Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Arroz con Pollo

2 chicken breasts, bone-in & skinned
2 whole chicken legs, bone-in & skinned
2 chicken drumsticks, bone-in & skinned
2 T extra-virgin olive oil + 2 T for cooking
2 t paprika
2 t mild chile powder
2 t dried oregano
2 t cumin
2 t salt
1 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 C rice
3 C chicken stock
3 tomatoes, chopped
 2 bay leaves
1 cup peas
1/3 C sliced black olives

In a large dish, combine 2 T oil with seasonings.  Coat the chicken in the seasoned oil and marinate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. 

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a large oven-proof skillet or Dutch oven, heat 2 T oil over medium-high heat and brown chicken on both sides, in batches if you necessary (don’t overcrowd your pan because you won’t get a good sear on your chicken).  Transfer the chicken to a plate.  Add onions to the pan and cook until translucent.  Add garlic and rice and cook until the rice is translucent.  Add the tomatoes and stir to combine.  Season with a good pinch of salt.  Add the chicken back to the pan along with the stock and bay leaves.  Cover and bake for 1 hour.

Take the chicken and rice from the oven and add peas and olives and mix to combine.  Re-cover and allow to sit for 10 – 30 minutes before serving.

Slow-Cooker Black Beans

I got this recipe from one of my favorite slow-cooker cookbooks, Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker:  Recipes for Entertaining by Beth Hensperger & Julie Kaufmann.  I’ve slightly adapted it with a few additions.  I usually serve them over rice as a side dish with chopped cilantro mixed in.

1 lb black beans; rinsed, picked through, and soaked
1 onion, small diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 t cumin
1 t onion powder
1 t garlic powder
1 t dried oregano
2 bay leaves
¼ C extra-virgin olive oil
12 C water
1-1/4 lb ham hock
S&P, tt

Add onion, garlic, seasonings, oil, and beans to the crock pot and stir together.  Nestle the ham hocks into the beans and cover with water by 2 inches.  Cook on HIGH for 4-6 hours.  The beans should be tender with lots of liquor (term for flavored cooking water).  Season to taste with S&P.  Remove the bay leaf and ham hock.

A few tips for cooking dried beans:

-Soak your beans overnight.  Just put them in a bowl and cover them with water, about 12 cups of water per pound of beans.  It helps decrease the gassiness of beans and also decreases cooking time.  I have forgotten many times to soak my beans, but there’s an easy solution.  Put the beans in a pot with plenty of water and bring to boil.  Boil for a couple minutes and then remove from heat.  Cover and set aside for 1 hour.

-Don’t salt your beans during the cooking process.  Rumor has it that this will prevent your beans from softening.  There are arguments in the culinary world about this, but I’d rather not take my chances, so I just don’t add salt until the very end.

-Freeze your beans in their liquor.  I make larges batches of beans and then just freeze the leftovers in small containers to take out as I need.

Chorizo and Potatoes

I use this filling for tacos, in empanadas, as a pizza topping (by the way…chorizo & potato pizza is outstanding!), or just in a bowl over rice.  Any kind of Mexican* chorizo would work with this too, but I use soy chorizo.  This is a very simple dish and a big comfort food for me.  I find that the simplest dishes are my very favorite from my childhood.  Just to make it clear, my mom would never in a million years try soy chorizo…she calls it “the fake stuff.”  That being said, here’s my recipe for chorizo & potatoes.

1 T extra-virgin olive oil
6 oz soy Mexican chorizo
2 red potatoes, par-cooked**
4 green onions, sliced
S&P, to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat, and add chorizo.  Break it up in the pan and cook for about 5-7 minutes.  Add potatoes and cook until cooked through, about another 5 minutes.  Add green onions and cook for a minute or two.  Season with S&P.

*When I say Mexican chorizo, I’m talking about the uncooked, soft version as opposed to the smoked, firm Spanish version.  If you are using beef or pork, there is no need for oil because they're a lot fattier.

**I par-cook the potatoes to make the cooking process go a little faster, but if I’m using it for a pizza topping I don’t par-cook because it finishes cooking in the oven.   I also slice the potatoes if I’m using it for pizza rather than dicing.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Menu #8

This week seemed to just zip by!  Where does the time go???  Making weekly menus does help with grocery costs and dinner-time anxiety, but it also allows me to notice more so how quickly the weeks pass by.  Anyhow, here's my weekly menu...

Monday:  Soy Chorizo & Potato Tacos w/ crock-pot black beans
If you like chorizo but have never tried soy chorizo, you really should at least once.  It has such great flavor and crumbles with the same texture.  I like it with eggs, beans, rice, and potatoes.  I’ll post the recipe with pics along with the recipe for the crock-pot black beans because these black beans are truly great!

Tuesday:  Arroz con Pollo w/ leftover black beans & Southwest salad
Arroz con Pollo is one of many favorite comfort foods that I remember from my childhood. I’m making an extra one for my group’s Meals on Heels.  Meals on Heels is a program in which we take turns making dinners for our friends who just had babies.  The Southwest salad is not only delish but it’s also quite an attractive dish.  It’s layered with greens, corn, black beans, tomatoes, cheese, and tossed with a cilantro-lime dressing.  I’ll definitely post pics & recipes.

Wednesday:  Leftovers

Thursday:  BBQ Ribs or Chicken w/ broccoli salad & wheat rolls
I’m making another batch of either ribs or chicken along with broccoli salad for another Meals on Heels. 

Friday:  Cheeseburger Mac w/ corn & garlic wheat buns
I’m going out for drinks & a movie with the girls, but I’m going to make this quick dinner for the boys before I leave.  (Usually they are on their own for dinner if I’m out but I’m feeling a tad bit guilty since I’ll be gone two nights in a row and one of the night’s is to watch Magic Mike.)  ;)  This is an easy family-pleasing recipe that I’ll share with you later. 

Saturday:  French Cooking Class:  Steak w/ Bearnaise Sauce, Chicken in White Wine Sauce, & Crème Brulee
I’m teaching a French Cooking Class, so the boys will be eating leftover cheeseburger mac.  J 

Sunday:  Grilled Shrimp Kabobs w/ steamed brown rice & cheesy squash

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cucumber-Tomato Salad

This salad is one of my hubby's very favorites.  We eat it quite a bit in the summer, especially since cucumbers & tomatoes are at the peak of their season and are very cheap right now.  This salad also makes a perfect accompaniment to grilled food. 

Cucumber-Tomato Salad

 2 cucumbers, peeled & chopped
2 tomatoes, seeded & chopped
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 T sugar
2 T apple cider vinegar
S&P, tt

Toss together all the vegs in a large bowl.  In a small bowl mix together mayo, sugar, vinegar, and S&P to make dressing.  Add dressing & toss again.  Taste for seasoning & serve!

Let's Talk Soup

Let’s talk soup!  I know the weather is calling for outdoor barbecues with grilled foods, but I love soup!  I can have soup at any time year-round, and most importantly my 4-year-old loves soup too.  Two of my very favorite soups are Tortilla Soup and Roasted Red Pepper Soup.  Since I’ve made both within the last few weeks, I thought I’d share the recipes. 

Tortilla Soup

2 T canola oil
1 onion, small diced
1 red bell pepper, small diced
1 jalapeno, minced
2 tomatoes, small diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 qt chicken stock
1-2 cups chopped or shredded chicken
1 T chili powder
½ T paprika
½ t cumin
S&P, to taste
Soup Garnishes:  avocado, cheese, Greek yogurt or sour cream, tortilla chips, lime, cilantro

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large pot.  Add onion, bell pepper, & jalapeno and sauté until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.  Add tomatoes, season with S&P and stir; allow to cook for about 5 minutes.  Add stock (I used turkey stock because that’s what I had in my freezer, and it worked out great!)  and season with chili powder, paprika, cumin, and S&P.  Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and allow to cook for 20 minutes.  Add chicken and cook for another 5 minutes for chicken.  Taste for seasoning and serve with garnishes.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

3 large red bell peppers
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
3 thyme sprigs
S&P, to taste
8 basil leave, chiffonade
Soup garnishes:  Parmesan cheese & Greek yogurt or sour cream

Drizzle the bell peppers and whole garlic cloves (skin on) with olive oil and place in the broiler set on high for about 3 minutes per side; you want a good char on them.  Place them in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Leave them to the side while you cut your other ingredients.  After at least 10 minutes, start peeling the bell pepper skin.  It should just peel right off.  Cut off the stems, discard the seeds, and chop up the pepper.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large pot and add onion and carrot; cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add roasted pepper, squeeze roasted garlic out of skin, and add bay leaf and thyme sprigs and cook another 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes and stock, and bring to a low boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and discard the bay leaf and thyme stems.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender, being very careful not to splash around because the soup is really hot.  (You could puree in a blender or food processor, working in batches, but be sure to allow steam to escape from the top so heat doesn’t build up while pureeing.)  Once pureed, add the basil, taste for seasoning, and serve!   

Monday, June 18, 2012

Menu #7

We just got back from a lazy weekend at the Green Valley Lake cabin, and I’m still in that mind set so I’m filling this week’s menu with easy & quick dishes.    

Monday:  Roasted Red Pepper-Tomato Soup w/ grilled cheese sandwiches
Never got to this last week…

Tuesday:  Shrimp Tacos w/ guacamole & green rice

Wednesday:  Leftovers for boys…Book Club for me
I just finished reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants for book club.  The book had me laughing out loud, and I can’t wait to talk about it!  I’m going to take something to munch on while we’re chatting, but I just haven’t decided what yet.

Thursday:  Pasta w/ marinara & turkey meatballs and salad
For the meatballs, I make a huge batch on one of my big energetic days and freeze them so I can use them up on my lazy or hectic days.  ;-) 

Friday:  Crock-Pot Pulled Pork Sandwiches w/ horseradish coleslaw & corn on the cob
On this day, Xavier is having a Slip n Slide playdate!  We’ll be serving cream cheese & jam mini sandwiches, pasta salad w/ bacon, peas, & corn (Xavier’s fave), and berry-yogurt popsicles…yummy! 

Saturday:  Grilled BBQ Chicken w/ cucumber-tomato salad & baked potatoes w/ Greek yogurt & scallions

Sunday:  Storm Game!
Heading to the ballpark with some friends to watch Storm baseball, so it will be hot dogs, nachos, cracker jacks, and beer…yay!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Damn Good Baked Beans

That's what I call these beans because they are not only good but they are damn good!  I wrote about these beans last week, and now I'm going to share this recipe with you.  I got the recipe from my friend, Cecilia, who got them from her friend in San Francisco.  I didn't get any photos of the beans because pictures just don't do this dish justice.

Baked Beans

yields:  8

1 1/3 large (diced) onion
2 2/3 can(s) (16 oz.) pork and beans
4 tablespoon(s) yellow mustard
1/3 cup(s) maple syrup
1/3 cup(s) light brown sugar
1/3 cup(s) ketchup
1 1/3 tablespoon(s) lemon juice
2/3 pound(s) bacon strips, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup BBQ sauce


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a Dutch oven, combine onion, pork and beans, mustard, maple syrup, light brown sugar, ketchup, BBQ sauce, and lemon juice, bacon pieces; mix well. Bake, covered, 45 to 60 minutes.
3. Bake uncovered 1-2 hrs, allow to rest before serving. Texture should be thick, not watery. (Cecilia made a note in the recipe when she sent it to me regarding the last step.  She rises the oven to 450 at this point and bakes for 1 hour.  When I made the beans, I cooked the bacon and onion in the first step to hurry up the cooking process.  I cooked it 45 min covered and 1 hour uncovered and it worked out great.  Either way, the beans were damn good!)

Menu #6

Once again we had an action-packed week filled with a graduation, a graduation party, and BBQ at the lake, and it just flew by!  My weekly menu consists of all the leftovers from yesterday’s BBQ at the lake and is going to be short because we are heading to our friends, John & Donna’s, cabin in Green Valley Lake for Father’s Day weekend.  The cabin isn’t even a whole hour from our house, but it always feels so far away from everything.  During the winter is fun for all the snow play, but I love the summer because we can swim in the lake, go fishing, and have BBQ dinners on the back patio with an amazing view.  (The pic above is of my two men at Green Valley Lake.)  J

Monday:  Breakfast for Dinner:  Sausage, Pepper, & Onion Omelets w/ country potatoes & fruit salad

Tuesday:  BBQ Chicken Pizza w/ green salad

Wednesday:  Roasted Red Pepper-Tomato Soup w/ grilled cheese sandwiches

Thursday:  Leaving to Lake

Friday:  BBQ at Lake...

Saturday:  BBQ at Lake...

Sunday:  Father's Day BBQ at Lake!  Grilled steak & Shrimp Kabobs w/ cucumber-tomato salad, some sort of potato, & homemade ice cream (not sure of flavor yet).

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lil' Chefs School

I need to tell you about my Lil’ Chefs School that I teach monthly from my home.  This class is so much fun to teach, and the kids have a great time too.  We’ve cooked so many different foods together from smoothies & breakfast pizzas to empanadas & jam tarts.  Last week we made Baked Parmesan Fish Sticks with a make-your-own-pasta-salad bar, and for a sweet ending we had Nutella Pops ( for dessert.  The kids really enjoyed the fish sticks and Nutella Pops, but they had a blast making their own pasta salad!  I’ll share fun pics from our class along with the recipes for both the fish sticks and pops.  J

Baked Parmesan Fish Sticks:

Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 C buttermilk
1 lb mild fish (halibut, striped bass, cod, swai, tilapia…), cut into strips
1 1/4 C finely grated Parmesan
3/4 C toasted bread crumbs
1 t salt

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Spray a baking sheet liberally with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.

Put the buttermilk into a large bowl. Add the fish strips and let stand for 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, stir together Parmesan, bread crumbs and salt. Remove the fish from the buttermilk, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl, and dredge in the bread crumb mixture to coat completely.  (For the class, I put a small amount of bread crumb mixture into individual plastic bags so they could shake up their own fish sticks...they loved this!) Arrange the coated fish in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake about 8 minutes on each side until golden and crispy.

Nutella Pops:

3 frozen bananas
1 T cocoa powder
½ c Nutella
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
pinch salt

Using a food processor, puree all ingredients until smooth. (thawing the bananas a bit helps for easier blending).  At this point, you can eat it as ice cream or scoop into tiny paper cuts with a popsicle stick and freeze.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Menu #5 (Updated)

It’s that time again…weekly menu planning!  Last week’s menu didn’t go exactly as planned.  I taught a Lil’ Chefs class on Friday and it ended into an all-afternoon kid’s party.  It was great fun and I have fabulous pics to share from the class, but by the time dinnertime rolled around I was pooped.  Same thing pretty much happened for Saturday and Sunday.  We had end-of-season T-ball activities along with a birthday brunch.  The whole weekend was action-packed and we enjoyed it, but we are now completely exhausted!  I have to say, I am very disappointed I wasn’t able to get to my Jamie Oliver Wonky Pasta, but since I do have all the ingredients on hand I’ll get to that soon…maybe next week…or the week after…

Monday:  Tortilla Chicken Soup
I’ve been making this tortilla soup for years, and I think it may be one of my very favorite soups.  It’s a very simple soup made with onions, carrots, jalapenos, tomatoes, and chicken and garnished with tortilla chips, avocado, Greek yogurt, lime, and cilantro.  I’ll take pics tonight while I’m making it and post the recipe also. 

Tuesday:  Tuna Salad Sandwiches w/ radishes on whole-grain bread with homemade potato chips
I bought this super-duper, hand-dandy microwave potato chip maker from my friend’s Pampered Chef fundraiser and I can’t wait to use it!  I love potato chips…I just love chips in general.  For that reason I don’t keep them in the house; otherwise, I would find a reason to get into the pantry all day just to sneak chips.  This is my new recipe for the week, so I’ll let you know how it works.  J

Wednesday:  Dinner Out
My niece’s High School Graduation!

Thursday:  Shrimp & Grits

Friday:  Grilled Italian Chicken Sausage w/ bell pepper-onion kabobs & brown rice pilaf

Saturday:  Graduation BBQ Party:  Baked Beans & Grilled Stuffed Jalapenos
I’m contributing two dishes for my niece's graduation BBQ.  They are both recipes that I got from the Memorial Day Shinn-Dig:  Cecilia's baked beans and Jessica's stuffed grilled jalapenos.  The baked beans are a revamped version of Paula Deen's baked beans recipe, which my friend got from her friend in San Francisco.  I've made Paula Deen's baked bean recipe before, but this new version is really something special.  I’ll post the recipe later this week.  The grilled jalapenos are very simple, un-battered jalapeno poppers.  The peppers are just cut in half lengthwise, stuffed with cream cheese, topped with jalapeno jack, and grilled…so simple yet so tasty!

Sunday:  BBQ at the Lake

I love BBQ season!  We’re contributing chicken and vegetable kabobs, hot dogs, and Smores…yummy! 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Pineapple Kabobs & Spicy Peanut Dressing

We use pineapple a lot in our house.  We use it for snacking, in fried rice, in muffins, with ice cream, in smoothies...  Our latest favorite is grilled pineapple kabobs.  The other night we grilled teriyaki salmon with grilled pineapple kabobs over brown rice.  I sprinkled a tiny bit of brown sugar onto the pineapple and this added great caramelization.  I also made a fabulous spicy peanut dressing for a side salad.  The flavors were super good together.  I’m going to show pics below of basic pineapple cutting and also I’ll share the peanut dressing recipe.  J

To make the pineapple stable for safe cutting, cut both ends off.

Stand the pineapple on one end, and cut the rind off the pineapple as shown in the pic below. 

The core in the middle of the pineapple isn’t very pleasant to eat, so cut that out if your using it for snacking.  When using it for kabobs, I keep it in because I use the woodsy core to poke the skewer through as in the picture below.  These only have to be grilled until you get the grill marks and the sugars have caramelized.

Spicy Peanut Dressing

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated on a zester
2 teaspoons chili garlic paste (I use Huy Fong Foods…it’s the one with the rooster printed on the front)
1 tablespoon Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (soy sauce can be substituted)
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup canola oil
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Just throw this all together in a mason jar & shake, shake, shake!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Banana Split Cake

Let’s talk banana split cake!  So I made this banana split cake for my friend’s Memorial Day party, and it was definitely yummy but it had its downfalls (for me at least…my 4-year-old son said this was a definite thumbs up!)  It was a layered dessert of graham cracker crust, sliced bananas, strawberry ice cream, walnuts, homemade chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and garnishes of graham cracker crust crumbs & confetti sprinkles.  How could a dessert like that have any downfalls at all you ask?  Although it received high ratings for taste, serving this cake was easier said than done.  It was hard to scoop out of the dish because the crust and banana slices were frozen solid and it became messy the longer we kept it out to thaw the bottom.  These issues are trivial compared to the scrumptiousness of the cake though and they can easily be solved.  I’ll post some pics and explain how I’ve solved these issues.

Banana Split Pie

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted, plus 1/4 cup butter
4 to 5 medium bananas, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1-1/2 quarts strawberry ice cream, softened
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) container whipped topping (I just made my own whipped cream & added it to top layer)

In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and the melted butter. Set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture, then press the remainder into the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch pan.

Place the bananas in a single layer over the crust. Spread the softened ice cream on top and smooth. Sprinkle the nuts on the ice cream, then cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, about 1 hour.

In a large saucepan, melt the chocolate chips and the remaining 1/4 cup butter and stir until smooth. Add the confectioners' sugar and evaporated milk. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until slightly thickened and smooth, about 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Cool the mixture, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the mixture over the ice cream and freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.  (This chocolate sauce was amazing!  It tasted more like a chocolate-caramel sauce...I could have eaten a bowl of it by itself!  Taste aside, I made a tiny mistake at this point.  I didn't let it cool enough before pouring onto the frozen ice cream layer.  Although it was cooled for 30 min like the recipe directions state, it wasn't nearly cool enough.  At first when I began to add the sauce it was so pretty and shiny and made a great chocolate layer, but because it wasn't cool enough it immediately started melting the ice cream and swirled together...note the pic below.  So, next time I would let the ice cream freeze for 1-1/2 hours and add the sauce after its cooled for an hour.)

Spread the whipped topping over the chocolate layer and sprinkle with the reserved crumbs. Freeze for at least 3-1/2 hours. Remove the dish from the freezer 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.  (Here's where it gets a bit tricky.  Leaving it out for 10 minutes did not at all work because the whole thing was still frozen solid, but at 20 minutes the top layers began to melt and the bottom layers were still frozen solid.  Next time, I'll let it thaw for about 10 minutes and then lower the bottom part into a sink of warm water to loosen up the bottom and then serve.  This should definitely work!)