Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Heads Up

I snagged a copy of Stephanie O'Dea's book, Make It Fast, Cook It Slow from the library!
(Side note: there was a waitlist for it!) (Side note 2: I have learned from experience that checking nonfiction books, especially cookbooks, from the library is a great way to test them out before buying. However, I am a firm believer in supporting authors by buying their products when they are worth it.) (Side note 3: this book is going on my birthday wish list!)

Anyways, back to our regularly scheduled programming... there are a ton of recipes that I can't wait to try out. Unfortunately because it has a waitlist I can't renew the book and will have to return it far before I'm ready. Luckily, my birthday is coming up :-). But be on the lookout for some great recipes!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Skinny Meatballs

I made these meatballs for the 2nd time this weekend. I love this recipe - they are delicious and easy peasy!

Scrumptious Skinny Meatballs
(from cook yourself thin)Serves 4Calories per serving: 560
2 12-ounce to 14-ounce jars of your favorite marinara sauce
2 slices of your favorite sandwich bread
3/4 cup water
1/3 pound ground veal
1/3 pound ground pork
1/3 pound ground turkey
(OR just use 1 lb ground turkey)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 large egg
1/2 small onion, finely minced
1/3 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti

1. Heat marinara sauce in a large, wide pot over medium heat. Cover to prevent splattering.

2. Remove crusts from bread, place bread in a medium bowl and pour water over. Let sit 10 minutes, and gently squeeze out excess liquid. Put bread in a large bowl; discard water.

3. Add all the ground meats, cheese, egg, onion, parsley, basil, oregano, salt and red pepper flakes to bowl with bread. Gently toss to combine, maintaining a light touch to keep air in the meatballs (don't squish the meat too much, or you'll end up with tough meatballs). Roll the meat mixture in your hands to create meatballs slightly larger than a golf ball.
4. Remove marinara sauce from heat to prevent splattering, and gently drop the meatballs in the warm sauce. Return tomato sauce to medium-low heat, bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until meatballs have cooked through, about 30 minutes.

5. Cook pasta according to package directions, toss with marinara sauce and top with meatballs.
Serves: 4
2 notes: I think my only complaint about this recipe is that it's too small. I doubled it this last time, because it makes for great leftovers and I was able to freeze some as well. Also, I use all ground turkey meat. That's how I've made it both times, so I can't compare, but I can tell you it's yummy!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lauren Deen's Coconut Chicken and Tropical Salsa

I made this for dinner tonight. I should tell you right now, The Critic was not home for dinner, which is why I chose to make it - this is something he would not go near (mostly because of the coconut). But I wanted to make this recipe from the day I saw it, so I saw my opportunity and took it.

Sadly, there are no pictures because I was in such a hurry to eat it. However, I can tell you this: it. was. DELICIOUS. Super easy to do, too - throw some chicken in an egg and the cornflake/coconut mix, then while it's cooking, make up the salsa. I do have to tell the truth though - I used sweetened cocunt. I'm sure that detracted from the "thin" quality, but, like I said, it was delicious!

Lauren Deen's Coconut Chicken and Tropical Salsa
• 1 large egg
• 2 cups cornflakes, coarsely crushed
• 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
• 1 pound chicken tenders
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper
• 1 cup diced fresh pineapple
• 1 cup corn kernels, thawed if frozen
• 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
• 1 scallion, thinly sliced
• 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
• 1 teaspoon canola oil

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Crack egg into a shallow dish and beat lightly. Combine cornflakes and coconut in another shallow dish. Season the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper, then dip in the egg and dredge in the cornflake mixture.
3. Arrange coated chicken on the prepared pan in a single layer. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, toss together pineapple, corn, pepper, scallion, lime juice, oil, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.
5. Serve chicken with the salsa.

Serves: 4
Source: Lauren Deen on the Today Show

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bacon-Wrapped Fingerling Potatoes with Thyme

Another recipe from The Crock Pot Recipe Collection . This one caught my eye because it combines two of The Critic's favorite things: bacon and potatoes. I showed it to him and he agreed. But first, we had to figure out what the heck fingerling potatoes were. Turns out, they're just a small type of potato that can be used like any other potato. We found them at the local grocery store a week ago, for $4/1.5 lb, but didn't buy them then - something we were glad for later, when we found them at Costco for $5/5lbs. Score!
So I got these babies home and grabbed the recipe. It should be noted that this recipe takes a lot of "pre-crock" work. But since it was a Saturday afternoon and, well, I didn't have anything else going on, I went for it.

Bacon-Wrapped Fingerling Potatoes with Thyme
1 lb fingerling potatoes, washed, dryed, and with stem ends trimmed
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 lb fatty bacon strips
1/4 cup chicken broth
1. Toss potatoes with thyme, olice oil, black pepper and paprika in large bowl. Set aside.
2. Cut each bacon strip in half lengthwise; wrap half slice bacon tightly around each potato.
3. Heat large skillet over medium heat; add potatoes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until lightly browned and some bacon fat has rendered out. Bacon should sear "shut" around potatoes.
4. Place potatoes in 4 1/2-quart Crock Pot slow cooker. Add chicken broth, cover and cook on HIGH 3 hours. Remove from Crock Pot and serve.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.

(There are no toothpicks in this picture. I was still optimistic when it was taken.)

Ok... So I did this. Or at least tried to. But I put my first, "test" potato in the pan and basically, the bacon started getting floppy and then fell off the potato. So I gave up and put toothpicks through the potatoes to hold the bacon on, then threw them in the pan. I left the toothpicks on in the Crock Pot as well. As far as I could tell, it made no difference.

(In the crock, right before serving.)

The Verdict:

These came out just okay. The Critic was a fan and has requested I make them again. I took the bacon off my potatoes (the soggy floppy bacon just wasn't appealing to me) and ate the potatoes, which tasted like... regular potatoes. I was hoping with the thyme and paprika there would be more flavor to it, but there wasn't.

I think if it didn't require all the "pre-crock" work, I would be more apt to like this recipe more. Also, maybe if I had a second Crock Pot, and didn't have to reserve my lovely Cynthia just for an appetizer/side dish, I wouldn't feel quite so resentful. (And yes, we ate potatoes and bacon for dinner. And then had chocolate pie for dessert. I'm pretty sure I ate like 5 potatoes and asked The Critic, "is it pie time yet?" but whatever.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rosemary-Glazed Cornish Hens

We picked up some of these on a recent grocery shopping trip. I didn't have a recipe in mind, but figured it would be really easy to cook in the Crock Pot.
Side Note: Thank you, Tyson, for taking out the ickiness that is "giblets". Once, years ago, on a whim I decided I would impress The Critic (at the time, in the "fiance" stage) by cooking him dinner. I chose a simple-looking recipe for cooking a whole (yes, whole) chicken. Walking through the grocery store on my cell phone with my mom talking me through the process, she assured me that "these days, all whole chickens are sold with the giblets already removed. They may be in a little package inside the chicken, but they're already taken out." I'm sure you can see where this story is going. I got home, opened up the chicken (already grossed out by this point) only to find no little package. I had to perform surgery on this dead, frozen animal to get these parts out! Oh, I was a sight to see - using Ziploc bags over my hands because I had no latex gloves handy!

Anyways, I digress. We got these suckers home, and I searched for a Crock Pot recipe that would please both myself and The Critic. Guess what? Couldn't find one! But I
did find this recipe on the Tyson website that looked good, if we were looking to grill. But since we weren't, here's what I did:
Rosemary-Glazed Cornish Hens (For the Slow Cooker)
2/3 cup orange juice, frozen concentrate
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon rosemary, crushed leaves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Combine orange juice concentrate, vinegar, brown sugar, chopped onion, rosemary and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cook 5 to 8 minutes or until slightly thickened. Set aside.
Sprinkle hen/s evenly with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.
Place hen, belly up, in crock pot. Cover with glaze. Throw some more rosemary on the hen. Add a can of chicken broth for good measure.
Cook on LOW for 6 hours. If desired, periodically spoon juices from bottom of Crock over hen.
Some Notes:
  • I only cooked 1 hen. We weren't sure if we would like it, and there's only 2 of us, so this was enough. I'm not sure how the cook time would vary if there were 2 birds in the crock, so I won't even try to guess.
  • The directions in the recipe mention that you can tie the wings and legs with string if desired. I skipped this step, which is my hen doesn't look very, um, ladylike in the picture.
  • Our hen was not completely thawed when we put it in the crock. Next time, I would like to try adding some of the glaze inside the hen before cooking it.
  • Beware: when you are cooking the glaze it does not smell pleasant. I was quite concerned about how it would turn out, because even after being refrigerated all night, the glaze did not smell appealing. I thought I would share this tidbit with you so you are not caught off-guard.
The Verdict:
It was amazing! The hen came out wonderfully, very tender and moist (I would tell you a funny story about how The Critic tried to lift the cooked hen out of the crock with a fork, only to have both legs fall off, but I'll skip it). The meat had a wonderful flavor - and that says a lot, coming from me, the person who only tolerates poultry because I should, and has only rarely actually enjoyed it (or found the poultry to even have "flavor").
As The Critic said, "this is something you could make when you need a 'fancy dinner' to impress someone, or even just have someone over for dinner." (If that were the case, though, I think I would definitely tie up the wings and legs in an attempt to have a prettier presentation).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Favorite Chicken

(I obviously need to practice my food photography skills)

Favorite Chicken
(As named by The Crock Pot Recipe Collection, not us)
  • 1 whole chicken (about 3 lbs) cut into pieces
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 3 to 4 medium potatoes, cut into slices
  • 1 can (14 ounces) chicken broth
Place chicken, onion, celery, carrots, seasoned salt, pepper, garlic powder and poultry seasoning in 4 1/2-quart Crock Pot slow cooker. Top with potatoes. Add broth. Cover; cook on HIGH 30 minutes. Reduce heat to LOW, cook for 6-8 hours.
Makes 4 servings
Source: Crock Pot Ultimate Recipe Collection

The Verdict:
  • We used chicken breasts instead of a whole chicken. It worked fine, but the 6 hour cook time left it a little too done. Luckily The Critic never met a piece of chicken he couldn't fix with ketchup, and he was fine.
  • The potatoes were...weird. We ate them, but The Critic suggested that next time we cut them into larger pieces so they weren't as soggy. (For what it's worth, HE was the one who cut the potatoes, so he couldn't really complain).
  • I hate when recipes use vague terms like "poultry seasoning." I went to the grocery store. I stood in the spice aisle. For like 20 minutes. There are all kinds of seasonings. There's grill seasonings, and steak rubs, but nothing that clearly says "poultry seasoning" (and yes, I used my intelligence and also looked for something called "chicken seasoning.") We ended up using Lawry's(r) seasoned salt. I argued that this is not "poultry seasoning," but would fall under "seasoned salt". The Critic pointed out that we put it on chicken, which makes it poultry seasoning. In the end, the Lawry's took the place of both.
  • This made for good leftovers. They were more along the lines of chicken soup, but it was good nontheless.
(It looks like a big, soggy mess. Don't let looks deceive)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Introduction

The Author: Me, A twenty-something working woman by day, struggling cook by night. I eat easy (Lean Cuisine pizza, anyone?), taste-good stuff (hence the blog name). Successful cooking endevors are currently something that warrant a phone call home (and a facebook status update).

The Critic: Husband of Me, he is a twenty-something who slaves every day at a job he hates (but pays the mortgage) and who, until recently, does 99% of the cooking that takes places in our house. The Critic is a self-proclaimed Picky Eater, who does not like : most vegetables, any sauces, cream cheese... the list goes on.

The Supporting Players: Cynthia, The Crock Pot. A 6-Quart programmable lovely who is slowly changing our lives with her very presence. Suddenly, I am a cook, and I don't even have to spend a lot of time touching the icky chicken!

The Deal: I am overcoming my fear of the kitchen and slowly teaching myself to cook. With the help of hours of Food Network and Cynthia, I hope to improve my confidence and add a few dishes to my repertoire.

Will this blog be any different than the other "come along for the ride as I learn to cook" blogs? Umm... no, probably not. But at least I'm honest about that, and I hope you will come back anyways.