Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I know all there is to know about the Pantry Game

Rosemary Citrus Chicken Breast with Herbes de Provence Potatoes

I finally did it! I made my very own recipe from scratch and it came out really good. I've had nothing but rave reviews and after testing it a few times I feel safe and can post the recipe. My little chicken dish has such a wonderful birth story. Growing up whenever it was in-between paydays my Momma would bring us into the kitchen to play an pantry game called "Let's See What We Can Make". I love this game and I still play it with myself all the time and that is how this little darling was born. Sure there have been some misses like ground meat and rice with ketchup (Bleh!) but the hits far exceed the misses. To quote a genius, Willy Wonka, "Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple." In my case it was probably 40% starvation and 90% Inspiration and a desire to clean out my pantry. I hope you enjoy.


½ c Orange Juice

1 TBL Balsamic Vinegar

2 Cloves Chopped Garlic

3 Sprigs Rosemary leaves chopped finely

4 Chicken Breasts


1 bag Tiny Potatoes from Trader Joes

1 medium Onion (quartered or large chop)

1 TBL Butter

2 TBL Olive Oil

2 TBL Herbes de Provence

1 Sprig Rosemary leaves chopped finely

Marinade the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bring a small pan of water to a boil and boil the tiny potatoes for 5 minutes. Pour 1 tbl olive oil in a pan and heat. Pan sear the breasts on each side for 1-3 minute. Remove the breasts to a plate and add the rest of the olive oil and butter to the pan. Add the herbes de Provence and chopped rosemary to the hot pan and brown them a bit. Place the tiny potatoes and quartered onion in the pan with the herbs and cook for 5 minutes.

Place the potatoes and onions in a Pyrex dish, cover with foil and bake for 8 -10 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and top with the chicken breasts and marinade, return foil cover and cook for 12 minutes or until chicken is done and juices run clear. Uncover and cook for another 8 minutes. Take pan drippings and return to a warm skillet. Add the thickening agent (1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 c water) and simmer and stir to thicken.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hominy make you love me.

So I am going to continue with my carne asada dinner post. I absolutely love this next dish. I don't really have exact measurements to give you but this is tasty and special. My Grandma Maggie used to make this on occasion when she was forced to cook. Since she has been gone for many years you'll just have to bear with me while I try and work out this recipe (and IF I miss something please leave a comment so I can make changes.) No from the research I've done it looks like this is supposed to be a hot casserole but I've NEVER had it baked so I can only assume my Grandma Maggie had the baked version but preferred hers cold so that's how we end up with this:
1 large can of Hominy
1 small carton of sour cream (Go for the name brand kind people. Knudsen is superior to the grainy brands people get to save money)
1-2 cans of green chilies (Diced or chopped work, I like the fire roasted version)
2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
1-2 tsp onion juice (My grandma was the only one I know who had this lovely little potion. I cannot find this anywhere! So I use the small side of my grater and grate a quarter onion into the mix.)
Salt and Pepper to taste ( I prefer to use Montreal Steak Seasonings. Hear me out though, it punches up flavor by adding dehydrated garlic, paprika, and all other kinds of goodies. In a batch this big I use about a table spoon but it works. Try it and trust me,)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I love you, I love you, I love you so well if I had a peanut I'd give you...

The frozen peanut butter pie with candied bacon! Ok, so the song isn't as catchy but a pie sure beats giving someone you love a shell. I found this fantastic recipe on Gourmet. I think I will be sad when they stop publication but I can't really complain since I never bought their magazines. We have not eaten it yet but from the taste testing (As my Mom says, "I have to check for poison.") I think the results will be quite nice. It's times like these when I thank God that I am not Kosher or allergic to nuts. I'm just a happy little Catholic girl who's unable to eat soy products or be near marijuana or hemp products (I'd make a really bad Hippie). So while this isn't a "family" recipe perhaps it will become one. I figure it's time to think outside the box and start creating and trying recipes out that will eventually become family favorites. So here it goes. I'll post a detailed review of the frozen peanut butter pie after we devour it.

Frozen Peanut Butter Pie with Candied Bacon
Serves 8 (Might be really rich so I'm thinking I can squeeze out 10 servings)
  • Active time: 30 min (Such a lie. Note* I might be slow but realistically plan for probably 45 - 1 hour)
  • Start to finish: 6 1/2 hr (includes freezing)
Candied bacon might seem like the ultimate example of gilding the lily, but it adds a sweet, smoky edge to this already luscious pie. Elvis would be proud. (The bacon is delicious! Just give in and try it people!!!)
  • 7 bacon slices (about 6 ounces) (I used a smoked maple variety)
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used 1/4 tsp)
  • About 35 chocolate wafers, finely ground in a blender or food processor (about 2 cups crumbs) (I could not for the life of me find these darn wafers! I had to improvise with 35 chocolate graham crackers)
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural) (If you must know choosy moms {and NOT moms} choose JIF)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups chilled heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup salted roasted peanuts, finely chopped ( I forgot these when I my 2 hour grocery store trek so I left them out)
  • Equipment:

    a 10-inch pie plate (6-cup capacity)
  • Cook bacon (in 2 batches if necessary) in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, turning once, until lightly browned on edges but still flexible, 5 to 6 minutes total per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  • Pour off fat from skillet and arrange bacon in skillet in 1 layer. Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon over bacon and cook over low heat, turning occasionally with tongs, until sugar has dissolved and then caramelized (sugar melts very slowly and burns easily; reduce heat if necessary after sugar begins to caramelize) and coats bacon, 8 to 10 minutes. (Bacon will be dark and look lacquered.) Transfer bacon with tongs to a cutting board to cool. When bacon is cool, finely chop 5 slices, leaving remaining 2 slices whole. (I saved the caramelized bits in the pan by placing them on wax paper. It creates a really hard "candy" but the flavor is really good and it's fun to suck on.)
  • Stir together wafer crumbs and butter, then press onto bottom and up side of pie plate. Chill pie shell.
  • Heat remaining 1/2 cup sugar and milk in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in peanut butter and vanilla until combined well, then transfer to a bowl and cool completely in an ice bath, stirring occasionally. (I didn't have enough ice for a bath so I stuck the bowl in the freezer and stirred every other minute.)
  • Beat cream with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks, then fold into peanut butter mixture with peanuts and chopped bacon gently but thoroughly. Transfer filling to pie shell, smoothing top.
  • Cut remaining 2 bacon slices into 2-inch-long pieces and arrange in a decorative starburst shape in center of pie. Freeze pie, uncovered, until frozen hard, about 5 hours. Let pie soften slightly in refrigerator before serving, about 30 minutes. (I skipped this step. I know my people are nervous about meat products in their desert so I chopped all the bacon and folded it into the peanut butter filling in an attempt to win them over to the bacon for desert side. The plan is that they'll love the desert and after I have hooked them I can spill the bean...er bacon.)
Cooks’ note:
    Pie can be frozen, covered after 5 hours with plastic wrap and foil, up to 2 days.

Recipe by Andrea Albin

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

T minus 23 to Spanish Rice

So the best Spanish Rice I've ever had is from a recipe my Uncle Ernie makes. It's awesome. Very flavorful and pretty easy to make. It does have some pretty precise requirements though: cold beer and the patience to not open the pot of rice for exactly 23 minutes. Not 24 or 22. It mus be 23 minutes exactly. The man has done experiments! He has perfected this rice over like 20 years by messing around with ingredients and measurements. He studied and asked 10 people how to make their special Spanish Rice and combined the recipes to creaate this masterpiece. It is phenomenal and comforting and just plain AWESOME...Just like my Uncle Ernie.

So this summer I was really lucky to be invited to a Carne Asada at my Aunt Stephanie and Uncle Ernie's house. I was
very excited because I knew that this meant Spanish Rice. Ooh Spanish Rice, how I love thee with all the carbs that will end up on my nalgas. In any case I begged to watch the master, Uncle Ernie, at his craft. This was a great honor since he once taught me to make home made spaghetti sauce when I was younger and after I played around with the recipe he (jokingly) refused to teach me to cook ever again because I made it better.

So with my cold beer in hand and a hot pink note-card I experienced the cooking of the best Spanish Rice ever.

3 Tbl Vegetable Oil
4 Cloves of Garlic (Minced)
1 Yellow Onion (Sliced)
1 Large Tomato (Sliced)
14.5 oz Can of Tomato Sauce
2 1/2 - 3 C Rice
1 Lemon (Halved)
2 Tbl Chicken Bullion
1 1/4 Tbl each Salt, Pepper and Garlic Salt (Divided)
1 bunch Cilantro (Chopped)
*2 C water per cup of rice
*Cold Beer to drink

Heat a medium pan over high heat, pour 2 1/2 Tbl of vegetable oil in the pan. Saute a sliced onion (yellow preferred) with 2 cloves of garlic (minced). Season with salt, pepper, garlic salt to taste (I'd approximate at least a teaspoon of each the onions will be heavily speckled with black pepper as they should be) and cook for 3-5 minutes. Open a 14.5 oz can of tomato sauce. Take the onions out of the pan (a good place to put them is on the lid of the pan. saves dirty dishes). Add 1 Tbl vegetable oil to the hot pan and scrape up the seasoning bits. Add 2 1/2 -3 cups of rice to the oil and brown for approximately 3 minutes. Return the onion and garlic to the pan and mix. Add 1/2 a lemon (juiced) to the rice and onion mix and continue to stir and brown. Add the tomato sauce and 2 cups of water per cup of rice and mix. Stir to combine and boil uncovered adding 1 TBl each salt, pepper, and garlic salt, 2 Tbl chicken bullion to the boiling rice and 2 more cloves of garlic (minced). Top the rice with the slices of tomato (usually 1 large tomato), cilantro (Optional) and the juice of the other half of the lemon. Cook on Medium low with the lid for 23 minutes exactly. DO NOT LIFT THE LID!

A taste of things to come...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot German Potato Salad

Today was my baby brother's 25th birthday. This called for a celebration and that mean I get to cook! I was very excited because I was in charge of the side dishes and I had the perfect one that was calling me from the cooking binder. Since the main meal was burgers and brats I figures potato salad and coleslaw were good compliments. I have a coleslaw recipe that Nick, the birthday boy, particularly likes and I found Grandma Helen's handwritten recipe for Hot German Potato Salad in a stack of old recipes. It's a beautiful color copy of a weathered and beaten 5x8 yellow legal note paper with splotches of smeared ink where water or oil had fallen. Her penmanship looks rushed but I can tell that she was using her favorite cheap blue papermate pens.

(Click Image for larger view)

All I can say about this recipe is that it was very easy to make and everyone really liked it (unless they lied). It's the perfect accompaniment for a BBQ. It's a HOT (as in warm) potato salad that is dairy free so you won't have to worry about it getting warm or poisoning people with bad mayo.

I should note I edited it a bit because it only called for 3 medium potatoes and it doesn't mention how many servings....Also, I had to assume a few things based on unclear direction and use of short hand. Don't worry, my notes are listed with logic.

Hot German Potato Salad - I assume this can feed 6 - 8 people
3 Med Potatoes ( I used 9 potatoes and the rest of the recipe as is. )
4 Bacon slices diced (This is raw bacon)
1 Small Onion
1 Tab Flour
1 Tab Sugar
1 Tea Dry Mustard
1 Tea Salt
1/4 Tea Pepper
1/2 c Water
1/4 Vinegar (I assumed white vinegar)
1/2 Tea Celery Seeds
1 Tab Chopped Parsley

Cut potatoes in half. Place in plastic bag, cut side down - Leave end of bag open. Cook on HIGH 10 min or til tender. (Again, I assume she means cooking in a microwave since boiling and baking makes no sense). Remove skins (I left them on since now we know a lot of nutrition is removed with the skins), slice potatoes - place in a bowl. in a four cup measure (or a large microwave safe bowl), cook the bacon & onion High 4-5 minutes (Yes, the bacon will look very uncooked, it's meant to look pink and weird, you can cook it a little longer if you feel the necessity).
Stir in flour, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper (This means add it to the bacon and onions)
Stir in water, vinegar & celery seeds. Stirring once, cook on HIGH 4 mins (I wasn't sure what was really meant by this but I literally only stirred it once and placed it in the microwave). Pour over cooked sliced potatoes. (This is where you sprinkle the parsley...it was listed on the ingredients but never used....oh well, nice tasty flourish)

Here's what it'll look like. It was really tasty and a nice way to have Grandma at the birthday party. I know she'd have had a blast tonight and be really proud of the man my brother has become. Happy Birthday Nicky. I love you!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a few nuts

Ah, how true. There are a lot of nuts in my family and I love each and every one of them. I also love fudge. There in lies the purpose of this blog.

This weekend marks the 21st anniversary of my Grandpa Gene's death. It's interesting to note that for me, every summer begins with this anniversary; the end to every school year, my brother's birthday, the passing into another season always leave me sitting around remembering the man I lost when I was 7. It also begins a yearly reflection and longing for my Grandma Helen who died 2 short weeks later. When I think of them I always think of food. When I think of anyone I think of food. There are memories and stories wrapped in meals and the smells, tastes, textures all hold comfort and closeness.

It's that closeness that I think I miss most at this time of year. Nostalgia sets in because inevitably this time of year brings parties, events and hallmarks that my people are missing. I may not be able to see or touch my grandparents but I still feel them. Every time I'm demolishing some good ribs I remember my Grandpa Gene standing by the grill on his side yard wearing his Chargers hat and a white undershirt basting ribs with a a cold Coors in his hand. Whenever I can get my hands on a snicker doodle cookie I can vividly see myself in my Grandma Helen's Kitchen sitting on a tall red stool next to the warm oven watching her roll the dough balls into the cinnamon sugar. Every Thanksgiving, when I smell a turkey cooking I see my Grandma Maggie making this odd cranberry souffle that she'd try to get me to eat but I never did...until the year she died. When I chop onions, I remember Grandma Dollie sitting on the little couch, leaning forward with her blankets on her legs dipping into a small bowl of chopped onions to put on everything she ate. These things bring me comfort. Happiness even if it's fleeting.

In a world where families are spread apart and time goes by so fast and life in general is stressful I hope to be able to find comfort and love in the recipes my family have left me. I'm going to eat my inheritance, the tiny scraps of envelope and receipts scrawled with barely decipherable recipes, to see if as James Beard (the father of American Gourmet cooking) put it, " Food is our common ground, a universal experience."

Are there any recipes I definitely need to make? What memories does food evoke for you?

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