Monthly Archives: April 2009

Chicken Parmesan a la Jeb

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I believe that the ability to fry up a good chicken cutlet is a skill that comes in handy all the time. I’ve never made chicken Parmesan before, but I knew it involved this skill. The dish doesn’t seem to need a recipe: fry chicken, bake with marinara sauce and cheese. Serve over pasta. Done. Presto.

We had this leftover homemade Jebinara sauce from a cool guy/awesome cook I know named Jeb (he’s single, ladies!). We had pasta. We had chicken. We had Paremsan cheese. I picked up some mozarella cheese at the store and this meal instantly became my new “brilliantly cheap” recipe of the week.

First, I pounded four chicken breasts between two pieces of wax paper. I don’t have a mallet, so I just used a small cast-iron pan. You really can use anything that’s big and heavy. I’ve never done this before, but it really makes that chicken tender!

Next, I set up my dredging station. Three shallow dishes: flour + seasoned salt + paprika, egg + splash of water, bread crumbs + dried basil. You can do this any way you like. I wish I had Italian bread crumbs, but I didn’t, so I added basil to the crumbs and it was wonderful. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour, shake off excess, then egg, shake, then bread crumbs, shake.

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Next, I heated canola oil in a pan over medium and fried each breast until golden on each side.

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I set the oven to 350 degrees and placed the finished chicken in a glass baking dish. I covered them moderately with marinara sauce (you can make this yourself or just buy it from a store). Next, top with shredded mozzarella cheese (about a cup) and a little Parmesan cheese. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, if you like a little heat (we do!).

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Bake in the oven until all the cheese is melted (the Parm won’t really melt like the moz.).

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Meanwhile, cook some spaghetti and toss with a simple garlic oil: four chopped garlic cloves cooked in 2 T olive oil. Add salt and pepper and chopped parsley, if you have it.

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When the chicken dish is done, take it out to cool and sprinkle parsley over the top. Plate up the pasta, top with the chicken and add more Parm, if you want. Serve with a simple salad and a glass of red wine.

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Thank you, Jeb, for that awesome sauce, which you know we also used in the toasted ravioli. Please send us more next Christmas!

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Braised Beef Short Ribs

Meh.

Meh.

I’ve wanted to make short ribs for a long time. I’ve seen them on The Food Network, I’ve seen them on blogs and, finally, I saw them in the discount meat bin.

I can’t lie – they were kind of a big, fat pain in the you-know-what. And honestly, I wasn’t blown away with the result. I’d rather eat a pot roast if I’m going to braise something for three hours! At least that has more than three bites of meat.

I basically used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, with a little Simply Recipes in there. I like how Smitten Kitchen roasted the ribs after they had braised. Gave it that extra flavor. Still, I thought there was too much sauce for not enough meat.

First, you sear the short ribs (which, of course, you marinated overnight with pepper and thyme).

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Then sautee your aromatics…

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Add a bottle of red wine, a half a bottle of port and some beef stock and braise for three hours. Blah blah blah, strain the sauce, reduce and serve over mashed potatoes.

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Again, I’d rather have a pot roast.

Hoppin’ John!

The picture is kinda bad, but trust me, the bacon makes this de-lish!

The picture is kinda bad, but trust me, the bacon makes this de-lish!

This is a down-home meal that my mom has made ever since I was little. Whenever we were on ski trips, mom would get requests for it. Whenever she’s on a retreat with her women friends, she makes it. I think she’s even made it on one of those multi-family camping trips we used to take.

Apparently, in the South, it is traditional to make hoppin’ john for New Years. It’s supposed to give you good luck.

Well, I think this one-pot, dirt-cheap meal is good luck any day of the year. I’ve always hated peas, by the way (can you tell I was a picky child?). But blackeyed peas were always the exception – they taste more salty than anything else.

I calculated how much it costs to make and it was like $5. And it feeds at least four people!

Here is my mom’s hoppin’ john:

Ingredients:

4 strips of bacon, chopped ($1)

1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (a liberal 50 cents)

1/2 c. long grain rice (30 cents)

1 can diced tomatoes and green chilis – I used fire-roasted (89 cents)

1 can blackeyed peas, with liquid (89 cents)

1/2 c. water (or more, if you need it) (free!)

Fry bacon in a dry, heated skillet until crispy. Transfer to a plate to drain. Pour off all the grease, except 3 Tablespoons. Add the onion and saute until translucent (I LOVE the smell of onions cooking in bacon fat – HELLO!). Stir in the rice for about a minute. Add tomatoes,blackeyed peas, bacon and water. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and simmer until the rice is done. This will take 20-40 minutes. Stir. Season to taste.

Serve with freshly baked cornbread and a simple salad.

Enjoy, y’all!

p.s. I hope you are ready for more Southern dishes as I prepare for my big move to North Carolina!

Better-than-Cinnabon rolls

Fresh from the oven and waiting for frosting...

Fresh from the oven and waiting for frosting...

I may  not have a bun in the oven…but I sure look like I do after eating these amazing cinnamon rolls that I’ve been slaving over for 24 hours. Oh sweet little baby Jesus… I am in a sugar coma.

Note: I usually hate sweet things in the morning. I’m more of a chicken-fried steak with gravy girl than a french toast with whipped cream girl.

I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen Friday and I won’t even try to recreate it here. Working with active yeast is kind of annoying and time consuming. For example, last time I used yeast, it was to make pizza dough for my chicken-pesto calzones. I guess my house was too cold, because my dough barely rose after like five hours.

This time, I fed the yeast sugar and let it rise in an oven warmed to 170 degrees and turned off. It rose perfectly.

A couple differences between my recipe and Smitten Kitchen’s: I didn’t use rapid-rise yeast, so it took twice as long; I used 1% milk instead of whole; and 1/3 less fat cream cheese instead of full for the frosting. It still tasted decadent! Um…and I also rolled my dough out more than I should have, but it produced twice as many rolls. Guilty.

Below is a picture of one of three pans of cinnamon rolls I made. And yes, there are just two of us living here, plus one kitty who only eats dry food.

Just turned out of the pan - your house never smelled so good!

Just turned out of the pan - your house never smelled so good!

Also, if you don’t have five hours in the morning to make cinnamon rolls from scratch, here’s my advice: Make the dough and the rolls the night before, without baking. Cover them in their pans with plastic wrap, then put them in the fridge. The next morning, take them out and let them rise in a warm, draft-free place. Finally, bake them off and shmear with cream-cheese frosting.

4 oz. cream cheese, 1/2 stick butter, 1 c. powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp. vanilla

4 oz. cream cheese, 1/2 stick butter, 1 c. powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp. vanilla

And then you’ll have this deliciousness – I recommend this recipe for when you have company staying over. Sure, it takes a while and is a bit of a pain, but you know what they say about pleasure and pain….

Don't drool on your keyboard

Don't drool on your keyboard

Puttanesca, revisited

I could write about puttanesca every four weeks, and it still wouldn’t do justice to this delicious, cheap and easy pasta dish. And this comes from someone who hates tomato-based things and used to think she hated anchovies.

Instead of writing the recipe again, I am going to take readers on a photo-journey of the simple brilliance of pasta puttanesca. Maybe then you’ll see how easily you can whip it up in your own kitchen?

1. Olive oil + pan + medium heat

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2. Add chopped:

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3. Add drained (anchovy fillets):

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4. Add pinch of:

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5. Stir until looks like:

Before adding the red pepper flakes

Before adding the red pepper flakes

6. Then add:

Capers, chopped kalamata olives

Capers, chopped kalamata olives

7. And add:

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8. And add chopped:

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9. Stir, and simmer while cooking this:

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10. When done, toss:

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11. Grate this:

Parm-reg.

Parm-reg.

12. Until you have this:

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13. Serve with this:

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Season to taste and rejoice!

Easter fave: raspberry-lemon shortbread tart

A sour confection

A sour confection

This recipe always gets requests around Easter time. I don’t know why the tartness of the lemons always make me think of spring, but the fresh flavors seem to cut any heavy meal you’ve had before. 😉

So, this recipe originally came from the Rachael Ray magazine, but we all know that Miss Ray would and could never bake something like this because she’s always screaming about how she doesn’t cook. I like it because it’s pretty inexpensive and easy – you don’t even need an electric mixer.

Because R-Ray owns the copyright, you can find the recipe here.

It starts with an easy shortbread crust, which you bake until golden. Bake this in a spring-form pan, btw. Sprinkle thawed frozen raspberries over the top. Then, cover the crust with custard made with eggs, flour, a little sugar and the zest and juice of two lemons.  Bake until the custard is set (which took 25 minutes longer than the recipe calls for).

When cooled, dust the tart with powdered sugar. This is best served cold or at room temperature.

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This will last up to five days covered in the fridge. It’s also great to make ahead of your special occasion. Enjoy!

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How to make Dutch babies

Ahem: no babies were harmed in the preparation or consumption of this meal.

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So I made the seven-hour drive home for Easter and it’s been a nonstop food fest! We’ve had Mexican, Japanese and Thai food so far, but today is all about cooking in our own kitchen.

Our Easter festivities will be later in the day (garlic-studded lamb grilled over charcoal! Chipotle potatoes au gratin! Deviled eggs!), but mom made a special breakfast to start us off (after seeing what the Easter bunny brought, of course.)

So. Dutch babies. Also known as puffed oven-baked pancakes. These showy little wonders are light as air and the perfect receptacle for butter and caramelized apple slices.

Ingredients:

1 T unsalted butter per individual glass or ceramic ramekin

1 egg

1/4 c. low-fat milk

1/4 c. flour

1/4 tsp almond extract

1/2 tsp lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees and place one pat of butter in each ramekin and heat in the oven until melted.

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Meanwhile, beat the egg in a blender until bright yellow. Gradually add milk and flour. Stir in almond extract and lemon zest. Pour the batter into the hot ramekins that will now have the melted butter. Return to the oven.

Bake until the pancakes puff up and turn slightly golden, about 12 minutes.

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Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon and a dusting of powdered sugar…

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As for the topings, mom sliced a bunch of apples.

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Which she then cooked with spices and sugar until browned and gooey.

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We had strawberries, pineapple and oven-baked bacon on the side. I am TELLING you: the best way to cook bacon is in your oven. It cuts down on splatter and the smell. And it retains the greasy deliciousness.

Simply preheat the oven to 400, line a baking sheet with foil, add the bacon in a flat layer and bake about 7 minutes, turn the pan, and another 7 minutes. Adjust the cooking time for your preferred level of doneness.

Mmmm...bacon!

Mmmm...bacon!

If breakfast is this good, I can’t wait for supper!

She who can can, can.

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After months of talking about it, my very Martha Stewart-esque friend finally passed her canning wisdom on to myself. I know, it’s hard to believe that someone can out-Martha me, but…it’s not hard, people.

I remember watching my mom and her friends do canning when I was little. It seemed to take forever, but I loved all the applesauce, peaches and preserves that resulted. I loved the smell of molten fruit and burning my fingers on drips of jam that fell on the stove. Of course, mom grew up on a farm in the South, so these preserving techniques were natural to her. For me, they just seemed scary, time-consuming and full of cookware that I don’t own.

That’s where my resourceful friend came in. She has all the canning equipment, complete with jars, and offered to teach me the craft. And with nary a recipe in sight…

I arrived around 9 a.m. and 50 pounds of apples were bobbing in her sink.

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I drank my first two cups of coffee while she got the apple peeler ready. You know, those things that take the peel off in a nice long ribbon. Her two little boys had fun with those.

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She worked the machinery and I chopped.

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After a couple hours of skinning, coring and chopping, we had all 50 pounds of apples in a giant aluminum pot with a little water and lemon juice. Here they are starting to break down and oxidize..

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We stirred, the apples simmered. We stirred some more, the apples simmered some more.

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We added a bunch of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg. Once the apples were mushy with some larger chunks, it was time to can! I learned that sanitation is the No.1 concern with canning, and if you aren’t careful, the applesauce will be moldy and rotten. So she washed the mason jars in scalding water and then boiled them in another huge pot. This took so many pots!

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Then we boiled the lids, filled the steaming jars with apples, placed the lids on and then put the jars back in the boiling water to seal. Twenty minutes later, we took them out and let them rest while the lids sucked shut.

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Five hours after we begun, we had about 20 large jars of home-made applesauce that is delicious. It would be great warm, over vanilla ice cream or chilled out of the fridge for a nice snack.

I have to say, the whole experience was very rewarding. Even though it took a good chunk of time, it felt good to chop all those apples and to have the fragrance of apples and spices bubbling around me. I can’t wait to learn how to can peaches and freezer jam next – I’m on a roll!

Roast pork tenderloin

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This is another one of those dishes that makes your house smell amazing.

My boss gave me the recipe and it’s become my stand-by for comforting pork (from the discount food bin, of course) and a perfect gravy. I make it with mashed potatoes, of course.

You’ll definitely need a big skillet that can go from the stove top to the oven for this. I actually had to borrow one when I first started making it.

In that skillet, melt 2 T butter and 2 T olive oil over high heat. Add the pork tenderloin and sear on all sides for a golden-brown crust. Then, place in a 325 degree oven for 30-40 minutes (my oven took 40 minutes). The pan will still be sizzling and popping. The pork is ready when still slightly pink.

While that cooks, make mashed potatoes.

When the pork is done, remove it to a plate and tent with foil.

Put the pan back on the stove on medium heat (wear oven mitts!) and spoon in 2 T flour. Whisk together to form a roux. Whisk in a couple cups of chicken stock and keep whisking to dissolve any clumps. Let the gravy thicken and add celery salt (I used seeds), garlic salt (I used powder) and salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the pork, place it on the mashed potatoes and spoon over the gravy. Serve something green on the side, such as sugar snap peas or broccoli.

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Ugh, I always eat way too much of this and end up with a stomach ache! Enjoy, friends.

Classic chocolate chip cookies

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Who doesn’t love these things?

I’m not going to even post the recipe here – whether you’re getting yours from Better Homes & Gardens (like me) or from the back of the chocolate chip package, this basic recipe is comforting any time of year.

I’m not perfect – I ate some of the cookie dough, too.

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The smell of cookies baking is almost as good as the resulting confection. I like mine crispy at the edges, but soft and chewy in the middle. A cold glass of milk is mandatory.

cookie monsters anon.

cookie monsters anon.