Monday, January 30, 2017

Jalapeno Poppers


Are you starting to think about a Super Bowl menu?  I'm going to try this dip Kristen posted on her blog today and these incredibly delicious and easy jalapeno poppers.

First of all, this can all be made ahead of time and then assembled at the time of baking.  And if you're going to have a big group, bake them up all at once.  But with just the two of us, it all still keeps wonderfully.  I've had the cheese stuffing in my fridge for at least a month, so every once in a while when I need a little side dish for dinner (or just a snack), I'll just bake two or three at a time.

Mel's recipe calls for using regular cream cheese, but I've made it with reduced-fat cream cheese resulting in equally good poppers.  I also ended up adding much more smoked paprika (about 1/2 tsp instead of 1/8), but then I absolutely love the stuff.  And her recipe is gluten-free using GF panko, I used regular panko.


JALAPENO POPPERS (makes 30 poppers)

15 jalapeno peppers
8 oz regular or reduced-fat cream cheese, room temp
6 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 3/4 cup)
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp chili powder (or ore, to taste)
1/8 tsp smoked paprika (or more, to taste)
1/8 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Cut each jalapeno in half lengthwise.  Remove seeds and white ribs (use disposable plastic gloves if you're going to be making the entire batch).

For the filling, mash together the cream cheese and cheddar until combined.  Fill each pepper half evenly with the filling mixture, mounding it inside the empty shell of the jalapeno rather the pressing the filling flat (so it doesn't leak out while baking).

For the bread crumb topping, in a shallow dish mix together the bread crumbs and seasonings (this will also keep in a tightly sealed plastic container).

Grab each popper by the bottom and roll the top (the part with the filling) in the breadcrumbs so the mixture clings to the cream cheese filling.  Take care not to smush down the filling; try to keep it nice and mounded while getting a healthy dose of bread crumbs stuck to it.

Return the peppers to the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining peppers.  Sprinkle any remaining bread crumbs over the peppers for additional crunchiness.  It's ok if there's a little bread crumb mixture leftover - you don't need to use it all.

Bake the peppers for 18-20 minutes under the peppers are tender and the bread crumbs are golden.

Serve immediately.

Recipe Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Friday, January 27, 2017

French Onion Soup


I've never met a French Onion soup I didn't adore.  I've made several different recipes through the years from fancy-schmancy (including roasting beef bones to make the stock) to this, the simplest I've ever made.

It came out of a James Peterson cookbook, Splendid Soups.  Ironically, I'd never used this recipe because this book is a wee bit intimidating to me (lots of fancy titles and some exotic ingredients).  But this recipe called just a handful of ingredients.

At first I was afraid this 2 1/2 pounds of sliced onions seemed a tad overload.  But being the onion lover I am, it came out perfectly.  I suppose you could scale it down to 1 1/2 to 2 pounds, but why would you?!!!

FRENCH ONION SOUP (4-5 servings)

2 1/2 pounds onions, peeled (I used primarily sweet onions and a little red onion)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
32 oz box of reduced-sodium beef broth
1 bouquet garni (3 sprigs fresh thyme, 3 sprigs parsley, 1 bay leaf)
S&P
1 cup finely grated Swiss Gruyere (I used regular Swiss), about 1/4 pound
4 thick slices of French bread (I cut mine from a Panera French baguette), toasted

Slice onions as thinly as possible (I used a mandolin slicer).  Melt the butter in a wide, heavy-bottomed pot and add the onions.  Stir the onions every few minutes over medium heat until they soften and begin to brown, about 40 minutes.  When they start to brown, pour in 1/2 cup broth and turn the heat to high.

Stir the onions, scraping off any caramelized juices that have clung to the bottom and sides of the pan.  When the broth has completely evaporated and forms a brown glaze on the bottom of the pan, add another 1/2 cup broth and repeat.

Add the remaining broth and the bouquet garni to the onions and gently simmer the soup for 15 minutes.  Be sure to scrape the pan so the caramelized juices dissolve in the soup.  Season to taste with S&P and remove the bouquet garni.

At the last minute: Preheat the oven to 400 F (I put mine on high broil).  Ladle the soup into deep bowls.  Sprinkle half the cheese over the soup and place a slice of toast in each
bowl.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Put the bowls on a sheet pan and bake (or broil) until the cheese bubbles and turns light brown.

Recipe Adapted from:  Splendid Soups by James Peterson, 2001, p. 200

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Crock Pot Thai Chicken


I have been holding onto this recipe for some time as it calls for a Trader Joe's ingredient, Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette.  And since we don't have a TJ's in Chattanooga, I had to wait for a trip to Nashville.

So worth the wait and the trip!!!  Now the recipe calls for this vinaigrette (or something similar), but I didn't know of any good substitutions (I will look at our local Earth Fare, Whole Foods, and Fresh Market to see if I can find another brand) so I opted to wait.

Three ingredients in the chicken recipe and it goes in the crock pot!!!  You can't get any easier.  I definitely wouldn't substitute a different rice recipe as these two go together like carrots & peas!

CROCK POT THAI CHICKEN (4 servings)

1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts
1 (14 oz) can light coconut milk, divided
3/4 cup Trader Joe's Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette (or something similar)

Note to Self:  I used 1/2# chicken tenders and 1/4 cup each of milk & vinaigrette

Coconut Rice:

1 Tbsp coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
1 green onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (or 1/4 tsp dried thyme)
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup long-grain white rice
chopped salted peanuts, optional

Cut chicken breasts in half then lay in the bottom of a 5.5-6 qt crock pot.  Add 3/4 cup coconut milk and 3/4 cup of the vinaigrette on top of the chicken and then left them to get liquid underneath.  Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours, or until very tender.

When chicken has 20 minutes left, make Coconut Rice.  Heat coconut oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.  Add green onion, garlic, and thyme then saute until tender, 2 minutes.  Add remaining coconut milk (1 cup), water, and salt then bring to a boil.  Add rice, place a lid on top, then turn heat down to medium-low and simmer until rice is tender, 15-20 minutes.

Scoop rice onto plates then top with chicken and drizzle cooking liquid on top.  Sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if using, then serve.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Vegetable Sushi Roll in a Bowl


I knew when I saw this on Kristin's blog it would be something I would love.  So much easier (though maybe not quite as fun) as rolling your own sushi. 

This makes two good servings.  I added some roasted shrimp (and on this batch I forgot the avocado which would have made it even better!)

VEGETABLE SUSHI ROLL in a BOWL (2 servings)

1 cup short grain sushi rice
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
heavy pinch of salt
1 avocado, sliced
1 pickling (salad) cucumber, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
.17 oz package nori/seaweed snacks, use scissor to cut into strips
Tamari or soy sauce
sesame seeds, for garnish
roasted shrimp, optional

Add rice to a fine mesh sieve or a bowl then rinse with water until the water runs clear.  Add rice to a small saucepan with water then bring to a boil.  Stir rice then place a lid on top, turn heat down to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove pot from heat then let side with the lid on for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile combine rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl then microwave for 15-20 seconds, or until the sugar dissolves once stirred.  Pour into cooked rice then stir to combine and set aside to cool.

Once ricer has cooled, scoop into two bowls then top with half of the avocado, cucumber, carrot, nori, and shrimp (is using).  Drizzle with Tamari or soy then sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

House Painting



We're in the middle of having the interior house painted this week.  I have a list of recipes to post and will be back in a few days.


Image result for Residential Painting

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Cream Cheese Chicken and Vegetable Soup


I have a file of soup recipes I'd been waiting to try once the dreadful summer we had last year had passed.  Last week we finally had some freezing weather (back to 70 degrees today.....are we ever going to get winter weather that will stick around longer than a weekend?!!!!) and I got to pull one of them out to try.

Oh! this one is so good!!!  Silky and creamy with a deep chicken flavor.  I used reduced-fat cream cheese and it came out perfectly, actually much better than using half-and-half or cream.  I won't be saving this one just for cold weather.

CREAM CHEESE CHICKEN and VEGETABLE SOUP  (4 servings)

2 Tbsp butter
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup diced carrots (about 2 regular carrots or a handful of baby carrots)
3 cups chicken broth see note below
3-4 smallish red or Yukon gold potatoes (I like to leave the peels on)
1 cup milk
4 Tbsp flour
1 (8 oz package) regular or light cream cheese
about 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and diced (I used a rotisserie chicken and just added enough meat until it suited my tastes)

In a large pot, melt the butter and add the onion, garlic, celery, and carrots.  Saute, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes, until the veggies are slightly tender and the onions are translucent.  Add the chicken broth and potatoes.  Bring the soup to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

In a liquid measuring cup, vigorously whisk the flour and milk together until smooth.  Whisk the mixture into the soup, stirring quickly, and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until the soup begins to thicken slightly.  Stir often to ensure the soup doesn't burn.

Soften the cream cheese in the microwave until it is soft and melty (microwave for about 1 minutes at 30% power to avoid having cream cheese lumps).  Add the cream cheese to the soup in small tablespoon-size pieces.  Let the pieces sit in the soup and warm through then whisk or stir the soup until the cream cheese melts.  Add the cooked chicken and heat through.  Season with S&P.  Serve.

Recipe source:  http://www.melskitchencafe.com/cream-cheese-chicken-and-vegetable-soup/

NOTE:  When a recipe calls for chicken stock/broth, I use a broth mix made by Knorr.  I first found this mix when I worked at a restaurant in Minnesota.  The owner would use this to make soup.  Personally, I found this product to produce a really clean flavor.  And, of course, you can add as much or as little as you like to get the flavor you like.

Thing is, it's not easy to find.  After I quit the restaurant, I couldn't find it anywhere.  Then I just happened across it at a big Asian market in Minneapolis.  We were going to be moving and I asked if they could ship more to me when I ran out.  They did.  So for several years, that was my source.

Since then, I have found it at an Asian market here in Chattanooga and I can find it (sporadically) at my local Aldi's.  It comes in a 35.2 oz tin and stays good until the very bottom.  This tastes different than the Knorr chicken bouillon cubes you can find in the local supermarket soup aisle.  It's nice to have an easy go-to for chicken stock/broth that are required in so many recipes I use.  Photo below:

Image result for knorr chicken flavored broth mix

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Lighter Beef and Broccoli


It's not often that I have a craving for beef, but once or twice a year I do and my choice is often Broccoli and Beef.

This is a really quick and easy recipe, especially if you prep the sauce, beef, and vegetables ahead of time.  It's also easily adjustable.  Next time, I'll add more garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper.  Also, I think I'll add some grated fresh ginger.

See the link below for step-by-step instructions and her beautiful photography.  Also, her recipe is gluten-free.

LIGHTER BEEF and BROCCOLI (4 servings)

1 - 1 1/4 pound flank or sirloin steak, or something similar, cut very thin against the grain (for easier slicing, leave in the freezer for 15-20 minutes)
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp soy sauce, divided
2 1/2 Tbsp flour, divided
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
3 cloves minced garlic (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp ground ginger (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (more or less to taste)
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp water, divided
4 cups broccoli florets
2 Tbsp high-heat cooking oil (vegetable, grapeseed, etc.)
cooked rice, for servings
chopped green onions, dark part only, for garnish

Add sliced beef, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, and 1 Tbsp flour to a ziplock bag; zeal and squish to evenly coat.  Place the bag in the fridge to marinate while preparing sauce.

Add remaining 1/2 cup soy, 1 1/2 Tbsp flour, chicken broth, brown sugar, 2 Tbsp water, rice vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, ground ginger, fresh ginger (if using), and red chili pepper flakes to a bowl, then whisk to combine.

Heat a large wok or non-stick skillet over medium-high to high heat then add remaining 1/4 cup water.  Once simmering, add broccoli then stir fry until crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes( don't overcook or you get ugly dark green instead of bright green).  Remove to a plate.

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in wok then, once hot, add 1/2 the marinated beef in one layer.  Let sit undisturbed until seared, 30 seconds, then stir fry until just barely cooked through (some pink showing is best).  Remove to plate with broccoli.  Heat remaining Tbsp of oil, then stir fry remaining beef and add to plate.

Add sauce to wok then simmer until slightly thickened, 2-3 minutes.  Add cooked broccoli and beef back into the wok and then simmer until everything is heated through, about 1 minute.  Serve over cooked rice and garnish with chopped green onions.

Recipe Source:  http://iowagirleats.com/2016/10/17/broccoli-beef-recipe/


Monday, January 9, 2017

Azalea Icicles


We had a few days are bitter (for us) cold.  I happened to notice that as it began to thaw, water dripping from the eaves fell onto this azalea bush and it was covered in icicles.  It was so pretty.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Potsticker Noodles Bowls


I am so bad about thinking outside of the box.  Thank goodness for blogs.  One of my favorites is IowaGirlEats.  She has celiac disease and hers is an all gluten-free blog.  But you can certainly use regular gluten foods.  For example, she had to give up potstickers because the skins contain gluten so she substituted rice noodles.  GENIUS!!!  These have the same flavor/texture as regular potstickers. 

Also, she used ground pork but I had ground turkey on hand so I used that.  Perfect.  An added plus, these reheat wonderfully (a great breakfast for those of us who aren't fond of traditional breakfast foods).

See link below for (as usual) better photos and step-by-step instructions.

POTSTICKER NOODLES BOWLS (4-5 servings)

8 oz wide rice noodles
1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger (I liked more)
pinch crushed red pepper
2 eggs
1 Tbsp high-temp oil (canola, grapeseed, vegetable, etc)
1 pound ground pork (I used ground turkey)
white pepper
14 oz coleslaw mix
7 green onions, green parts chopped into 2" pieces and light green/white parts cut into 1/2" pieces)
2 tsp minced garlic

Soak rice noodles according to package directions.  Meanwhile, whisk together 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp soy, chicken broth, rice vinegar, ginger, and crushed red pepper in a small bowl and then set aside.  Whisk together eggs and then set aside in a small bowl.  Mix ground meat with remaining tablespoon in a bowl and then set aside.

When noodles have 5 minutes left to soak, heat oil in a large 12" non-stick skillet (or wok) over high heat.  Add ground meat then white pepper and stir-fry until cooked through, breaking it up as it cooks.  Add cole slaw mix and green onions then stir fry until the cole slaw begins to wilt, 2-3 minutes, add garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds.

Make a well in the center of the skillet or wok then add eggs and scramble, and then toss stir fry together to mix.

Drain noodles and add to wok and cook for 1 minute.  Add sauce and stir fry until noodles are tender, 3-4 minutes, turning heat down slightly if sauce begins to evaporate before noodles soften.  Taste then add a splash of water or broth if noodles are too salty.  Scoop onto plates or bowls to serve.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Chicken Fajitas



I got this recipe from Kristin's blog (see link below) in which she entitles it "The BEST Chicken Fajita" and she is right!!!  Holy Smokes! these were good.  And not only delicious, but super quick and easy (especially if you prep the chicken and vegetables earlier).

I don't have a proper fajita pan so I used a hard-anodized Calphalon pan.  It worked perfectly.  I mention this because, in my opinion, a good sear on the veggies is essential.  Also, I have a smooth-top stove and I started the heat on 8.  I was afraid to turn the burner all the way and it worked great.  I did have to adjust the temp several times in order not to start a fire!

This also easily adaptable.  I cut this recipe in half, but used all of the mushrooms and onions from the full recipe (because I loves me some good saut√©ed mushrooms and onions).  And don't omit the lemon....it's what sets this recipe apart.

CHICKEN FAJITAS (4-5 servings)

1 lb skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
2 bell peppers, any color, thinly sliced
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
8 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
4-6 Tbsp high-heat cooking oil (vegetable, almond, grapeseed, etc.)
1 lemon
seasoned salt
cumin
smoked paprika, optional (but why would you not?!!!)
flour tortillas

Season chicken strips with seasoned salt and a pinch of both cumin and smoked paprika then mix and set aside.  Add vegetables to a large bowl then toss with your hands to mix.

Heat 1-1 1/2 Tbsp oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat.  When is begins to smoke, add a third of the vegetables then season with seasoned salt, a sprinkle of cumin and smoked paprika, and a drizzle of fresh lemon juice (1-2 tsp, not too much).  Let vegetables sit undisturbed until seared on the bottom then continue to saute, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender, 3-4 minutes, turning heat down if they begin to burn.  Remove vegetables to a plate.  Repeat searing vegetables in two more batches, each in 1-1 1/2 Tbsp oil, adding seasonings and lemon juice to each batch.

Heat remaining 1-1 1/2 Tbsp oil in skillet then add chicken, drizzle over a little lemon juice, then saute until cooked through, 2-3 minutes.  Add vegetables back into skillet then toss to heat through. 

Recipe Source and step-by-step photos: http://iowagirleats.com/2016/01/15/the-best-chicken-fajitas/

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Welcome Opie!


Happy 2017 and meet the newest member of our family, Opie.

I was at a craft show on November 20th and they just so happened to be holding a dog adoption tent.   I'd been wanting another dog, but I generally look for a special-needs dog, someone who needs a break and a great home.  But this little fella was so darn cute, it was hard to pass him up.  I asked the folks holding the adoption fair if they had any special needs dog.  I figured Roger (his shelter name) would be scooped up in a minute, but if he wasn't to give me a call.  Guess what?!!!

I picked him up on Monday, November 21st and he is the most perfect dog.  He was house-trained, he doesn't shed, doesn't chew up furniture or shoes (although he does have a love for used tissues and napkins, and he is a biter (not hard, mind you, just love nibbles.))

He has made fast friends with Lindie and Nellie and all of our neighbor's dogs, particularly Maggie who often stays with us with her Mom and Dad need to be away from home.  He loves walks and car rides, but is mostly fond of anything edible......regardless of what that may be!