The Recipe Box

recipes and life.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

A Whole Chicken
And a white bean salad

I think it's fun to go to the deli counter at the grocery store and say "I'd like a chicken". But then, I am very easily amused.

Tonight, I made a salad that was an only slightly altered recipe from the June Cooking Light. It called for canned cannellini beans, which is what I used, but they made the salad a little mushy. I'm not sure what might hold up better. Possibly cooked dry beans would be better than canned, although that would eliminate the allure of quickness.

Basically, I did this:

Asked for a chicken at the deli counter. As he was packing it up, I saw that they also sell just the cooked breasts, and that's what I might go for next time. I only cut the breast off this one anyway. I chopped it up and tossed it into a bowl. Then I add a drained can of cannellini beans. I chopped up some tomatoes and red onion, sliced some fresh basil, and added some salt and pepper, then tossed it all together.

For the dressing, I combined 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, juice from half a lemon, a little honey mustard, some salt and pepper, and a minced few garlic cloves. Then, I wisked in a little extra virgin olive oil.

I drizzled that over the salad and tossed it together. I had it with some french bread, which helped compensate for the mushy beans. It was pretty good though, and healthy. The Cooking Light recipe is 369 calories, 10 grams fat (2 saturated), 29 grams of protein, and 9.6 grams of fiber per serving.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Rhubarb Steusel Muffins

I didn't do much cooking last week. Some weeks are like that. I do have a few things I want to make using veggies from the CSA basket. I want to give beets a chance, although I don't hold out high hopes for them. I'm really craving more fava beans, but of course, this week's basket didn't have any, and I cannot find them at the grocery store. I'll probably have to head down to the farmer's market to pick some up. We also stopped at a roadside stand and got some cherries yesterday (two kinds!). We'll probably mostly eat them plain, but I might try a recipe or two.

Friday, I had three meals of sandwiches. Sometimes, you just want a sandwich. The best one was the one I had for dinner: toasted baguette, miracle whip light, avocado slices, black pepper. With some baked potato chips.

Saturday night, I had chicken fajitas and a margarita, and I can pretend it was healthy, as I got fat free whole beans rather than refried, and I resisted the urge to eat the entire basket of chips and only had two (that is great restraint, especially because the margarita tends to impair my food judgement), but really? Probably not all that healthy. But it was really good.

However, I did bake rhubarb muffins Sunday morning. I'm not a big fan of rhubarb, and I thought muffins might provide some balance. They were pretty good. Much better than other rhubarb things I've tried. The tartness of the rhubarb was nicely balanced by the sweetness in the muffins -- I made the steusel with extra brown sugar. I used a cup and a half of rhubarb, but I think a cup would have been better. That would have tipped the muffin to rhubarb ratio the right direction. I made up the recipe, after looking at a few and taking from them what I wanted.

Like so--

Mix 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 butter at medium speed for a couple of minutes, then add 1 cup sour cream, 2 eggs, and 1 tablesoon vanilla extract and mix two more minutes. (I assume this is what happened, as P. was actually the one who did the mixing. I was vaccuuming at the time.)

In a separate bowl, stir together 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda (make sure that you're not out of this; if you're me, you are out, and P. has to run to the store for it), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.

Mix both mixtures together with maybe a rubber spatula.

Chop rhubarb into faily small pieces. I sliced them pretty thin. Fold 1 cup into the mix. Spoon into greased muffin tins.

In a little bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon flour and 1/1 - 1 tablespoon melted butter. You could add some chopped nuts as well, but I'm not a big fan of nuts in my baked goods. Once that's all streusel-like, sprinkle it on top of the muffins.

Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes.

Some recipes tell you to cook the rhubarb first. Some don't. I say don't because I didn't, and as it was, the rhubarb was pretty mushy. I don't think mushier would have been any better. However, if you're looking for more of a fig newton consistency to the rhubarb parts, you might give cooking it a try. I would simmer it in butter and brown sugar (or regular sugar, for that matter). And if you do that, you might cut down the amount of brown sugar in the recipe. What you could do is put the butter and brown sugar from the batter in with the simmering rhubarb instead, and then fold it all together. Depending on how much you cook it down, and how much you blend it in, you'd either have a fig newton type layering or a blended through, not quite recognizable as rhubarb pieces overall flavoring, which looking back, might have been a little better.

I might try that next time.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Chicken Pasta Salad and Lemon Meringue Pie

Last night, I had homemade dinner rolls, homemade pasta salad, and homemade lemon meringue pie. How do you make such yummy stuff?

Step 1: Get all whiny for no reason. Mostly because it's hot and you're not a great runner yet and jogging to the park and back is hard.

Step 2: Be all dramatic and collapse on the couch and refuse to do anything all day other than shower.

Step 3: Nap for a really long time because nothing good is on TV.

Step 4: Wake up and find a sweet boy baking and kneading dough and using lots of fancy kitchen equipment.

Step 5: Offer to help, only to be told to relax.

Step 6: Watch the sexy boy making peaks in the meringue and be amused.

Step 7: Eat.

I highly recommend this recipe. Except for the whiny part. I'm going to try to avoid that step next time.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Unsuccessful Chicken Korma

I tried to make chicken korma tonight. It didn't go well. You don't want to know about it. Really, you don't.

I had a big plate of it with rice, and it just wasn't satisfying, so I tried having some more, which only made me full, yet still not satisfied and I'm trying now to resist the urge to go get a cheeseburger. I tried snacking on a few cashews instead and it just wasn't the same. A glass of water didn't help either. So now, not only did I spend an hour making something that tastes vaguely like tree bark, only spicier, but I went over my intended calorie count for the day eating something I didn't even like.

When I could have had a cheeseburger.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Pasta From Scratch

Last night was night of pasta and CSA veggies. I think things went pretty well for our first time making pasta.

A friend who's lived in Italy and knows pasta told me that all you really need to do to make pasta is to take a couple of cups of flour and put it on a floured wooden board in a heap, then make a crater at the top and add a beaten and salted egg to the top. Then start working the flour over the egg until it's all a nice dough ball. I took the principle, but I used my kitchen aid. I hear people talking all the time about how great it is to knead dough with your hands, but all I feel is debilitating pain after about 30 seconds. I don't really feel closer to the dough or anything.

The kitchen aid book says that the consistency is hard to get at first, and I found that to be true. I made two batches of dough: one with regular flour and one with whole wheat flour. The whole wheat flour itself was awesome. The grocery store had whole wheat that you could grind, just like you would do with whole bean coffee. So, it doesn't get fresher than that.

Anyway, first I looked at the kitchen aid cookbook, and only after the first batch did I look at the instructions that came with the pasta plates. They gave much better instructions. But for the sake of others learning from mistakes, I present both methods.

For the white flour batch, I added 3.5 cups of flour, 4 eggs, salt, and a little water (2 tablespoons?) to the kitchen aid bowl. Then, I used the flat mixer on speed 2 for 30 seconds. It was not very dough-like at this point. But I bravely pushed on and continued following directions. I switched to the dough hook and kneaded for 2 minutes on speed 2. It was still more crumbs than dough. So, I added a little water, got my hands wet, and got to hand kneading. I finally managed to get it a little dough-like, so I put in a bowl I had dusted with flour, covered it with a paper towel, and let it sit (about 15 minutes is plenty).

For the wheat flour batch, I added the flour, but I beat the eggs, salt, and water separately. I added a little more water this time -- maybe 4 tablespoons. Then, I started on speed 2 with the flat mixer and slowly added the egg mixture. Once it was all added, I upped the speed to 4 and mixed for 30 seconds. It wasn't dough, but it wasn't the dry crumbs of the first batch either. Then I switched to the dough hook and kneaded on speed 2 for 2 minutes. And behold! Actual dough! Truly fantastic. I put that in a floured bowl and covered it.

Then, I went back and made everything else. After everything was ready, I started a pot of water boiling, and we learned how to use the pasta plates. First, the instructions say to take the finished pasta, separate it, lay it out on towels, and let it dry. Dude, that just sounds like a pain in the ass. What I did was start the water boiling, make the pasta, and dump it into the water right when it came out of the machine. It all sort of clumped together, but once it hit the water, it separated into individual little pasta, er things. And it cooked up just fine. We used the smallest pasta plate, for thin spaghetti, and dropped small balls of dough into the machine. The instructions say walnut size. Ours were a little bigger. The size of the ball determines how long each string of pasta is. Although we kept dropping them, so we didn't actually have breaks in our strings. We could have made the longest pasta ever! But instead, we broke it off at about 2 feet or so, so it was just abnormally long pasta. Then I threw it right into the boiling water. I kept adding, and stirring, and then took it all out about 2 minutes after the last dough ball. Then I put it into a bowl with a little olive oil to keep it from sticking together.

And it was awesome! And really easy. I'm not sure about the whole wheat pasta, because we realized we had made way too much and didn'teven use up all of the white flour dough. So, we get pasta for days!

I also made salad thusly: We got a bunch of basil from the grocery store for the pesto. All the herbs at the grocery store on in this long aisle like a salad buffet, and you use tongs to get your herbs and put them in plastic bags. There are huge tubs of basil. We got our basil home and it was salad greens. So apparently, there aren't as many huge tubs of basil as we thought. Some just look like basil. So, P. went back and got some actual basil but I still had the greens. I also had mixed greens from the basket, so I tossed that all together, sliced up some radishes from the basket, and added some sliced green onions. Actually, I got spring onions from the basket that still had their green tops. So I used the onions for the cream sauce and the green tops for the salad.

Then I made a vinaigrette by mixing some balsamic vinegar, black fig vinegar, olive oil, chopped garlic, a little honey, and some salt and pepper.

The cream sauce: I sauted the aformentioned onions in some butter, added a little red crushed pepper and salt, then added chopped chard from the basket. I cooked that up for about 15 minutes until the chard was tender. Unfortunately, I didn't use the best pot, and I used low-fat butter. So it burned on the bottom and I had to transfer it to another pot before I added the cream. It's better to use a good pot, or unsalted butter or probably even olive oil. But anyway, once I got it into the new pot, I added one of those teeny cartons of cream, some parmesan cheese (probably 1/4 cup), salt and pepper, and a little nutmeg. Then I let them simmer over low heat for a while. It was so so good. Although probably not all that healthy.

P. made the pesto sauce because he wanted to use his shiny new food processor. He put in three cups of basil (actual basil, rather than greens, yay), some grated parmesan and percorino cheeses. Regular romano would work for the percorino, or heck, more parmesan. Then a few garlic cloves from the basket (I think he put in 4 or 5), some salt and pepper, and some toasted pine nuts. Once that was processed, he added olive oil through the little chute. The recipe I gave him called for a cup, but I don't think he put that much in. We are trying to eat healthy and all. Obviously.

I also made the fava beans. I actually did these first. I shelled them, and they are so cool with this cushiony inside. P. said it looks like spider webs, which is just so appetizing, but anyway. I boiled the shelled beans for a couple of minutes, until they turned a lighter green and started to split a little. Then I drained them and let them cool. Then I shelled them again. At first, I tried to peel them, and I just ended up with mushed beans. Once I realized I could just sort of squeeze them and they would pop out, things went much better. Then, I sauted the beans in olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper. I ultimately put them on the top of the pasta and pesto, but I actually liked them the best by themselves. It would be a great side dish.

So, we had our pasta, our two sauces, the beans, the salad. We had it with a huckleberry reisling that I thought might clash, but it actually went well. The wine was light enough not to be too fruity and overbearing.

I was really full after, but I still ended up having some espresso ice cream with cool whip and hot fudge. Possibly that was a mistake.


Thursday, June 17, 2004

I got my first CSA basket of the season yesterday. Fava beans, chard, rhubarb. So many things I wouldn't ordinarily buy. I'm so excited. Of course, the fava beans and chard are best served as part of pasta, so obviously, I had to go buy a pasta maker last night. It actually wasn't as impulsive as all that, I've been wanting to buy one for a while, and since I already had the food grinder attachment for my kitchen aid mixer, I only had to buy the pasta plates. It was so affordable, how could I not?

So, tonight will be pesto with fava beans, and chard in a parmesan cream sauce, each in homemade pasta. I'm thinking of starting up the breadmaker before I leave for work this morning, but that may be too much trouble since I'm obviously very lazy today, so I might just grab some bread after work. The basket came with organic greens and radishes and onions and things also, so I can make a big salad to go with the pasta.

It'll either be really great or really... not great. I'll report back either way.

Last night was margaritas and lettuce wraps, and I would go on about making those only I got them at Chili's. Good stuff though.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Minestrone Soup

I made a minestrone soup the other day. I based it on a recipe from Almost Vegetarian, although, as always, I modified it a bit.

I started with 2 cups of small white beans. I've heard arguments for and against soaking, so I tend to compromise and do the quick soak method. I boiled the beans in water for a couple of minutes and then turned off the heat and let them sit for an hour. Then I drained them, filled the pot with about 8 cups of fresh cold water (I learned from Rachel Ray that you don't want to use hot water because of the mineral deposits in hot water pipes that can alter the taste of the finished product), and boiled them til they were soft.

In another pot, I sauted a chopped white onion, chopped red opnion, 3 crushed garlic cloves, 1 chopped leek, and a few chopped celery stalks in olive oil. After about 10 minutes, I added a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, 1/2 cup chopped italian parsley, a tablespoon of dried oregano, and a couple of bay leaves. I stirred that all up and added 3 chopped red potatoes (peeled), 2 peeled and chopped turnips, 4 peeled and chopped carrots, and some chopped winter squash. I couldn't tell you how much or what kind because since it's summer, the grocery store down the road didn't have actual winter squash, only generic "chopped squash" that was already cut and in plastic. I don't actually recommend going this route, if you can avoid it.

To all that, I added the beans and the liquid I cooked them in. To give the bean broth a little flavor, I added a little chicken bouillon. To do truly vegetarian, or probably better tasting, you could instead add actual homemade vegetable broth or something. I had all that bean broth and didn't feel like making a vegetable broth. But then, I tend to be pretty lazy.

I simmered that for two hours, at the end of which, I added a cup of that little twirly pasta.

I then made this cool pesto to add to the top of the soup when serving. I really like the pesto. In a food processor, I combined 1/2 cup grated parmesan, 1 garlic clove, 1 cup fresh basil, and 1/2 cream cheese (I used low-fat). I may have added more like 3/4 cup actually.

Once the soup is done, ladle it into bowls and top them with the pesto. Serve with really crusty bread. I know crusty bread has been a theme, but some things just need it.
Good, but not Perfect, Italian Meatballs

I have this quest to make the perfect italian meatball sandwich. It's surprisingly hard to find good recipes, either online or in cookbooks. I keep trying things out, experimenting. I haven't come up with the perfect recipe yet, but I made a pretty good sandwich last night. I'll keep on the quest though.

I combined 1/2 lb each of ground italian chicken sausage, organic lean beef, and pork. To that, I added some bread crumbs, dried oregano, chopped green onions, chopped adobo chiles (left over from the bbq the night before), 2 pieces of chopped, cooked bacon, grated parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. I made those into balls and fried them in some olive oil. I think the trick is to get a pan large enough so the meatballs don't touch and so you can easily turn them over once you've browned a side. Otherwise, you can end up with more meat mush than meatballs.

Once I had browned all sides, I added about a cup of red wine (I used a South African cab that was light, with a hint of berries and spice), a 28oz can of italian plum tomatoes (I mushed up the tomatoes a little, since they were whole), a few pinches of sugar, a little fresh thyme, and a bit of salt and pepper. I let that simmer for about 45 minutes or so and then served it on crusty bread with shredded mozzarella on top.

I also made some roasted potato wedges that had a little olive oil, fresh thyme, italian seasoning, and salt and pepper.

All and all, it was pretty good.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

BBQ, Courtesy of the Food Network

Last night was an attempt at bbq. The Food network has been doing this two weeks of bbq and so every time I turn on the TV, there it is. bbq. bbq meat, grilled veggies, beans. Obviously, I've started to crave it. So last night, I went all out. I made variations of an chipotle orange bbq chicken and bbq beans from 30 minute meals, potato salad and roasted vidalias from Paula's home cooking, and baked potatoes and roasted veggies from, well me.

The first thing I did was wrap some baking potatoes in foil and put them on the grill. I also did this thing with vidalias that I saw on the show, which is to core them, cut them into quarters -- but not all the way through, add a beef boullion cube to the core and slices of butter to the four slices. Then double wrap them in foil and cook them like the potatoes. Apparently vidalias taste a little different than other sweet onions. Something about the sulfur content in Georgia soil and the ozone layer. I don't know.

Then, the chicken. I chopped up an onion and sauted it in olive oil. Then, I put three chipotle chiles in adobo sauce in a food processor with 1/4 cup of orange juice concentrate, 1/2 c ketchup, and the zest of an orange. I added that to the onion, along with 1 cup chicken broth and maybe 1/4 cup brown sugar. The finished product was a little orangey, so next time, I might use less orange, and maybe add some maple syrup or worcestershire sauce or something. Anyway, I simmered that for a while and then took some chicken breasts, sprayed them with pam, sprinkled some seasoning salt and pepper on them and put them on the grill. When I turned them over, I put the sauce on the cooked side. Once the second side was cooked, I turned them again and put sauce on the other side. When they were finished, I sliced them up and put them on crusty rolls with more sauce, red onion, and romaine lettuce. The crustier the better on the rolls, because the sauce really soaks in.

Next, the beans. I really don't want to think about the saturated fat in this one. I chopped up six pieces of bacon and fried it up til crispy. Then, I added a cup of bread crumbs, some sliced green onions, and black pepper. I then poured that over the top of a dish of baked beans (I used a large can of the kind with the talking dog in the commercials) and baked it at 425 for 15 minutes.

Then I made the potato salad. Actually I started the potatoes boiling a little earlier. I used 8 red potatoes, but I made the mistake of cutting them into quarters first and cooking them a little too long. I thought I was saving time, but they ended up a little goopy and goopy isn't really what you're going for with potato salad. Anyway, I had originally intended to leave the skins on, but they were really peeling off by the time I took them off the heat, so I cooled them a little and then peeled the skins off. And by peel, I just mean that I used my fingers to grab and edge. They were that goopy. I cut them into quarters and added them to a mix of some chopped parsley, chopped green onions, chopped celery (I chopped mine way teeny because I'm not a huge celery fan but it really is necessary in potato salad), 3 chopped up hard boiled eggs (remember to hard boil these when you do the potatoes... I forgot and had to delay the whole operation while I hard boiled), 2 tbl seasoning salt (I used this salad seasoning stuff), pepper, 1 tbl mustard (Paula says dijon, I just used regular), 1/4 cup mayo, and 1 cup sour cream (I used fat-free with no ill effects). She says to serve it warm (she also says to put some other stuff in that I left out), and I did. But I had some more today that was cold, and it was even better.

For roasted veggies, because I figured I should have some with this meal, I sliced some zucchini and yellow squash long-way, along with some red onion, added some salt and pepper, and put them on the grill. I could have included some tomato and green onion, but I was lazy. I could have put some balsamic vinegar, but again, lazy. I did lose some in the grill, but they mostly were unscathed.

I admit this was too much food to eat all at once. Probably I could have done without the baked potato, at least. But I just really wanted one, and it was yummy. Also, I had leftovers for today.