Thursday, January 27, 2011

Super Simple Weeknight Meals: Country Chicken and Biscuits

Life seems to be flying by lately and my days seem to do the same. I have very few nights these days where I have time to make a nice dinner for the hubs and I, which means I'm in search of more and more quick and easy weeknight supper recipes. My dad gave me a cookbook a while ago and while thumbing through it one night, I found this recipe. I've made it many, many times as the hubs absolutely loves it. I love it because it's cheap and if using already cooked chicken, such as a rotisserie chicken from your local market, the prep work takes about 10 minutes and you can let your oven do the rest. Oh, and feel free to add any mixture of your favorite veggies to change up the dish as you'd like. 

Now as much as I'd love to live an organic lifestyle, sometimes life just doesn't permit it and this recipe is the perfect solution to those days. With that said, I plan to create my own version of this dish this summer when fresh veggies are in full swing and my days are a little longer. If it works out, you can expect a delish organic, Jersey Fresh Sunday supper to come your way in a few months. 

Country Chicken and Biscuits

1 14.5 oz can cream of soup, any variation you like such as cream of mushroom
1/3 cup milk
1 14.5 oz can green beans
1 cup frozen or canned peas
2 cups chicken, cooked and cut into bite size pieces
salt and pepper, to taste
1 11 oz can refrigerated biscuits

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine soup and milk in a large bowl. Add chicken, green beans, peas and salt and pepper. Spoon into an 11x7 inch baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 20 to 25 minutes. 

Remove from oven. Separate biscuits and place on top of heated chicken mixture. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until biscuits are baked through and golden brown. Serve hot.

Recipe adapted from "Old Fashioned Favorite Recipes of All Time" by Barnes and Noble

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Supper: Crab Cake Macaroni and Cheese

One of my favorite childhood memories stems from all the time I was lucky enough to spend as a kid with one of the most amazing women I know, my grandma Watson. She was a nurse in World War 2, raised my mom all on her own, and was absolutely the most fun person to hang out with when I was a kid, along with her sister, my aunt Hazel. When my brother and I visited her house for sleepovers it was all about what we wanted to do. I would make magazines with aunt Hazel, we'd play cards and lots of games including Tripoli and Sorry, and on New Year's Eve every year we would dance and party until the ball dropped. She truly made me feel like there was nothing else in the world she would rather be doing than hang out with my brother and I.

Along with all the great times we spent with her, I have great memories of food. We used to make delicious sugar cookies with frosting in fun shapes. I still remember exactly what all her cookie cutters looked like. She made the most amazing bread and butter pickles which I only hope to get the recipe for one of these days. And finally, something my brother would eat every day if he could, her macaroni and cheese. It wasn't anything special and was made with good old Velveeta cheese but it was so creamy and delicious and perfect every time she made it. This mac and cheese was such a huge part of my childhood that any time I see mac and cheese anywhere, it always takes me back to all of the great times I spent with my Grandma Watson. I think of her often and miss her a ton, but I'm so glad that I have so many memories that I will be able to share with my family one day through her recipes.

I saw this recipe on a Rachel Ray show recently. I don't really care for Rachel Ray and was telling the hubs that we should change the channel but then she said she'd be making crab cake mac and cheese. Between my love/warm fuzzies for mac and cheese and my love for crab cakes, I couldn't bare to change the channel. It looked so good that I had to give it a shot! I thought it'd be a perfect twist on my grandma's classic and perfect for Sunday Supper! The dish isn't terribly cheesy, which is a good thing because you really want the crab to be the star player. The panko gives it a little crunch and the hot sauce adds the perfect touch of heat. It turned out SO delish and definitely something that I'll make again. The only downfall is that it dirties quite a few dishes but it's so good and your hunny will be so satisf that I bet you could easily talk him into doing all the clean up!

Crab Cake Mac and Cheese

1lb elbow pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
6 tbsp butter
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp thyme (2 tbsp if fresh)
about 1 tbsp lemon zest
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 to 1lb jumbo fresh crab meat (picked through for shells)
1 tbsp old bay
3 tbsp flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1 cup gruyere, grated
3 tbsp (or to taste) hot sauce
1 cup panko bread crumbs
fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, about 2-3 minutes less so pasta is undercooked (it will cook more in the oven) and drain. Add to a large bowl.

In a saucepan heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter over medium high heat. Add celery, onion, red pepper, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, lemon zest, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook until tender, 6-8 minutes. Add crab meat and season liberally with old bay. Stir to combine and remove from heat.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt 3 tbsp butter and whisk in flour. Cook for 1 minute then whisk in milk until just starting to boil. Season with salt and pepper and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring so as not to burn, until cream sauce starts to thicken. Add mustard and cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Add cream sauce and vegetable mixture to bowl with pasta and stir to blend together.

Spoon mixture into a large casserole dish or into small individual baking crocks. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a saucepan. Add hot sauce and bread crumbs and toss to coat. Remove from heat and cool enough to handle then add parmesan. Top pasta mixture with bread crumb mixture and bake until heated through and bread crumbs are golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Recipe adapted from Rachel Ray on The Cooking Channel

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Warm Winter Nights: Baked Shells with Winter Squash

It's been cold and snowy here in the northeast the last few weeks. I'm not so into the cold, but when it snows, it is truly beautiful. I almost forgot how much I love it when it snows. I'd love it more if I could cozy up in my house with a fire and a big cup of hot tea after a bit of frolicking with my hounds, but unfortunately I've had to go to work the last few snow days. If I did get the chance to stay home on a snow day and play in the snow, I think I'd end the day with a warm dish of baked shells.

I love baked shells and was so excited when I found this dish because it's done with my kind of twist! It's cheesy and a little sweet- kinda like me! It's also pretty quick, easy and inexpensive. And if we had some little kiddies running around, I think it'd be a great way to sneak some veggies into their dinner! They'll totally buy it if you tell them it's mac and cheese.

Baked Shells with Winter Squash

4 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
salt and pepper
2 tsps chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 lb small pasta shells
1 12 oz pkg frozen winter squash puree, thawed
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 slices crusty bread, cut into 1/4" cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook about 15 minutes, until onions are soft and release liquid. Uncover and raise heat to medium. Cook, stirring until onions are browned, 20-25 minutes. Stir in 1 tsp rosemary.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water about 2 minutes less than package instructions. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta water and return pasta to pot.

Stir squash and reserved pasta water into onions. Simmer 2 minutes. Toss squash mixture and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese with pasta. Transfer to prepared baking dish.

Combine bread cubes with remaining Parmesan, rosemary, and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Top pasta with bread cubes. Bake until golden brown, 10-15 minutes. Serves 6.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday Supper: Winter Warm Up Chili

We are in the midst of a winter wonderland and I absolutely love it! My yard is completely snow covered; the geese continue to wade in the brook; and Puppy (our youngest hound) gets up every morning, goes straight to her window seat and looks out the window patiently waiting until we let her out to frolic in the snow. The hubs and I finally got a rug for our living room this morning and then we spent the rest of the day playing in the snow with the hounds. There is something about running around in the snow while playing with my dogs that makes me giggle and completely forget about any other craziness going on in my life.

After a fun filled day of playing in the snow I decided to make a big pot of chili to warm up the hubs and I. I've made chili lots of times but have yet to find THE recipe. This time around, I thought I'd try winging it and it was by far the best chili I've ever made! It was a little smoky, a little spicy, a little sweet, and the perfect thing to warm us up after a day in the snow.

Winter Warm Up Chili

4 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions (1 sweet, 1 yellow), chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 4 oz jar diced green chiles
3/4 lb ground beef
3/4 lb ground pork
3/4 lb ground veal
1 tbsp chipotle chili powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
2 14.5 oz cans fire roasted tomatoes with garlic
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 15 oz can chili beans
1 tbsp of your favorite bbq rub (I used the hubs secret blend that we like to call Nuts & Bolts)

sharp cheddar cheese

Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Cook bacon until just starting to crisp. Remove from pot and drain on paper towel. Add onion and cook until softened and golden, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and green chiles. Cook for 1 minute. Add beef, pork, and veal and cook until brown, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and brown sugar and stir until well blended. Stir in tomatoes with their juice, tomato paste, chili beans, and add cooked bacon back to pot. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, about 1 hour until liquid reduces a bit and chili is thick and chunky. Add bbq rub and continue simmering, covered, at least 1 more hour. Serve hot with crusty bread and top with shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Modern Housewife Tips:
1. The blend of meat adds a lot more flavor. I found the blend that I used all packaged together at my local grocery store which is why I used what I did but most importantly, you want to use beef and pork at the very least.
2. The longer you simmer, the better! I initially was only going to simmer 1 hour but after an hour, we decided to let it go longer to let the flavor really penetrate the meat. You want to try to simmer at least 2 hours.
3. Next time I will try rubbing the meat with the bbq rub and letting it marinate for about an hour before cooking to give it even more flavor.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

For My Loving Cup: Lettuce Cups

I first met lettuce cups on the hubs and my very first dinner date after moving to San Fran. We had been in town about a week, it was our first Friday night in the city by the bay. We found an Asian fusion restaurant by the name of Betelnut and the hubs made a reservation. Everything sounded insanely delicious on the menu, including the dirty sake martini, which I enjoyed immensely. We ordered a bunch of different items: chile-crusted calamari, Szechuan green beans (the hubs' fave!), something with Kobe beef that I don't recall the name of but it was damn good, and of course... lettuce cups!

I've tried to re-create these lettuce cups many times and somehow I manage to lose every recipe I've found after the first time I use it. Some of them have been great, others... not so much. BUT- I found this delicious recipe on one of my new found food blog loves- Crepes of Wrath. I made a tweak because sometimes I'm kind of a dummy and forget major components at the grocery store and in this instance, I forgot the beef... oh silly me! But alas, a good little modern housewife must be able to improvise and thus, I did just that. I had some ground turkey and ground pork in the freezer so I combined the 2 and well, it wasn't half bad... and healthier to boot! I have to say though, that is one of the best things about this dish. We originally had it with chicken at Betelnut and the Crepes of Wrath recipe calls for beef. I love it with beef, but all proteins work well. So all in all, this recipe was a success and now that I've documented my source here, I'll never lose it again!

Asian Lettuce Cups

16 lettuce or cabbage leaves
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground turkey1 tbsp cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 tsps sesame oil

Rinse lettuce leaves with water and pat dry. Set aside.

In a large skillet over high heat, brown pork and turkey in oil. Drain and set aside. Cook onion in same pan until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar, green onions, sesame oil, and continue cooking just until the onions begin to wilt, about 2 minutes more. Serve mixture in a bowl with lettuce leaves on the side for diners to make their own lettuce wraps. 

Recipe adapted from Crepes of Wrath

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Scrumptious Sides: Twice Baked Potatoes

The hubs and I had a wonderful holiday in the north country with my family this year where I ended up doing most of the cooking for our Christmas dinner. I hadn't planned on it so I didn't do much prep work in planning my menu therefore, it wasn't my best showing. It was good, but definitely not great. My brother requested that we have twice baked potatoes and since I have a super yummy recipe, I gladly obliged. Unfortunately though, I left my recipe in Jersey so I ended up winging it. They were ok, but I found that there are 3 main components in making a really great twice baked potato:

The potato, the cheese, and eggs!

Yukon gold potatoes are the way to go! They are more buttery in flavor and they make fluffier mashed potatoes. They also look prettier. I like to use Gruyere cheese because it's mild enough that it doesn't overwhelm the whole potato with cheese and it adds more creaminess to the filling. And finally, adding egg yolks to the filling make it so deliciously fluffy.

I had to remind myself of why this recipe is so good so I made these potatoes on New Years Eve and they turned out perfectly! Next time, I won't forget this one.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

12 small Yukon gold potatoes (or 6 large)
6 large egg yolks
4 tbsp butter, room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prick potatoes in several places with a fork. Bake on a baking sheet until tender when pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. Let cool.

When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut each in half. Scoop out flesh, leaving skin in tact. Mash flesh until smooth. Stir in egg yolks, butter, cream, 1 cup cheese, salt, and pepper. Scoop filling into skins. Place filled potatoes on baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake in 400 degree oven until cheese is golden brown, about 25 minutes.

A couple tips:
1. Leave about 1/4 inch of flesh in the skins when scooping out to help keep shells more stable.
2. I like my potatoes to be full so I typically will use the flesh of one of the halves and discard that skin so that I have a bit more filling for the rest of the potatoes.

recipe adapted from "Martha Stewart Holiday: Season's Eatings Holiday 2008" magazine