Friday, October 30, 2009

They do call it CORN bread, right?

Remember what I said yesterday about following directions? Well, apparently it holds true of prepackaged mixes. Putting actual corn in corn bread?? How arrogant, eh?

Prepackaged corn bread mix
1 small can of corn
1/3 cup sour cream
2-3 T butter
Drain corn, reserving water in a measuring cup (you need 1/2 cup liquid, so add water or pour some out as necessary). Mix together everything except for the butter. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place butter in an 8x8" baking pan and put in oven to melt. Tip pan to cover bottom and sides with butter. Pour in batter and bake until cooked through, about 30 minutes.
Serves four.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Don't-Call-Me-Salsa Chicken (serves 4)

Call me arrogant, but I consider recipes suggestions, inspirations, but not something to necessarily be followed to the letter. I don't exactly measure -- or I don't measure exactly. And I almost always change something -- even this one, the inspiration of which won the $1 million prize in the Pillsbury Bake-Off contest in the late 1990s. Pretty arrogant, eh?

5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 T olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
1 cup salsa (*See Note)
1/4 cup water
1 T honey
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (I used light sour cream)
Rice or couscous -- cooked according to package directions.
Heat olive oil in large saute pan, add garlic and cook over medium until golden, about five minutes. Add chicken and saute, turning to lightly brown on all sides.
Meanwhile, mix together everything but sour cream. Add salsa mix to chicken, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover, simmering until chicken is cooked through (about 20 minutes). Remove chicken to a serving platter (you'll want one with sides to hold the sauce in) and keep warm.
Add sour cream and stir with a whisk to combine. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.
Serve with/over rice or couscous (is yummy with the sauce)

*Note -- With more shelf space in the grocery store devoted to salsa than ketchup, you have plenty to choose from and whatever you have (brand, heat, etc.) works in this dish. But don't worry, the honey, cinnamon and cumin change the flavor so dramatically that you won't recognize the salsa. In fact, this tastes more like a dish from Morocco than one from Mexico.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Let them eat steak!

Yes, I'm a vegetarian. But the other eight people around our dinner table are not. Since majority rules around here, I often find myself in search of new ways to cook meats that I find on sale.

This week it was London broil (you could substitute flank steak in this one, if that's what you find on sale), which is economical even at full price and a downright steal when you find it for half price. I spent about $6 for a hunk of meat that fed everyone (except me, of course). If you're only feeding four, I recommend cooking whatever size steak you can find. The leftovers make a fabulous steak sandwich for lunch the next day (or so I'm told).

1 London Broil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 T lemon juice
3 T brown mustard
1 1/2 T Worchester sauce
1 T soy sauce
1-2 tsp. chopped garlic
Mix together everything but meat in a gallon-size zipper bag. Add meat and turn to coat. Marinate in refrigerator, turning every hour or so, for at least two hours.
Preheat broiler to 500 F. Remove meat from bag, shake to remove excess marinade and place on broiler pan in the middle of the oven. Broil for 5 minutes, flip, broil another 5 minutes. Remove from oven, cover with foil and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice thin against the grain to serve.
** Note: I served this with baked potatoes, steamed frozen green beans and a salad.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Stir fry two ways (serves 4)

This recipe starts out as one large stir fry, and then right at the end I separate it into two: one with beef, one without. But you could also choose to make it all meat (add an extra steak and eliminate the vegetable stock), or all veggie (eliminate the beef stock and double the veggie):

2 tsp. crushed ginger
2 tsp. chopped garlic
Vegetable oil
1 bag frozen mixed Chinese vegetables
6 oz. mushrooms (optional)
1 can water chestnuts, sliced
2 Steak-eze steaks (*see note)
1 cup beef stock
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tsp. corn starch
2 T soy sauce (or more to taste)
Rice, cooked according to package directions (*see note)
In a large fry pan, saute ginger and garlic in oil until golden, about 5 minutes. Add frozen vegetables and mushrooms and saute until cooked through and golden. Remove from pan. Drain and reserve half the pan juices (skip this step if making all meat or all veggies). Add Steak-eze and cook according to package directions, separating meat after turning steaks over. Remove cooked meat from pan. Add beef stock and 1 T soy sauce and whisk to combine. Add 1 tsp corn starch and whisk to remove any lumps (I never get the lumps out, so I often will strain the sauce and return it to the pan). Bring to a boil and reduce slightly. Add back to pan half of vegetables and all of meat and stir to heat and combine. Remove from pan, wipe out pan and add remaining pan juices, vegetable stock and 1 T soy sauce. Repeat process with corn starch. Add vegetables, stir to combine and remove from pan. Serve both stir fries over rice.

* Steak-eze. I found this product the last time I was at Costco, and figured it had potential in recipes. It looks like pressed steaks, but when cooked the meat comes apart into layers designed to make steak sandwiches. I saw a picture on the box of the meat used in a stir fry, and was inspired to create this dish.
* Rice. I can't cook it according to package directions. It either comes out underdone, or mushy and overdone. So after much trial and error I have learned how to cook rice like you would cook pasta. It comes out fluffy and perfect every time. Fill a pot with a generous amount (two to three times the amount the package calls for) of lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Add rice, stir and boil on low for 16 minutes. Drain.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When you don't want to cook...

OK. So generally this blog is going to be the recipes for the real meals we put on our rather large dinner table.
But sometimes, even a mom who likes to cook needs a break.
And if you need a break, what's better than a $5.99 large pizza from Dominio's. For more information on the takeout only deal, check out the pizza company's web site here.

The ultimate in comfort food

After spending Sunday at the beach flying kites, it's now suddenly comfort food weather. And this one tops my list of favorites. The nutmeg and onion add subtle background flavor, but should not even be really recognizable.

Bakes Macaroni and Cheese
1 lb. elbow noodles, cooking according to package directions (if the package give a range of minutes, cook for the shortest time recommended as the noodles will cook slightly more in the oven)
1 small onion (or half a large onion), diced
3 T butter, divided
2 T flour
2 cups milk
1 lb. Velveta cheese, diced
Ends of whatever other cheese is in the fridge
fresh nutmeg to taste
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a baking dish (see Note below) with non-stick cooking spray.
Melt 1 T butter in a small fry pan and saute onion until very soft. Set aside.
Melt remaining butter and whisk in flour, continuing to whisk over medium heat for a minute or two. Continue whisking while adding in milk (to remove any possible lumps). Bring to a simmer and add Velveta, stirring occasionally until cheese is melted. Add any other bits of cheese you have in the 'fridge (this time I had a handful of cheddar and mozzarella, parm and provolone). Continue stirring until smooth.
In a large bowl, mix together noodles, onion, cheese and nutmeg (I used probably 15 or so scrapes of a fresh nutmeg). Pour into baking dish and bake, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Note: Some people really like the crunchy top parts of the mac and cheese. Others prefer the soft inside parts of the mac and cheese. If your family likes the former, bake in a big flat dish -- more top means more crunchy -- and vice versa.

Lentil Soup, beer bread and fruit cobbler

This soup has been Gregory's favorite since he started eating table food. And I figure, it we're having a light soup dinner, it's a good time to splurge on cobbler for dessert:

Lentil soup
1 lb dry lentils (any color)
3 qts. stock (I use veggie, but you can also use chicken)
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 T chopped garlic
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
1 T dry oregano
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt/pepper to taste
Combine everything but lemon juice in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer and cook until just before lentils break down (I usually let it go a few hours). Add lemon juice and salt/pepper if necessary.

Beer Bread
3 cups flour
1 T baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. (+) caraway seeds
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 (12 oz.) bottle or can of beer, any kind
Preheat oven to 375. Combine everything except beer. Add beer and mix thoroughly. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake until cooked through, about an hour.

Fruit of choice (I used three large peaches and a container of strawberries)
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
1 3/4 cup flour, divided
10 T cold butter
nutmeg, cinnamon to taste
1 T baking powder
1/3 cup boiling water
Cinnamon sugar
Preheat oven to 350. Combine fruit, 1/4 cup sugar and brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour. Pour into a large baking pan.
In the same bowl, combine remaining flour, sugars, baking powder and cinnamon/nutmeg to taste. Cut in cold butter until forms coarse meal. Add boiling water and stir until forms a batter. Spread over fruit. Top with cinnamon sugar. Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes.
Serve topped with whipped cream or ice cream.