Wednesday, February 27, 2008

.oh yah baby.

Tonight I got Paige in the kitchen to help me fix dinner. She loves to help me cook and even has her own apron my mom made at Christmas. Tonight we grilled ribeye steaks and served them with a mushroom, onion and blue cheese topping. It is so good! I made this for my parents a few years back and my dad who is not a big blue cheese lover really liked it.

First you want to wipe clean some mushrooms and slice up.
Slice up some onion and pull apart the rings. Put on the baking sheet with the mushrooms. Cut up 1/2 cup of butter into small pieces and put all over the top.

Mmm.. blue cheese!

Sprinkle the blue cheese on top and then put a few shakes of Worchestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and dill weed. Put in a 400 degree oven and bake until onion and mushrooms are nice and tender, and blue cheese and butter have melted.
Behold the power of beef. These are ribeye steaks. Probably my most favorite cut EVER. I like to season mine with McCormick's Montreal Steak seasoning. Rub it on real good. You'll want steaks that have good marbling. That's fat of course, but when you're grilling these babies up, it will make the steak nice and juicy. You want to bring your steaks to almost room temperature before throwing them on the grill too. It helps the meat relax a little and will also help keep them juicy and tender.

Here's my proud helper! She is a chef in the making.

When grilling the steaks, you want to sear on high heat on both sides for about 3 minutes per side. Then lower the heat a little and cook to the stage you want. We like our steaks medium rare so they don't stay on very long once they've been seared. The firmer the center, the more cooked it is. Don't be tempted to cut into the meat to check for doneness. Just push the center.

Really spongy = raw
slightly spongy = medium rare to medium
firm but has some give = medium well to well
really firm with no bouncing back? = blasphemy! it's dead. :P

Let your steaks rest for a few minutes before cutting into. Top with the sauteed mushroom/onion/blue cheese bake. Serve with whatever you like steak with. Tonight we had baked potatoes and green beans. Enjoy!
Printable version:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

.award winning apple pie.

When we lived in Virginia, we used to always have chili and apple pie contests at church, yearly. In 1999, my apple pie won 1st place! I know it would've won the 2nd year, but the judges were lead astray by the Kool Whip someone *ahem* put on their pie. I. was. unhappy.
But that's alright because I really love my apple pie and so do all who try it. I add a mixture of spices which gives it a deeper flavor. I love a nice hearty slice with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. MMM MM GOOD!!!!!

This is a little gadget I bought two years ago and let me tell you.. it was awesome. It's an apple peeler, corer, slicer. I bought it at Sur la Table for about $30.00. Pampered Chef sells one very similar, but doesn't have the suction bottom. This one is nice because I can use is on any flat surface ANYWHERE. Love it!

See what it does? So. totally. cool.

A complete time saver too. I can get an apple pie made from start to finish in 30 minutes. Boom. boom. done!

After you've put the Granny Smith apples through the slicer (all 6 of them), cut the rings in half and toss out the top and bottom pieces that still have peel on them. My daughter loves to snack on the scraps so if you have a child that loves tart granny smith apples, let them have them!

I am guilty of not using measurements. I can tell you this. Add about a cup of flour. You want enough flour to coat the slices of apple. You want enough sugar to coat each slice as well. Then add 1/3 cup brown sugar. Mix so everything is dispersed evenly and all the pieces are coated.

Now add your spices. 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/8 tsp ginger, 1/8 tsp allspice and 1/8 tsp cloves. Squirt in a little lemon juice and then mix everything up again. Set aside.

Now this is the part I don't want you to be scared about. We're going to make a homemade crust! The key to a good pie crust are to 1)NOT overwork your dough; and 2)keep everything cold!

Before you begin making your pie crust, get everything you need out and ready to use. Your hands will get messy so make sure lids are off and things are open, and stuff is measured. Make sure you have a glass of ice water ready too.

I absolutely love my rolling pin. I bought this around the same time as I bought my apple peeler. It's a silicone rolling pin from Sur la Table. The silicone mat is from Pampered Chef. I bought the pastry blender at King Arthur Flour.

Okay. Ready?

In a bowl, put 2 1/2 cups flour and 1 1/2 tsp salt. Mix together with the pastry blender.

Add 1/2 cup regular shortening and 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening. I use both regular and butter flavored for a reason. If I use straight shortening, I have a really flat tasting crust. If I use butter, my crust shrinks wayyyyyy down and isn't nearly as flaky.

Cut in the shortenings with the pastry blender until it's all nice and crumbly.

You can work your dough as much as you want up to this point. When you start adding your liquid, that's when you need to BABY THE DOUGH. Do not overwork. And play with it as little as possible.

Take away the pastry blender and grab a fork. Start adding Tablespoonfuls of ice water (the colder the water, the better) and fluff the dough with the fork.

Keep adding spoonfuls of water and fluff until it starts pulling together. When you get it to the point you want it, form into a ball and split in half.

Roll out the bottom crust a well floured rolling mat and put in the pie plate.

Trim the edges and add the apples, making sure the slices fill all the edges of the bottom.

Roll out the other ball of dough and put on top of the apples. Trim the edges, tuck under, pinch edges to seal and then use a knife to make vent holes on top. I like putting a heart on top of mine because I make everything with love. (awwww)

Brush the top of the crust with a little milk and then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Put in a 350* oven and bake for an hour to hour and half. Normally I can tell the pie is done when the juices start oozing out the top.

Serve warm. Enjoy!

Printable version:

.chicken kiev.

This recipe seems intimidating by the name, but really, it is so so very easy. Don't be afraid to try it sometime. Chicken Kiev is a breaded chicken breast stuffed with butter, green onion (or chives), and garlic. As it bakes, the butter melts and the onion and garlic infuse into the flesh of the chicken and you are left with a moist, flavorful piece of chicken.

Here's what you'll need:

  • chicken breasts (1 per person)
  • butter
  • green onions
  • garlic
  • bread crumbs
  • thyme
  • salt and pepper

Use a mixer to whip together butter (1/2 stick butter per person), finely chopped green onion, and finely minced garlic.

Put this butter mixture in a piping bag and set aside.

Take your chicken breasts and create a pocket in the middle by sticking a knife into the fattest end of the breast and carefully move the blade to the right and then to the left. Make sure you don't go too far to the edges or else it will tear when you fill with the butter.

Take the piping bag and stick it in the hole and squeeze gently. You'll see the breast begin to fill up. You might need to use your finger to push the butter down to the bottom and then add a little more at the top.

Do this with each chicken breast and set aside.

Squeeze any leftover butter in a pie plate and melt in the microwave.

Coat the stuffed chicken breasts in the melted butter.

As soon as you coat with the melted butter, coat with breadcrumbs. I put salt, pepper, and some thyme in with the bread crumbs to season. I have in the past used crushed butter crackers (like Ritz or Club Crackers) instead of bread crumbs and it really makes a yummy crust!

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet. Sear each side of the chicken breasts for a few minutes. Transfer to an oven safe dish and put a 350* oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes.

Serve with mashed potatoes and your favorite veggie.

Printable version:

.chocolate chocolate chunk and pine nut cookies.

This month's cookie of the month is a Chocolate Chocolate Chunk w/ Pine Nut cookie. Mmmm. Rich and moist with a light nutty flavor. This one is sure to be a favorite!

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
3 cups flour
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup pine nuts

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and mix until well incorporated. Add cocoa powder, baking soda, vanilla, and cinnamon. While on slow speed, add the flour a little at a time until it is all worked in and the dough is not sticky to the touch. If it's sticky, add a little more.

Once dough is not sticky, add your chocolate chips (you can use white, milk, or semi sweet chips) and pine nuts.

Using a medium to large ice cream scoop, scoop dough onto baking sheets and bake in a 375* oven for 7-10 minutes or until the tops start cracking a little. Don't overbake or else they'll be dry and hard.

Remove from oven and transfer to cooling racks. Store in an air-tight container (if they last that long!). Makes almost 2 dozen.
Printable version:

.italian beef.

This is a recipe I got from a girlfriend of mine who lives in Chicago. It is *so* fast and *so* easy! Here's what you need:
  • 3-4 lb Beef roast
  • 1 bottle or can beer
  • 2 packets italian dressing mix
  • 1 jar pepperoncini
  • provolone cheese
  • crusty rolls

In a crockpot, put your beef roast. Pour the beer on top and add the seasoning packets. I like adding the pepperoncini at this time too along with a little of the juice from the jar. These can be spicy so if you have kids, you might want to omit this from the recipe.

Put the lid on the crockpot and turn it on high. Leave this on high for 3 hours, then reduce to low heat and let cook for another 2 hours.

When the beef is done, pull from the crockpot and slice or shred the beef.

Take your crusty rolls and slice in half. Put a slice or two of provolone cheese down and then top with roast beef and some sliced peppers (if you used them).

Ladle some of the broth into a bowl and use for au jus. Delicious!

Serve with salad.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

.white chicken chili.

Tonight I was scrambling to think of something to fix for dinner. It was an insanely busy day today. The baby had her (late) 2 month appointment first thing this morning and got two shots. Poor thing. Happy to report she's in the 95th percentile for height and like the 97th or so percentile for weight. That's my girl! She was NOT thrilled with getting jabbed. She's been recouping by sleeping half the day.

After her appointment, I drove down to Fernandina Beach to meet up with my gal pals for lunch. Then I hit Target. Then back home to pick Miss Paige up from school and play piano for the Chorus Club after school.

I made some chicken broth the night I made Huli Huli Chicken and the only real thing to make with a bunch of broth is soup.

To make your own stock, take chicken (you can use chicken breasts, or if you have roast chicken, put the carcass in a pot. Add carrots, celery, onion, a bay leaf and some salt. Coat with water and put on the stove to simmer and reduce. Let it go as long as you can. The more it condenses, the richer the flavor. When it cools to room temp, pour into a bowl or a glass pitcher. Put in your fridge and chil completely. The fat in your broth will float to the top and solidify. This makes it really easy to spoon off and discard.

So I checked the pantry and I had all the ingredients to make White Chicken Chili.

Here are the items you'll need:
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • cooked chicken (you can use canned if you want)
  • veggies: onion, celery, garlic
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (found in the hispanic section of your grocery store)
  • 2 cans navy beans and 2 cans northern beans
  • spices: bay leaf, cumin, chili powder, salt & pepper
  • 4oz can diced green chilies

If you've never had anything with chipotle pepper, you're in for a surprise. It's got a smokey flavor that gives this chili a very unique flavor. A word of caution. Do NOT use too much. It's easy to go overboard and you'll wind up with a chili that's too hot to eat. Start with chopping up 1 pepper finely and if it's not hot enough, add a little more. I used 1 1/2 in mine tonight and it had some kick. Just the way I like it! (My sister, Marcia and mom would find it too hot though)

Chop your veggies -- finely chop the jalapeno, chop your onion, mince two cloves garlic, cut up 3 stalks of celery.

Heat up a little olive oil in a soup pot. When hot, put in all your veggies, 1 bay leaf, 2 tsp chili powder, 2 tsp cumin, and the 4oz can of diced green chilies. Cook this and stir until the onions and celery begin to soften.

Add 4 cups of chicken stock to your pot. Rinse the 4 cans of beans and add them too. Chop up one of those chipotle peppers and throw that in. Season generously with salt and pepper. You can also throw in your cooked chopped chicken. I used leftover chicken that was pulled from the carcass but it wasn't enough. So I used some canned chicken too.

Let this simmer on low for about an hour. If you like to use a crock pot, at this stage, I would put it in your pot and put on low heat to simmer all day. The longer this cooks, the better the flavor.

I like my chili with corn muffins. MMMmmm...

Printable version:

In a bowl, mix together:

1 1/4 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 c. cornmeal

In another bowl, mix together:

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 1/4 c. milk (I like to use half and half or whole cream)
1 egg

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix only until it comes together. Don't overmix this! It doesn't need to be smooth. In fact, lumpy is GOOD!

Dump in about 1 to 1 1/2 c. frozen corn and mix in. Again, do NOT overmix.

Spoon into a muffin pan sprayed with Pam vegetable spray. Put in a 425* F oven and bake for 10-15 minutes. At that time, lower your oven to 350* F and let them finish baking.

Baking at a high temp forces the heat through the center of the muffin giving it that awesome muffin tops! That's a trade secret among bakers.... ;) (Now you know!)

Here's what your baked muffins will look like. I use my texas size muffin pan and get a yield of 6. If you use a regular muffin pan, you'll most likely get 12 if you only fill 1/2 way up.

Printable version:

To serve your chili, ladle into the bowl and top with grated cheese, a dollop of sour cream and if you're trying to make an impression. Put some chopped cilantro on top. Gives it AWESOME fresh flavor.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

.I'm freakin Bob Villa.

Before we left for Seattle, we had started making plans to remodel the hall bath. We got busy as soon as we returned. I love the results!

If at any time you want to see any of the pictures up close, just click on the image and you'll be taken to this album at picasa.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

.huli huli chicken.

When we lived in Hawaii, we would be driving somewhere and see signs for Huli Huli Chicken. Curious, we stopped once. It was a school selling whole chickens as a fundraiser -- which they had a lot of. Not long before we transferred off the island, our church ladies put together a recipe book and YESSSSS this recipe was in there! I was thrilled!

Huli Huli Chicken is essentially Hawaiian BBQ Chicken. The sauce is sweet and gingery and plain ol' delicious. Here's how to make it.

In a bowl, mix together:

1/3 c. ketchup
1/3 c. soy sauce (they call it shoyu over there)
1/2 c. brown sugar
about 2 Tbsp grated gingerroot (peel the gingerroot with a potato peeler and use the fine side of your cheese grater to do this)
2 cloves garlic, crushed

NOTE:I usually double this recipe so I have enough to marinate the chicken and have more to baste while it grills.

Spoon some of the sauce on your chicken pieces. Flip pieces over to coat all sides. Cover dish with saran and put in the fridge to marinate overnight.

The key to grilling chicken on the bbq, is to grill over LOW HEAT. If you try grilling any hotter, it won't be cooked through, and the outside will be burned. Since we have a sweet sauce on this chicken, we want it to carmalize.. NOT burn. So keep those coals cool. Put your chicken on the grill and spoon sauce on the top. Put the lid down and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over. Coat the top side with some more sauce. Put lid down and cook 5 minutes on that side. Keep repeating this until the sauce is all gone and the chicken is cooked through. (don't cut into the chicken. When the flesh is firm, it's done. If it's HARD -- it's going to be overcooked and really dry.)
Enjoy and Aloha!
Printable version:

.teriyaki beef.

While we were in Seattle, we went out to lunch at a teriyaki place called Ono Teriyaki in Renton. It was sooooo delicious and they served the lunches in bento boxes. Loved that!

Ever since then I've craved teriyaki. Can't find teriyaki (read: good teriyaki) anywhere out here, so I decided to make my own.

Take some skirt steak (or flank steak) and put it in a ziploc. Dump in your marinade. I used Kikkoman teriyaki sauce, but I normally use Lawry's... and if I'm feeling really ambitious, I will make my own. Personally... the Kikkoman wasn't that great. If you don't want to make your own sauce, I really suggest getting the Lawry's teriyaki marinade.

Since the steak is thin, you really don't need to marinade it that long. Maybe an hour or two. Once it's marinated, remove from the bag and slice it into thin strips going against the grain.

Heat your frying pan and put in a little oil. (I use a wok.) Dump in your meat and fry it up. Pour a little teriyaki sauce in and let it cook into your meat.

Once it's cooked, stir in some sliced green onion.

Super fast. Super easy. Super delicious.

When I make teriyaki, I like making stir fry veggies. You'll need zucchini, summer squash, red onion, gingerroot and garlic.

This is gingerroot. It's found in the produce section of your grocery store. It is the root of the ginger plant which grows prevelantly in Hawaii. It's very very pretty. I love ginger. You want to peel the root with a potato peeler and then mince very very fine. You can use the fine side of your cheese grater if you don't want to mince. Mince up a couple cloves of garlic too while you're at it. Set aside.

Slice your zucchini, summer squash, and red onion. Put in a bowl.

Heat your wok or skillet. Pour in a little olive oil and heat. Put in the garlic and ginger and sautee for about 30 seconds.

Add your veggies. Saute until they're fork tender. You don't want these guys to burn, so sprinkle in a little soy sauce and/or water to keep moisture in the pan.

Serve this meal with steamed rice. This meal is pretty light and healthy! Enjoy!