Sunday, July 22, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas

Some people may think it sacrilege that I'm even bothering to post an enchilada recipe if I'm not going to include a recipe for homemade enchilada sauce. Sorry. You'll have to seek that out on another blog. I am not Mexican, so I feel like I can get away with this. I do know people who've told me they have great enchilada sauce recipes, but they have yet to hand one over for me to try out. So, I will continue to use canned. 
Now that I think of it, one time that I did have enchiladas made my an actual Mexican woman IN Mexico, she used canned sauce. Uh-huh. And they were delish. Those were cheese enchiladas, which I will have to post another time. Today it's chicken enchiladas because I'm visiting my parents' house, and my mom thought it was time for a chicken dish. So chicken enchiladas it was. 
Since my husband prefers flour tortillas, and I like corn (which are more traditional for enchiladas--I do know that much), I made some of these with flour and some with corn tortillas. Either way, they are prepared the same.

Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients
  • 3 medium chicken breasts (you can also use 4 cups precooked chicken, shredded)
  • salt & pepper
  • 12 corn tortillas or small taco sized flour tortillas (if you use larger flour tortillas, you'll use fewer)
  • canola oil
  • 1 large can (28 oz.) red enchilada sauce (I used Las Palmas mild & it was plenty spicy)
  • 1 chicken bullion cube or 1/2 tablespoon powdered chicken bullion
  • 2 cups shredded medium cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups shredded jack cheese
  • 2 green onions, sliced
Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Salt and pepper chicken breasts all over & place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until juices run clear. Cool enough so you can handle it. Remove skin if it still has it and shred the meat with your fingers or a couple of forks. Set chicken aside.
In a frying pan, heat about 1/4 inch of canola oil. Very briefly fry each tortilla on both sides--just gently place a tortilla in; with metal tongs immediately flip to other side, just long enough to wet it with the oil; and then carefully remove to a plate or pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas. (Note: if you want to lighten the recipe up, you can skip the quick fry, but you need to make sure to use very fresh, pliable tortillas. I don't think they'll taste quite as good, but then you won't have to live with the extra calories.)
Drain any remaining oil from the pan and carefully add enchilada sauce and chicken bullion. Simmer over low heat until bullion is incorporated and sauce is heated through.
Spray a 9"x13" pan with non-stick cooking spray. Carefully dip one tortilla into the enchilada sauce, coating both sides with sauce. Place in bottom of pan. Place about 3-4 tablespoons of chicken and 2 tablespoons of cheese across the center of the wet tortilla. Fold one side over the meat/cheese and roll into a tube. Slide the rolled enchilada to one end of the pan. Repeat with remaining ingredients. You will probably have to place some enchiladas perpendicular to the others in the pan to fit them all in. (I usually have to wrap one up into a squarish shape to fit it all in.)
Top with remaining sauce and then the cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted and sauce is bubbling around the edges. Remove from oven, sprinkle with green onion slices, and serve.
Makes about 7-8 servings.

Red Beans and Rice

Red Beans and Rice

This recipe comes from one of my favorite food blogs, Simply Recipes. My poor husband loves, loves, loves red beans and rice, but in our 20 years of marriage, I think I've only made it one other time. What you see pictured here, I didn't even taste. Have I mentioned I'm a bit of a weirdo? Beans are one of my foods I do NOT eat. It's the texture, along with the reputation they have for giving people gas. I have deep-seated issues about gas that I won't go into here, but suffice it to say, the beans I serve usually come from a can because I am not going to be eating them. Hmm. Sounds really self-centered when I say it like that.
Everyone who DID eat these beans tonight said they loved them, so I think it must be a good recipe. It looked really meaty and yummy... if I liked beans. So there you go. That seems to be all I have to say about this recipe.

Red Beans and Rice
     --adapted from Simply Recipes

Ingredients
  • 1 pound dry small red beans
  • 1/2 to 2 pounds meaty ham shanks
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
  • 1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (hmmm...I forgot to add that ingredient to mine)
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning
  • Tabasco sauce to taste (optional, of course)
  • Cooked white rice (from about 3 cups dry rice)
Instructions
Bring about two quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Once water has reached a boil, add the dry red beans, turn heat off, and cover. Let soak for two hours. (You can also soak them in cold water overnight, but I wasn't thinking that far ahead.)
After two hours of soaking, drain water from beans. Add the ham shank(s), garlic, onion, celery, bell pepper, water, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until beans are tender.
Remove ham shank from the pot to a dish. Let cool slightly and then shred the meat away from the bones. Return the meat to the pot, and add the seasoning and Worcestershire sauce (if you can remember it). Cover and simmer for another hour or until the mixture gets creamy and thick. Season to taste with Tabasco sauce.
Serve over rice.
Serves 8.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Favorite Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Parmesan crusted grilled cheese

Grilled cheese sandwiches are a pretty easy, basic, last resort kind of sandwich for me. Usually I just use the Sara Lee Whole Wheat, Kraft slices, and butter. Good enough. I'm at my parents' house for three weeks, though, and my mom keeps all kinds of goodies on hand when we visit. My mom buys large quantities of sourdough bread and Clearman's Spread to make "cheese toast" for the kids in the morning. THAT is some good breakfast food, too. That's not what this post is about, though. This post is about what I like to do with the sourdough.
Today Ezra wanted a sandwich. I think he was thinking along the lines of the Rubyclub he had yesterday at Ruby's restaurant. We didn't have those ingredients on hand. We did have the ingredients for this, though: sourdough bread with butter and Kraft Parmesan cheese on the outside and Tillamook medium cheddar and Tillamook jack cheese inside. I did, of course, take a bite to  make sure it was tasty enough to eat. Oh my gosh I'm going to have to make one for myself tomorrow. It's buttery, crisp and flavorful on the outside and fantastically cheesy on the inside. Do it. You will love it.

My Favorite Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Ingredients
  • 2 slices of sourdough bread (San Francisco style preferably)
  • 1/8-inch layer of medium cheddar cheese
  • 1/8-inch layer of jack cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 teaspoons Kraft grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
Preheat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
Butter the "outside" of one of the slices of bread, sprinkle with a teaspoon of Parmesan and spread again with a knife to make the cheese stick into the butter. Place butter-side down on pan. Place cheddar and jack cheeses on bread, making sure the entire surface is covered.
Butter the outside of the other slice of bread, sprinkle with the other teaspoon of Parmesan and spread to make cheese stick. Place this slice of bread, buttered side up on top of the cheese.
Cook until bottom is a nicely browned, then carefully flip with a spatula. Cook until that side is nicely browned.
Remove from heat, cut into two pieces, and carefully enjoy.
Makes 1 sandwich.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Kalbi Korean Beef BBQ

Kalbi Korean Beef BBQ

Let me give you a disclaimer before I begin: I am not Korean. I do not claim to know Korean cuisine at ALL. I am Chinese, German, and Irish, and I can't even say I know many details about those cuisines. However, I do love food, and this recipe is one of the foods I love. There you go.

I grew up in La Palma, California. My parents still live here, and each summer we come back to visit. In this area of SoCal, there is a large Korean population. Two of my three bridesmaids in my wedding are Korean, and when my kids were very little (and still on occasion) I would shout the Korean phrase "Ha-ji-ma!" at them to get them to stop whatever it was they were doing that I wanted them to stop. (By the way, that word shocks most children, regardless of native language, into stopping.) That little phrase that means "Stop it!" might be the best thing I've gleaned from my Korean friends.

The SECOND best thing we've gotten from our Korean friends is this recipe which comes from my parents' next door neighbors. For about a year after the neighbors moved in, my mom and dad would occasionally get this awesome waft of Korean barbecue over the fence. My mom finally asked them what that delicious smell was, and God bless them, the next time they barbecued, they brought over a huge plate of this stuff. Actually, I think it was probably more traditional than what you see here. They usually use a Korean style short rib that is cut across the ribs (see the FoodNetwork recipe). It involves more fat and bones than my mom likes, so she subbed flap meat for the short ribs. The only problem with this, is that the papaya in the marinade breaks down the connective tissue so well, you have to be super careful that parts of the meat don't fall down through the grill. I would say a four-hour marinade is pushing it. I like to go for about 2 hours.

What you end up with is this super flavorful, sweet, tender grilled beef that melts in your mouth. Today we served it with our family's bacon fried rice and mom's Chinese chicken salad. I have to say, it was a superb combo. I love eating at Mom's. I'm never disappointed.

Kalbi Korean Beef BBQ

Ingredients
  • 3-4 pounds flap meat
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/4 cup ripe papaya
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger root
Instructions
Put meat into a large zip top bag. 
Combine remaining ingredients in a blender, and then pour over meat.
Seal the bag and smoosh the meat and marinade around to evenly distribute the marinade.
Refrigerate 1-4 hours.
Preheat grill. Grill meat on both sides to desired degree of doneness. (It only takes a few minutes on each side.)

Makes about 12 servings.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast Pizza
Breakfast Pizza with a Smoothie
I made some thin crust pizza last night, and I have leftover crusts in the freezer, so I decided to try making a breakfast pizza. My normal breakfast is popcorn and a smoothie, but my day is so crazy and I have so many things to do to prepare for our drive to California tomorrow, that I decided to make my life slightly more complicated (and interesting) by making a breakfast pizza. I realize I'm strange. I just go with it most of the time.
At the beginning of summer, I went to the Des Moines Farmers' Market with my good friend and eating buddy, Elaine. We looked at hostas, baked goods, and lots of dogs, AND we bought ourselves some breakfast pizza. I selected the cheese pizza because I'm trying to cut back on sodium, and although I suspect I'm fooling myself avoiding the ham and bacon and going just for cheese, I felt like I was making a healthier choice. This breakfast pizza had a thin, crisp crust, which I thought worked so well for a breakfast pizza. It really just had egg and cheese on it (and probably lots of salt). 
So, this morning, I've tried to recreate that yummy Farmers' Market experience. I added a little black pepper and some green onions since I thought it would look better in pictures with the green onion, and well, pepper is good on eggs. I am pleased with the results, and I'm glad I didn't get more adventurous and try using pesto on it. This is a simple breakfast, that really wasn't too complicated, since I already had the crust. 
I went ahead and made my usual smoothie anyway, though, using some leftover berries from the last batch of Shortcake Biscuits with Warm Berries. Good breakfast. Very good breakfast indeed.

Breakfast Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 9" thin pizza crust (recipe below)
  • 2 teaspoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup Italian style 5 cheese blend
  • 1/4 cup shredded medium cheddar cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon sliced green onion
  • salt & pepper to taste
Instructions
Preheat oven to 475°F.
Place pizza crust on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (You will slide this onto the pizza stone later, if you have one. If not, you can bake on the baking sheet.)
Brush 1 teaspoon butter evenly over the crust. Set aside.
Heat up a frying pan over medium heat. Beat the two eggs and the milk in a small bowl. 
Place the other teaspoon of butter in the hot pan. When it's melted, pour in the eggs. When edges start to bubble and set, start scraping and stirring with a silicone spatula. Stir and cook until eggs are no longer runny, but not dry. Stir to break apart into smaller pieces.
Evenly spread cooked eggs over crust. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Top with the cheeses and then the green onion.
Slide onto a pizza stone if you have it, or just bake at 475°F for about 4-5 minutes, or until cheese is just bubbly.
Remove from oven, slice, and enjoy.
Serves 2-3 people, depending on their appetites. 


Thin Pizza Crust
Ingredients
Instructions
In a heavy-duty stand mixer (like a Kitchen Aid) fitted with a dough hook, add the water, oil, yeast, salt, and sugar.  Mix thoroughly until yeast has fully dissolved.

Add flour and mix on low speed until all of the flour and water have mixed and a stiff dough ball forms, about 3-4 minutes.  (Often the dough will look way too dry.  Sometimes I’ll add water.  Sometimes I will just work the dough with my hands until it forms a cohesive ball.)

Place the dough ball into a gallon sized zip-top bag that’s had a few drops of vegetable oil rubbed around the interior.  Let dough rise in the refrigerator about 24 hours before using.  This step is important, as it develops the flavor of the crust.

Preheat oven to 500°F.  When dough has risen 24 hours, remove from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature for about an hour.  Turn dough out onto a floured work surface.  Cut dough into six equal pieces. Form each chunk of dough into a rough ball and roll out on a floured surface.  I try to get my crust to about 1/8 of an inch thick.  Dock the dough all over with a sharp knife to prevent large bubbles.

Brush off excess flour and place dough disc onto parchment paper and slide dough (with parchment) onto the pizza stone.  Bake at 500°F for 4-7 minutes, or until just starting to brown.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.  Repeat with the other five dough chunks.
What you won't use immediately, place into gallon-size zip-top bags and freeze for later.

Makes 6 9" crusts.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Toffee, Coconut, and Walnuts


Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Toffee, Coconut, & Walnuts

I've been on a chewy oatmeal raisin cookie kick lately (they're good for breakfast, you know), and while at the church grill out the other day, my family and friends all started throwing out ideas on what THEY like in their oatmeal cookies. Noah prefers chocolate chips over raisins. Sister-in-law Kelly suggested toffee, and her husband, Jaime wanted white chocolate and dried cranberries. Being the foodie that I am, I took this as a challenge, and went home to try a couple of these ideas out. I actually had all of those ingredients in my kitchen, believe it or not (well, the Craisins were blueberry flavored--not the best as far as I'm concerned), so I made a double batch of oatmeal raisin cookie dough, divided it into thirds, and mixed in other ingredients. This one is my favorite, so this is the one I'm posting.
One of the reasons I like this recipe is that the cookies are soooo soft, and they remain soft and fresh for days. Now, I'm a cookie snob, and I normally don't eat most cookies after day 2, but I will eat these on day 3 or 4. They stay THAT fresh. I think the secret is the pureed raisins. I didn't think these toffee cookies had a rasiny flavor at all; the pureed raisins just added the soft chewiness to them.
Now, these cookies are almost like a decadent chewy granola bar. You can definitely taste the coconut and toffee, and if you leave the toffee bits on the large side, you'll get a nice crunch from them. Mmmm...I'll definitely be making this cookie again.
If you decide to make these, and you're not afraid of boiling sugar, and you have a candy thermometer, I really recommend making your own toffee bits. The store-bought ones are teeny tiny, and you might not get the fantastic toffee crunch in your final cookie. They'll still taste good, I'm sure. They just won't be at their best. Enough said. Give them a try.

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Toffee, Coconut, and Walnuts
Ingredients
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar (or 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar plus 1 tablespoon molasses)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 ¼ cups rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup toffee bits--use recipe below or use store-bought
  • 3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, or macadamia nuts
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 275°F.
2. Combine ½ cup raisins with hot water in a food processor and blend on high speed for about 1 minute or until very smooth.
3. Combine raisin puree with the vegetable shortening, butter, egg, brown sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.  Mix until smooth.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour with the oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Pour dry mixture into the wet and mix just until combined.  Stir in the toffee bits/chunks, coconut, and walnuts.
5.  Roll 3-tablespoon-sized portions of dough in your hands and press to 1/2 –inch flat on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Leave about 1 ½ inches between dough discs. 
6. Bake at 275°F for 18-20 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook.  Cool on pan for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to finish cooling.  Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Toffee
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped roasted almonds (optional)
  • 1/2 cup packed C & H Light Brown Sugar 
  • 1/4 cups  C & H white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
Instructions
1. Line a square Pyrex pan (8X8) with parchment paper or non-stick foil. Set pan on a cooling rack or stovetop. (You will be pouring the lava hot sugar into this later, so you want to make sure it's on a heat-proof surface.)
2. In a heavy saucepan heat butter and sugar to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil over medium heat until it reaches 300° on a candy thermometer. Stir in the chopped almonds, and immediately pour into the prepared pan. Allow to cool completely. If you're in a hurry, pull the parchment paper/foil out and place directly on a cooling rack. The glass pan retains heat and causes the toffee to cool more slowly.
3. When completely cool, break apart into about 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch pieces. 

You will probably end up with more than 1 cup of toffee in the end. Store the remaining  bits in an air-tight container and use in another recipe or for ice cream topping, or just as it is.
(English Toffee recipe is also posted on this blog. Click here.)

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate & Craisins
If you like the idea of the white chocolate & Craisin version, omit the toffee, coconut, and walnuts; and add 1 cup white chocolate chunks and 1/2 to 3/4 cup dried cranberries (aka Craisins).


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Toasty Turkey, Pesto, Provolone & Avocado Sandwich



Toasty Turkey, Pesto, Provolone & Avocado Sandwich

Writing a recipe for a sandwich seems a little weird to me because sandwiches seem so basic, so simple. This is a special sandwich, though, and I don't make it very often. I think that's because I'm the only person in my family who really enjoys it. Even my eating buddy, Ezra, wants his made differently. Even though there are tons of toasted sandwiches and paninis out there, I actually got the idea for this one from my friend Krisin, of potato pancake fame. When we visited her and her family a couple of years ago, she made me this fantastic panini. All I recall is the turkey, provolone and avocado. Not sure if she put pesto on it too. At any rate, it was de-lish, and I've been making them at home for myself ever since. Well, I don't make them as often as I'd like, but they do get made and eaten on occasion.
Kristin has an actual panini maker. I probably saw someone use a cast iron skillet on TV or something, though, and since that's what I have, that's what I use.
This sandwich is so yummy: crispy and crunchy on the outside, soft, creamy, salty, and pesto-y in the middle. All of the flavors work together to make my mouth and my tummy happy. I really need to treat myself more often.

Toasty Turkey, Pesto, Provolone & Avocado Sandwich

Ingredients
  • 6-inch segment of a grocery store French bread loaf
  • 2 teaspoons basil pesto
  • 3 ounces (or so) sliced deli turkey
  • 1 slice provolone cheese
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced thin
Instructions
Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium to medium-low heat.
Cut bread horizontally and spread 1 teaspoon of pesto onto each side. 
Arrange turkey and then sliced avocado on one side. Place cheese on other side, and close.
Place on preheated skillet and press with a spatula. Cover with a large domed lid to accelerate melting of the cheese. After a couple of minutes, check for browning. When bottom is browned, turn sandwich with a spatula, press down with spatula and cover again. (Be sure not to go to the computer to start blogging about the sandwich in the pan, or it's likely to burn.) After a couple of minutes, check to see if that side is browned. 
If the sandwich is browned, but the cheese is still not melted, remove the pan from the heat and let it sit covered for another 2-3 minutes.
Slice sandwich in half, and enjoy.
Makes 1 sandwich.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Baked Potatoes...Sort Of

Twice Baked Potatoes in a Dish
Potato Skins with Sour Cream
Potato Skins

When I asked my husband what side dish he wanted with simple grilled chicken breast for dinner tonight, he wasn't sure, until I said, "How about twice baked potatoes?" 
"Yeah! That sounds great. Unless..."
"Yeah? What are you thinking?"
"Potato skins."
"Hmmm... I think I'll make both."

My mom makes these amazingly decadent twice-baked potatoes in a pan, but she normally uses red potatoes. I will have to make and post that exact recipe another time. 
For now, I'm really going over the top preparing these two potato sides. In the time it's taken me to type this recipe up, I've doubled the recipe and invited my sister-in-law and her family over for dinner. 

I'm making up the potato skins recipe based on what I remember eating at the Black Angus waaaaay back when I was a kid. I just remember them being crisp, greasy, cheesy, and bacony. Mmmm... I might be out of control.

The recipe(s) below can be halved if you're not serving 9 people like I am tonight.


Twice-Baked Potatoes in a Dish and Potato Skins
  • 9 medium russet potatoes
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper 
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk (if potatoes are too thick)
  • 1 jar bacon bits, or a half pound of bacon, fried and cut into bits, or cut into bits and fried
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • canola oil to fry in
  • sour cream, if desired
  • 3 green onions, sliced

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Scrub and pierce potatoes several times with a sharp knife. Bake potatoes at 350° for about an hour, or until potatoes give when squeezed gently with an oven-mitted hand.
When potatoes are done, cut in half and carefully scoop out insides, leaving about a 1/4-inch layer of potato inside. Set skins aside.

For the Twice Baked Potatoes in a Dish: 
Place potato insides in a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer. Mix briefly to break potatoes down a little. Add cream cheese, sour cream, butter, chopped garlic, and about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon or so of pepper. Beat until thoroughly mixed, but don't mix to the point of gumminess. If the mixture seems really thick, add up to 1/2 cup milk to smooth it out to the consistency of mashed potatoes.
Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spread potato mixture into  the prepared pan. 
Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes at 325°. 
Immediately after removing from oven, cover the top with 1 cup of cheese.  Then sprinkle with about 2/3 of the bacon and sliced green onions, if desired.  Allow to sit for about 10-15 minutes before serving. The heat from the potatoes will melt the cheese perfectly.
Makes about 9-10 servings.

For the Potato Skins:
After scooping out potato insides, you should have 18 half skins. Cut each of those in half, so you have quarter skins.
Heat about 2 inches of canola oil in a pan (about 325°). Fry potato skins in batches, careful not to crowd the pan. Once skins are a deep golden brown, remove to a paper towel-lined cooking rack to drain. 
Place fried skins, open side up, on a baking sheet. Sprinkle each with cheese and a little bacon. Place in 325° oven for about 5- 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Top with sour cream and green onions, if desired.
Makes about 9 servings.

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