Thursday, September 18, 2014

Homemade Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup


I was so excited to find this recipe!  OK, so it might not be sexy, but if you're trying to stay away from as many processed foods as possible, this is one thing you're sure to be falling back on.  An extra plus is that you're most likely to have everything on hand and it can be made in minutes!  And you can pronounce and know exactly what each ingredient is!  Now that's sexy!

HOMEMADE CONDENSED CREAM OF CHICKEN SOUP (makes 1+ cup, about equivalent to a small can of packaged soup)

3/4 cup chicken broth (use canned low-sodium, bouillon or chicken base mixed with water)
1/8 tsp poultry seasoning (can substitute a pinch of ground sage, marjoram, ground thyme) or more to taste
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder
S&P to taste
Pinch dried parsley
Pinch paprika
1/2 cup milk (I used 1% with great results)
1/4 cup AP flour

In a medium saucepan, bring broth and seasonings to a simmer.

In a small bowl, vigorously whip the milk and flour until smooth.

While whisking the broth, slowly pour in the milk/flour mixture, whisking constantly.

Continue to stir and cook until the mixture bubbles and thickens, 2-4 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add additional S&P (or other seasonings) to taste as needed.  Use immediately in a recipe or cool and refrigerate for up to a week.  It will thicken much more as it cools.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sweet Paprika Skillet Chicken


Want a really quick and easy weeknight dinner?  Here ya go.  Couldn't be easier, especially if you have some of that wonderful Cilantro-Lime Rice (see 9-7-14 post) in the freezer.  A simple, sauteed chicken breast is just about as boring as it comes but a simple fix turns this entree around:  MANGO!!!  A mango slice is the perfect accompaniment to a boring piece of white chicken.  Not only does it impart a lovely, fresh, sweet flavor, but also adds some juiciness, which a chicken breast tends to lack, most especially if it's even the tiniest bit overcooked.

I served this with some whole green beans, but my favorite Go-To Summer Salad (see 5-31-11) post would also be a really nice addition to this super-simple dinner.  Give this dinner 15 minutes and you're ready.  30 minutes and you've probably been busy working the crossword on the side.

SWEET PAPRIKA SKILLET CHICKEN (4 servings)

2 1/2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4-6 oz each), flattened in between plastic wrap using a mallet (or cut in half {lengthwise} into two thinner cuts if breasts are 8 oz each)
2 Tbsp oil: canola, vegetable, coconut
Cilantro-Lime Rice
Fresh Mango slices
Lime wedges for garnish

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, paprika, S&P, and garlic powder.  Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and put the spice mixture onto the chicken breasts, rubbing it into the chicken to create an even coating.

In a large, 12" nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until hot and rippling.  Add the chicken in a single layer (you may need to do separate batches) and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side depending on how thick the chicken pieces are (the chicken will register 160F on an instant-read thermometer when cooked fully).  The chicken will darken quite a bit due to the brown sugar in the spice rub.  Adjust the heat if you feel the chicken is burning or overcooking, it will be dry if it overcooks so cook it just until cooked through so it stays juicy and tender.

Remove the chicken to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces, if needed.

Let the chicken rest 5 or so minutes before serving.  Serve with Cilantro-Lime Rice, fresh mangos, and lime wedges.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Spinach, Avocado, and Sun-Dried Tomato Home Fries Skillet




OK, let me preface this recipe by avidly stating: I am not a breakfast-food lover.  Not for breakfast and absolutely, certainly not for dinner.  I don't think in my entire adult lifetime, I have ever made breakfast for dinner.  And it's been been decades (4 or 5?) since I've actually eaten breakfast for dinner.  I've given it some thought and I think it might stem from my childhood days (evenings, I suppose) when Mom would periodically make waffles or some such thing for dinner (Dad loved breakfast for dinner) and it seems like it was always on a cold, dreary evening (think Ethan Frome setting).

However, I must say that in the last year or so I've actually starting craving an egg here and there.  Not often, mind you, but once or twice a month.  I've been sitting on this recipe for a while and thought it would make a nice breakfast for Jim, only we never sit down for breakfast.  And then yesterday that egg craving crawled into the back of my head and by dinnertime, it was flashing a red alert.  Since I had everything on hand, I took the plunge and made breakfast for dinner!

This is a great one plate meal for breakfast, brunch, or dinner.  It's an updated version of a classic American breakfast adding sun-dried tomatoes and avocado.  The tomatoes add a vibrant taste and the avocados lend a creaminess.  Jim won't eat straight avocados, so I made a bit of guacamole for him.  Also, I only had smoked sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil) which made me think a touch of smoked paprika in the potatoes would be a great touch (yes, it was).  The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup of EVOO for cooking the potatoes, but I have an incredible non-stick pan and I wanted crispy potatoes, so I only used 2 Tbsp.  If you're using a great, old cast-iron skillet, you'd probably need more. 

SPINACH, AVOCADO, and SUN-DRIED TOMATO HOME FRIES SKILLET (2-3 servings)

2-4T EVOO
2 medium or 4 small russet potatoes, cut into 1/2" cubes, about 4 cups
1/2 small red onion, diced
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
seasoned salt
black pepper
smoked paprika, optional (start with 1/4 to 1/2 tsp)
1 big handful of baby spinach, chopped
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil (or not), chopped
1 avocado, chopped (smashed with a bit of salsa, minced onion and garlic, a touch of salt and fresh lime juice if you prefer guacamole)
2-6 eggs

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat then add potatoes, onion, and garlic.  Season with S&P and smoked paprika (if using) and stir to coat.  Cook 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are golden brown and tender.  Place a lid on top to quicken cooking (but you won't get a crispy edge to the potatoes).

Remove skillet from heat and add baby spinach and sun-dried tomatoes on top.  Season lightly with regular S&P then set aside.  Stir if you want a bit of wilt to your spinach (not too long or it will completely wilt) and make sure than skillet is off of the heat source.

Cook eggs to your preference (over-easy/medium/hard, poached, scrambled) then season with S&P.  Spoon potato, spinach, and sun-dried tomato onto plates then top with chopped avocados and egg(s) and then serve.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Crumb-Coated Ranch Chicken


Hello again, Friends.  Sorry for the brief absence, but it's been a tad warm and muggy here and during the weather, our HVAC system bid us a farewell.  It's been stifling and needless to say, I really didn't feel like spending time in the kitchen.  It's been a couple of days of sandwiches or take-out.  But we're back in business with a cool, comfortable house and I'm ready to get back in the kitchen.  I've got a couple of new recipes I'm itching to try and hope I'll be able to pass them on in the next few days.

But here's a chicken recipe that's about as easy as they get (can you say five ingredients?!!!!).  Oh, and juicy and delicious, to boot.  I don't often have very good luck with crumb coatings....seems like they generally come out a bit soggy.  I don't know what made this one work so well, but it had that really nice crisp outside to complement the tender, juicy chicken breasts.  The ranch dressing (my recipe below) helps keep the breasts from drying out.  Serve a little extra on the side, if you like.

CRUMB-COATED RANCH CHICKEN (4 servings)

2/3 cup ramch/buttermilk dressing
2 cups coarsely crushed cornflakes
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (4-6 oz each)

Preheat oven to 400F.  Place salad dressing in shallow bowl.  In a separate shallow bowl, mix cornflakes, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder.  Dip chicken in dressing, then in cornflake mixture, patting to help coating adhere.

Place on a greased baking sheet or in a greased 13x9 baking dish.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until a thermometer reads 165F.

Recipe Source:  Taste of Home, September 2014, p. 39

CREAMY BUTTERMILK DRESSING

3/4 cup mayo
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp dried onion
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
S&P to taste

Whisk together until well-combined.  Refrigerate at least a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Easy Homemade Burrito Bowls


I'm going to take a short break, but before I stop posting for a few days, I wanted to leave this incredible, delicious, easy meal-in-a-bowl for you.  And did I mention quick?

Don't let the ingredient list seem daunting.  You're basically layering about 6 items to create this dish.  There is a seasoning mix for the chicken, but if you've got some grilled chicken breasts looking for a home, use those.  Also, I mixed some buttermilk dressing (recipe below) with some salsa and dressed the lettuce.  The original recipe calls for undressed lettuce.  I think you need a bit of some type of dressing for this (salsa, creamy, or vinaigrette salad dressing), or maybe just a squeeze of lime. 

But for me, the layer that makes this dish is the Cilantro-Lime rice.  My oh my!  Gratefully, I made extra so I've got some in the freezer for the next Mexican entree I make which needs a side dish.  And if you've got that nasty Cilantro-Soap gene (yes, it's a real thing...Google it), you needn't worry....the cilantro is thrown in at the last minute, enough for the heat to rid it of that soap taste but still add an incredible depth of flavor. 

You can use the guac recipe below, or just mix your own......I used avocado, salsa, finely minced onion, minced fresh garlic, lime juice, and a bit of salt.

One other thing, I used fresh corn still it's still sweet, affordable, and in season, but I used an all-white cob.  For presentation purposes, I would definitely use all-yellow to add more color.  And all-in-all, outside of the fact that it's mighty tasty, it really is a pretty dish.

EASY HOMEMADE BURRITO BOWLS (4 servings)

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cups sweet corn kernels (fersh or frozen-then-thawed)
4 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or Mexican blend or cheddar)
1 small head romaine or iceberg lettuce, sliced
Salsa, creamy or vinaigrette dressing, optional
lime quarters, optional

For the seasoning mix:
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, optional

For the Cilantro-Lime Rice:
2 cups water
1 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup long-grain white rice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime

For the quick guacamole:
3 ripe avocados
juice from 1/2 lime
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
garlic salt, to taste

NOTE:  For the entire recipe, you'll need 1 lime and  Tbsp chopped cilantro.

Mix the seasonings together in a small bowl.  Mist or brush chicken breasts with EVOO then season on both sides with the mix (reserve 1 Tbsp seasoning for black beans) and grill for 3-4 minutes a side over medium-high heat until no longer pink in the center.  Let rest for 5 minutes then chop and set aside.

For the Cilantro-Lime Rice, bring water, oil, and salt to a boil in a saucepan.  Rinse rice in a strainer under cold water then add to the boiling water, place on lid on top, turn heat down to medium-low, and then simmer until rice is tender, about 15 minutes.  Add lime juice and cilantro, stir to combine, remove from heat and let sit covered for a few minutes.

Add black beans to a small saucepan with water and 1 Tbsp seasoning mix.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low to stay warm.

For the quick guacamole, add all ingredients to a bowl then mash with a fork or potato masher.  Taste and adjust garlic salt if necessary.

Scoop cooked Cilantro-Rice into bowls then top with grilled chicken, seasoned beans, cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, shredded cheese, lettuce, and guacamole.  Serve with salsa or dressing, if desired.  Garnish with lime wedges.

CREAMY BUTTERMILK DRESSING

3/4 cup mayo
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp dried onion
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp freshly minced garlic
S&P to taste

Whisk together until combined.  Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend.

NOTE TO SELF:
Layers:
Rice
Lettuce (here or on top)
Chicken
Beans
Tomatoes
Corn
Cheese
Lettuce (here or on top of rice)
Guacamole

Friday, September 5, 2014

Creamed Peas and New Potatoes


I don't know why this dish came to mind....I don't think I've eaten it in over 40 years.  It's a dish I used to ask my mother to make for me many years ago.  It was a lucious creamy sauce with soft new potatoes (from her mother's garden) and sweet peas.  I could make a meal out of it all by itself.

While the flavor was just as I remembered, I'm sure back in the 60's they didn't have lo-fat milk.  It was the full-on whole milk; therefore, hers was a bit thicker than the pot I made (I used 1%).  Who knows, she could have even used half-and-half.  So if you want it thicker you could either use a higher-fat content milk or up the roux (butter and flour) by 50% or so.  But again, the flavor is simple and reminiscent: buttery, creamy, with a touch of S&P.  It was like stepping back in time.

CREAMED PEAS and NEW POTATOES (4 servings)

1 pound baby red potatoes, quartered
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp AP flour
S&P to taste
1 cup milk

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Boil potatoes for 15-20 minutes, or until tender.  Drain.

Using the same pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in flour to make a thick paste; gradually whisk in milk, stirring constantly until slightly thickened.  Season with S&P to taste.  Add cooked potatoes and thawed peas to the sauce; simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cookies & Cream No-Bake Chex Bars


I wanted to make a little birthday treat for the receptionist at my dentist's office the other day but didn't want to turn on the oven.  I had found this recipe a few weeks ago, it's quick and easy.  With the introduction of so many new Chex cereal, I've used these a few times in place of the traditional Rice Krispies (see Snicker's Chex Mix, post 2-3-14 which uses the Chocolate Chex). 

You can also make these gluten-free if you pick up gluten-free chocolate cookies (not Oreos, but you can find them at places like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, etc).

COOKIES & CREAM NO-BAKE BARS

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
10 oz bag mini marshmellows
12.1 oz box Vanilla Chex
20 Oreos or gluten-free version, divided
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Spray a 9x13 or 7x11 (depending on if you like them thinner or thicker) baking dish with nonstick spray then set aside.

Roughly chop 16 Oreos then add to a very large bowl with the Chex and set aside.  Chop remaining 4 Oreos a little more fine then set aside.

Add butter to a microwave-safe bowl then microwave for 30 seconds or until melted.  Add marshmellows then stir to coat and microwave for 1 minute and 20 seconds (keep cooking by 15 second increments if marshmellows haven't completely melted).  Stir until smooth then immediately pour over Chex mixture and mix until evenly coated.  Scoop into the prepared baking dish then press into and even layer (you can spray the bottom of a large measuring cup with nonstick spray then use that to press).

Add chocolate chips to a small microwave-safe bowl then microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each interval, until melted and smooth.  Drizzle over the top of the bars then top with remaining Oreos.  Let cool completely before cutting into bars.