Monday, September 26, 2011

Dinner with a Friend

Tonight I cooked dinner with my friend Tara. She chose tonight's menu and we agreed on the day that we would cook it. This is the 3rd dinner that Tara and I have cooked together in a month. The only problem is that Tara and I are 1800 miles apart, so we don't get to talk while we are cooking. Although, I would love to talk with her on the phone sometime while we cook.

Tara chose a few Giada recipes (although I only made 2): roasted beef tenderloin with basil-curry mayonnaise, fried smashed potatoes with lemon and roasted pears with brown sugar (and vanilla ice cream). I only made the beef and potatoes because Jake is allergic to pears. I thought about making it with peaches instead, and had I not been cooking 3 meals yesterday for Jake's lunches this week, I would have.

Anyway, can I just describe this meal? The beef was cooked to a perfect, tender, juicy 165 degrees (40 degrees above what Giada said). It melted in my mouth, and the mayonnaise (and marscapone cheese) was the perfect accent flavor. The potatoes were the perfect accompaniment to the beef. With just a touch of lemon mixed with parsley and thyme, the potatoes burst with flavor inside my mouth. Although I didn't get cooking until nearly 7:00 and we didn't eat until 8:30, it was worth all the effort. It's not difficult, but also not a meal one wants to make when there's a work meeting that lasts until 6:00pm.

I highly recommend these recipes, and I recommend cooking with a friend as you each choose new recipes to try, even if the friend lives on the other side of the country.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Boeuf a la Catalane

Today was another glorious fall day....perfect for stew. This dish was different from the other dishes I've made so far because it is one that has a Spanish flair. In fact, it comes from the Spanish-Mediterranean corner of France. Translated, it means beef stew with rice, onions, and tomatoes.

True to Julia fashion, I once again had to brown the stew meat before throwing the casserole together. There are just a few ingredients, which made this recipe easy to assemble. I started it at 3:00 this afternoon, and it was ready by 6:00. There were three steps: Cook the beef in the oven with the wine (white instead of red), beef broth and onions for an hour; add tomatoes and cook for another hour; add the rice and cook for 20 minutes. The smell was out of this world, and the kids kept telling me how great it smelled in the house. I can tell you that it tastes as good as it smells!

Ha! You know what? I just realized that I managed to mess up this recipe, too! I guess I should rename it beef stew with rice and tomatoes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chicken Swiss Casserole

Today was a wonderful fall-like day. The temps were low and it was a gentle rainy day. Tonight's dinner made is all the better.

I found this recipe on Pinterest, and I think it is one that my cousin pinned. My cousin is always cooking something interesting and yummy, so when she finds a recipe that looks good to her, I know I can trust that it probably is going to be a hit. What good eyes she has!

This casserole was perfect comfort food for today's weather, and it is oh, so easy to make! It can be thrown into the crockpot at the beginning of the day and then have an almost complete meal at the end of the day. I made some baked apples (in the microwave) and cooked carrots to round out the meal. My family loved it!

Chicken Swiss Casserole (or something like that)

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 slices swiss cheese
can of cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup (I found Campbell's Cream of Chicken and Mushroom, and it was amazing)
1/4 C milk
1 box of Stove Top Stuffing (any kind that sounds good to you)
1/2 C melted butter

Spray the crockpot with cooking spray, then layer chicken and swiss cheese (one slice on each piece of chicken)
Mix soup and milk together, then spread over chicken
Spread stuffing over milk/soup mix
Drizzle stuffing with melted butter

Cook high 4-6 hours or low 8-10

Kids will get excited to see the stuffing! :)

Twist on Roast Beef Sandwiches

Last night's dinner was supposed to be roast beef and havarti on sourdough bread sandwiches. However, noone in town (or this end of town) had a loaf of sourdough, so we had to settle for sourdough bread bowls from Panera. Oh, how I love Panera. Their bread is always the perfect blend of soft chewiness inside of a perfect thin, crunchy layer. Anyway, my husband brought home 4 bread bowls, figuring I could do something with them. And boy, did I! I saw a recipe for bacon/cheddar pull-apart bread where a large round loaf of sourdough was used. I figured we could still have roast beef and cheese and sourdough bread, just in a different way.

I cut across each bread bowl one way and then another, without cutting all the way through so that I had long cubes (or rectangles) of bread. Next, I stuffed each bowl with roast beef, havarti, a little Franconian mustard (only found in Frankenmuth) and green onion. I then popped them into the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes. They were so good and so fun to eat!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The BEST Chicken Recipe to Date!

Tonight I made the best chicken recipe to date. It was the perfect blend of chicken, herbs, mushrooms and onions. What was it? Fricassee de Poulet a L'ancienne....Old-fashioned chicken fricassee with wine-flavored cream sauce, onions, and mushrooms. Mmm-mmm!

All was going quite well, from the browning of the chicken to adding the flour/salt/pepper mixture to the chicken. Then, for some reason, I turned up the heat a little too high on the burner. All of a sudden, I smelled a little bit of charred flour. I opened up and the chicken was STUCK to the bottom of the pan! I had to chisel it with a metal spatula. However, I was relieved to find that the flour/chicken juice mixture made a nice, crunchy addition to the pan. I quickly added the boiling chicken broth and the white wine, turned down the heat and covered it for a 25-30 minute simmer.

I went back to the cookbook, and Julia told me to braise the mini-onions while the chicken continues to cook. EXCEPT, she said it takes 50-60 minutes! Hmmph! I was not going to slowly cook them. After all, they were frozen, and now thawed, so they were already quite soft. I just added the chicken broth to the pan, dumped the onions in and turned the heat up medium-high and covered them. Within 15 minutes, they were hot, so I took the lid off the pan, let the remainder of the chicken broth evaporate and then carmelized the onions a little bit.....perfection.

Julia has a unique way of cooking mushrooms. Chapignons a Blanc are stewed mushrooms, although they don't seem stewed at all. First, I brought water, lemon juice, butter and salt to a boil, then I added the mushrooms. They only took a few minutes to cook all the way, but they were better than just cooking them in butter. The mix of salt and lemon juice gave them a tanginess that went perfect with the chicken.

The leftover juices from the mushrooms went into the leftover juices from the chicken. Julia stated to boil down the juices until the amount is reduced to 2 1/2 cups, all while skimming off the fat as it boils. I didn't know that boiling it down would cause the fat to rise to the top. How cool that was to watch it continue to rise up. I just kept skimming it as it came to the top and gravitated to the sides. After about 20 minutes, the sauce was thick enough to add the remaining ingredients: egg yolks and whipping cream. Boy was that good gravy!

This chicken dish was exactly what I needed after this crazy Monday. However, I was a bit disappointed that Collin wouldn't try it. I know he would like it, but Jake was happy to have the leftovers to take to work tomorrow!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Too Good to not Share

Bruschetta (bru sketa) is one of my favorite meals, and I make it at least once a month. Since it is summer, and I can find fresh tomatoes and harvest my own fresh basil, I've been making it VERY often. This recipe is the best I've found, and it is filling. One recipe is enough to feed 2 adults and 2 teenagers, or 4 adults ;o)

Balsamic Bruschetta
1 loaf of French bread, cut into 1/2 inch slices
8 roma tomatoes (I love the Campari tomatoes the best), chopped
1/3 C fresh chopped basil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
4 oz prosciutto, torn to fit each piece of bruschetta
sliced provolone, enough to fit each piece of bruschetta

1. Arrange slices of bread on cookie sheet, with sides of bread touching. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle fresh ground pepper to taste. Cook in 350 degree oven for 7 minutes.

2. While bread is cooking, combine the tomatoes, basil, garlic, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper.

3. Evenly divide the tomato mixture among the bread slices. Top with prosciutto and provolone.

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is golden.