Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Childhood Chicken

The other day I was describing to a friend a chicken dish I frequently make. She asked me where I got the recipe and I said I just made it up based off the flavors of something my mom used to make when I was little. And since I've been feeling more than a little homesick, below you will find the recipe to my own version of my mom's chicken because, understandably, I was too young at the time to carefully observe what she put in it. It's funny how certain smells and tastes can remind you so distinctly of a specific time in your life. This meal reminds of a very good one, so when I'm lonely I make it and think of the people who I care about many, many miles away.

What You Need:

2 pounds chicken, defrosted and cut into small cubes

4 Tbs cream cheese

crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, pepper, and garlic powder

1 small onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1/3 cup cooking sherry

3-5 Tbs milk, cream, or half and half

What You Do:

Saute the onion and garlic in a skillet until golden brown

Add the spices

Add the chicken and saute until the chicken is almost cooked through

Add the sherry and stir

Add the cream cheese and stir to combine

Add milk/cream as needed according to how dry the mixture is

You can finish the dish off with chopped chives if you'd like

Serve With:

You can serve this meal over rice or with warm Italian bread...

... but perhaps a lovelier treatment (and a more impressive one) would be to package it into rounds of puff pastry - forming a pocket. Brush the tops with egg wash and a little salt and bake according to the directions on the puff pastry package. This makes for a gorgeous entertaining meal. You can form the pockets into any shape you want - I like triangles because I think they look super classy. Don't forget to cut air holes into the top so they don't burst from the steam in the oven!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cookies for Sharon

I love this picture because the lighting makes it seem like the perfect mid-night time for snacking!

I have met the most awesome person here at VCU - she's the sweetest and kindest and most delightful person to be around. Everyday she drives about an hour to come on campus where she works in the lab, creates hilarious analogies to remember physiology concepts, and performs a little Maid of Honor work on the side. To thank her for being such a star, I decided to make her a batch of oatmeal cookies.

Now, if you don't know me, here's a little personal detail: I don't like raisins. Crazy? Maybe, but I really don't like 'em - unless they are in rum raisin ice cream. Then I'll make an exception. Usually I substitute cranberries for the raisin part, but unfortunately I didn't have anymore. I crazily dug through the cupboards before realizing - duh! Chocolate chips. Dark chocolate ones. And so the story beings...

I actually made the entire recipe, which I got off the side of my Quaker Oats container - okay, let me honest. I used the Quaker Oats recipe - the oats I had were actually of the Kroger variety because it was $2 cheaper and that was how I justified spending $4 on Ghirardelli chocolate chips.

The end result was sinfully delicious and absolutely perfect paired with a glass of milk. I ate three and called it dinner. I mean, oats are filling, right? Again, remember to take the cookies out when they are still a little un-set in the middle if you want them a little chewier. Or you can pop them in the microwave for 10 seconds before eating.

So here's to Sharon - one cookie for every time you had to explain the intrafusal fibers to me ;) Hehe :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Camarones Enchilados

What you need:

  • 1-2 pounds shrimp, cooked or uncooked, peeled and de-veined
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup fresh parsley or parsley flakes
  • 28 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 1 jar of pimientos
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup cooking sherry
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

What to Do:

Sauté the onion, green pepper and garlic in the olive oil. Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for about 20-25 minutes in low heat. Then add the shrimp and cook until they are pink and slightly curled.

Serve over rice!

Tips from the Chef:

  • Use a big pan because this makes A LOT of food :)
  • I have been told that every time you make this, it looks a little different, which I would agree with because instead of measuring everything, it is so much easier to just dump and taste. I eliminated the W. sauce, for instance, and everything turned out just fine.
  • This dish is a Cuban one, so thanks to my lovely for introducing me to the flavors!
  • Peppers are usually really expensive - luckily this dish asks for green pepper which is usually cheaper than red or yellow. But still, if you see peppers on sale, you can buy them, chop them, and store them in the freezer in a way similar to how you freeze berries: chop the green pepper and layer it on a cookie sheet. Place this in the freezer and let harden. Transfer to a Ziploc and store flat in the freezer.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Five Guys Newbie No More

Well, I think the title says it all, hmm? I'd never heard of Five Guys until a couple years ago when I visited Weston in Baltimore. He had planned an amazing dinner evening for us, so we elected not to get hamburgers and instead had the french fries. Lovely memories: munching on fries while looking out onto the Chesapeake Bay...

And now I find myself in Virginia with a Five Guys right down the street and today for dinner I decided to finally see what the buzz is all about.

Now, disclaimer that I arrived way too hungry than I should have. I ordered a burger AND fries which was not smart because I had no idea that a "small" meant 2 heaping cup-fulls. I mean, the fries were delicious because most of them were the wiggly kind that I love oh so much. But really, I'd recommend sharing, especially if you are going to eat an entire burger. Luckily, one of my friends I was with, a native Virginian, wisely advised me to order the burger with only one patty.

I shall save my comparison to Blimpy Burger, an Ann Arbor favorite of mine, for another day however. No need to start a crazy rivalry. Contact me if you'd like a breakdown - if I get enough requests, then I'll write a follow-up ;)

All in all, it was a wonderful experience and one I shall never forget. As I sit here in my pjs because my tummy needs some recovery room I find myself more full than I have been in weeks. And that, dear readers, is a wonderful thing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Colorful Chocolate Cup-a-Cakes

Oh how I love a cup-a-cake (this is how I pronounce it because, let's face it, it just makes them sound so much sweeter). Whenever you feel happy or sad or silly, they are the perfect little dessert. A bit time consuming, perhaps, but so worth it in the end.

For these little beauties, I used a chocolate cake recipe from...you guessed it: Ina Garten...and just poured the batter into a muffin tin. No paper frilly things necessary because they a) are expensive and b) get in the way of devouring the cake beneath.

I also used a nice Belgian cocoa powder. I am a huge Ghirardelli fan and always use their chocolate chips, but their cocoa always seems a little stale to me.

For a few of the cakes, I cut a hole in the center and filled it with extra frosting - a nice little surprise for the unsuspecting.

I also contemplated adding 2 heaping spoonfuls of peanut butter into the buttercream but decided against it because I just wanted my chocolate pure and sinful :)

I also cut the recipe down to 1 1/2 sticks of butter - which I set out all day so they would actually be room temperature. If you don't do this, you get terrible little chunky butter pellets that are unattractive and an awful reminder that you ARE eating pure butter.

A handy trick I use to fill the pastry bag is to orient a Ziploc baggie over the rim or a cup - this way both your hands are free to fill it up. Then, pick the bag up, snap it shut, and squeeze the icing to one side. Snip a little hole with kitchen scissors and decorate away!

Finally, I sprinkled the tops with some funfetti chocolate chips my boyfriend shipped over from Michigan - thanks, sweetie!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ricotta-less Lasagna

A lovely person recently told me my posts have been lacking "substance" so here's a lengthy post with step-by-step directions on how to make a hearty lasagna on a dime. I don't really like ricotta in my lasagna - I LOOOOVE ricotta in general. For tangential reasons, may I suggest topping some with a little raspberry jam or maple syrup and eating it as a lovely snack?

Anyway, in Italy I learned to make lasagna layering bechemel and tomato sauce, so here's my version of that procedure using ingredients I happened to have on hand. The results were amazing and I am quite proud of my handy work :)

What You Need:

1 box Barilla lasagna sheet noodles - not the one with ruffly edges, the flat ones
2 jars pasta sauce -I used vodka sauce and a garlic/olive oil sauce
5 cloves minced garlic
1 large can black olives, sliced
pepper, salt, garlic powder to taste

Make the Sauce (s):

Heat the sauces and add the garlic and spices. You can add some oregano if you want, too, but sometimes that overpowers the dish.

I had some leftover Gorgonzola bechemel sauce, so I decided to us that for my lasagna, but if you don't have any, just whip up a batch. See any one of my Mac and Cheese posts for a recipe.

Layer the Lasagna:

Start with a nice covering of sauce a the bottom of a Pyrex dish
Put on a layer of noddles
Cover noodles with more sauce and a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese
More noodles
Sauce, then I added some cooked and drained spinach and the bechemel
Sauce and mozzarella cheese
Continue this procedure until you are done with the noodles
Add one final layer of sauce and a healthy covering of mozzarella and pecorino if you have some
Cover the whole thing with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes in a 350 degree oven
Uncover it and bake an additional 10 minutes so the cheese browns

If you want, you can poke through with a knife to make sure the noodles are totally cooked, but the great thing about using these noodles is no pre-boiling!!!! The spinach is a great addition if you don't have meat, like me. But you could add some ground turkey or chicken or beef to the pasta sauce and nix the spinach - I wouldn't do both because then one of them will be jealous of the other. Another thing: I really like is how this lasagna falls when you slice it - in my opinion, food should not be so stiff that it stands on its own. No thanks.

And there you have it, a delicious, healthy meal to last you a week. I actually froze a few pieces for a rainy day. But this is also a great thing to make and feed a few good friends.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Nourishing Break-Time Meals

With a physiology exam on the horizon, I had to find a way to motivate myself to study hard for the entire weekend. And since we have Monday to study, I knew I had to make my time at the desk count. So I started "rewarding" myself. As in, if you finish taking notes on these 7 chapters, you can make a tasty lunch. Or, once you've memorized these equations, you can bake a batch of cookies. And wouldn't you know, I am sitting here, writing this post with a plate of cookies in front of me and a Tupperware of carrot stoup in the fridge. I call it "stoup" for a reason, and I'll tell you about that in just a moment. The point is, it's important to work hard, but work efficiently. For me, that means setting goals but also breaks to regroup and revive.

I started the morning intending to make a little carrot soup for myself. More to use up the carrots I had in my fridge because I knew I would get sick of eating them raw with my lunches. So I sauteed 2 pats of butter with 4 chopped carrots and half a Vidalia onion (which are wayyyy easier to find here in Virginia than they were in Virginia). Next, I added a splash of sherry because I always feel the soup is missing something. I seasoned with a teeeny bit of salt and some pepper and then added my chicken broth - 4 cups. Instead of rice, I added about 1/2 cup of barley as well. I set the timer for 25 minutes and allowed the soup to simmer away on medium heat. During this time, my roommate came home and told me she was going to take a little nap. I didn't want to wake her by whirring up my soup in the blender. So I just scouped up a bowl as it was and took a spoonful. Man, was it good!!!!! Soooooo good. I loved have a little extra texture and the barley made it so satisfying. To use the words of AArti, it warmed me from my belly out. I went back for seconds.

Two hours later, I was feeling unmotivated again, so I told myself I could make some cookies if I stuck it out another 20 minutes. I just used the recipe on the back of the Ghiradelli bag of chocolate chips, cutting it in half because, let's face it, I don't need 30 cookies hanging around the house when I am under pressure ;)
For your viewing delight, here are a few pictures of the cookies dough, because everyone knows it's my favorite part. Oh, and a little trick - I like a crunchy exteriors and a gooey interior, so I take the cookies out when they have a nice little crust, but still dip in when I poke them gently. I let them sit on the pan on the counter and they cook a little more, but not toooo much.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hodge-Podge Curry

So...it's hard to cook during the week when you've got class from 8am-2pm. Last weekend I decided I'd make one big meal over the week and eat it throughout - that way I get home-cooked food, but I also don't need to take time away from studying to eat it. It can be boring eating the same old thing day in and day out, though. So make something that's absolutely worth it :)

I haven't made a curry in AGES, so I decided on that. Thanks to a very nice person in my CERT program who drove me to the grocery store, I was able to go shopping for the necessary ingredients.

Here's what I did:

To make the curry, it's actually really, really easy. Fry about 1 tsp black peppercorns, cardamon pods, 1 cinnamon stick, some whole cloves, and a bay leaf until the cardamon pods start to puff up. I usually throw the spices into the hot oil and cover with a pot lid, then shake it- that way the hot oil doesn't burn me. Take the spices out of the frying pan when they're done and, in the same oil, saute 1 large onion, thinly sliced, and about 3 cloves of minced garlic. Let these get really crispy looking - this means they are sweeter which is always a delicious thing!

In a pot, let some coconut milk come to a simmer and add the spices and some yogurt. Then I added a can of garbanzo beans. Meat is expensive, and beans have some great nutrients in them - so this is a great hint. I also put in the leftover chicken I had saved from my stir-fry . You can also add tofu or feta cheese if you want. Let this whole thing cook on low heat for about 1 hour, adding some milk to thin it out as necessary.

Serve over rice or yogurt.

The best thing about curry/soup/stew is that it tastes better the longer it sits so by the time I finished my leftovers today, they were 5 x better than when I made the dish on Sunday. Not many food items have this special quality.

It's Labor Day weekend, so hopefully I'll be able to put up another post later this week!