Easy Baked Chicken

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I had a 6 pound whole roaster chicken sitting in the bottom of my fridge, begging for an opportunity to be cooked. Unfortunately we're also running low on some staple items in the kitchen that might usually lead me to make an old faithful recipe with balsamic vinegar or rosemary and lemons. So I turned to a women's league cookbook from cajun country called "Talk About Good II" that was given to Nick by some good friends of ours in Louisiana.

Simple, simple, simple.

Here's what I used:

1 6 pound whole roaster
1/2 cup soy sauce
garlic powder to taste
poultry seasoning (I used Goya) to taste
bake-safe rubber band (got these for christmas, they rock)

Here's what I did:

Preheated oven to 350.

Lined my roasting pan with foil, so that I didn't have to chisel off dried soy sauce later, and replaced roasting rack. Rinsed my chicken under luke-warm water, removed and discarded giblets, and patted chicken dry. Placed it in roasting rack, breast side up, and folded wings back behind the bird (to keep them from getting too crisped). I then liberally covered the visible parts of the bird (not underside, though you could do this too) with Goya seasoning and garlic powder. Once the bird was well and evenly covered with seasoning, I pulled the legs together and secured them together with my oven-safe cooking rubber bands (thanks for the cool kitchen gadget, Mom!), drizzled the bird with the soy sauce, and placed it in the oven, one rack lower than center.

I cooked the bird for 1.5 hrs, basting with soy sauce in the bottom of the pan 3-4 times throughout. By the end of the cooking time, the soy sauce had started to thicken and begin to burn - creating not the greatest aroma in the kitchen...but it didn't hurt the chicken or its flavor.

Nick cut up the chicken and we had it with steamed green beans and yellow squash, with just a hint of butter, salt and pepper. The chicken was very moist and not over-seasoned. The skin was very nicely crispy. I would definitely repeat this recipe, but maybe add some cajun seasoning next time, or kick up the asian flavors by adding some sesame oil to the drizzle/baste aspect of the recipe.

My Own Bang-Up Chili with Sweet Cornbread Muffins

Monday, January 25, 2010

Everyone has their own version of chili, right? Throw some sort of meat in with some beans, spice it up...and voila. Chili. I realize there are also strict definitions of what are and are not "actual" chili recipes, so some might just call this "meat and beans"...but the basis for this recipe usually starts with a Beef and Bean Chili from my South Beach Cookbook, so you know its healthy. And then I often improvise with several types of canned beans. This time it was soooo good, that I wrote down exactly what I used. I even retrieved all the cans to get it right.

Here's what I used:

2 lbs 80/20 ground beef (leaner is great, too)
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can black beans
1 can mild pinto chili beans
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 can light kidney beans (dark is fine, too)
2 medium onions, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
3 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 tbsp olive oil

Here's what I did:

In an enamel dutch oven (or a medium stock pot) heat olive oil on medium heat, and add onions, cooking until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add ground beef and let brown, until no pink remains. Add cumin, chili powder, and cayenne.

Meanwhile, rinse all canned beans/corn in a strainer, and let drain.

Once meat is fully cooked, add all canned ingredients, including canned tomatoes with juice. Allow chili to simmer for 10-15 minutes to incorporate and thicken. At this point, add salt and pepper to taste. If you like it spicier, you can add more cayenne - but I wanted this to be safe for Sydney, so I kept it a touch milder.

I like how the corn and black beans add color to the chili mixture. Once everything is combined, its nice to have some ingredients that "stand out in the crowd" and the pop of the corn is a nice unexpected sweetness that I don't usually add - but was glad that I did.

I served this with a small handful of mexican cheese mix (cheddar, jack, asadero and quesadilla cheeses) and a dollop of sour cream.

I accompanied my chili with corn bread muffins, recipe below...

Sweet Cornbread Muffins

Here's what I used:

1 cup corn meal
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 tsp baking powder
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup 2 % milk

Here's what I did:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combined all dry ingredients, and then stirred with a whisk to remove any lumps and incorporate all ingredients. In a medium mixing bowl, combined egg, oil and milk and mixed thoroughly. Add wet ingredients to large bowl with dry ingredients and quickly mix to incorporate, but do not overmix.

Meanwhile, I added cupcake liners to a cupcake pan and sprayed the inside of each cup with pam. I have found if I don't do this, I lose a good 1/4 of each muffin to the inside of the paper liners.

Using a measuring cup, I poured the batter into each liner, about 1/2 full, and was able to make 1 dozen nice sized muffins.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until just lightly golden brown on top. You can also test the muffins using a toothpick or wooden skewer. If the skewer comes out of the muffin clean, your muffins are done!

Sydney went nuts over this dinner. I haven't seen her this eager to eat in weeks...maybe longer. She kept on eating long after Nick and I were done. However, I should have draped her entire body with a table cloth...because Chili remnants were EVERYWHERE. Haha. The girl enjoyed her meal!

Turkey and Goat Cheese Lasagna - aka Mouth Nirvana

Sunday, January 24, 2010

If I had to choose one recipe that was a favorite, especially a crowd favorite, indelibly inked in people's food memory...this one would be at the top of the list. I have altered this recipe over the last 4 to 5 years in several ways, but hands down, this has the balance of acidity to cheesiness, and a decadence and aromatic quality from the goat cheese that while "there" doesn't scream its presence. I just LOVE this recipe. Thank you, Ina Garten, you're a genious, and carry the key to my culinary heart.

Turkey and Goat Cheese Lasagna

Here's what I used:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 lbs ground turkey (recipe calls for sweet italian sausage)
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
6 oz can tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, divided
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
kosher salt
black pepper
2/3 box lasagna noodles (the amount I end up using)
15 oz ricotta cheese
4 oz goat cheese (plain or seasoned)
1 cup grated parmesan
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
1 lb fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Here's what I did:

Preheate oven to 400 degrees.

Fill a glass baking dish (wide enough for lasagna noodles) with hot, hot tap water. Add lasagna noodles, and allow to "par boil" for about 20 minutes. This allows you to skip the step of boiling the noodles...

In a large skillet over medium heat, I cooked the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Then I added the garlic, allowed to cook for 1 minute, and then added turkey meat. I cooked this until the pink was gone from the meat, and then added the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, 1/2 the parsley, 1 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1/2 tsp of pepper. I then allowed the sauce to simmer while preparing the other portions.

Combine ricotta, goat cheese, parmesan, egg, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and remaining parsley together, and allow to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes (this will make it easier to spread).

In a 9x12 baking dish, ladle 1/3 of the sauce, and then lay 1/2 of the noodles. Follow with 1/2 of the ricotta mixture, 1/2 the mozzarella slices, and then another 1/3 of the sauce. Finally, add the remaining noodles, spread with the remaining ricotta, mozzarella and sauce. At this point, I sprinkle another small amount, maybe 1/4 cup of parmesan overtop.

Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbling and cheese is melted.

Basic Handmade Pasta

Monday, January 18, 2010

That's right. I took the plunge and made handmade pasta last night. My right arm/wrist/hand have recovered pretty well by now, and I think Nick and I agree that it was worth the effort. It was fun!! I did watch a YouTube video on how to roll out the dough for cutting into strips (ala linguine), and it has to be super thin for the noodles to not resemble/taste/texture of spaetzle (which I remember making in 9th grade Home Ec). But I have to say it was fun to be able to make the pasta myself...would I do it every day?! No. Did I enjoy it? Yes. The results were worth it. And now I can't wait to try to make my own ravioli!!

I used a Mario Batali "Basic Pasta Dough" recipe:

3 1/2 cups unbleached All Purpose flour
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Here's what I did:

On a large cutting board or wide, clean, flat surface, I made a mountain with the flour. Then with my fingers, I created a bowl or crater in the center. I cracked the eggs into the space I created, making room as needed for the eggs and olive oil. Then, with a fork, I began to gently stir and beat the eggs, slowly folding and sprinkling in the flour as I went. I will warn that I took a very long time to incorporate the flour...maybe 10 minutes? Because if you go too fast you risk incorporating too much flour, and having less successful dough. Once the eggs and flour started to come together, and pull away from the flour "mountain" that now resembled more of an outline...I began to fold it over and into itself with the fork.

At this point, I tested with my finger, and the dough readily stuck to it, so I continued to add flour. The dough needs to be sticky but not stick and glop to your hand or the surface you're working on. Once the dough was well incorporated, I transferred it to a NEW, clean, flour dusted cutting board and began to knead. I kneaded the dough for 6 minutes, then wrapped it tightly in saran wrap, and then let it rest Unrefrigerated for 30 minutes. Kneading consists of continually folding the dough on itself, and the pushing it back out into a larger ball with the heels of your hands.

Once the dough had rested, I cleaned a very large area of my countertop and dusted with flour. I had just finished watching this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/user/spotandLucy#p/u/12/85xeHTyHEZM and tried to replicate with my much smaller rolling pin. Then I took a pizza cutter, and tried to cut very thin noodles out of the dough, similar to a common linguine. I was not shy about flour, either. Every chance I got, I continued to rotate the dough 1/4 turn and dust underneath so that my sheet of dough didn't stick to the counter.

I don't have a pasta drying rack, but the recipe suggests to allow the noodles to "dry" for another 30 minutes before boiling/cooking. I used a large mixing bowl, and laid my noodles over the side, and across the bowl as I found space. I allowed them to rest for 15 minutes, as my water was boiling, and Nick's chicken had already come out of the oven!

Once my water was at a rolling boil, a touch of olive oil was added to the water, to help prevent sticking. I added a "Test" noodle to see if the noodle would hold up. It did. So I went ahead and added the rest of my noodles and allowed them to cook for 3-5 minutes. The recipe suggests 3 minutes, but at 3 minutes my pasta was still a little chewy, so I left it in a little longer. I think maybe the pot was a little small for the amount of pasta, and my noodles were not perfectly cut, so some where thicker - and all in all the whole batch took longer to cook.

Once the noodles were cooked to the right tenderness that I wanted, I drained them and then plated alongside Nick's balsamic glazed chicken. I opted to just use the juice/glaze and caramelized onions from his recipe (another Batali recipe from the same book), and it was very good.

What would I change next time? I think I need a way to make my noodles more uniform in size. I also need a way to allow the noodles to dry better. I need to brainstorm some household items that I might be able to rig into pasta dry racks...


Monday, January 11, 2010

First, you're wondering what the heck is Lebna, right? Its sort of like sour cream, but thicker, and sort of like cream cheese but lighter/creamier. Its easy, healthy, cheap and packs a yummy punch. Its great as a substitute for the aforementioned items, and is amazing w/ Kebabs, Pita Bread, well, lots of things. And did I mention easy?!

Here's what I used:

32 oz Plain Low Fat Yogurt
An old, clean pillowcase or cheesecloth
A strong rubberband

Here's what I did:

First I found an old pillowcase that doesn't match any of our sets. Then I turned it inside out, so that the seams were on the outside, giving me a "cleaner" inside. Then I set my pillowcase, turned out around the edges to give me space for the yogurt (much like preparing an icing bag). Once I spooned all the yogurt into the inside-out pillowcase, I twisted the slack pillowcase, and then folded it in half, to trap the yogurt tightly into one corner/end of the pillowcase. I then secured it with a sturdy rubberband, and hung it (using the loop I'd made in the pillowcase) from a knob on one of my cabinets. I left the bowl below, to catch all the drippings from the yogurt. (You can also use your sink and sink spout to hang the yogurt-en-pillowcase).

I left this overnight, and by this morning, most of the liquid had drained out of the pillowcase. I rolled back the pillowcase to reveal my Lebna! I shook it out into a tupperware container, added a pinch of salt, and a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Mixed well.

I am now enjoying this with a fresh piece of pita bread. YUMM!!!

Hodge Podge Fritatta

Sunday, January 10, 2010

You know the days where you only have minimal food in your fridge, and you wonder what you're going to eat? Its too cold outside to consider driving to the grocery store, you hurt your back and just want something warm and comforting to eat? Well, maybe not all of that...but you get the picture. What the heck are you going to make for breakfast?? My own Hodge Podge Fritatta is really an homage to Goulash, or any other recipe where you just throw in what you've got and hope for the best. In this case it was REALLY successful. Everyone says so, right this very moment. Even Sydney. "Yummy Yummy?!" over and over again.

Take creative license in modifying this for what you've got laying around.

Hodge Podge Fritatta

Here's what I had (used):

1 cup mini tater tots
1 cheddar bratwurst (hot dog)
1 roma tomato, chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar/jack cheese mix
6 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp butter

Here's what I did:

Preheated oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-sized skillet over medium heat I added my frozen tater tots and butter (just to keep them from sticking to the pan - you could also try Pam). About 5 minutes, and once softened, I cut each in half and let them start to crisp. At this point I cut my bratwurst lengthwise, and then into 1/4" little pieces, and added them to the skillet. Once heated through, I added the tomatoes and beaten eggs, shredded cheese, salt and pepper to taste. I stirred several times to incorporate all ingredients.

Then I put my oven-safe skillet into the oven for 15-20 minutes. Delish. Texture of a quiche. Easy, easy, easy. Everyone was happy.


Yogurt Marinated Lamb Kebabs w/ Roasted Peppers and Whole Wheat Couscous

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Yumm. Something grilled in the middle of winter. I feel like I'm cheating some sort of natural law by enjoying "grilled" food in January. I found this recipe in my South Beach Cookbook. Definitely easy, healthy and satisfying.

Yogurt Marinated Lamb Kebabs with Roasted Peppers and Couscous

Here's what I used:

1 lb cubed lamb loin
1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 wooden skewers

2 green bell peppers, seeded, cubed 1" pieces
1 onion, cubed 1" pieces

1 cup Whole Wheat Couscous
1 1/4 cup water
pinch salt
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
(a squeeze of lemon juice)

Cuisinart Indoor grill (but you can use a ridged frying pan too)

Here's what I did:

First I prepared my marinade by combining the yogurt, garlic, and seasoning in a mixing bowl, and added my lamb. I allowed this to sit until ready to grill, but recipe recommends 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, I seeded and cubed my green peppers, and chopped the onion. I also soaked my wooden skewers in water for several minutes, so that they didn't burn on the indoor grill. Then I brushed my indoor grill with olive oil and set the dial to med-high.

Once my veggies were cut, I added them and 2 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper to a mixing bowl, and coated thoroughly. Then I skewered my vegetables on several skewers and set them on the grill. These took about 15-20 minutes to slightly soften, but still maintain some crunch.

When the veggies were getting close to being done, at about the 15 minute mark, I skewered my lamb and added that to the grill as well, turning once after 4 minutes - for a total of 8 minutes cook time.

While the kebabs were cooking, I added the water, olive oil and seasoning to a saucepan, and once boiling, added my couscous, and removed from heat. I fluffed with a fork after about 5 minutes and added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (maybe 1/2 tsp).

By the time the lamb was cooked, so were the veggies and the couscous. I plated the skewers overtop the couscous. At this point, we tasted the meat and added a touch more salt to taste.

Cajun Chicken Soup

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

This is a recipe that I used to cook regularly in the winter months while Nick and I lived in Arlington, VA. We'd invite a few friends over for football, put a few logs on the fire, make this soup and enjoy it with some crusty, rustic bread. Just the ticket for a chilly winter day.

Cajun Chicken Soup

Here's what I used:

1 chicken, cut in parts (including back & neck if you can find it)
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp chopped garlic (I used pre-chopped garlic from a jar)
3 quarts water
3 tbsp salt
1 tsp Tony Chacheries (or other Cajun seasoning)
2 tsp black pepper
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 bag egg noodles (or linguini/spaghetti broken into 2-3" pieces)

Here's what I did:

Add chicken, water, seasonings and all vegetables to a large stock pot or dutch oven. Bring to a boil, and then down to a simmer for 50 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from the pot and take off skin. Take meat off the bone and rough chop into bite size pieces, about 1" cubes. While chicken is removed, bring soup back to a boil and add egg noodles. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes. Once noodles are cooked through, add chicken back into soup and serve.

This soup is so flavorful and rich, while still being healthy, fresh and yummy. Really hit the spot. In fact, this is what I will be having for lunch today, too!!

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