Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sweet 'n' Spicy Chicken

From Taste of Home Winning Recipes

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 jar (11 ounces) chunky salsa
1/2 cup peach preserves
Hot cooked rice

Place the chicken in a large resealable plastic bag; add taco seasoning and toss to coat. IN a skillet, brown chicken in oil. Combine salsa and preserves; stir into skillet. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until meat juices run clear. Serve over rice. Serves 4.

I actually served over bow tie pasta since that's what I had on hand and it was quicker than making rice. The amount of taco seasoning and kind of salsa can be varied according to how spicy you want it to be.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lobster & Corn Chowder

Okay, I know this blog is designed for everyday cooking, but there are times when we want to make something really special. This is a fabulous soup and it comes together easily when you follow the directions. It's a special occasion dish, however, as lobster is not cheap and this isn't the healthiest soup in the world! The recipe serves 2.

From The Pampered Chef's Cooking for Two and More

Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: About 45 minutes

1 8 ounce uncooked lobster tail (about 10 ounces in shell)
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons brandy, divided (optional)
1 small leek (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 bottles (8 ounces each) clam juice
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large red potato, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Thyme sprigs (optional)

1. Remove lobster meat from shell (see notes below); cut into 1-inch pieces. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 1.5 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add lobster; cook 5-7 minutes or until edges of lobster begin to brown, stirring occasionally. Remove lobster from pan; set aside. If desired, add 1 tablespoon of the brandy to pan (if not using brandy, use water); stir to loosen browned bits from bottom of pan using a whisk.

2. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in same saucepan over medium heat. Add leek and thyme; cook and stir 1 minute or until slightly softened. Whisk in flour; cook 1 minute. Slowly whisk in clam juice, tomato paste and salt; bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Add potato; simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Stir in corn; cover and cook 10 minutes or until potato is tender.

3. Stir in cream; simmer gently just until heated through. Remove from heat; add lobster and remaining 1 tablespoon brandy, if desired. Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired.

Notes from recipe:
Browning the lobster meat in butter not only gives it an appetizing color but intensifies the flavor and adds depth to the soup.

For best browning, allow the butter to foam up before adding the lobster and cook undisturbed for the first few minutes. Deglazing with brandy highlights the sweetness and releases all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

To remove lobster meat from the shell, cut down center of top and bottom of lobster shell with kitchen shears; pull shell apart.

My notes:
I did not use brandy, and the taste of the soup was wonderful, so don't go out and buy brandy just for this recipe!

I made this during winter (March 1 - I remember because it was the day that my grandmother died, sadly), so fresh corn wasn't the best choice. I used frozen corn and it turned out just fine. The local grocery store also does not carry leeks, so I used a small white onion instead.

I found clam juice in the seafood section of the grocery store. It happened to be in the first store I went to (I had chosen the store because I knew for sure they sold lobster tails), so I don't know how easy it might be to find. The lobster tail I purchased was frozen, so you may want to make sure you pick up the lobster with enough time to safely thaw it out. I saw that they had thawed lobster on display and assumed that mine would be thawed already. After a few hours in the refrigerator, they were still mostly frozen!

If you are buying fresh thyme to put in the soup, definitely use it as garnish as well. Special occasion soup deserves that extra touch! I also served this in my "fancy" dishes and made the table (which was actually 4 TV trays put together!) look nice with a tablecloth, place mats, cloth napkins and candles. The effect was very nice and made an ordinary, poorly furnished dining room into something special!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rice Hot Dish

This recipe is a family favorite, and it comes with a story. It is a recipe passed through my mom's family by her aunt, so it has been around for a long time. I had no idea what it was actually called, however, as the Pooles have their own name for it. When I was a kid, it was tradition to bring the dog(s) to family meals. Each dog would have a plate of leftovers made up for them after dinner with everything mixed together. Someone made the observation that this dish resembles the concoction fed to the dogs, so we always call it "dog food"! It has a somewhat lengthy cook time, but I think it tastes great reheated the next day, so if you have time today but know that you won't have much time tomorrow, this might be a nice option. As with another recipe, this one isn't the prettiest looking food, as the family name for it implies, so it may not be the first thing you feed guests, but I think it's delicious!

1 lb ground beef
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cans water
3 T soy or Worcestershire sauce
1/2-3/4 cup rice, uncooked

Brown the ground beef and cook the celery and onion. This can be done all together or separately. I find that it's easier to cook them all together. Mix the ingredients together and pour into a 2 quart or larger casserole dish. Bake, uncovered, at 325 for 1 1/2-2 hours. Stir before serving.

This is what it looks like just out of the oven. The 2 quart dish I use is quite full, but it has never bubbled over on me.

And once it is stirred and served:

Beef Stew with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I thought for my first post that I would share a fall/winter classic. This is a pretty basic and very tasty beef stew recipe. It comes from Betty Crocker's Slow Cooker Cookbook. I don't have a picture to offer, unfortunately.

1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat
12 medium new potatoes (1 1/2 pounds), cut in half
1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 bag (8 ounces) baby-cut carrots (about 30)
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup cold water
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1. Soak tomatoes in water as directed on package; drain and coarsly chop.
2. Mix tomatoes and remaining ingredients except 1/4 cup water and the flour in 3 1/2- to 6-quart slow cooker.
3. Cover and cook on low heat setting 8 to 9 hours (of high heat setting 3 to 5 hours) or until beef and vegetables are tender.
4. Mix 1/4 cup water and the flour; gradually stir into beef mixture.
5. Cover and cook on high heat setting 10 to 15 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove bay leaf.

I've made the stew using both the high and low heat settings and really recommend using the low heat setting. The meat and vegetables are all more tender and the flavors all blend together better. The directions do not tell you to brown the meat before you add it to the crock pot, but it will have better flavor if you do. I have also used meat tenderizer (unflavored) and added dried celery flakes. The celery flakes rehydrate nicely and add an nice complimentary flavor. Any kind of potatoes will work, but I found that using a few different varieties together gives the stew additional character.

It took me around 30 minutes to get the stew started, and the time required for soaking the tomatoes is adequate for chopping, measuring or browning the rest of the ingredients.

The recipe says that it serves 6, but I find that it really serves 4 adults.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Whole Wheat Chicken Pot Pie

EDIT: Amanda made this for me when I was visiting and I loved it so much I was literally dreaming about it that night. It was just as good when I made it at home. Here are a few pictures I took of it. The only change I made was that I used mostly fat-free sour cream and couldn't taste a difference.

So I haven't posted anything on here in a while, but since Megan asked for this recipe (I just made this for her when she was in Denver this weekend), I thought this would be the easiest way to get it to her. And, perhaps, some of you will enjoy the recipe too! :)

I can't take all credit for this...its basically two recipes I mixed from "Crisco American Pie Celebration", with a few tweaks to make it faster.

Whole Wheat Chicken Pot Pie

Pie Crust

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fine whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup Crisco
5-10 Tbsp cold water (when making a pie crust, you just have to eye-ball how much water to use)

1. Combine flour, whole wheat flour, salt, and baking powder in bowl. Cut in Crisco using pastry blender (or two knives) until flour is blended in to form pea-sized chunks.
2. Sprinkle with water one Tbsp at a time. Toss lightly with fork until dough will form a ball. Divide dough into two parts. Press between hands to form two 5-6 inch "pancakes".
3. Flour rolling surface and pin lightly. Roll dough for bottom crust into circle and trim one inch larger than upside down 9in pie plate. Loosen dough carefully, and slide into pie plate. Trim edge even with pie plate.
4. Roll out second crust, and let sit while you make filling.

Pie Filling
3 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, diced
3-4 cups mixed frozen vegetables (usually carrots, green beans, corn and lima beans...I just eyeball how much to use)
2 green onion tops, chopped
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 can (10 1/2 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
3/4 cup chopped cooked chicken

1. Heat oven to 425degrees
2. Melt butter in saucepan. Add onion. Cook until tender. Add the frozen veggies. Cook until soft and no longer frozen.
3. Combine sour cream and chicken soup in a bowl.
4. Take veggies off heat and mix in green onion tops, sour cream/soup mixture, cheese, salt & pepper, and chicken.
5. Spoon into unbaked pie shell.
6. Cover with top crust. Fold top edge under bottom crust. Flute with fingers or fork. Cut slits or design in top crust or prick with fork for escape of steam.
7. Bake for 20-25minutes or until crust is golden brown.
8. After baking, let sit for 5 minutes, then cut into large wedges and serve warm. Won't necessarily hold its pie shape, but as my hubby always reminds me, it doesn't have to look good if it tastes good.