Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chicken Parmesan-ish

I make pretty good food.

1 Chicken breast, sliced into strips (more if you're cooking for more than 2 people)
Marinara sauce
Strong cheese, sliced. Tonight I used smoked gouda, but I've also used mozzarella and provolone before. Neither of those two are really strong enough for tasting, but I don't think I'll use gouda again. If you have enough grated parmesan, use that. Or romano.

Coat a small frying pan with non-stick spray. Place the chicken in the pan, pour the sauce over it, and place cheese slices over the top. Put a lid on the pan, and cook on medium heat for ten or fifteen minutes. The cheese will get bubbly, the sauce will thin, and it will be yummy. But before you remove the chicken from the pan, I'd advise slicing into it just to make sure it's done.

I served this over a bed of angel hair. It was pretty tasty.

The boring stuff:
Difficulty: 3.
Serves two people for every one breast you use (Tim and I like small portions).
Shouldn't take more than about a half hour to cook. Longer if you're making pasta. My water usually takes about 15 minutes to boil.

Mac 'n' Cheese Casserole

OMG YUM. This is a recipe that is SO good and SO easy that not even my dear brother could mess it up.
2 cups uncooked macaroni
1/2 stick butter
2 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 inch square baking pan. Fill a large pot with water and add some salt. Bring to a boil and add the macaroni. Cook until soft; about ten minutes. Drain well, return to the pot. Add butter and stir until melted. Add 2 cups of the shredded cheese and mix. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with the milk. Add milk mixture to the macaroni and stir until well combined. Spoon into greased pan. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese on top. Bake at 350F, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and browned and the casserole is cooked through.
See? Simple, right? Now I'll tell you what I did. I used only a cup and a half of sharp cheddar because I had about a quarter cup of provolone and an eighth-cup of cream cheese that I tossed in. I also only used three tablespoons of butter. And I think the recipe would be just fine with only one egg. And it might be wise to use margarine on this one instead of butter....heart health is important.
Note to Brad: DO NOT use the Mexican blend Dad gets. It will taste very weird. Go to Safeway and get a bag of sharp cheddar (a single bag is about two cups) and call me if you run into trouble.
Note to everyone else: I had the tail end of a package of large macaroni and a new package of small macaroni and I just mixed them. It was fine. Don't be scared of making adjustments as needed!
The boring stuff:
Difficulty: 2. Seriously. So easy. Gets a 2 only because you have to crack an egg.
Serves about four.
It'll take about an hour, but only because water takes so long to boil.

Cheesy Biscuits

Also, YUMMMM. I've been trying to figure out the recipe Red Lobster uses for their biscuits (SO good), and this isn't it...but they're pretty freaking fantastic anyway.

2 c. Bisquick
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (I used medium, but I think sharp would be better)
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 tsp garlic salt

Mix Bisquick, milk and cheddar until a soft ball forms. Beat vigorously for 30 seconds. Drop by balls
onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Mix butter and garlic and brush on rolls while still on the pan and hot.

Okay. I didn't measure the amount of cheese I put in. It was a nice handful. Also, I sprinkled garlic powder--not salt--into the mix and used real garlic to mix with the butter. Also, my biscuits didn't really get brown in the oven, so I was a little unsure if they were cooking through. Go 10 minutes and take them out if they're not browning. Yum!

The boring stuff:
Difficulty: 1.
Makes about 16 biscuits.
Takes all of 15 minutes. Tops. Including set up and clean up.

*As usual, I found this picture on google, but unusually, these look almost identical to mine! You can see how they're not really brown.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fettuccine Alfredo UPDATED

My brother wrote me an email today after trying (and failing spectacularly) to make this. Without further ado, here are some better instructions.

Half a stick of butter.
Garlic. Lots.
One cup milk.
One tablespoon flour.
Two tablespoons cream cheese. You can do this without cream cheese. Compensate by using one tablespoon more butter, and extra parmesan.
Two cups grated parmesan. Make sure this is real cheese, and not that Kraft powder crap.
Cooked fettuccine noodles. If your father happens to be the one who shops, and the noodles in your house have been there since the dawn of time, don't use them. Get on your bike and go to the store and spend a buck on new noodles.
Parsley, grated or fresh, and pepper to taste.

I find any recipes calling for a cheese sauce to be very tricky, but be patient with this one and it should work out just fine.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. You should probably measure to see how much you're using and not just dump it indiscriminately into the pan. Add garlic, sautee one minute. Stir in flour VERY CAREFULLY (it tends to want to clump). Gradually add milk with a whisk. Cook about 8 minutes until it starts to thicken, constantly stirring. Stir in cream cheese, cook two minutes or until melted. SLOWLY stir in the parmesan until it's all melted. This will take awhile. Add it very slowly, stir, add some more, stir, etc. OR: add half the parmesan in this way, then toss the noodles with the sauce, and add the rest of the cheese while you toss. Sprinkle with parsley and pepper, and enjoy.

The boring stuff:
Difficulty: 3, only because cheese sauce is tricky.
Serves four with a little leftover.
Takes about 45 minutes.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Thanksgiving dinnerUPDATED

2/10/08--I made this last night, and in the last hour I melted the extra half stick of butter (from the potatoes) and poured it over the turkey for a little added flava. It didn't make a huge difference, but it was a nice little surprise for the discerning palate, and it turned out lovely. The meat fell off the bone, literally. Yummy!

This recipe comes courtesy of my Senior Transitions (read: the most useless high school class ever--although I have often wished for a similar class being required for seniors graduating from college) teacher, Mrs. Tilley. I've used this recipe twice now, for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I'm using it again this weekend, and let me tell you this: I expect part of it is just the satisfaction of cooking a wholesome, delicious meal successfully, but this turkey is the most delicious and moist food I have ever tasted. And so easy! Both my brother and Tim can vouch for its deliciosity (yeah, I made up a word. Deal with it). Without further ado, I give you TURKEY (and side dishes):

1 medium turkey (10-15 pounds-ish. I always get the Fred Meyer brand and it hasn't steered me wrong yet.)
1 large onion
1 apple (I use green ones, but use whatever you want)
1 stick of butter
1/2 a bottle of blush wine (for those of you not in the know (like me) that means choose a wine that's pink, not red or white. I always use Sutter Home's white zin. )
Poultry seasoning

Preheat your oven to 325F. Remove neck, gizzard, and giblets (all the gross stuff). You will probably want rubber gloves for this job. Rinse the bird thoroughly with cold water, and then make sure all the water comes out of the cavity. Lightly salt the cavity. Cut the apple and onion into quarters and put in the cavity. (I also like to rub the onion over the outside of the bird once before it goes inside.) Melt the butter in a bowl in the microwave, mix it with the wine and pour over the surface of the turkey. Lightly salt and season the bird. Cover with tinfoil and baste every hour with juices from the pan. (It'll tell you on the turkey package about how long to cook your bird, but mine usually needs about four hours.) I leave mine uncovered for the last hour. The skin will get pretty dark, but make sure you wait for the little timer to pop! I promise it will. Also, let your turkey stand for at least ten minutes before you slice it up.
Difficulty: 2. Make sure you don't slice into your thumb like I did.


Neck and gizzards
Two onions
Two carrots
Four stalks of celery
1/2 a stick of butter
Bread cubes
Salt and pepper
Poultry seasoning

Fill a pot with water, add the neck and gizzards. Add one onion, two carrots, and celery tops. (You're going to throw all that out at the end, so don't worry about chopping it all up too much.) Boil. Let it simmer for 30 minutes, and set it all aside. Melt butter in a large pan, sautee the other onion and garlic until the onion turns clear. Add chopped celery stalks and cook five minutes. Add salt, pepper, and seasoning to taste. Put in bread cubes and one cup of the water from the gizzards. Mix until you reach the desired consistency, then bake in an oven safe bowl for 20-30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, fish all the junk out of your pot of water and toss it. (If you choose, you can include the gizzards and neck in the stuffing, but that grosses me out, so I leave it out.)
Difficulty: 3

As soon as you put the stuffing in the oven (hopefully you can fit it in with the turkey--if not, no worries. Wait until the turkey comes out and put the stuffing in), start the MASHED POTATOES.

Six large Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 Stick butter

Peel potatoes and cut into roughly similar sized cubes. Drop in your stuffing water with some salt, and boil until a fork easily goes through one of the bigger pieces (at least 30 minutes, maybe more). Using a slotted spoon, pull the potatoes out and put into another bowl. SAVE THE WATER. Season with salt and pepper, and have fun mashing. Use milk to achieve your desired smoothness.
Difficulty: 4, only because the mashing takes a lot of work.

Skim any fat from the turkey pan and place in a saucepan. Mix one cup of water with one tablespoon of cornstarch together, stirring until smooth. Add to saucepan. Add one cup of potato water and bring to a boil. Season to taste and strain into a gravy bowl. This will need about 20 minutes to thicken and cool a little.
Difficulty: 3. I'm not a gravy maestro, so I'm never really sure what it should taste like.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Most Amazing Meat Balls

I made these for Tim about a month ago, and they were a huge hit. SO GOOD. I'm not sharing my marinara recipe, but I'll provide one for you, or you can just grab a jar off the shelf at Safeway or where'er.

One and a half pounds of lean ground beef
One egg
A shake or two of ground red pepper
Three tablespoons diced onion
A dash of parsley
One cup Italian bread crumbs
Four shakes Worcestershire sauce
Provolone cheese, sliced or in cubes. Cubes will be easier, but I used slices. I just had to tear them into manageable pieces.
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425F. Combine meat, egg, red pepper, garlic, onion, parsley, bread crumbs, and Worcestershire in a mixing bowl. I used a wooden spoon to mix it all together. Pull a palmful of the mixture into your hand. Nest some cheese in the middle and form a ball. Place on a nonstick cookie sheet brushed with a little olive oil. This makes about 16 meatballs. Bake until cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes.
Difficulty: 3. Any idiot can mix things in a bowl and then put it in his hand.

A Quick Marinara Recipe (not my amazing homemade recipe)
2 Tablespoons EVOO
A little red pepper
Two cans diced tomatoes or tomato sauce

Warm the evoo in a pan over medium heat, and toss everything else in. Mix, simmer, and let heat until ready to serve.

Spoon sauce over the meatballs and serve on a sub. SO good!

The boring stuff:
Difficulty: 3
Takes about half an hour. Maybe 45 minutes.
Makes 12-ish meatballs.

Sausage Potato Soup

This is the recipe for Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana, which is probably my favorite commercially available soup. A quick scour of the internet found me the recipe, and it's pretty yummy. Tastes just like the real thing. This recipe makes enough for 6-8 servings, but looks a little scary once it's been refrigerated overnight. it might be worth it to halve or quarter the recipe and eat it all in one go.

One pound ground Italian sausage
1½ tsp crushed red peppers
1 large diced white onion
4 Tbsp bacon pieces
10 cups water
5 cubes of chicken bouillon
1 cup heavy cream
1 large Russet potato, sliced into manageable bites
¼ of a bunch of kale

Sautee Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in pot. Drain excess fat, refrigerate while you prepare other ingredients. In the same pan, sautee bacon, onions and garlic for approximately 15 mins. or until the onions are soft. Mix together the chicken bouillon and water, then add it to the onions, bacon and garlic. Cook until boiling. Add potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour. Add heavy cream and cook until thoroughly heated. Stir in the sausage. Add kale just before serving.

This stores well, but it will separate if you let it sit. Just stir and reheat, and don't be scared!

The boring stuff:
Difficulty: 4. It's a little complicated, but I think you guys can do it.
Takes about an hour and a half. Potatoes take a long time to get soft.
Serves 6-8.

Dinosaur-Egg Chicken

This one is amazing. It's been sampled by Timmy, my brother, and my dad, and it's fantastic. It's a time investment, but you won't be disappointed. I promise.

A 3-pound whole chicken
Herbs (I use rosemary and thyme, and sometimes fennel or basil)
Olive oil

For the crust:
Four cups of flour
About 2 cups of salt
7 eggs
A little water

Make the crust first. Mix the flour, salt, and six eggs in a very large bowl. You will only get so far with a mixer or a wooden spoon; I always find that at some point, you have to get in there with your hands. Use water to bind when you need to. Roll out one third of it. This is the base for the chicken. Place the chicken on the crust (MAKE SURE YOU PUT THE CRUST ON A BAKING SHEET FIRST! You'll be sorry if you don't) and slide herbs under the skin of the chicken. Rub the whole thing with garlic, drizzle a little olive oil over the bird, salt and pepper lightly, and roll out the rest of the crust. Cover the chicken with the top, seal the edges, and be very careful to patch any holes or cracks. Mix the last egg with a little water, and paint the whole shell with a pastry brush or your fingers. Bake at 325F for 90 minutes. Let the chicken stand for ten minutes out of the oven, then carefully cut off the crust and throw away.

Let me recommend this: Make an incision in the crust running lengthwise, then another one going across. Pry open from there, and take off just enough that you can easily pull out the chicken. If you take off too much, the juices will start to leak out and they will make a huge mess.

It's a time commitment, but this thing is SO good.

The boring stuff:
Difficulty: 3. It's a time commitment, but it's easy enough.
Takes roughly three hours. Half an hour on the shell, half an hour to prepare and put in the shell, hour and a half to cook, plus ten minutes to stand/cool/unwrap at the end.
Serves 4 with a little left over.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Chicken and Dumplings

4 chicken breasts.
4 teaspoons chicken boullion.
1 onion, sliced.
1/4 tsp. thyme
salt & pepper
1/4 cup cold water
2 and 1/2 tsp. cornstarch.
1 cup flour
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. summer savory.
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 egg
1/4 cup milk.
2 tsp. melted butter.

Poach the chicken in water with boullion, thyme, and onion. (This means put the chicken in a pan, put enough water in so the chicken is covered completely, and turn the heat on.) The boullion will probably turn the chicken fairly yellow, but don't let that scare you. Let it simmer 25 minutes, covered. Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat egg with butter and milk, combine with the dry stuff. Drop batter by spoonfuls into skillet. Cook over medium heat 10 minutes covered, 10 minutes uncovered.

The boring stuff:
Difficulty: 3. Getting the dumplings right can be tricky.
Takes almost an hour.
Serves four.

Chicken Mac Casserole

Chicken. As much as you think you want. One or two sliced breasts should do it for every two people.
Cooked macaroni. Two or three cups should do.
Three teaspoons butter or margarine.
Garlic. Lots.
One quarter cup of chopped/diced onion.
One quarter cup on flour.
Two cups evaporated milk.
10-12 ounces sharp cheddar, grated.
Half a teaspoon dry mustard.
One egg.

(I always use butter when I'm cooking, never margarine. But if you want to, I suppose you can substitute what makes you happy.)

Cook the chicken. It doesn't need to be completely done, but I get paranoid about those kind of things, so I always make sure mine's cooked all the way through. Melt the butter and
add garlic and onion. Sautee until the onion is clear. Combine the flour and half a cup of the milk, stirring until smooth. Add to pan. Add remaining milk to pan. Add cheese slowly, then add about a teaspoon of salt, pepper to taste, and mustard. Add the egg. Mix into a casserole dish with the macaroni, and bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes.

I always use lots more cheese, because I'm a sucker for cheddar. I also like to top the casserole with fresh cheese about five minutes before I pull it out. Yummy!

The boring stuff:
Difficulty: 2. It's really not that hard. It just has a lot of ingredients.
Takes at least an hour because you have to cook the noodles and the chicken.
Serves 6-8.