Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mexican chicken with rice/beans

Recently, the kids have been lining up to help cook. Of course, I'm not sure how much help it really is, since the mess I have to clean up is bigger and often I have to redo some of what I just asked them to do. But it does get them excited about trying new foods. Because if they helped make it, it must be good, right?

In this case, I'm pretty sure it was good.

Skillet salsa chicken
2 T extra virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 1 lb. chicken tenders)
1/2 cup flour
1 cup salsa (mild, medium or hot)
1/2 cup sour cream

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium/high heat. Dredge chicken in flour, shake off excess and add to skillet. Brown chicken on both sides. Pour salsa over chicken, reduce heat, cover and simmer, turning several times until cooked through. Remove chicken and place on a warm platter. Add sour cream to sauce left in pan and stir. Cook until sauce thickens, about 5 to 10 minutes. Pour over chicken.

Baked rice and beans
1 box Rice A Roni Spanish style rice
2 T butter or olive oil
2 cups water
1 14-oz. can petit diced tomatoes
1 14-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
Shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400 F. Melt butter (or heat olive oil) in a skillet. Add rice and toast until golden. In a baking dish, mix together rice, seasoning packet, water, tomatoes and black beans. Cover tightly and bake until rice is soft and liquid is gone, about 90 minutes, stirring every 1/2 hour. Top with cheese and return to oven until melted, about 2 to 5 minutes.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tiger cake surprise

Over dessert last night, we played "name those mystery ingredients."

Mom was there when I made the cake, so she knew. And after a flurry of "you didn't put soy beans in here?" and other similar comments from everyone else around the table, I narrowed it down to a common spice and a common fat that I've never before used in sweet baking.

The spice was one of those things that was impossible to identify, and yet once you knew it was there, was impossible to ignore.

Pepper (the recipe called for white, but all I had was black).

The fat -- olive oil -- was very obvious from the smell of the uncooked batter. But once the cake came out of the oven, I'm not sure I would have identified it had I not known it was there.

The recipe was the cover recipe for The Best American Recipes cookbook I picked up in an after Christmas sale for $1. And believe it or not, other than substituting black pepper for white pepper, I followed the instructions. However next time I think I'll make a simple powdered sugar/milk glaze to drizzle over the hot cake before cooling.

Tiger Cake
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1/3 cup water
5 cold large eggs
1 cup cold milk
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Oil and flour a bundt pan
Whisk together 1/2 cup sugar, cocoa and water. Set aside.
In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl of a mixer, beat remaining 2 cups sugar, oil, vanilla and pepper until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat mixture until thick and pale. Add 1/3 flour mixture, beat, add 1/2 milk, beat and continue until flour and milk is incorporated.
Pour 3 cups of batter into a large bowl and add cocoa mix.
Pour 1/3 of plain batter into prepared pan, top with 1/3 of chocolate batter, and continue pouring layers until batter is all used up. Don't worry about marbling the batters -- it happens "magically" during baking.
Bake until cake is done, about an hour and 10 minutes.
Remove from pan and allow to cool.

Happy New Table

With nine people in the family, dinners around the dining table were cozy.
Sad thing is, that isn't necessarily a good thing when seven of those people are engaged in sibling rivalry and a misplaced elbow can signal the start of the next world war.
So after Christmas, Scott got started on building us a new table top (he says we built the table, but really all I did was help lift it a few times and apply some of the finish).
He had to dismantle the old table, and for little while we lived on sandwiches eaten off of plastic plates in front of the TV. At the end of the week, the kids groaned at another finger food meal and said they missed the vegetables and the nightly blessing.
When the table was finally ready, I made a special sit down meal as per the kids' request. Sausage and sauerkraut is also a fairly traditional meal made to celebrate the new year.

Sausage and sauerkraut
(Serves 4-6)
1 lb. bratwurst, cut in half
1 lb. beef kielbasa, cut in chunks
4 small packages sauerkraut
1 granny smith apple, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
1 T caraway seeds (3 tsp.), lightly crushed
1 beer

In the bottom of a crock pot, spread one bag of kraut. Top with 1/3 sausage, 1 bag of kraut, 1 tsp. seeds, 1/3 onion and apple. Repeat layers, ending with kraut. Add beer. Set crock to high, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until cooked through, about six hours.

Serve with beer bread, sauteed onions and buttered egg noodles.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year's Party

I remember New Year's Eve of 1989. I was living in Wilmington, DE, and my friends and I got dressed up and hit the city. We counted down to midnight, drank and danced until the band packed up and continues the festivities back at our apartment.

And while some things are the same 20 years later, many things have changed.

I'm back in Delaware, after 18 years in Virginia. But this year our New Year's celebration involved a homemade dinner with a dear friend from high school and his 5-year-old son who were visiting for the night. The kids were asleep by 9, and the only way we knew the calendar had switched to the beginning of a new decade was when we heard the neighbors outside counting down the last 5 seconds of 2009.

I think it was a change for the better!

For dinner I figured I'd try out a few new recipes, and I have to thank Tracy for this one.

New Year's Eve Potatoes
1 2-lb. package frozen shredded hash browns
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 stick butter, melted and divided

Preheat oven to 350 F. Thaw potatoes enough to separate (see note). Mix together potatoes, cheese, sour cream, soup and 4 T butter. Spray a 13x9" pan with baking spray. Spread potato mixture evenly in pan. Drizzle with remaining melted butter, spread and bake until golden, about 1 1/2 hours.

Note: The store was all out of frozen shredded hash browns, so I substituted 1 1/2 bags of the fresh shredded potatoes that you can find in the refrigerator section.