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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 18

Brandon had been requesting Chicken and Dumplings or Chicken Pot Pie for dinner for several weeks. I browsed through The Gourmet Cookbook and found this recipe for Chicken Pie with Biscuit Crust. Kind of a hybrid of Chicken and Dumplings and Chicken Pot Pie – perfect.

I honestly wasn’t expecting much. I mean, I knew it would be a good dinner but I’m really not a pot pie kind of person. I know that sounds strange…but in general I’m not really so into comfort food. I was wrong. This was amazing. So amazing that I insisted that I didn’t need any help with the cleanup so I could shovel down more as I was putting away the leftovers :)

This can be a relatively quick dinner if you use leftover chicken, a rotisserie chicken or pre-roast a chicken. I put my chicken in to roast that morning while I was out on my run and getting ready for work. Really cut down on the prep time that night.

The biscuit crust was so delicious and the addition of cheddar cheese to the dough really made it special. The filling was a nice consistency and seasoned perfectly. This chicken pie will definitely become a winter tradition in our house!

Chicken pie with Biscuit Crust
(Recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook, printed in Gourmet magazine – January 1991)

Ingredients:

FOR THE FILLING
4 cups chicken broth
3 carrots, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
3/4 pound red potatoes (about 2 medium), quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large celery ribs, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
2 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken (the meat from around a 3 pound chicken)
1/2 cup green peas
1 onion, chopped
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

FOR THE BISCUIT CRUST
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/3 cup grated sharp Cheddar
1 large egg
1/3 cup buttermilk

An egg wash of 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of milk

Directions:

FOR THE FILLING
Bring the broth to a boil over medium high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the carrots, potatoes and celery and simmer, uncovered, for about 10-15 minutes. Vegetables should be tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a large bowl, reserving the broth. Add chicken and peas to the bowl.

In another saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and add onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and transparent. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes to create a roux. In a slow stream, add 3 cups of the reserved broth. Whisk constantly and bring to a boil. Add the thyme and let the sauce simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the nutmeg, parsley, salt and pepper. Pour over the chicken mixture and stir gently until combined.

Transfer the mixture to a greased 2-quart shallow baking dish.

FOR THE BISCUIT CRUST

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Add the butter and blend mixture with your fingers or a pastry cutter until it resembles a coarse meal. Add the cheese and toss to coat. Beat together egg and buttermilk. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir just until the mixture comes together and a dough forms. Into a liquid measuring cup break the egg, add enough of the buttermilk to measure a total of 1/2 cup, and beat the mixture with a fork. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until the mixture just forms a dough. At this point you can either spoon 2-inch balls of dough onto the chicken mixture (drop biscuit style) or gather the dough into a ball, and on a floured surface pat out 1/2 inch thick. Cut rounds with a 2-inch cutter dipped in flour. Gather scraps and repeat until all dough has been used.  Arrange the rounds on the chicken mixture.

Before baking brush tops with an egg wash or whole milk. Prick holes into the biscuits with a fork. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, or until the biscuits are puffed and golden and the filling is bubbling.

Yield: 4 servings

NOTE:
* Filling can be made 1 day in advance and kept covered and chilled. Bring the mixture to room temperature before continuing with the recipe.

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 9

I don’t even know where to start. I don’t want to gush so much that you think I’m crazy but this macaroni and cheese recipe is pretty life changing as far as mac and cheese recipes go. If you think you’ve already found the perfect recipe you still have to try this one. I found it in The Gourmet Cookbook. They had me at, “this is arguably the best macaroni and cheese on the planet.”

Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite comfort food dinners. I just serve it with a green salad and call it a meal. (Who needs meat anyway when you can just eat more mac and cheese!?) The method in this recipe is pretty basic for mac and cheese: make a roux, stir in milk, cream and cheese, mix in macaroni, sprinkle on topping and bake. The results are a creamy, cheesy mac and cheese with a crunchy topping – heaven!

I’m already planning the next time that I’ll make this…and that will be this weekend. My sister-in-law just brought home a new baby and I know they will love this mac and cheese. This recipe makes a full 11 x 17 pan so it’s perfect for leftovers or entertaining.

Please try this and let me know how it compares to other mac and cheese recipes! This has definitely been one of the highlight recipes of 68 Days of Gourmet so far and I know I’ll be making this for years to come.

Macaroni and Cheese
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook)

Ingredients:

FOR TOPPING
1/4 stick (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups panko or coarse dry breadcrumbs
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

FOR CHEESE SAUCE AND MACARONI
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 pound)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound elbow macaroni

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 3-4 quart baking dish or 13 x 9 pan with butter or cooking spray.

FOR THE TOPPING
Mix together panko, butter and cheese in a medium bowl. Set aside.

FOR THE SAUCE
Melt butter in a heavy pot over low heat. Whisk in flour and red pepper flakes and cook, whisking constantly, for about 3 minutes to make a roux. Whisk in milk in a slow steady stream. Increase heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Simmer for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently until mixture is thickened a bit. Stir in cream, cheese, mustard, salt and pepper until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

COOK THE MACARONI AND ASSEMBLE THE DISH
Cook macaroni according to package directions, making sure to add plenty of the salt to the cooking water. (At least 1 tablespoon for every 4 quarts.) Undercook macaroni about 3-4 minutes so that it still has quite a bite to it. This ensures the pasta won’t get mushy when cooking. Reserve 1 cup pasta water and then drain noodles.

Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water and sauce in a large bowl or in your sauce pot if it’s big enough. Transfer to prepared baking dish, mixture will be loose.

Sprinkle topping evenly over mixture and bake for about 25-35 minutes. Top should be golden and bubbling.

Yield: 8 main course servings or 12-14 side dish servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 2

spicedchicken2

This is my new favorite easy dinner to add to our regular rotation. First thing first, I apologize for the less than stellar photo. I don’t have a lightbox and it gets dark at 5:30. Considering that we never eat until 8 p.m., there’s just no hope for decent dinner shots during the winter.

I have been so eager to make this Spiced Chicken after hearing Gourmet Editor-in-Chief Ruth Reichl say it was one of her favorite weeknight family dinners. The chicken was so simple, so juicy and a breeze to prepare. And the house smelled amazing while it was baking. It’s also very economical. We used legs and thighs but you can also use bone-in breasts – both are very affordable, especially if you can catch them on sale. It is insane to me how much the grocery charges for skinless, boneless chicken breasts. It’s a total rip off! I only buy them on sale and freeze. Otherwise, I buy bone-in and skin and bone myself. It’s very simple.

But I digress…back the Spiced Chicken. I told Brandon at least five times during dinner, “this is so good.” I can’t wait to share the recipe with my mom and dad. I know they will love this one! This is an awesome weeknight dish and would also be perfect for someone looking for an easy but delicious entertaining recipe.

I doubled the amount of spices for the chicken (so I could really coat it on) and substituted a wine/chicken broth mixture for the water in the pan sauce.

Try this for a new spin on chicken. I know everyone is always looking for new and easy chicken dishes!

Spiced Chicken
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, April 2000)

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for the pan
2 bone-in chicken breasts or 2 leg/thigh combos
1/2 cup white wine, chicken broth or water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and pat dry chicken.

Stir together spices, salt and 1 tablespoon of oil. Rub all over chicken. Heat another two tablespoons of oil in an ovenproof heavy skillet (preferably not non-stick) over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add chicken and brown on both sides, about 6 minutes (3 minutes per side).

Transfer skillet to middle rack of oven and roast, skin side up, until just cooked through, 20-25 minutes. The internal temperature should read 160 for breasts and 170 for legs or thighs. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Place skillet over medium-high heat. Add water, wine or stock and deglaze, scraping up brown bits. Let reduce for 2 or 3 minutes. Pour pan juices over chicken and serve.

Yield: 2 servings

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choccakeandslice

I had a three week break between my temporary job with the American Cancer Society and my new full-time job that I started Monday. I’m not going to lie…I must admit that I enjoyed my brief stint as a housewife. The best perks were having plenty of time to work out (daily run and yoga classes!) and having time to cook and bake to my heart’s content!

Last week I was really craving a chocolate cake. I had a block of cream cheese in the fridge and so I decided a chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting would be perfect. I used my all-time favorite chocolate cake recipe, the Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake, and a based the frosting off of a recipe that I found on The Cupcake Project.

It was a delicious combination. The Hershey’s cake is so moist and the chocolate cream cheese was to die for. It was kind of reminiscent of chocolate cheesecake for me. Brandon and I both enjoyed this cake for dessert multiple nights last week and also shared a few slices with family. I will most definitely be using this flavor combination again!

choccake

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
(Recipe sources Hershey’s and The Cupcake Project)

Ingredients:

FOR THE CAKE
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey’s Cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

FOR THE FROSTING
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick) at room temperature
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder

Directions:

FOR THE CAKE
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8-inch or 9-inch round baking pans.

In the bowl of a stand mixer stir together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and beat on medium speed for about two minutes. Pour in boiling water and continue to mix until incorporated, batter will be thin. Evenly distribute batter between the two prepared pans.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Start checking the cakes around 25 minutes as oven temperatures may vary (and no one likes an overdone cake)!

Cool in pans for about 10 minutes then run a knife around the edges and gently remove from pans and place on wire racks to cool completely.

FOR THE FROSTING
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat all ingredients on medium high speed until light and fluffy.

To frost cake, place first layer down and frost top, leaving about a 1/2 inch border. Place second layer on top and frost top and then sides.

Yield: 8-12 servings

choccakeslice

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applecake1

One of my all-time favorite cakes is Apple Spice Cake. I loved when my mom baked them growing up. My favorite two desserts that she made were apple cake and banana pudding. I always requested them and my chances that she’d make them got a lot better when I moved away from home :).

Now that the weather is getting cooler and apples are coming into season I found myself craving an apple cake. The recipe my mom uses calls for a lot of vegetable oil and I decided to try a new recipe that featured butter instead. I researched recipes for a while and found this recipe from Cooking Light that sounded great and had received awesome reviews since it was originally printed in 1997. Now, I kind of disagree that this is a light recipe but if they say so…I guess I’ll let myself feel better about it. But how can a cake be light when the recipe includes a stick of butter and cream cheese?

All that matters is that this cake is so good I ended up baking it three times last week. Once for us, once for my sister-in-law (who is expecting her second soon!) and once for my mom. The cake received outstanding reviews from everyone. My sister-in-law texted me the day after it was dropped off and said she’d already had two pieces for dessert and one for breakfast. And she used it as a bargaining tool to get our niece to eat her meals. She said that Emerson loved it so much she would tell her she could have one bite of cake if she ate a bite of her dinner. And I’m very happy to report that my mom approved of the new recipe and even asked for it. So it was a success all around.

The directions call for baking this cake in a springform pan and it gives it a great height that you can’t get from a standard cake pan. I changed the recipe up a bit by changing the mixing method and adding extra cream cheese, nutmeg and chopped pecans. I think the pecans are a must in this cake.

This Apple Cinnamon Cake stays moist for days and is definitely a fall crowd pleaser.I admit that I ate it for breakfast and dessert! It’s delicious served warm with ice cream!

Apple Cinnamon Cake
(Recipe adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

1 1/2  cups  sugar, plus extra for cinnamon sugar mixture for pan
8 ounces (1 block) 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1/2  cup  butter (1 stick), softened
1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
2  large eggs
1 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour
1 1/2  teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus extra for cinnamon sugar mixture for pan
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons  baking powder
1/2 teaspoon  salt
1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
3  cups chopped peeled Fuji apples (about 2 large)
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
Cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together a little bit of cinnamon and sugar (about 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 3 tablespoons sugar). Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter wrapper or cooking spray. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture and tap sides to evenly distribute. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and salt. Whisk together well to incorporate. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place 1 1/2 cups sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Mix on medium high speed until lightened in color and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture to cream cheese mixture a little at a time, beating at low speed until well blended.

Mix in apples and pecans. Pour batter prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: 12 servings

applecake

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marinara

Last weekend we picked up some fresh pasta from Pasta Provisions here in Charlotte. It’s a great locally owned Italian grocery. We chose their garlic and rosemary linguine. I was stumped on what sauce to serve with this pasta. Brandon loves red sauce so I decided to keep it simple with an easy marinara full of tomato, garlic and basil.

My dad shared this marinara recipe with me years ago. It’s super simple and so much more flavorful than jarred pasta sauce. It was the perfect complement to our pasta and reminded me that I should keep this in the freezer at all times so I can avoid using jarred sauce on  week nights!

Easy Marinara
(Recipe source my Dad)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed and diced
1 stalk celery, broken into 4 pieces
1 carrot, finely diced
32 ounce high quality crushed tomatoes (recommended San Marzano)
2 bay leaves
Dash of sugar
Shot of red wine
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh basil, julienned

Directions:

Heat large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add onions and saute for about 5 minutes, until they begin to become translucent. Add garlic, celery and carrot and cook for another 5 minutes. Add wine, tomatoes, bay leaves, sugar and red wine. Simmer for 1 hour over low heat, uncovered. Season with salt and pepper and stir in fresh basil right before serving.

Yield: 4 servings

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increduladaenchiladas

These Incredulada Enchiladas have gained quite a fan base. Once you scroll down and read the ingredients to the recipe I guarantee you’ll think, “Are you kidding me?” They are a splurge but always a crowd pleaser.

My mother in law introduced us to Incredulada Enchiladas and they are well, incredible. I’ve shared the recipe with friends, served them at parties, taken them to expecting mothers and they’re always a hit. What’s not to love about the creamy chicken filling topped with cream and cheese? Garnish with sour cream and salsa and you’re in for a treat!

Incredulada Enchiladas
(Recipe adapted from A Third Course: More Cooking with Class from Charlotte Latin School)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 1/2 cups cooked chicken, shredded (about 3 chicken breasts)
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies
1/4 cup diced jalapeno peppers
8 ounce block cream cheese, softened
Salt and pepper, to taste
12 (6 inch) flour tortillas (soft taco size)
1 cup heavy cream or half and half
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese (or your choice, this time I used the Mexican blend)
Cooking spray
Salsa
Sour cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet and sautee onions until they begin to soften and become translucent. Add garlic, chilies and peppers and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in cream cheese and chicken. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon mixture into tortillas, roll and place seam side down in baking dish. Pour cream over enchiladas and cover with cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until cream thickens and cheese is bubbly.

Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Yield: 6-8 servings

increduladapan

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easybananamuffins

You can almost always find banana muffins in my freezer. I love peanut butter and banana sandwiches but sometimes I don’t get around to using all the bananas. I hate to waste them so I usually end up making muffins with the overly ripe bananas.

My favorite recipe is adapted from a Cooking Light Banana Bread recipe. I like that the recipe is easily cut in half and is perfect to use one banana and make six muffins (of course you can make the full recipe too).

It takes no time at all to get these in the oven. You don’t even have to break out a mixer! Everything can be done by hand. The muffins are soft with a nice crispy crumb when they’re fresh out of the oven. They freeze well and are perfect for an on the go breakfast.

Easy Banana Muffins
(Recipe adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

1  cup  all-purpose flour
1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
1/4  teaspoon  salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 large egg
1 large banana, mashed
2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons of plain low-fat yogurt or low-fat sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 and spray muffin tin with cooking spray.

Mix together flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together sugars, oil, egg, banana, yogurt or sour cream and vanilla.

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until just moist and incorporated. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, filling about 2/3 of the way full.

Bake for about 18-22 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.

Yield: 6 muffins

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blackbeansrice250

Part two of last night’s delicious grilled shrimp taco dinner. This is pretty much my go-to black beans and rice recipe. I’m almost always guaranteed to have all the ingredients in my pantry and it’s simple, good and always a great side dish for Mexican night. And be warned…this recipe makes a ton!

Black Beans and Rice
(Recipe source Joy of Cooking)

Ingredients:

1 large onion, diced
1 fresh pepper, seeded and diced (like jalapeno or habanero, or substitute diced canned jalapenos or red pepper flakes – use what you have!)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes (or 1 can of diced tomatoes)
1 cup rice
2 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and peppers and cook for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until mixture is softened.

Stir in tomatoes, water, rice and salt. Bring mixture to a boil and then stir in black beans. Cover and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, until water absorbed and rice is tender. Don’t peak until the 20 minutes are up!

Remove from heat and let stand about 5-10 minutes (still covered) before serving.

Yield: 6-8 side dish servings

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freshfigbluepizza

I stopped by my in-law’s house today during my lunch break. Brandon was over there helping his mom cut some dead trees down to create extra sunlight for the garden she’s planning. So as he was doing back breaking labor, I was meandering around the yard and saw a fig tree I’d never noticed before – chock full of fresh, ready to pick figs. I left with a bag full of fresh figs and Brandon left sweaty and sore. Hey, fair trade for this super flavorful, delicious pizza we created tonight!

I came home and started looking for recipes to use my fresh figs. I saw tons of suggestions just to wrap them in prosciutto or stuff them with cheese. I decided to take those ideas and turn it into a pizza. One of our favorite grilled pizzas during the summer is this Gorgonzola, Walnut and Caramelized Onion Pizza from Gourmet. Using the preparation method from that recipe, I created this pizza. The flavors went together beautifully and it was a perfect light dish for this very hot summer day. I served it with a side of mixed greens.

Grilled Fig and Prosciutto Pizza
(Recipe inspired by Gourmet)

Ingredients:

1 ball pizza dough (homemade or store bought – we used Trader Joe’s) at room temperature
Extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces prosciutto
1/2 cup sliced fresh figs
1/2 cup caramelized onions
1 cup blue cheese, crumbled

Directions:

Preheat grill to medium. On a well-floured surface, stretch dough into about a 12 x 10 rectangle (we chose to divide our dough and make two smaller pizzas because they’re easier to handle on the grill).  Brush top with olive oil to lightly coat.

Create a platter and bring your dough and pizza toppings to the grill area. Oil grill rack and place dough olive oil side down on the grill (with no toppings on it at this point) and grill, covered, for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom.

Carefully remove dough from grill and turn over (grill side up). Layer toppings starting with prosciutto, followed by onions, figs and cheese. Return to grill and grill covered for another 3 minutes, until underside is golden and cheese is melted.

Let cool before slicing into squares.

Yield: 2-3 servings

figpizzaongrill

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