Good Food, Clean Cooking, My Life

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I'm baaaack!

It's always good to leave home and go back "home", but it's also good to be back home.  The one thing about going back "home", especially to where I am from, is the great food!  The really good, bad food.  I rarely eat red meat and I had a chicken fried steak, two bacon cheeseburgers (not at the same time or same day), and my grandmother made a roast.  I did not feel well at all eating all of that, but it was good.  There was loads of Mexican food and some good Japanese food.  Catching up with friends and family over good food really can put on the pounds.  I think I gained..... drum roll please.... about 5-7 pounds.  Ugh and I can feel it, too.  I  can't get my rings on my finger!  First time ever!  I'm sure a lot of it is the sodium content and fat that I normally do not cook with and there was also more sitting around than usual.  But... it was fun!  I had a wonderful time visiting with my grandmother, great aunt and great uncle, my in-laws drove in from New Mexico to see us for a few days and I had a really good visit with my ex-mother-in-law and sister-in-law that I hadn't seen in so long!  Yes, for all of those wondering I have a wonderful relationship with my "ex" family... it is possible!  So, overall, despite eating poorly and packing on the pounds this past week it was a wonderful week away!

The countdown has begun and my husband will be home on Thursday!!!  It's almost too hard to believe!  Tomorrow I will sit down and write out menus and go grocery shopping.  It will be so nice to cook for the hubster again!

So, that is the update and I will be posting some new articles and recipes in the next few days!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Leaving on a jet plane...

Hey everyone!  I think I am caught up with the blog posts that I have wanted to publish before I left town.  I am leaving town for a while in two days and will not be blogging.  Today I published 7 new blog posts previous to this post.  I look forward to catching up with you all in a couple of weeks!  Take care and God bless!!

Using leftover baked potatoes.

A long time ago my dad told me that his mom used to bake several potatoes in the oven with the purpose to use some later in the week.  I have done this several times and have used them for different things.  He said that one way she would use them was to cut them in slices and pan fry them.
So, here they are cut in slices.
In my head I wanted to do a garlic, thyme, sea salt and pepper potato, but then I looked in the fridge and had some left over pesto that didn't fit in the ice cube trays.  So, then I wanted to also do a pesto potato.
I infused some olive oil with garlic and then discarded the garlic, because it would have burned in the cast iron.  Then I put the potatoes in and sprinkled them with some sea salt, pepper and fresh thyme.  Cook them for a few minutes and then flip.
These don't look too impressive, but they are good.  The middle of the potatoes are almost hollow inside from the baking, so they are super crispy inside and out!
I did the same method with these potatoes without the garlic and salt.  Heat some olive oil over medium heat and put one layer of potatoes down.  Once golden on one side, flip over to the other side.  Once they are flipped .... get ready, here's the brilliant part...  spoon about a teaspoon of pesto over each potato!  I know!  Yummy.  Let the other side finish cooking by getting golden brown, transfer to a towel to absorb the excess olive oil and then transfer to a plate.  Sprinkle with some parmesan cheese and that's it!
These were Oh... My... Goodness delicious!!!  The potato was crunchy on the outside as well as inside and then there was the creaminess of the pesto and inside of the potato.  Truly, you have to try this!!

One potato made both types of potatoes above.
Click here for the method to cook the baked potatoes ---->Baked Potatoes
Click here for the pesto recipe---->Basil Pesto

Baked Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes

I'm leaving town in a few days and am trying to use up my produce before leaving.  Here I have 2 sweet potatoes and 2 regular potatoes.  I am trying to clean the house, do laundry, etc. so I really don't have a lot of time to be creative.  And... the last time I tried making sweet potato chips with my food processor, it landed me in the ER and me getting 7 stitches.  That was just about 3 weeks ago so I don't want to revisit that.  So, baking it is!
Rinse and scrub the potatoes well in water.
Pierce with a fork several times over all potatoes.
Dry well.
Drizzle a little olive oil over each one... maybe about 1 tsp per potato.
Sprinkle a little sea salt on each one.
Place in the center oven the oven.  Cook for 30 minutes at 400 degrees and then turn potatoes over.  The sweet potatoes were finished after cooking for 45 minutes and the regular potatoes cooked for 1 hour 15 minutes.  The potatoes are done when a knife pierces the potato and slides back out without effort.
The sweet potato is already starting to caramelize, yum!
Here are the regular potatoes post cooking.  They are nice and plump and give a little when pressed.
I decided that I couldn't wait and cut open the small sweet potato, put a dab of butter on along with a hint of brown sugar.  Who needs dessert when you can have this!?

You can do many things with the potatoes now.  You can serve them up as regular baked potatoes (served up with butter, sour cream, bacon, chili, salsa... you get the picture), scoop the insides out and make twice-baked potatoes, scoop them out and make potato soup, refrigerate them and use them for hashbrowns the next morning... really the possibilities are endless.

Crispy Baked Chicken Parmesan

In a previous blog I mentioned that one of my favorite ways to eat chicken is in the form of fajitas, the other way is in the form of Chicken Parmesan.  Typically chicken parm. is fried and served with lots of ooey gooey cheese, making it high in fat.  This recipe calls for the chicken to be baked and it's actually SO much better than the fried version.  It comes out really crispy.
You will need:
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 egg whites
cooking spray
Marinara sauce
Fresh grated parmesan cheese
Spray a baking dish really well with cooking spray.
Unless your chicken breasts are thin, cut them length wise so that you end up with 2 pieces of chicken per breast.
Set out the parmesan cheese first, then your egg whites (whisk with a fork for a few seconds) and then your breadcrumbs last.
Dip each piece into the parmesan cheese first.  The flavor will seep into the meat and make it tender and yummy.
Next, dip the chicken breast in the egg whites.
Finally, coat the chicken in the seasoned bread crumbs.
Lay in the baking dish and the repeat with the other pieces.
Cover tightly with foil and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes remove the foil and flip each piece over.  The chicken breast on the right has been flipped, the other two have not.  Place back in the oven, uncovered for 25 more minutes or until the chicken is nice and crispy.
Here is the finished product with marinara on top along with some good, freshly grated parmesan cheese.

NOTE:  I actually use a store brand parmesan cheese in the breading process, because it's not the main ingredient.  You may also make your own breadcrumbs for this recipe and season them to your liking.  If you would like the recipe for my marinara sauce click here --->Marinara Sauce

Sesame Noodles

This is one of those recipes that is a great example of what you can do with a well-stocked pantry.  This is a  great recipe for spring and summer.  This can be served cold or at room temperature.  My favorite way is room temperature.
Here is what you'll need:
12 oz. angel hair pasta
3 Tbsp dark sesame oil
3 Tbsp olive oil
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp red chili paste, such as sambal
1 lime, juiced
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
6 Tbsp hot water
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
1 large zucchini
Cook your pasta according to the package instructions.  In your blender combine, the olive oil, ginger, garlic, chili paste, honey, lime juice, peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and  hot water.
Blend until everything is combined.
Chop your zucchini.
Literally, at the last minute of cooking add your zucchini to the pot with the pasta.
Toast the sesame seeds until they are light golden.  Be careful not to burn.
After cooking the zucchini for one minute with the pasta, drain both and rinse with cold water.  Drain well.
Once the pasta and zucchini have cooled down, transfer to a bowl and pour the dark sesame oil over the noodles.  Toss well to combine.  Once the noodles are coated with the sesame oil pour the peanut sauce over the noodles and toss again to combine.
Garnish with fresh, chopped cilantro and toasted sesame seeds.  Again, my favorite way to eat this is room temperature.  It's yummy!

A Well Stocked Pantry~Wine

Wine really enhances the flavor of a lot of dishes.  Even if you do not drink wine, it's always great to have some on hand.  In the past I have normally poured wine into a recipe that we would be drinking from that night.  However, if you do not drink wine, but like to cook with wine there is a solution for you.  Dry wines are better to cook with than the sweeter wines, unless you are of course cooking something for dessert.  My husband has been gone for several months on deployment and he is my red wine drinker (I'm a white wine drinker.).  So, I purchased these tiny bottles of wine at the store to do the deed for my recipes or for those nights that I wanted to enjoy a glass of wine all by myself.  It's $9-$10 for 4 bottles, which to me is a great price, and you won't be wasting any by having to pour some down the drain.  Just please, whatever you do, do not use cooking wine. 

Homemade Basil Pesto

I really love the flavor of pesto.  It's strong, so I don't eat a lot of it or very often, but I do enjoy it.  You can use pesto over pasta, as a base for pizza, on sandwiches or I have a surprise way to use it in a blog post coming soon!
Here's what you'll need:
4 cups packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried off
1 Tbsp minced garlic, as you can see I have a mixture of cloves, minced they equal 1 Tbsp
1 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
black pepper
Roughly chop the basil and mince the garlic.

Toast the pine nuts until they are a light golden brown.

Put everything minus the parmesan cheese into a food processor, including the olive oil , and process for a couple of minutes to combine.
It's swirlin'!
Now is the time to add the yummy parmesan cheese and then process once more to combine.
This is the consistency that you will have.
Pour it into a container if you will be using the same day.  Take note of the thin layer of oil on top, this is totally fine and actually helps the pesto keep its great color.  This recipe makes 2 cups of pesto.

If you will not be using the pesto the same day you may pour it into icecube trays and freeze for future use.

Chicken Fajita Tacos

I really don't care for meat all that much, but I guess the one meat that I don't mind every once in a while boneless, skinless, chicken breast.  One of my favorite ways to eat chicken is in the form of chicken fajitas.  I love tender strips of chicken, scrumptiously seasoned and cooked perfectly.  For this meal I took the same idea and turned them into tacos (with crunchy corn tortillas) instead of fajitas (with soft flour tortillas and onions and bell peppers).

You will need:
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Seasoning Salt  <---Here is a recipe for mine w/out MSG.
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large chicken breasts
I cut each breast in half, length wise and then I cut them into strips.

Combine all of the marinade for the chicken and then mix everything together.  Let sit in a bowl for 15-20 minutes at room temperature.

In a skillet or saute' pan (I am using a cast iron fajita pan.) melt 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat.

Once the butter is melted add your strips of chicken.  Be careful not to over fill your pan.

After a few minutes flip the chicken to continue cooking the other side.  Look at all of those yummy bits of seasoning.

You might want to turn your vent on over your stove, it can become smokey, but that's a good thing!

This is what you want.  You want it to be caramelized with all of those tasty seasonings.

It is imperative to make your own taco shells!  They are too good and too easy to pass up.  Fill with your chicken and whatever else you'd like... lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, salsa, sour cream, extra lime... I think you get the idea.

For a how-to on making your own taco shells click here --->Homemade Taco Shells