29 June 2011

Easy, Yummy Oven-Fried Chicken

Peapod failed to bring cod to my house so meals were shuffled around and, viola, oven-fried chicken on Wednesday. Yes. I'm all daring like that. I halved Betty Crocker's "Oven-Fried Ranch Chicken" recipe and it was pretty darn good for a recipe that had essentially four ingredients -- chicken, buttermilk, ranch dressing mix, and cornbread mix.

Wednesday Comfort Food

I only used drumsticks for this recipe as I wanted to make sure everything cooked evenly. Next time, I might use a combination of thighs and drumsticks. Generally, I prefer dark meat for recipes like this because the chicken seems harder to overcook but, if I get really comfortable with this recipe, I might try it with split breasts.

I also substituted 3 tablespoons of Penzeys Buttermilk Ranch dressing mix for the envelopes of mix. I'm pretty sure you could simplify this recipe and just cover your chicken with a bottle of commercially prepared buttermilk ranch if you didn't want to faff around with mix packets and buttermilk (or sour milk). Regardless of what you soak it in, I strongly recommend letting your chicken soak overnight. I know some chefs say there's no difference between long-term and short-term soaking, but I swear I taste the difference.

Anyway, this recipe is incredibly easy to put together, generates very little mess, and tastes pretty darn good. I will definitely be making it again -- especially when the farm stand down the road starts selling their Kandy Korn. Mmmm. Fried chicken, corn on the cob, and potato salad. A perfect supper.

(Of course, a supper of fried chicken, buttermilk smashed potatoes, and buttery parsleyed carrots isn't far from perfection!)

27 June 2011

Menu Plan Monday, 27 June

This week continues along last week's path -- lots of grilled meats and tossed salads.  Am trying out a couple side dish recipes from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook which I brought home from the library last week.  Many of the recipes sound pretty tempting, but I've not delved too deep yet.  Perhaps next week I will try something like "Lamb Shanks with White Beans" in my slow cooker.

Monday
  • Enormous tossed salad topped with oil packed tuna, diced pickled beets, garlicky croutons, and low fat balsamic vinaigrette.
Tuesday
  • Grilled marinated pork tenderloin with tossed salad and spicy black-eyed peas. 
Wednesday
  • Basil-roasted cod with tossed salad. Ingredients: cod (from freezer), garden basil, grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, olive oil.
Thursday
  • Ham sammich on multigrain with garden greens, light Swiss, and blue cheese mustard. Plus low fat Greek yoghurt and low-sodium pretzels.
Friday
  • Grilled marinated steaks with "Wild Mushrooms with Fresh Thyme" from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook and tossed salad.  Ingredients: small grass-fed beef steaks, red wine marinade, mushrooms, garlic, thyme, light soy sauce, garden parsley, black pepper.
Saturday/Sunday
  • Oven-fried chicken with "All-American Potato Salad" from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook and garden salad. Ingredients: small red potatoes, light mayonnaise, garden parsley, scallions, celery, cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, black pepper. (Haven't quite figured out which oven-fried chicken recipe to use).

24 June 2011

Slurping Sorrel Soup

I used to buy glass jars of condensed sorrel soup from the Polish market down the street, but the market closed up a few years ago now and I've been unable to find a local supplier. Happily, when I took my mom to Salem Herbfarm on Mother's Day, I picked up a wee potted sorrel plant with the intention of making my own sorrel soup ... should my plant survive my cats and the weird weather we get up here on Death Mountain.

Well, whodathunkit, but my plant quite took to my garden and is enormous. Some of the gardening guides say that, like rhubarb, leaves shouldn't be harvested until the second year, but my plant is so big and lush that I can't help myself and must harvest leaves now. And eat them up, yum.

Sorrel Leaves for Soup

To make my soup, I used a recipe for "Sorrel and Potato Soup (Potage à L'oseille)." This recipe makes for a much smoother, creamier, richer soup than the tart brothy jarred soup I am used to, but it is so delicious I don't care. The day I made this soup, I seriously considered staying home from work and eating soup all day. I am actually quite pleased The Husband turned his nose up at it, because it means I don't have to share!

Sorrel & Potato Soup

I followed the original recipe pretty closely except that I used a mixture of red onion and shallots (didn't have quite enough shallots on hand) and vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and wine. Rather than puree the soup, I diced the potatoes very small before I cooked them and then mashed them a bit with a spoon to create a slightly chunkier soup.

22 June 2011

Tabouli(ish) Lentils

Sorrel is for SoupI planted a wee pot of sorrel in my vegetables garden about a month ago and the plant is now quite enormous. I had planned make soup with my sorrel Sunday afternoon, but it just didn't work out. I had the recipe all picked out -- "Sorrel and Potato Soup (Potage à L'oseille)" -- and was ready to go. Just needed to pick up potatoes and heavy cream at the market. Well, wouldn't you know, the market was out of heavy cream. Yes. Madness. The rest of my groceries couldn't stay in the hot car while I scouted other markets for heavy cream so I just went home and sulked a bit.

Then, I made a lentil-sorrel salad by modifying Robin Asbell's recipe for "Sorrel-Freekeh Tabouli." I used a 17.63 ounce package of cooked lentils instead of cracked freekeh, because I was in the mood for lentils. The mint and sorrel flavors work well together -- the mint mellows the sorrel's tartness while the sorrel keeps the mint from taking over.

I served this salad over lettuce greens from my garden and sprinkled it with some goat cheese crumbles. It makes for a filling lunch and I've found it will carry me through the afternoon without a three o'clock snack binge. Yay, for soluble fiber?

Lentil-Sorrel Tabouli(ish)

20 June 2011

Menu Plan Monday, 20 June

Still more gardening to do this week, plus a shift swap, and some after work activities so ... a pretty basic menu plan of convenience foods paired with grilled protein of some kind or other and salad made with greens from my garden.

This week I will finish planting and mulching and next week I will cook proper meals using actual recipes from real cookbooks, so help me god.

Meatless Monday
  • Whole Foods's falafel wrap with mango and low fat Greek yoghurt.
Tuesday
  • Garden greens tossed with Whole Foods's Black Bean Salad Shaker.
Wednesday
  • Grilled marinated boneless pork loin chops (from freezer) with garden salad and Seed's of Change's "Siena Tuscan-Style" whole grain rice and bean blend.
Thursday
  • Garden salad topped with chopped leftover pork chop and crumbled goat cheese, with low fat Greek yoghurt and kiwi.
Friday
  • Grilled marinated boneless skinless chicken breasts (from freezer) with steamed green beans and Seeds of Change's ready-to-heat "Tigris" grain blend.
Saturday/Sunday
  • Grilled marinated beef steaks (from freezer) with "Chipotle Ranch" Suddenly Salad and garden salad.

18 June 2011

Easy Comfort Food: Sausages & Polenta

Friday, I came home from work craving something comforting and starchy for supper. There were no potatoes in the house, but I found a tube of refrigerated polenta in the back of the crisper drawer and, as I had already thawed a package of sun-dried tomato and basil chicken sausage, roasted sausages and polenta seemed to be the thing:

Roasted Sausages w/ Polenta

I roasted the sausages using Jamie Oliver's recipe for "Sweet Cherry Tomato and Sausage Bake" (Jamie at Home, Hyperion: 2008) but modified it somewhat to suit my ingredients -- I used a mix of grape tomatoes, red bell pepper, and red onion instead of just cherry tomatoes and dried bay as well as fresh oregano, rosemary, and thyme from my garden. Just roasted everything until, as Jamie says, the sausages were "golden and sticky."

Herbs Are For Roasting

To make the polenta, I ran the tube of polenta through my food processor with milk, garlic, and Parmigiano-Reggiano until it was smooth and then microwaved it for about 3 minutes (stirring halfway through). Seasoned it with a little black pepper and it was good to go.

This was a very easy, satisfying weeknight meal.

14 June 2011

Birthday Cookies

My Dad likes root beer (once upon a time, he even worked at an A&W root beer stand) and I wanted to bake something root beer-y for his birthday, but that's not a flavor I often come across in cookbooks and I was kind-of stuck as to what to make. Happily, the Internet is full of recipes and I ended up baking up a lovely batch of cookies using Cook's recipe for "Root Beer White Chocolate Chip Cookies."

Birthday Cookies

The root beer flavor wasn't very strong (Penzey's Mexican vanilla might have been too strong for this recipe), but there was definite whiff of root beer about them and the overall texture and spicy-sweet flavor combination was very pleasing.

Still, if I were to make these again, I might use 3 teaspoons of root beer extract and omit the vanilla altogether for a stronger root beer taste (Cook's root beer extract is made with bourbon vanilla extract, anyway).

13 June 2011

Menu Plan Monday, 13 June

Must do a lot of gardening this week -- 4 cubic yards of mulch won't shift itself and there's a buttload of weeding that needs to be done before it can be laid down -- so some very basic cookery going on here.

Monday
  • Grilled tuna steaks with salad and beans. Ingredients: tuna steaks (from freezer), garlic, olive oil, black pepper, Penzeys Tuscan Sunset seasoning blend, salad fixings, beans.
Tuesday
  • Tossed salad topped with chopped shrimp, black beans, and shredded Cabot 50% reduced-fat cheddar with low fat Greek yoghurt and cherries.
Wednesday
  • Grilled steak with steamed green beans and rice. Ingredients: steak (from freezer), Penzeys Northwoods seasoning blend, frozen green beans, rice, low-sodium chicken broth, chopped parsley, unsalted butter.
Thursday
  • Tossed salad topped with sliced leftover steak and feta cheese, with low fat Greek yoghurt and blueberries.
Friday
  • Grilled pork chops with carrots and beans. Ingredients: boneless pork loin chops (from freezer), light Italian dressing (for marinade), tinned carrots, fresh dill, Heinz (tomato-based) baked beans.
Saturday/Sunday
  • Grilled chicken breasts with salad and pickled beets. Ingredients: boneless skinless chicken breasts (from freezer), Penzeys Greek seasoning blend, olive oil, pressed garlic, salad fixings, low-sodium sliced tinned beets, red onion, white vinegar.

10 June 2011

Cookery Catch-Up or "When Gardening Gets in the Way"

Lots of gardening going on this time of year and not so much in the way of cooking. Oh, food gets on the table, but those pretty cookbooks I keep bringing home from the library are just languishing in a pile by my reading chair. Over the next week or so, I hope, the dirtiest and most complicated gardening tasks will be completed and I can get back to my cookbooks (and I'll need to, because I'm pretty sure I planted more vegetables than two people can reasonably hope to eat).

Some of the plain, simple cooking we've been eating:

Grilled Tuna

Tuna steak brushed with a little olive oil then rubbed with Penzeys Tuscan Sunset seasoning blend & grilled until yummy. Served with steamed green beans and rice cooked in low-sodium chicken broth.

Grilled Steak w/ Mushrooms & Veggies

Lovely grass-fed steak rubbed with Penzeys Northwoods seasoning blend and grilled medium-rare. Served with garlicky mushrooms (mushrooms, tons of garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, Worcestershire, and more Northwoods seasoning blend) and Green Giant's Valley Fresh Steamers "Vegetables Garden Medley" (sugar snap Peas, potatoes, red bell peppers).

Grilled Chicken w/ Grilled Asparagus

Boneless skinless chicken breasts rubbed with Penzeys Arizona Dreaming salt-free seasoning blend and grilled. Served with asparagus roasted with garlic, fresh thyme, and cherry tomatoes.

(These two recipes really do not go together and I hadn't meant to serve them together, but my menu plan got shuffled around and this is what was left at the end of the week).

Saturday Night Lemon Pepper Chicken

Boneless skinless chicken breasts rubbed with salt-free lemon pepper seasoning & a little paprika (for color). Served with rice cooked in low-sodium chicken broth and Green Giant Steamers' "Healthy Colors" Nature's Blend (orange carrots, yellow carrots, green beans, red bell pepper).

07 June 2011

Plan B for (Nearly) Best Burger Ever

Sunday, we hit Hartford for a little art, some Puerto Rican pride, and (of course) delicious food. Connecticut has a Burgers & Brews Trail [pdf] and, while we're not terribly keen on brews, we do love a good burger so were eager to try one of the Trail's many venues. Plan B Burger Bar in West Hartford seemed like a good start and we arrived just after opening (it's never too early for a good burger) with good appetite.

Delicious Pretzel Burger

I ate the "Pretzel Burger" -- a beef burger on a pretzel bun with spicy mustard, lettuce, pickles, cheddar. Served with organic mixed greens and a half-sour pickle, it was definitely one of the best burgers I have ever eaten. The beef was tender and juicy with just a little pink and the soft buttery pretzel buns soaked up all the good juices. My only complaint was that the cheddar was too mild and waxy -- the spicy mustard and the burger's sheer beefiness overwhelmed it.

At the end of our meal, we shared a twee chocolate cake which looked rather like a certain snack cake, but tasted so much better:

Chocolate Cake Hostess Homage

06 June 2011

Menu Plan Monday, 6 June

Another week, another menu plan. Ideally, I would like to stop throwing these menus together Sunday night, but that just seems to be the way my life is running  ...

Monday
  • Grilled steaks with mushrooms and corn. Ingredients: steaks (from freezer), garlic, mushrooms, onion, red wine vinegar, olive oil, unsalted butter, fresh thyme, fresh parsley.
Tuesday
  • Tossed salad topped with thin-sliced leftover steak, black beans, and shredded Cabot 50% reduced-fat cheddar with low fat Greek yoghurt and watermelon.
Wednesday
  • Appointments and errands after work, so pick something "nutritious" up in between.
Thursday
  • Tossed salad topped with chopped shrimp, crumbled goat cheese, and blueberries with low fat Greek yoghurt.
Friday
  • Turkey burgers with tossed salad. 
Saturday/Sunday
  • Salsa skillet pork chops with buttery, golden potatoes and steamed green beans. Ingredients: boneless pork chops (from freezer), black bean salsa, Penzeys salt-free Arizona Dreaming seasoning blend, canned potatoes, butter, Parmesan, parsley, black pepper, green beans.