
6. Fold in chocolate chips by hand with spatula
7. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full
8.  Bake for approximately 25 minutes.  Rotate pan half way through baking time.

Teddy gives these a two thumbs up.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ancho Chile Beef Stew

Kidney Beans and Diced Tomatoes
 I adapted this recipe from Cooking Light.  I'm not a big fan of spicy because I feel it masks the other ingredients.  This stew is flavorful with a just little bit of a kick. To reduce spiciness reduce the amount of chiles. 

The base of this sauce is created by cooking then making a puree of the first 7 ingredients, which create a delectable rich, earthy red color.

2 tbsp olive oil divided
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp ground cumin
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 dried Ancho Chiles (about 1 oz) -stemmed and seeded, then torn into 2 inch pieces.
2 cups low sodium beef stock
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 lb. boneless chuck roast (stew meat) cut into 1 in cubes
Cooking Spray
1 1/4 cups chopped green bell pepper
2 15.5 oz cans red kidney beans (use 3 cups)
1/8 cup fresh cilantro
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Reduced Fat Sour Cream
Lime Wedges - Optional

1 cup Long Grain White Rice - Cook according to package instructions

1. Heat  1 tablespoon olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion, and cook about 5 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently.  Add cumin, garlic, and chiles; cook 3 minutes until chiles are soft, stirring frequently.  Stir in broth and tomatoes; bring to simmer.  Cover, remove from heat, and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

2. In batches, place chile mixture in a blender.  Put on lid firmly but remove center piece of blender lid to let steam escape.  Cover the space with a clean towel. Puree until smooth.  Pour pureed chile mixture into large bowl.

3. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add beef to pan and saute until browned on all sides.  Remove beef from pan.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add bell pepper to pan and sautee until browned (about 5 minues).  Stir in pureed chile mixture and beef, bring to a boil.  Cover reduce heat and simmer for about 1 1/4 hours or until beef is tender.  Add beans, cook 20 minutes, stir in salt and pepper to taste.

Serve chili with topped with as much sour cream as you like, cilantro and lime wedges. 

While not shown, my family and I  liked this stew over rice, which made it a more heartier meal.  Let me know what you think.
Ancho Chile Beef Stew

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Home made Beefaroni

Annie's Cream of Tomato Soup

FEATURED INGREDIENT: Amy's Organic Cream of Tomato Soup

This is a Quick and Easy Tasty meal that pleases the limited palates of all the boys in my household, including my husband. By using Annie's Organic Soup, and new and Simply Heniz ketchup you can create a more healthful version of familiar favorite.

Home-made Beefaroni

1tsp Olive Oil
1/4 cup Chopped Onion (recommended but optional)
1lb Ground Beef (Ground Round)
1/4 cup Simply Heinz Ketchup
Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
1 cup Elbow Macaroni
1 can Annies Organic Cream of Tomato Soup
1 can of Water
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a 10 inch skillet and sautee onion until translucent (skip this step if not using onion)
2. Brown Ground Beef.  Drain fat.
3. Add Soup, Water, Ketchup to Skillet. Stir and bring to a boil.
4. Add Macaroni. Stir
5. Reduce to simmer and cover skillet. Stir periodically so that macaroni doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 15 minutes until pasta is tender
6. Stir in Parmesan Cheese until melted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Enjoy!
Home made Beefaroni