Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Perfect Holiday Meal: Beef Wellington


 The toughest part about making this dinner is that everyone likes their meat cooked a certain way. This is one of those times when everyone has to agree on the level of doneness and then deal with it. Some like it barely cooked to the point that its still mooing, while others like it well done. This isn't really one of those roasts for either extreme, but this certainly is a show stopper for your next holiday meal!

Also, 90% of Americans are deathly afraid (not allergic, just afraid) of both mushrooms and pate, don't be. As much as some people might like to think that they can taste the liver in the pate, or the mushrooms, you can't. The flavors blend so nicely together, just like a Caesar dressing with anchovies, you shouldn't taste an overpowerment of one over the other. This is one of those recipes where trying to substitute these items for something else just won't cut it, so friends, don't do it!

Since the beef tenderloin is the most tender part of the cow, it just happens to be one of the most expensive cuts, but if you call around to a few butchers you can find the best price. Last year we went to a local super market and paid about $11.99/lb (maybe even more), but this year I went to a butcher on Route 1, Hilltop Steakhouse (The HUGE neon cactus) and paid $8.99/lb. The roast still cost almost $60. After seeing how much this made, I would cut it down to maybe a 4 lb roast, but this did make excellent leftover sandwiches.

Beef tenderloin ( I used a 6 lb roast)
1 package white button mushrooms, chopped fine
1 large onion chopped fine
8 oz pate
Red Wine (just a splash)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 package thawed puff pastry
1 egg
Salt n Pepper

1. Heat oven to 425. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the roast and place in a baking dish. Place tenderloin into the over for about 40 minutes. You can baste the loin with the rendered fat and juices. Because my family like their meat barely pink, I left mine in the oven for much longer at a little bit lower temperature. Once the loin is cooked, place it somewhere cool to rest and go on to the next steps.
Roasted to medium rare and cooling (don't throw out the bits at the bottom!)

2. In the mean time, melt the butter in a pan and saute the onions and mushrooms. Cook these until all of the liquid evaporates. Also, this is where you will want to add your splash of wine. Season with salt and pepper. This is called "duxelles" or in my world, mushroom mixture. :-D

3. Prepare the puff pastry. Sprinkle a bit of flour over your counter top and roll out, then place on an unbaked cookie sheet. Once the meat has cooled, place it in the center of the pastry.

4.  Spread your pate evenly over the whole roast. Then add the mushroom mixture (duxelles). Roll out the second sheet of pastry and gently place over the top and crimp the edges. However! My tenderloin roast was split into two (by the butcher, I didn't know), and each roast fit perfectly inside each puff pastry, so we actually had two beef wellingtons. 

5. Brush the beaten egg over the top of the wellington and bake in the oven at 425F for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350F and bake for another 20 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Pate: You can really use any kind of spreadable pate you can find. I used a delicious one that I got at Market Basket for $4.69 and included truffles (Hey no one ever said this dish was cheap!).

Mushrooms: Use any kind you like, really. You can mix and match, I am sure they would all taste great! However, the reason I used button is they are the cheapest and you don't exactly taste them since they are finely minced.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Meat with Sauce and Pasta


Tonight was one of those "I have NO idea what to make" nights so then I did what I normally do and took a peek in the refrigerator to see what there might be for leftovers. Pot of tomato sauce? Check. Sausage? Check! Pasta? Check check check! An onion?! YES! It was in there too!

Also, this is one of those "please don't judge based on the photo" night, it looks, um, not good, but trust me this is such a comforting and EASY food to prepare.

Now I had to figure out what I wanted to turn these ingredients into. Well, yesterday I went up to the middle of New Hampshire with some friends to visit their family. They served us a great little lunch which was delicious, turkey sausage in a very thick vegetable tomato sauce. So I decided I wanted this again and thats exactly what I made! You can use any tomato sauce you like, but I had some leftover from my christmas lasagna, nice and chunky, yum!

1 package turkey sausage links
1 bell pepper chopped or 1 cup frozen chopped
1 onion sliced thin
3-4 garlic cloves crushed
handful frozen chopped spinach
Tomato sauce
Olive oil

1. In my cast iron skillet I brought a table spoon of olive oil to heat, over high heat and added the onions and peppers. Saute for a minute or two.
2.  Add the sausage links and garlic pieces. Once the sausages are fairly cooked through, slice them in the pan. Let this mixture of sausage and vegetables to cook for a long time over medium. I'd say 10 minutes or so. Add a splash of water here and there if it starts to get too sticky. And continue stirring.
3. Pour in some tomato sauce and stir, not too much, you want this to be really thick. Once the water has evaporated add more sauce. You can do this a few times until you get a consistency you like.
4. Once the water is evaporated from the meat you can turn off the heat, add the frozen spinache and allow the mixture to sit for a minute.
5. Serve over pasta and enjoy!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Dessert: Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Ritz Crackers



This year I made a few different chocolaty yums for Christmas desserts. Usually, I try to make a variety of cookies, but this year is the year of chocolate (in my mind, that is!). After looking through Foodgawker one very popular dessert I had been seeing numerous times was not only delicious sounding, but also extremely easy to make. Chocolate covered peanut butter ritz cracker sandwiches. Since this recipe is so simple and quick, you could potentially have time to make these before your party!

Not that this helps much, but I always try to see if I can cut out some fat from recipes. In this one, the best thing you could do is use low fat ritz or butter crackers, they taste just the same! This recipe is so easy that you might even want to have your kids help spread the peanut putter on the crackers. Oh also, I am sure you could use any nut butter as long as it isn't so thin that it might leak.

1 package chocolate chips
2 sleeves ritz crackers
peanut butter
parchment paper

So basically, make a lot of sandwiches, spread peanut butter on one cracker and top it with another. The hardest part will be the chocolate and the easiest thing is to read the directions on how to melt it without scorching or over tempering it.

If you use a double boiler like I did, keep in mind that the longer you allow the chocolate to stay over the heated water, the more dried out the lovely, thick sauce will be, so either work really fast or keep the heat on very very low.  If the chocolate begins to dry out, you should be able to save it by adding more chips and re-melting it all together.

One tip that I found very helpful from another blogger is to use a fork to lift the sandwich out of the chocolate. Why couldn't I have thought of this? It really made life so much easier! Once the sandwich is fully covered, tap it against the side of the bowl and then run the bottom of the fork over the rim of the bowl which will take off the extra chocolate. Set these aside on parchment paper.

They freeze well!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Time: Buttery Sugar Cookies

As you know, I hate baking. I am not a baker at all. Well, its Christmas season so naturally it is "lets attempt to bake something" season as well! When I was younger, much younger, my mother used to do a ton of baking; cookies, cakes you name it! I remember having to frost dozen after dozen of cookies, sugar cookies, italian mound cookies (I don't know the name!), ginger bread...you get the idea. Sadly, this tradition ended a while ago, but I hope to help revive it when my nephews are old enough to understand.

Yucky dried dough before addition of water
So lets talk a bit about sugar cookies, or as today I made, buttery sugar cookies. These are the cookies that you can cut into all kinds of fun shapes, so before you do anything, dig out those cookie cutters, its time for some fun! Luckily I found my tub of cutters that I bought from Joann Fabrics a couple years ago after Christmas (gotta love clearance sales!) so I paid probably $2-4 for 40 cutters. Not bad!

I don't have a secret recipe that I use every year for these cookies, but I did find one from a source I trust the most. I followed the recipe to a T and when I went to roll out the dough, it was a disaster. It was just pure crumbled muck. I almost threw it away and started over, but I really didn't want to at all. Baking is almost like torture so I decided to keep it. One thing that came to mind was clearly the dough was too dry, so I wet my hands and kneaded the dough and holy mackerel!!! The dough formed nicely!


So here is the recipe I used...and again if it comes out too dry, like, if you take the dough out of the fridge and it just crumbles to dust, try my wet hand kneading trick.

1 stick butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 ¾ cups flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Cream butter and sugar until pale. I like to use the paddle attachment on my Kitchenaid. Then add the eggs one at a time and mix.
2. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients.
3. Slowly add the dry to the wet mixture, mixing slowly as to not allow the flour to jump out of the bowl all over your kitchen (don't believe me? Try it!). Don't over mix, maybe for about a minute until everything is combined.
4. Put the dough on wax paper, cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
5. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350F
6. Divide the dough into smaller more manageable pieces, lightly flour and roll out to about 1/4" thick and begin cutting your shapes! Place cookies on a non stick baking pan, about an inch apart and pop into the over for 10-15 minutes. Don't allow these to brown, they should be quite pale. 
7. Cool and decorate!



Pay NO Attention to the Photo Ground Beef Curry

Yes, I know this pic doesn't look appealing, but TRUST me!

Its close to Christmas and in my house that only means one thing. The kitchen is a disaster area from cooking non stop for days for the Christmas Eve party at my dad's house. Its a disaster now, and it probably will be until at least the day after Christmas, grrr.

But, as I was preparing the fillings for my 20 pound lasagna I realized I had about a pound of extra ground beef, but what to do with it? I really like Indian food as you know and I had some tomato paste already opened and ready. I happened upon this recipe which I tweaked slightly and am now a fan of it. Also, the photo makes this look less than appealing, like something you might find on the carpet if you own pets, but it does taste like heaven.

You can certainly use any meat or vegetable you want, and even add nuts or a few raisins yum!

Ground Beef Curry

1 lb ground beef
1 onion chopped
2 potatoes chopped
1 tbsp garlic chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger grated
3 tbsp curry powder
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 small can diced tomatoes with juice
1 pinch chili powder or cayenne
1/2 cup water or chicken broth
1/3 cup fat free half and half
2 tbsp oil
salt
pepper

In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the potatoes first. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add the onions. Cook another 5-8 minutes, don't let the onion burn. Add the beef and cook til brown.

Add garlic and ginger and stir, making sure these do not burn. Add the tomato paste and stir. Next add curry powder and chili powder. Add the diced tomatoes and juice and the water/broth and allow the potatoes to cook through, you can always add more water or broth if the curry gets too thick. Simmer on low for about 15 minutes or until everything is well cooked and the curry aromas have permeated throughout the sauce.

At the last minute, shut the heat and add the half and half. You don't want to cook this on high as it could curdle.

Please note: again, the pic makes this look like something you would wake up to one morning if you have a sick pet around, but really, the flavors were great! You could use any meat you want, or vegetables.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chocolate Oreo Cookie Truffles

So, this year I decided I wanted to do Christmas baking again. I don't think I did any last year and maybe not even the year before, but there is something about having the oven on when it is 18F outside, and having all of those wonderful smells wafting throughout the house. Well, you won't get any of that with this recipe as it doesn't require turning on the oven (this is for those of you who don't even know how to turn the oven on!), or cooking anything for that matter!

1 package oreo cookies
8 oz package cream cheese (I used light neufchatel), softened
1 bag chocolate chips

1. In a food processor, blend all but about 10 of the oreos.
2. Mash in the softened cream cheese with a sturdy spoon. I actually bent a spoon in this step.
3. Once the mix is fully integrated, you can form small balls, kind of like rolling meat balls. The size is up to you. I think I got 20-25 balls.
4. Pop these babies in the refrigerator for at least 30 mins.
5. Melt the chocolate chips VERY gently. When the chips are melted but there are still chunks, just keep stirring, it will melt with no added heat. If you add too much heat you will scorch the chocolate. I found adding some butter helped to bring the chocolate back to life, but its not fun, so avoid it!
6. Drop a ball one at a time in the chocolate. Using a fork, roll the ball around until fully coated, lift out of the chocolate and use the side of the bowl to scrape off any excess.
7. Place each ball onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and then pop into the freezer until ready to eat.

Don't worry about truffles being perfectly smooth, they shouldn't be! The beauty of the truffle is that each one is an individual, with its own shape and personality so just allow the chocolate flow however it

PS. While I am not adventurous lately, you could be if you wanted to add some flavors to the balls. You could add a little coffee liquer, rum, cointreau, pretty much anything! Just enough to taste, not so much that the mix is really soggy. It would be delicious!

Flirty French Macaron!



Nope! No coconut in these babies. These are actually a "macaron" and not a "macaroon" which most of us know as the chewy coconut cookies. If you've never tried a French Macaron here is your chance to try it, although, if you see them in a bakery I recommend trying those first. The thing I like about these "cookies" is that you can make them in every color imaginable with any flavor combo you can think of. I am boring and didn't color mine, mostly due to the fact that I have never made these before so I just wanted to do it once and then experiment later. So that is what I did!

I'll be honest, I have been wanting to make these for months, but I was too afraid. It just seems like so much work and EVERY blog post I have been seeing only shows the pretty pictures and talks on and on about the macarons, too much talking not enough direction! Well, in my blog post you will get more directions than pretty pictures! I am not at the point yet where my macaron will be pretty, but one day I will be a star, and you shall be too!

Also...this recipe as you will see is quite a bit different from all other recipes. Its written in weight as a measure, and I think with macarons you should weigh your ingredients because making these is like a scientific art form. If you have a digital scale, this will make your life much easier!

8.1 oz powder sugar
4 oz ground almonds/Almond flour
5 oz egg whites (about 4 large egg whites)
2.5 oz white sugar
Food coloring optional

1. Pre-heat the oven to 300F and line 2 baking trays with parchement paper. You might want to stencil the size of macaron you want with a pencil to get equal sizes. These may spread out a bit while baking.

2. Sift the processed ground almonds with the icing sugar. Now do this again!

3. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then slowly add the white sugar and beat for another 4-5 minutes until the mixture forms stiff peaks and it looks glossy.

4. Add all of the almond mixture in and fold in gently. It might take a few folds before it really incorporates, but just keep doing it gently. I've read on other blogs to not allow yourself to fold more than 50 times or less than that.

5. Place the mixture in a piping bag and carefully pipe small circles. If you don't have a pastry bag, use a strong large ziploc bag, one corner cut and a piping tip placed in that corner.

6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until they are just firm to the touch. These need to be allowed to cool completely before you try taking them off the pan.

7. While you are waiting for these to cool, you can make your filling...whatever your little heart desires! My macarons in the picture are cardamom flavored (1 tsp sifted with the dry ingredients) with lemon butter cream filling, but the possibilities are endless, which is why I love macarons so much!

When you look at other blogs you will see perfect little macarons, and like I said earlier, hopefully I will get there but it takes practice. As you see mine are all cracked, but whatever, they taste great!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Perfect Persimmon!

Woah, it's been a while since I've made an update. You'd think being unemployed I would have all the time in the world to make updates galore! Right? Well, you're half right. If you are smart then you try to keep busy applying to jobs and then going out somewhere to take your mind off the fact that no one wants to hire you. Ha anyway, I digress. So, one of my favorite things to do when I am not being all important and learning something new about the industry I was working in is to go to specific stores. Not necessarily to go shopping with a purpose, but to look around and see if there is anything different to try. One of my favorite places to visit is an Asian market called Hong Kong Market in Malden, MA. This store is huge. No, seriously its HUGE. Not only that, but they carry a ton of produce, some of which I can't pronounce and others of which I would have no idea what to do with it if I bought it (yet, I'd love to know!).

Well, this time around I decided to get out and see what I might find, plus I had to actually go shopping for christmas gifts there. When I walked in I came across a special fruit that I hadn't eaten since around this time last year and boy was I excited. This fruit is the almighty      PERSIMMON!


I'm sure you have heard of a persimmon, but what exactly is it? It is delicious, that's what it is! Its a lovely round, orange, sweet fruit which kind of looks like a tomato. Actually, I take that back. Not all persimmons are round, some are actually sort of cone shaped, like a really large strawberry if you will. Persimmons are a large berry that grows on trees and can come in either non-astringent or astringent (the strawberry shaped one is astringent). The most popular non-astringent persimmon is called Fuyu which is what I bought at the market. From doing a little research, you can eat the Fuyu when it is slightly hard still or even when very soft, but if you happen across an astringent variety (Hachiya) you will have to allow it to ripen before eating.

So now that you bought some persimmons, what do you do? Well, I honestly have never cooked with them as I love them raw. They have a very sweet flavor, and I can't really compare its flavor to something you might already know. Its just very unique and delicious. You could use persimmons in cakes, pies, puddings, cookies, savory dishes...really its endless! Plus, persimmons are good for you; high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin A and C and much more!

Next time you see a persimmon in the grocery store, pick one up (most likely will be Fuyu non-astringent), take it home, let it ripen and eat it. You may actually find a new favorite winter fruit!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mexican Stuffed Peppers: Chiles Rellenos Ole!


Happy December! I can't believe its already after thanksgiving and 24 days before Christmas. Its true, time flies in your old age! Well, here is a recipe that will help warm you up during this cold winter, so you gotta try it out!

I was at the asian market today (wearing shorts of course) and saw some poblano peppers on sale, quite cheap! I really wanted to try Chiles Rellenos, but I know how fattening they are so I never got around to ordering them in a restaurant. This recipe is much healthier for you, and packed full of flavor!


4 Poblano Chili Peppers (Can use regular Bell Peppers)
1/2 lb ground beef
15 oz can tomato sauce
1 onion chopped
2-3 garlic cloves chopped
1 tbsp fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp dried
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp chili powder
3 eggs
1/4 cup flour and or corn flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup shredded cheese
Chiles in Adobo Sauce

Char the peppers over fire until they are blackened and put them all into a paper bag to steam. The skins should be easily removed. Once the char is removed, gently open and scrape the seeds out, but be careful, you want the pepper to remain whole.

In the mean time while the peppers are steaming, beat your eggs, flour, pinch of salt and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.

In a saute pan, brown the beef, drain the fat and cool. Add some of the adobo sauce and a couple chiles from the adobo, not too much it will be spicy! Add salt, cumin, chili powder and half of the oregano and set aside.

In another pan, saute the onions in a little oil until translucent, add garlic and cook for a minute and then add the tomato sauce, some oregano and a pinch of salt. Allow this to simmer for about 10 mins.

When the tomato sauce is done simmering, pour it into a small baking dish and add a little more oregano. Next, stuff the peppers with the meat mixture and place the pepper in the sauce. Top with a little bit of the cheese, then pour the egg mixture over the top and add the rest of the cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes at 375F. The eggs should puff and brown slightly.

YUM!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Terrific Turkey Tortellini Bake




Here is a good recipe I just whipped up tonight using some leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. I also had a bag of meat tortellini in the freezer that I wanted to use so this worked out perfectly. Actually, now that I think of it, you could use any non-stuffed pasta as well. Then it would be more like a mac n cheese.

This terrific bake also incorporates a green of your choice, since its cold weather now, collard greens are in abundance this time of the year. Be sure to pick out a very delicious looking bunch! The greens I picked out were huge so I only used a few of the leaves.

Ingredients:
2 cups low fat milk or fat free half and half + milk
1 bag frozen tortellini, meat or cheese
1 cup shredded cheese of your choice
1 bunch collard greens
1 onion, chopped
1 cup chopped turkey
Garlic, minced
1 tsp dried basil
3 tbsp flour
olive oil

Boil a large pot of water, wash your greens and then add the whole leaves to the pot. Boil for about 3 minutes, remove and chop. Allow the water to continue boiling, his will be for your tortellini.

In a large skillet, bring some olive oil to medium heat. Saute the onions until soft, add chopped turkey, garlic and collard greens. Let this cook down as you want the greens to soften up a lot and add basil. Collards and kale are known to hold their shape through a lot of cooking, so you could always substitute with spinach, just saute for a lot less longer.

In a small saucepan, add some more olive oil and add the flour. Whisk together, this is your roux. Allow the roux to cook for a couple minutes and then slowly add your milk, stirring constantly. Don't let this heat up too quickly or your milk could curdle, so pay attention! When the milk is thoroughly heated, add a cup of cheese. If the milk sauce is too thin, make a cornstarch slurry and add it to the milk to create a thickened sauce.

Next, add the vegetable turkey mixture to the pasta and mix, add to a glass baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Add the cheese sauce and top with the remaining cheese. Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes until browned.

Saucy Cranberry Relish

This is another great recipe to use not just for Thanksgiving, but any time you are serving roasted meat. There is something about the sweet, tart cranberry that compliments most roasted meats very nicely.

Here is what I did this year and thoroughly enjoyed it!

1 pkg fresh cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
1 granny smith apple, peeled and diced
1 orange, zest and juice
1 cup water
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar

Peel and dice the apple. Zest and juice the orange and add to the pot with cranberries. Add water, sugar and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Let the cranberries boil for about 5 minutes and then remove from heat and allow to cool. It will thicken as it cools.

Most people don't add cinnamon to it, it really adds a whole new depth of flavor and I highly recommend it.

Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Turkey Gravy

While Thanksgiving has already passed, its never too late to learn to make a quick pan gravy, is it? No. It is not. So here is what you need to do in order to get that amazing gravy that has you drinking it like its a martini.

SO, first you need your meat. Since its Thanksgiving and the meat of choice is usually turkey, then that is what this recipe will be for, although, if you had a beef roast or something you could still do the same thing.

Roast your turkey however you normally do so. I usually add a lot of butter under the skin, the butter being mashed with a poultry seasoning such as Bell's. This creates the base for the gravy, even before you know it!

Try to get your hands on a fat separator. It looks like a measuring cup but with a very long spout. You will want the juice at the bottom and just a little of the fat from the top. Also, don't throw away the neck! You'll need this to create more delicious stock for your gravy.

Here we go in steps:

1. Boil the neck with a very large container of chicken stock or water, about 4 cups. Add an onion, a carrot or two and a celery stalk (include the leaves). Simmer, covered until you are ready to use.
2. Carefully pour the pan juices into the fat separator.
(In your roasting pan, if you have brown bits stuck to the bottom, heat the pan on the stove and scrape up the bits by adding some stock. Add this juice to the gravy)
3. Heat a skillet on medium high heat, skim off about 4 tablespoons of fat and place into the pan. Add equal amounts flour and gently saute, this is your roux.
4. Add turkey juices and whisk to dissolve the roux. It should become thick here.
5. Slowly add the simmered stalk and stir, it will be thin right now.
6. This is optional but I recommend it. Liquefy the vegetables that you just boiled in a blender and add to the gravy. This adds amazing flavor and thickens the gravy as well.
7. Boil for a bit until you are ready to serve. If the gravy is still too thin, put some of the gravy, like a ladle full into a bowl with 1 tbsp corn starch and dissolve. Add to the gravy and watch it thicken before your eyes!

Yum and enjoy!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Calzone Any Way You Like It


Let me start off with this is more like a stuffed bread, but I call it calzone because I want to and because I can. Ha, no, its just easier to say calzone but I always end up having to clarify that it is indeed a stuffed bread. So heres the deal with these puppies. I make the for almost every party that I go to and I can honestly say that these are always the first to fly off the serving plate. Always. The nice thing about stuffed breads is that you can put ANY THING you want inside and it will be delicious. Today, I made two, one is buffalo chicken and the other is an italian dry salami. Also, to make life easier on yourself, feel free to buy the pre-made dough from your grocery store. Luckily, pretty much every grocer around carries these pre-made doughs in both wheat and white. I've also seen organic, but I just go for one wheat and one white. The reason being is that its easier to tell people that the wheat bread is one filling and the white bread is another filling. And as you see, I do not use tomato sauce thus this not being a true calzone which is a-ok!

And before we begin let me just say one more thing. There is nothing worse than a bready calzone, so I am about to show you how to make it so that EVERY cut and EVERY bite has a bit of filling, even the ends!

Shall we move onto my fillings? The first one I'd like to share is the buffalo chicken filling. Here are the ingredients you will need.
Salami and Cheese

1/4 Cup Franks Red Hot Wing Sauce
1 large can chicken, drained (you can use fresh too)
1 cup shredded cheese, cheddar, mozzarella or anything you like
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 tbsp olive oil

And my other calzone for today was made like this:
1/2 lb dried peppered Italian salami or a package of pepperoni or deli sliced turkey breast, ham etc
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
1 tbsp olive oil

Start off by defrosting the dough, it will begin to rise as it defrost. If its already defrosted then great! Roll the sucker out on a very lightly floured surface. The nice thing about these doughs is that while they are sticky, they don't necessarily stick to everything. You will want to roll it out into a thin rectangle, but not too thin, you don't want to to break when you start to toll it. Don't worry about the shape, oval is fine too, just make sure that its evenly rolled and not too thick or too thin.

Next, pour the sauce on the dough and spread it out. Add the chicken and cheeses. Now, my pictures aren't the greatest but I tried to show you how to fold the calzone. I actually kind of roll it, and this is what helps us to defeat the dreaded bready parts of the calzone. So, gently flop over once away from you and begin to fold in the sides, maybe a half inch.

Beginning Fold
Ending Fold
Keep gently rolling, you may be able to roll this three times and as you are doing it make sure you are pinching the ends shut so that the filling doesn't melt out. You can also tightly roll this up so when you cut it, it comes out more like a pinwheel and less like a calzone, whatever you like!

Finally! Its time to transfer the calzone to a lightly sprayed cookie sheet, brush the top with olive oil and bake at 400 F for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.
This last part is very important. As soon as the calzone comes out of the oven, transfer it to a cooling rack. If you do not do this, the steam that is trying to escape from the bottom of the calzone will actually end up steaming the bread and making it very soggy.

Yes it is crooked! Resting on the rack
If you try this and bring it to a party and its NOT the first thing to go, then let me know so I can figure out what you did wrong hehe. Really, I can almost guarantee that everyone will love whatever you try out. If you decide to use cold cuts, you can spread mustard down first and then add your cold cuts and cheese or you can serve the calzone sliced with a mustard dipping sauce. Really, the possibilities are endless!

Enjoy!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Salisbury Steak: An American Classic

Served here with potato pierogies and gravy
Now that the sun is setting earlier and the temperature is chilly, what better time than now to break out the comfort foods! I wanted a burger tonight, but I also wanted pierogies, but not both together, too much bread. I decided to make a Salisbury steak, complete with pan gravy and served with pierogies on the side (and broccoli). I think the usual sides that go with this comforting classic are mashed potatoes and corn (at least I feel like it should be corn!). You could certainly serve with boiled or baked potatoes, mac n cheese or even something different like pierogies like I did tonight.

I always repeat myself, and once you try it you will see why I do this. When cooking meat in a pan, there will be stickage and brown stuff on the bottom of the pan, DO NOT WASTE THIS! This will make the base for your gravy and believe me it will be the best damn gravy you've ever tasted. We will get into this a little more later.

So pick your meat and lets start!

1 lb ground beef, shaped into 4 patties (can use any meat you want, mixed or not)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp seasoned salt
1tsp pepper
OR
half packet of onion soup mix

Gravy
1 or 2 cups Chicken stock
1/2 chopped onion
1tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp flour

Mix the meat with the spices or onion soup mix. Both variations are delicious. Shape meat into four patties and place in a hot pan sprayed with cooking spray. You'll want to brown these on each side. If there is a lot of fat leftover, remove the patties and pour out the fat or you can skip the extra oil and use this to brown your onions and flour.

Return the pan to the heat and add the olive oil and onions. Saute for a couple of minutes. Next add the flour and stir. It may disappear and look like its browning on the bottom of the pan, its ok, just add your stock and scrape up all the brown off the bottom of the pan. Return the steaks to the gravy and cook longer until the meat is no longer pink, and add the mustard and stir. If you want more gravy then just add more stock.

If the gravy looks too thin, mix a tiny bit of corn starch, maybe a teaspoon with a bit of water to make a paste and add it to the gravy, stirring constantly. It should thicken immediately.

The reason that you want to use the browned stuff in the pan is because this is where all of the flavors are, highly concentrated and caramelized and you don't want to waste flavor, right? I recently made adobo roasted chicken for chicken soup and I made a stock with the caramelized bits off the bottom of the baking pan, and YUM is all I have to say about that.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tantalizing Tiramisu

Who doesn't love a little Italian pick me up for dessert? If you love espresso (or coffee) and love creamy, rich and elegant desserts then you will certainly love this tiramisu recipe. This requires a couple steps but is actually fairly easy to assemble, plus if lined in a nice trifle dish, would make a really great dessert for a nice occasion.

3 eggs, separate white from yolk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup strong coffee or espresso
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (don't use cream cheese)
1 1/2 cup whipping cream
coffee liqueur
*a couple packages of lady fingers

First things first. This does use raw eggs, so use only eggs you trust. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar for a couple of minutes until it becomes thick and pale. Beat in the mascarpone and some of the coffee liqueur, start with one table spoon. If you want a little more then add it, but not too much, you don't want this to become watery, plus you will be using more later on.

Set aside the egg/cheese mixture and beat the whipping cream until stiff. While it is beating you can add some more coffee liqueur, but again, not too much you don't want these mixtures to be too coffee flavored anyway.

Next, fold VERY carefully the whipped cream into the egg yolk mixture. I say "carefully" because you just spent all this time whipping air into the cream, and you want it to stay as whipped as possible while gently folding in the egg/cheese. So what you do is you start with a large spoon of the whipped cream and fold it into the egg/cheese. Do this a few times until the whipped cream is gone. This will be the creamy part of the tiramisu.

Now, you need to very quickly dunk the lady fingers into the coffee, if you want to add a little liqueur to the coffee, feel free. Booze can be your friend here. The fingers will still be hard and dry but will soften up once the tiramisu is assembled, and if you allow the fingers to sit for too long in the coffee, they will fall apart and create a wet and soggy tiramisu, not what we are going after. So again, dunk very quickly, maybe a second or two on each side, and place them at the bottom of a glass dish. Once the bottom is layered with the fingers, add half of the mascarpone whipped cream mixture, and then another layer of coffee dipped fingers and then the rest of the mixture.

Let the tiramisu sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours at the very least. If you try to eat this right away, the lady fingers will be too crunchy and ....well, just don't do it!





*Lady fingers are a dry cookie in the shape of, well, a lady finger! You can find them fresh at many grocery stores and dried. I actually found and bought dried ones from the Christmas Tree Shoppe of all places, but this goes to show that you never know what you will find at stores like that (which is why I love them).

Slightly Spicy Red Pepper Walnut Dip aka Muhammara


As you know I love Middle Eastern food, and this next recipe hails from Syria originally but has variations across the lands. I first got this dip many months ago at an Armenian market here in the Boston area. It just looked too good to pass up plus I was told by friends that I need to try it. The one from the market was spicy and full of chunky walnuts and was delicious. You can certainly eat it as a dip or I would even use it as a sandwich spread for something like turkey, falafel, dolma or even roast beef.

So, I actually found this recipe from another blogger who has a whole section on Romanian foods (which I love) and a bunch of other recipes as well which I think I will be trying out this week. This dip is super easy to make using the recipe that I found, with very very few differences. Also, if you are able to grind your own spices I HIGHLY recommend it, I just did it for the first time and the aroma and tastes are so much nicer than grocery store spices, but if you can't don't worry about it and do NOT use a coffee grinder for which you grind your own coffee. Get the spices its own grinder if you decide to try it.

So hold on tight!

2 roasted red peppers (I use jarred)
2/3 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika (or regular)
1/2 tsp chili powder (original called for chipotle, did not have it)
2 cloves of garlic
2 tsp pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar)
1/2 tsp honey
1-2 slices toasted bread, crumbled (or toasted bread crumbs, 1/2 cup)
Olive oil

The nice thing about this recipe is you get to put everything into a food processor and process away! Drizzle in about a tablespoon or so of olive oil at this point too. Now, I like my dip slightly chunkier so I blended everything EXCEPT for the walnuts first, and then I added the nuts, and pulsed a few times and it came out perfect.

Lastly, my photos haven't been the greatest lately, so please try not to judge the recipe by the photo. Make this dip for your next party and I am pretty sure people will love it!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Easy, Creamy and Healthy Hummus!

Drizzled with Olive Oil
I have loved hummus dip ever since I was a kid. I believe I was in 3rd grade the first time I ever tried this, pretty scary that I can remember the time. It was at school and a schoolmate used to bring in interesting snacks for snack time and I remember she let me try it. Of course I went home asking for hummus, and where does one get that in Plaistow, NH in 1989?? I actually remember walking through Purity Supreme (woah, blast from the past) with my mother and finding a can of tahini. Well, that my friends was only half the battle. We needed the hummus part, but could not find it for a while, maybe we just had no idea where to look at the time.

When it finally started becoming really popular and easy to find, I was in heaven. Then, even better, they started coming out with flavors such as roasted red pepper which happens to be my favorite along with original. The first time I ever made hummus was when I moved to Boston in 2002ish. I was, for the first time, living on my own and finally got to start cooking my favorite foods.

When I found my first recipe for hummus tahini dip I couldn't believe how easy it is to make my own, and now I rarely buy it from the store. Plus its healthier and you can make it to your own liking.

1 15 oz. can Chickpeas/Garbanzo or White Beans
1/2 Lemon, juiced
1-2 garlic cloves chopped
1/4 cup tahini sesame paste
1 tsp ground cumin (optional)
Olive oil
Salt

Drain the chickpeas, rinse and return to the can. Fill the can a little less than halfway with water and then pour this into the food processor. Place everything except for the oil in the food processor and let it go full speed for a minute or so. If you like yours chunky, then blend it less, if you are like me and like it very smooth then let it go for a while. If its really too thick start drizzling in the olive oil. You can also start by drizzling in some water first to loosen the paste and then a little oil later to cut out a lot of the fat content, but still end up with a creamy dip.

Also, I said the cumin was optional. I like it both with and without and have been making my hummus without cumin lately. You could also add a roasted red pepper to the mix, more garlic, lemon, cilantro etc. Anything you can think of that you like you can add. I like mine plain 85% of the time.

If you don't want to use chickpeas then use white cannelini beans, or you could even make a Halloween version by using black beans! The photo in this post was made using cannelini because it is what I had and tastes just as delicious!

Luckily the ingredients are very easy to find nowadays. Tahini paste can be found in almost all grocery stores, often times near the brined grape leaves, which often times are near the canned olives or near the specialty cheeses. I am lucky enough to live near a few arabic markets so that is where I get mine.

And lastly, once you make your own hummus and see how easy it is, you probably may never want to buy the mechanically made commercial goop. Its not bad once in a while, but believe me, making your own to suit your tastes is much more rewarding!

Please enjoy!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mushroom Caviar but without the Caviar


I've been on an Eastern European food kick lately since I had an interview last week which was situated next to a small Russian grocery store. I walked in and immediately felt like I was in Russia as everyone was speaking russian. Even the product labels were in Russian! Or at least a cyrillic based alphabet. I made my way around the store and was amazed at the variety of products they carry, things that were once hard to find (frozen manti anyone?) are now being carried in so many stores like Baza.

So anyways, I made my way to the prepared foods section where I was greeted with the yummy aroma of the hot bar. I picked up a container and took some cabbage with sausage (my favorite!), kofka, potato thing (sorry I cannot remember) and manti. All of it was pretty amazing.

I made my way over to the cold bar where I found a huge variety of "salads" or as we would call them "dips and spreads." I picked up a few that I had never heard of such as Oliver Salad, Georgian Eggplant Caviar and Mushroom Caviar. Of all of these, the caviar was my favorite. Today, I decided "hey, let's see how difficult it is to make this mushroom caviar" and so I did! Also, I researched the recipe to figure out where the "caviar" comes in, apparently it is just a fancier name for a dip or spread. Lovely.

It was actually really easy with the help of my food processor. Without it, it may have taken a long long time to chop the vegetables. The one and only thing you need to be careful of is not chopping the mushrooms or onions too finely or they will just get all watery as they cook. If I had gone any further I would have ended up with mushroom soup. So here is the recipe:

1/2 medium onion finely chopped
1 lb mushrooms (any kind)
1/2 lemon, juiced
3 tbsp fresh dill or 1 tbsp dried
2/3 cup sour cream or a little less of mayonnaise
3 tbsp butter
Salt n Pepa

Start by wiping your mushrooms, they may have dirt on them. Next, I diced the onion into quarters and chopped it in the food processor. Add this to a hot skillet with melted butter and stir around a bit.
Next, chop the mushrooms in the food processor, add to the skillet with the onions.
Add the lemon juice and stir occasionally, cooking for about 5 minutes or so.
Add salt n peppa and check the mixture. May need to add a little more. If your mushroom mixture looks too watery, DO NOT PANIC, I added some bread crumbs. not a lot, just a sprinkle. Stir the mushrooms and watch the liquid disappear.
Allow mixture to cool and then add the mayonnaise or sour cream and dill. I used mayonnaise tonight, I would say about 3 tablespoons. The reason I used mayonnaise is because that is how Baza prepared it and I loved it.

I let my caviar cool in the fridge for a bit to let all of the flavors meld together. I love to eat this with good crackers or even pita chips. Also, I really want to try this on a grilled cheese yummmm.
Final Result! Not the prettiest, but tastes awesome

Note: If you are able to harvest wild mushrooms, I am sure they would be great in something like this as! Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Roasted and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds


The most popular of fall colors, orange, is also the color of one of the most festive fruits of the season; PUMPKIN! Did you know that pumpkins are native to North America, specifically Mexico? I did not, but that is pretty interesting since we are so used to seeing them at this time of the year. If you go to Europe for example, they may not know what you are talking about if you ask, its just not as popular as it is here in America.

Anyways...lets move on. Tonight was pumpkin carving night and I really hate waste, so keeping with the Halloween theme, of course I dug my hand into the bowl of guts and pulled out the seeds, making sure that none of the pumpkin was stuck to them. I then washed them in a colander and scooped them out onto some very dry towels. Make sure that the seeds aren't too wet when the go in the oven or they will steam, meh.

Can You Guess What This Is?
I tossed my seeds in a bowl with about 2 tsp of olive oil, or you can use any kind of oil you like and I liberally sprinkled some seasoned salt over the seeds. Again, you can use whatever you like. If you want something desserty, try sprinkling with cinnamon and sugar, or if you want something savory, try curry powder. The possibilities are endless!

I preheated my oven to 425F. While the oven is getting up to temperature, I spread the seeds very evenly onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, seriously, if you have never used that stuff GET IT NOW, it is pretty amazing. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, then stir, and roast another 10 minutes or so until they start getting a nice golden color, once this happens remove and enjoy!

If you are not carving pumpkins and just want the seeds, then visit my pumpkin post for some ideas and how to cook and store your little fall gem.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chinese Biryani...wait what?

Orange Chicken, Rice and Roast Pork Bun
So tonight I knew I wanted something Asian, but didn't know what. I found that I had some basmati rice in the cupboard and then had some Trader Joes Orange Chicken, which by the way is much easier than making from scratch. Anyway...this was a very easy and surprisingly fairly quick recipe for the rice, maybe an hour, and that includes boiling the rice and then frying it.

So first things first, wash the rice. Wash it you say? Yes, I said wash it. Put about a cup of rice in a mesh strainer and run some water over it and use your hand to whirl it around, you will see the cloudy water running out, wash for about a minute and transfer to a small pot. Fill the pot with water, if its still really cloudy, whirl the rice around again and dump off the water. The reason for all of this is you don't want mushy, clumpy fried rice. You want rice kernels that are separated from each other and that is what you will get with this method.

So the next thing you will need to find are vegetables. You can really put whatever you like in here. I had some napa cabbage hanging around, a ton of green beans from the garden and some onion, chopped it all up and voila. I also used an extra lean chinese sausage, but you can use any meat you want.

1 cup white rice (should magically transform into 2 cups when cooked)
1 egg
handful green beans, chopped
Biryani Before Sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups chopped cabbage
1 extra lean chinese sausage, chopped
1-2 cloves chopped garlic
1 tsp ginger, freshly grated
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sherry wine (you can probably skip the oyster and sherry, but increase the soy)
1 tbsp canola or olive oil
cooking spray

Start by mixing the soy sauce, oyster sauce garlic and ginger in a small bowl, set aside.

Next heat the oil in a very large pan or wok, I used a non stick paella pan for this, although it still stuck a little. When hot, add (meat first if using it) vegetables, starting with the beans and onions and end with the cabbage. Spread the vegetable mix around the perimeter of the pan and lightly spray the middle for the egg. Add the egg and scramble, add to the perimeter. Spray the middle again or even add a little more oil if you want and then add the rice. The temperature should be fairly high, I'd say medium to medium high, keep the rice moving around and gradually pull the vegetable mixture in from the sides, making sure nothing sticks to the pan.

Slowly pour the sauce mix over the rice and stir to coat evenly. The rice should still not stick and there should be plenty of sauce for the whole pan. The heat should still be fairly high as you want the water to evaporate from the rice, and eventually the rice will look just like fried rice yummm!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Especially Delicious Home Fries



This past weekend I spent on Bailey Island in Maine with some great friends. Part of the planning of this trip included food, who brings/makes what. Well, not only did we have great food, but the weather we had was pretty amazing, not to mention the views!

Mackerel Cove
The area of Bailey Island is called Mackerel Cove and the condo we stayed in can be rented out weekly during the warmer weather months by visiting Bailey Island Rentals and scrolling down to "Mackerel Cove Condo #4." Really, the views from this condo are amazing, and if you are looking for peace and relaxation (and some extra time for cooking and enjoying the views!) this is great.
This is what I woke up to, way too early (can you tell by the great quality?)
Back to the home fries...I had a bag of all purpose potatoes that desperately needed to be used, I had about 8 small to medium sized potatoes. Wash the skins, but do not peel, the skin is the best part when it comes to home fries! You will want to dice the potatoes into bite sized pieces, try to make the pretty close to the same size so that they cook evenly. My trick to making this is parboiling. A lot of people skip this step, and often times end up with not so lovely raw home fries, so DON'T SKIP THIS! Put all of the pieces in a pot of water, lightly salted, and bring to a boil. You do not want to over cook these or they will mash. Cook them for maybe 15 minutes, but keep checking for softness, you will need to drain and rinse with cold water before they reach the soft stage.

Next we have home fries spice. Its a secret, but I will share it with you. I use latin spice blend called Sazon and another called Adobo, the sazon adds a nice red color (and flavor!) and the Adobo adds another level of flavors.

Oh! Before I forget, I ALWAYS cook these in a cast iron skillet. A few reasons; the will not stick and the seasoned skillet creates a perfectly golden potato.

8 or so potatoes, washed and diced
1 large onion diced small
1/2 packet sazon
A couple shakes of Adobo and garlic powder
1 tbsp Olive oil
1-2 tbsp Butter
Salt
Pepper

First, preheat the cast iron skillet. Get it nice and hot but not so hot that it starts to smoke. Add your oil and butter and when the butter has melted you can add the potatoes. Let them sit, don't try to stir them too often or you won't get that nice golden brown crust. You can, however, add the sazon and adobo, but hold off on the garlic for now.

Fry the fries for about 8-10 minutes and then add the onion. You can now use a spatula to flip over the potatoes and give the onion a chance to caramelize. You can also add the garlic powder little by little, you just don't want to add so much that it burns.

Now, if you don't want to use the Sazon or Adobo, just get some garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper. It's not exactly the same, but will still be delicious!

I usually cook these babies for up to 30 minutes, making sure that the potatoes and onions are fully cooked and everything is perfectly seasoned. I also make these first, and then keep them in the oven at about 325F, just check them to make sure that they don't burn.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Creamy Smack n Cheese

Smack you say? Yes, and here's why. This version of macaroni and cheese is so delicious that its like smack. Get it now? So this weekend I am going on a little vacation to Maine with some friends and I don't really want to be cooking on vacation so I made a few things to bring along. Also, it has taken me quite a bit of time to find a recipe for mac n cheese that is just...delicious!

Also, this may sound gross to some of you but I love Velveeta cheese. Yes. I do. Its not really even cheese, instead, it is a "cheese food". Click on the link to learn about what processed cheese really is and the legal implications surrounding it. Its actually really interesting!

So anyway...I bought a pasteurized cheese block, 2% fat which tastes and melts just the same as full fat. Also, you can find cheaper brands and most of them are good enough to do what you need them to do, so don't feel bad for buying a brand which costs less than Velveeta. You can probably also use other alternatives to the regular pasta. For example, I love to use Smart Taste pasta which has less calories and more fiber, just what we all need yay! Or if you need to be gluten free, use your favorite rice pasta or something.

And now finally onto the recipe!

Creamy Smack n Cheese:
1/4 cup butter or margarine, divided
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk, I used 1%
1/2 lb. (8 oz.) Velveeta cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp onion powder
2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked
1/2 cup shredded extra sharp cheese
1/4 cup bread crumb or crushed ritz crackers (about 6)

Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in medium saucepan on medium heat. Whisk in flour; cook 2 min., stirring constantly (important not to burn!). Gradually stir in milk and bring to boil; cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Add cubed processed cheese, onion powder and mustard; cook until melted, keep stirring (you don't want the milk to burn). At this point, your sauce will begin to thicken even more, if its too thick, just add more milk. Stir in macaroni.

Pour the macaroni into a glass baking dish that has been lightly sprayed. Top with shredded cheese and bread crumb and bake at 350F for about 25 mins or until the top is nice and golden.

Yeah, thats it. This recipe is fairly easy. The hardest part is making sure that the sauce doesn't catch on the bottom of the pan. I also don't have any good photos right now, but hopefully I will when I am eating this, then I will add them to this entry.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Recipe for the Fall: Stuffed Squash...oh yyyuuuummm

Ok so it's not the prettiest but it tastes pretty!

Ok, so I had been in search of a good stuffed squash recipe. And by squash, I mean any kind of squash (even zucchini). My garden has blessed me with many Italian white squash, they are kind of like a cross between a thick zucchini and a ghost. I had two in the refrigerator since probably August and just got two more this week, so clearly I was in a hurry to find the best stuffed squash recipe I could. And I did!

First, lets revisit squash and pumpkins. You could use a small sugar pumpkin if that is what you have, or you can use an over grown zucchini or summer squash, but the original recipe I found uses an acorn squash. All of them are delicious and whatever you have on hand, go ahead and use it!

Again, tonight I used the italian thick white Italian zucchini. I have a special scooper that assists in scooping out the insides, because this is what you will have to do. You will want a nice cavity to really get all that meat stuffing on in there. If you use an acorn or other hard squash, you will need to halve it and cook it, cut side down, in the oven for at least 30 minutes. Now that I think of it, you could always half the zucchini too, and scoop out the middle.

Oh did I mention that this is a pretty easy recipe?



Ingredients

  • 3 acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 1/2 cup water (for pre-cooking)

  • FILLING:
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (Or turkey, or chicken)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Russian salad dressing
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • GLAZE:
  • 1/4 cup Russian salad dressing
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar

I know, its strange with the Russian dressing and all, but trust me, its GOOOOOD. I actually had to make my own and will post recipe at the end. So cook the squash first (375F), if using zucchini you can skip this part. Mix the filling ingredients together, mixture will be wet. Stuff each squash with the meat mixture and then add a little of the glaze on top (Skip the glazing if stuffing a whole zucchini). Baste every 20 minutes with the glaze until the meat and squash are fully cooked. I'd say probably another 45 minutes to an hour.

If you are unable to glaze, I made a pan gravy that was delightful. In a hot skillet, add about 1-2 tbsp olive oil and 1/4 cup of flour to make a roux. Pour the pan drippings into the skillet and whisk. Add some chicken stock and the remaining "Glaze" ingredients, bring to a simmer and allow the sauce to thicken and cool.

Russian Dressing: 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup ketchup, 1 tbsp horseradish, 1 tbsp grated onion. Mix and voila!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Crispy Coconut Curry Chicken Fingers


Now, we all love fried foods right? I mean, seriously find me one person who doesn't, because I would worship them for their ability to avoid the worst food for all of man kind. Well, I love coconut, chicken and curry so I figured I would throw them all together. I made it the first time without the curry, it was still delicious, but this time I just wanted to try curry so I added it, and this will be the way I make it from now on, because I love curry (don't you know this by now?). I am sure you could do this with shrimp as well, I have never tried it, but would love to know how it comes out. Keep in mind that because this isn't fried there might be a slightly different taste than what you would get if you got these in a restaurant, just understand that your pants will thank you.

Here's there recipe!

2 lbs Chicken tenders
1/4 cup chopped coconut
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp seasoned salt (or just salt)
Dijon Mustard (1 large squeeze)
1-2 tbsp honey

Preheat oven to 400. It needs to be hot to get the pretend fried crunch. Marinate the chicken strips in honey dijon mix. It should be thick enough to stick to the chicken and you can control the sweetness. Mix all of the other ingredients together in a plate and roll each chicken finger in the crumb. Place on a sprayed cookie sheet (should be metal for optimal heat) and pop into the oven.

Now the tricky part is letting the chicken cook at a high temp, and then turning over and cooking the other side so what I have been doing is bake first for about 20 minutes. Very gently release each piece of chicken from the bottom trying not to rip the coating off the chicken. Once each piece is flipped, put back in the oven and broil on low setting until the top is lightly browned. You may even want to broil the other side too, its up to you but at this point the chicken is cooked, we are just now trying to get a nice crispy coating.

Fox Run 14-Inch Non-Stick Pizza Crisper
I like to serve these with french fries baked on a pizza crisping pan like this one to the right (if you want to buy it, click on it and you will be re-directed to amazon). Spray the fries lightly and sprinkle with seasoned salt. If you are wondering why I spray them first, I usually buy the cheap store brand of fries which are not pre-coated in lots of oil.

For sauce, I love using La Choy Sweet and Sour or there is a (please excuse this) Cock Brand Spring Roll Sauce or Sriracha, all of which go nicely with the curried coconut chicken.

OOOORRRRR A satay peanut sauce would be amaaaaziiiiing!