Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stupid Chicken and Rice

Rachel Ray makes me crazy. I find her loud, annoying, and too kitschy-cute for my tastes. Her recipes, though, aren't terrible. But could she be less annoying about naming them? For the life of me, I can't imagine how any self-respecting cook could serve someone something called "You Won't Be Single For Long Pasta." Yeesh. Anyway, this is her recipe, sort of. I did some of my own things, and I'm renaming it. Stupid Chicken and Rice, from stupid RR to you via me.

Stupid Chicken and Rice
(I bought a package of Rice a Roni for my rice portion. Rice is not hard, so do what you need to do to satisfy your rice needs.)
Half a cup of flour
One tablespoon paprika
Four chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Two tablespoons butter
One onion, diced
Three cloves of garlic, minced
Optional extras: bell peppers, diced tomatoes, mushrooms.

Put the rice on to cook.

Combine flour and paprika in a dish and coat the chicken with it, then season with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and pour olive oil in--enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Brown the chicken on each side (about three minutes each side) and remove from the pan. Add butter to the pan, then saute onions and garlic (and any other veggies you're using) for 5-7 minutes. Add chicken back into the pan, reduce heat, and cover. Cook until chicken is cooked through and rice is ready. (If the pan looks too dry, add in a little chicken broth (no more than a cup) to create a sauce instead of a vegetable garnish/base.) Serve and enjoy.

Takes about a half hour.
Difficulty: 2.
Feeds four.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Chocolate Torte

In the town I grew up, there's a little Italian restaurant owned by one of my friends' dad. Rachel's Dad's Restaurant is what we always called it. It's really very tasty, and it's in the top three of my "must visit" list for every time I go home. Naturally, when I started taking Tim home with me, Rachel's Dad's Restaurant was one of the first places we went.

And Rachel's dad makes a chocolate torte that is to die for. Hands down it's the best chocolate dessert I've ever had, anytime, anywhere. So naturally, I made sure I ordered one for Tim, because I sure as heck wasn't going to share mine.

Long story short, Tim asked me last weekend to try to make a torte for him, so I found a recipe, bought the stuff, and attacked it head on. I believe the exact words out of my mouth after I tasted it were, "Oh my effing god....I rule!" It's pretty darn good.

One cup unsalted butter (two sticks)
Nine ounces semi- or bittersweet chocolate, in pieces
Six large eggs, separated
One cup sugar
One teaspoon vanilla extract
One-quarter teaspoon cream of tartar

Separate the eggs, cover with plastic wrap, and bring to room temperature, 30 minutes or more. When they're ready, pour the yolks into a mixing bowl and beat with half a cup sugar using the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until they're light, lemon-colored, and thick, about five minutes.

While they're beating, melt the butter and chocolate. (The recipe said to use a double boiler, I used the microwave. I think either way will be okay.) When the eggs are done, pour in the chocolate and the vanilla and beat until combined. Set aside.

In a clean bowl, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add in the remaining half cup of sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and cover with non-stick spray or melted butter.

Using a rubber spatula, gradually fold the egg whites into the chocolate to lighten the batter. Fold slowly and carefully until the egg whites are just incorporated. Do not over mix or the batter will deflate. Gently pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes to an hour. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool, and enjoy! (Note: the top of the torte will collapse when you take it out of the oven; that's normal and good. Don't panic.)

P.S. For whipped cream, you need a pint of whipping cream, two teaspoons vanilla, and a little more than a quarter cup of sugar. Beat on high speed in your mixer (whisk attachment) for about three minutes until thickened, then add in the vanilla and sugar and beat until even thicker. Refrigerate the unused portion.

The boring stuff:
Takes about an hour of prep and an hour of baking.
Difficulty: 3.
Makes one nine-inch torte. Serves one greedy fiance or eight reasonable chocolate-lovers.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Better Fettuccine Alfredo!

Last time I attempted a cheese sauce, it was a disaster. More or less. But this time? This time....it was magical.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add a little olive oil, and dump your noodles in. Also, toss a stick of butter into a medium saucepan and melt it over medium low heat.
When the butter's melted, toss in two spoonfuls of cream cheese and stir until melted, creamy, and smooth (I use my big size spoon, but you could get by with a smaller size spoon if you want). After that, pour in one pint of heavy cream, one clove of garlic (minced), and season with salt and pepper. Simmer and stir until the noodles are done, at least ten minutes. Remove from heat and stir in about a cup of shredded parmesan cheese. Pour over the noodles, toss, and serve.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Finally, Fudge Drops!

What a weekend! As if I didn't still have half a chocolate sheet cake in the kitchen, I felt the need to bake. So Saturday night, I made chocolate chip cookies. They didn't quite turn out as well as I'd hoped, but Tim's tastebuds aren't as discerning as mine when they come to my cookies. If I do say so myself, chocolate chip cookies are something I do very well. In fact, I've never met a homemade chocolate chip cookie as good as mine. Just saying.

And since I just reorganized the kitchen (read: finally put away crap that's been sitting out since we moved in more than a month ago) and now I've got twice as much counter space as before, I needed to experiment. Spread out. Make a new cookie friend. So...fudge drops. Delightful.

You will need:
8 ounces good quality chocolate, bittersweet, semisweet, or dark. Or whatever, as long as it's good.
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
One-quarter teaspoon baking POWDER (not baking soda--there's a difference, people)
One-quarter teaspoon salt
One cup chocolate chips (optional)

In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until thoroughly blended. Set aside.

In a medium-small bowl, melt your chocolate and your butter. I used the microwave for this, in 15-second intervals. Works just fine. If you're using an 8oz bar, be sure to chop it first into medium-ish chunks. If you're using chips, don't worry about it.

Stir together to combine.
Once the butter and chocolate are melted and happy, hand the spoon to your fiance and make him smile. Then scrape the melted chocolate into the bowl with the eggs and sugar.
Mix together thoroughly, then add vanilla, baking powder, salt, and flour. Stir to combine.

Pour in your chocolate chips and stir well.

The batter will look something like this, and should be fairly runny. Put it in the fridge for half an hour or so in order to firm it up and make it easier to handle.

Drop dough onto greased or lined baking sheets and put in a 325F oven for about 11 minutes, but no more than 13. The cookies will start to crack on top (just like brownies) when they're almost done. Keep a close eye, because they won't crack until the very end.

Let the cookies stand for about four minutes before removing them to a cooling rack. Let stand an additional five minutes before eating them; 325F chocolate can burn your tongue real easy.


The boring stuff:
Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
Difficulty: 2.
Takes just over an hour, including refrigeration and baking time.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tim's Mom's Taco Salad

I made this a couple weeks ago and totally forgot to post it. Whoops! Anyway, even though Tim told me I did it wrong and totally hurt my feelings, I still thought it was tasty.

You will need:

1 lb ground beef
1 package taco seasoning
½ head ice berg lettuce
1 can dark kidney beans, drained
½ onion, chopped
½ green pepper, chunked
1 med tomato, chunked
2 large handfuls crushed tortilla chips
1 cup grated medium or sharp Tillamook cheddar cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup mild salsa

In a frying pan, brown and crumble the ground beef. Drain half to three-quarters of the fat. Stir in the taco seasoning and ¾ cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Chop lettuce and other veggies and put in large bowl. Add beans and cheese and mix well.

Combine mayonnaise and salsa and mix well. Add to veggie, bean, and cheese mixture and stir.

Just before serving, add the seasoned ground beef and chips. Toss until all is mixed well and serve.

Kathy says, "Serve with a medium red wine, beer, or lemonade." I served it with lemonade for the boys and water for me.

The boring stuff:
Takes about a half hour, maybe a little longer.
Difficulty: 2
Serves 6.

P.S. I know it looks like I haven't been cooking much anymore, but that's hardly true at all. I'm cooking all the time....I'm just making recipes that are already up. It's been a whole summer of tacos and fried chicken and bread. I'm having friends for dinner two nights this week, and they're getting recipes that are already up, too. However, I'm planning to do some baking this weekend--we've got some leftover cake that got stale while we were in Vegas, so I need to make something chocolate to replace that. Look for the recipe by Monday. Mmmmm!