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Archive for September, 2010

Yet again, this recipe came about because I was trying to figure out what to make with the ingredients in our fridge.  That explains some of the less traditional concoctions.  My husband and I were talking about dinner and I decided I wanted something lemony but he wasn’t crazy about the idea of the traditional stuff.  Using my stellar knowledge (and a prayer) I threw together this recipe.  A few notes, first, it was much more watery than I wanted even after cooking it down and adding rice.  I had to add a pinch of flour.  As a result, I’ve reduced the amount of milk I used in the recipe I’m posting below.  Be careful with adding the flour so that you get the right consistency.  Also garlic was amplified given taste preferences.  I’m going to put the amount I used on the recipe but if you’re not a fan of garlic I would recommend altering that part of the recipe.  Like I said, this is a recipe thrown together with what I had in my fridge so you may want to amend as desired.  Like the grilled chicken with watermelon salsa I have below, I did half of this with real chicken and half with Quorn to meet the needs of a carnivore/pescaterian household.

Serves: 2 -4 depending on hunger

Prep Time: 1 1/2 hours or however long it takes for your chicken to thaw

Cook Time: Approximately 30-45 minutes (depending on skill level)

Lemon Basil Cream

Cream Sauce

4 tbsp butter

1 1/2 cup skim milk

1/2 cup cream (I used whipping cream since that’s all we had)

1 tsp salt (or more to taste)

Dash Nutmeg

2 tbsp feta cheese

2 tbsp fresh chopped basil

Dash Black Pepper to taste

Rest of Dish

4 Chicken Breasts (in our case, 2 thawed boneless skinless chicken breasts and 2 pieces of Quorn Chiken)

2 cups chopped mushrooms

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

Salt to taste

Black Pepper to taste

2 lemons, juiced

Directions

Melt butter in a pot. Add milk, cream, feta, nutmeg, basil, salt and whisk until smooth.  Simmer for about 5 minutes. Whisk in flour slowly then remove from heat.

While cream sauce is simmering, saute garlic in some olive oil with salt and pepper and add chicken.  Cook chicken for about 15 minutes.  Make sure that the garlic does not burn.  Add mushrooms and lemon juice once chicken is mostly cooked.  Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes.  Add cream sauce and simmer so that the flavor of the cream sauce.  I served over rice but I would recommend serving over short pasta.

To be frank, the presentation on this dish..well..as you can see it wouldn’t wow the crowd on Chopped or Iron Chef.  Adding the rice in to try to make it a little less watery really didn’t make it look all that nice.  It was, however, quite good.  One of those “I don’t believe its gonna be good given the way it looks” things.  Like I recommended, try it with pasta or just over rice instead of adding in the rice.  Otherwise you get this delicious yet visually unappealing endeavor.

**Husband’s Corner***

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This concoction came about for my brother-in-law’s surprise 30th birthday tailgate.  Given his preference for things spicy and stouty I came up with this recipe that allows for a stout taste and a little bit of that spice all while clearly being a chocolate cupcake.  Having others try the cupcakes, without the icing they may be too spicy for some people so I would recommend trying it out and slowly adding the chipotle to the mix.  We doubled this recipe and it came out to around 60 cupcakes (but we made them on the smaller side).  Enjoy!

Chocolate Stout Chile Cupcakes

Cupcakes

4 cups Stout (Guiness recommended)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate

2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

2 large egs

3/4 cup sour cream

3 1/2 tbs ground chipotle chili

Icing

8 oz cream cheese (softened)

4 tablespoons butter (softened)

4 powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Cupcakes

Preheat 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line cupcake pan with cupcake cups.

Bring stout and butter to simmer in sauce pan.  Add cocoa and whisk until smooth.

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and chili.  Melt chocolate in microwave or a double boiler.  Beat together eggs, chocolate, and sour cream.  Add stout mixture and beat to combine.  Slowly add flour mixture.  Bake approximately 20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool completely before icing.

Icing

In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. The amount of sugar will give you the consistency you want.  Store in the refrigerator after use.

We also added some hot flakes for some extra pizazz into the icing.  They were purchased at a Korean market by us.  They are not hot but provide that chili look to the cupcakes

**Husband’s Corner***

    Due to absurd circumstances, we made these cupcakes in the middle of a road trip in my friends’ apartment in Columbia, MD, which is somewhere between 130 and 240 miles from either our destination or our departure point.  It’s an apartment shared by two male friends of mine from high school, and is basically the worst possible place to decide to bake 60 cupcakes you can think of.  Here are things I have a better shot of finding in their apartment than, for example, a medium-to-large mixing bowl.

    1. Russian nesting dolls.
    2. A katana.
    3. A framed picture of Donovan McNabb.
    4. A framed illustration (a drawing or something, definitely not a photograph) of the main cast of Seinfeld.
    5. A framed dime.  Like US currency, legal tender, one-tenth of a dollar, dime.  You might think it’s a collector’s item because of the frame, but it’s not.  Approximate value of the dime?  Ten cents.
    6. A hand-embroidered WWF desk chair.

    My point here is that it was difficult to work in their tiny ill-equipped kitchen with the fluorescent light that was capable only of flickering, as if it were telling us “It’s just not worth it to light the kitchen in this place”.

    The cupcakes, once made, were pretty awesome.  We had combined and taste-tested a number of recipes, varying the amount of chocolate, beer, and chipotle until we hit the right one.  What I liked best about the cupcakes is that you tasted it in stages.  The first thing I noticed when biting into one was the stout and butter flavor, which is a pretty good first thing to notice, cupcake or not.  That taste sort of mellowed and the chocolate came out next.  Just as I was thinking that I could taste the smokiness of the chipotle, but not the heat, a slow burn started, quenched after a few seconds by the rich cream cheese frosting.  I was extremely impressed by the balance in these cupcakes.  They combined a lot of strong flavors, and each seemed to shine through at different times. Definitely something I could see us making again.  They have to be for the right crowd, and would go best at an activity where beer is featured, making them a great addition to a tailgate.

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    Tonight we were sitting around trying to figure out what to have for dinner.  We had a late (and big) lunch – perfect for afternoon football.   That led to the “ugh, what are we going to eat” around 6:50pm.  Since my fantasy football team was epically failing (coupled with the fact that my opponent had Arian Foster and Matt Forte that decided to score a combined 71 points), I decided to try to figure out something to make.  Based on the ingredients we had in-house I came up with the following.  The watermelon salsa and spice for the chicken were higher based on taste preferences.  If you don’t like spicy foods I would recommend decreasing the amount of jalapenos in the salsa and the cayenne for the chicken.  This recipe was made half with real chicken and half with Quorn chik’n so it can be made for the meat-eater and the vegetarian/pescaterian.

    Serves 2-4 (depending on hunger)

    Prep time: Approximately 20-25 minutes

    Cook time: Approximately 10-15 minutes.

    Watermelon Salsa

    2 cups diced watermelon

    2 1/2 tbsp jalapenos

    1/4 cup chopped red onion

    1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

    1 tbsp lime juice

    1 tsp sugar

    1/4 tsp salt

    1/4 tsp cumin

    Chop watermelon, jalapenos, red onion and cilantro.  Combine.  I used jalapenos from a jar but fresh jalapenos can be substituted if seeded prior to including in salsa.  Add lime juice, sugar, salt and cumin.  Mix well.

    Grilled Chicken (Quorn Chik’n)

    4 Thawed/Fresh Chicken breasts or Quorn Naked Chik’n Cutlets

    1 tbsp olive oil

    1 tsp cumin

    3/4 tsp Ground red chili pepper

    2 tbsp minced garlic

    Salt to taste

    Preheat grill on high.  Combine ingredients and mix well.  Rub marinade unto chicken.  Place chicken on grill.  Cook on each side for 6 minutes.  Then cook on each side for an additional 2 minutes.

    Rice

    1 cup instant rice

    1/4 cup diced red onion

    2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro

    1 lime, juiced

    1 medium tomato, chopped

    Salsa to taste

    1/2 tsp cumin

    1/4 tsp salt

    Dash ground red pepper

    I used instant rice for this recipe because I was looking to make a quick meal.  Bring 1 cup of water to a boil.  When water is boiling, remove from heat add instant rice.  Stir in instant rice and cover.  Let stand for approximately 5 minutes.  Once rice is ready add chopped red onion, cilantro, tomato, and salsa.  Mix together to make sure spices are well-distributed.  Add lime juice, cumin, salt, and ground red pepper.  Mix well.

    To serve:

    Serve rice on plate and serve the watermelon salsa on top of the grilled chicken.  Enjoy!

    Husband’s Corner

    This will be a regular feature.  My husband will write about his feelings on the dish.  Unlike me he is exceptionally witty and has no problem pointing out when my cooking *ahem* fails (some day I’ll recount my vegetable lasagna attempt, which is the go-to counter  for my “I can too cook!” argument):

    Listen, since this is my first Husband’s Corner, I want to start off by saying that I grilled the hell out of that chicken.  It was perfectly juicy and evenly cooked, no crispy edges or questionably pink spots whatsoever.  I think Jen should change the title of this dish to “Platonic Ideal of Grilled Chicken with Watermelon Salsa and Rice”, it was that good.  How good was it?  Well, for one thing, our puppy Margot crapped all over the floor when I brought the chicken inside, due to what I assume is disbelief and awe.  That’s how impressive it was – a dog wanted to eat my chicken so bad that her brain rerouted all her energy so she could concentrate on wanting to eat my chicken, at the expense of control of the rest of her bodily functions.  And if there is one thing Margot knows how to do, it is wanting to eat chicken.  Now, you may be saying to yourself “Didn’t you just accidentally condition her to expect a treat whenever you go out to the balcony where the grill is because you would go out there to hide and stuff her amoxicillin in a Pupperoni when she had that urinary tract infection so she wouldn’t freak out when you opened the bag?  She probably crapped as punishment for you not giving her a treat”, but you would be wrong.  The dog wanted the chicken.

    The watermelon salsa itself was great, very refreshing, and not overly oniony, which was a concern of mine during the preparation.  It was spicy, but not so much that it was a distraction from the taste or great texture, and the cool watermelon kept any spice under control.  The cilantro and cumin, two of my favorite tastes, really popped.  If you can’t enjoy perfectly grilled chicken with watermelon salsa, I’m going to need to see your original birth certificate, because I can’t believe that you’re really an American.  Actually, considering that I know that watermelons are pretty important in Mexico, and that this salsa was Latin-inspired, I’m going to need to see either a birth certificate or a certificado de nacimiento, because I can’t believe that you are either an American citizen or a native of a number of Central and South American countries.  The Western Hemisphere: Love it or leave it. Overall, a great summer dish, that I think would probably translate well to cooler weather, especially if you had it with tortilla soup or something like that.

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    Welcome to my attempt at a blog!  This is my first attempt at a blog and I thought what better avenue that talking about food (since I expect my inner monologue is less than intriguing to most).  Its really of my way of atoning for the sins of the past; a redemption in a way.  Cooking is quite an important to me not only because its something that my husband and I love to do together but it’s also something that has not always been a strong suit.  …. Now fade to montage of previous cooking experiences.

    My failures: In high school I tried to make cookies with Crisco.  This was a bag of cookie mix where all you add is eggs, butter, and milk.  I also burnt an egg.  While trying to hard boil it.

    My ability to cook began to develop when I was studying abroad in England.  Since I had never really cooked for myself before since I had lived either at home with my parents or on campus this was the first time I really needed to make something edible.  Most of the time it was fairly simple stuff.  What made it more problematic was that at the time I was completely vegetarian so I couldn’t just make chicken and be over with it.  I have since started eating fish and shellfish which has increased the amount of food I can cook and the flexibility.  Meeting and dating my husband also broadened my cooking horizons.  In the first year of dating I ate mostly salmon, potatoes, and spinach or something else that featured salmon or spaghetti and meatballs (since you can get meatless meatballs).  Around our first year anniversary he said “it’s about time you move on from canned sauce” since he grew up in an Italian family that made its own sauce.  Since that moment I have never voluntarily eaten sauce that has not been made in my own kitchen.  When we moved in together we started making more complicated meals.  I have been able to move on from a burnt hard-boiled egg to a wide array of foods from fresh pumpkin ravioli (like cut from an actual pumpkin) with sage butter cream sauce and banana chocolate cake.  This blog is my attempt to capture my culinary adventures as I further develop my skills and move from hopeless wannabe to actual cook.  I only eat fish and my husband eats everything so this will also hopefully provide some useful recipes for people in our situation.  Since I will never move from my “what should I order?” roots, its also important to appreciate those awesome meals that others make for me.

    Hope you enjoy!

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