Monday, February 27, 2012

Chicken and Kale and Cauliflower, Oh My

Do I even need to say we've been busy around here lately? (Or does the lack of posts say it for me?)

I'm certainly not complaining: We've done some really fun stuff during the past week. My super awesome nephew spent his Winter Break with us, which was the perfect excuse to get out and enjoy a few of our area's attractions. We visited Huntley Meadows, the Smithsonian Air & Space museum and Natural History museum... the National Zoo. Visiting the museums during this "off season" is really great. By late March/early April, it will be Cherry Blossom time, and MUCH more crowded... until pretty much the end of fall. It was so nice to just park right around the corner from Air & Space. There is plenty of meter parking available before 11, and with the pay-to-park app on my phone -- it's a cinch. OH! and any visit to Air & Space ought to begin and/or end with a trip to Gravelly Point Park, just north of National Airport on the GW Parkway. You can sit right underneath the planes taking off and landing. (It also happens that my favorite bakery is on the way to this park, too.) Just so you know.

Hmm, what else? I used my mom's recipe for chicken fried steak on thin-sliced chicken breasts, and it turned out AWESOME. I also tossed some "fennel rings" in with the onion rings, Mom. It was really good. Going to have to do a whole other Chicken Fried Steak post another time. That meal is properly served, of course, with green beans and mashed potatoes. Cream gravy goes without saying. And any good CFS will cover most of the plate.

Anyway, the leftover chicken and rice made for excellent and easy burritos the next night. Gotta love that.

Never you mind that greasy paper towel! And the serious lack of green on this table. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

School of Fish Cupcakes

Tomorrow is Beach Day at preschool. The teacher asked me if I could provide a creative snack, and I think these should fit the bill. Luckily, they were super simple, as we have had a very busy week. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fried Rice

So, there's no set recipe for fried rice. I'm posting this as just an idea or suggestion. It's one of those lovely dishes that easily absorbs leftovers (in a good and appetizing way). Another kid-pleaser around here, too.

Here's what I do:

Scramble 2-3 eggs "Yankee Doodle" style (crack them in the skillet and stir) with about 1 TB peanut oil, over medium-high heat. Cook the eggs just until set, but not hard. Set aside.

Toss in your vegetables. I use about a cup of diced carrot and maybe 3/4 c. frozen peas, or whatever is on hand. Stir over medium heat until vegetables are warmed through -- or softened, in the case of uncooked veggies.

If you have leftover meat, shrimp or tofu, dice and toss it in and warm through. Add 2-3 c. leftover cooked rice, and sauté for a couple of minutes. Stir in 1 TB soy and/or oyster sauce. Top with green onions, if you've got them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sweet Ginger Chicken & Baked Brown Rice

This was so good, we dug right in and forgot to take a picture until it was almost gone.

It doesn't get much simpler than this. Perfect, easy weeknight staple. Serrve with a salad for a little bit of green. This was majorly satisfying and set us up nicely for fried rice leftovers tonight. Bonus points: It was a big hit with all the kids.

I used thin sliced chicken breasts from Trader Joe's. You could of course just slice your own. If you use whole breasts, they'll need to cook longer, and you'll need more oil & butter in the pan.

1 1/2 c. rinsed brown rice
2 1/2 c. low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
1 TB olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
5 medium carrots, sliced length-wise in half

1 lb. thin-sliced chicken breasts
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. soy sauce
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 TB minced fresh ginger

1 TB butter
1 TB olive oil
1/4 c. white wine

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Stir to combine: honey, soy sauce, garlic and ginger. Rinse and pat dry the chicken breasts. Place in gallon freezer bag. Pour in the sauce (seal the bag!) and mush it all around. Refrigerate for at least one hour (or marinate for several hours, if time allows).

Bring broth (or water) just to boil on stovetop with salt and oil. Put the rice in a 8x8 oven-proof dish, coated with non-stick spray or butter. Place carrots on top of rice. As soon as liquid reaches boil, pour on top of rice & carrots. Give a little stir, cover tightly with foil, and pop in the oven for 1 hour. When finished cooking, uncover and fluff with fork.

Heat 1 TB olive oil and 1 TB butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken breasts in pan and cook about 3 minutes each side until lightly browned and cooked through. Remove breasts and place on top of dish of rice.

De-glaze the pan by adding 1/4 c. white wine. Cook until liquid reduces by about half, then pour over the chicken and rice. Serve immediately.

Save leftover rice for fried rice leftovers.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chocolate Pecan Truffles

There is more than one way to make a truffle. (That should be a saying, don't you think? Instead of the skinning-a-cat one?) In fact, if you do an internet search for truffle recipes, it's enough to make your head spin: truffles with coffee, truffles with tea, truffles with liquor, with cayenne; tempered chocolate, untempered chocolate, dutch-processed chocolate... The list goes on and on.

This is a basic chocolate truffle recipe. I don't temper the chocolate coating. It's not hard to do, just more effort than I think is required for homemade truffles. Without tempering, the coating will dry a little cloudy, and will melt at a lower temperature. Rolling them in chopped nuts fixes this. You could also roll them in dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder. (In all honesty, un-dipped ganache balls rolled in good cocoa make a damn fine truffle, too.) 

Why Dutch? Dutch processed cocoa just tastes better (milder, more delicate, less bitter -- important if you're using it as a truffle coating; less important in stuff like brownies that are loaded with other flavors). I didn't have any on hand, so I just used pecans. Usually I would coat some in cocoa and some in nuts. You can even coat in finely ground coffee. Oh, the possibilities!

Apple Oat Scones

These may sound healthy, but don't worry. They still taste quite good. There is no sugar in the dough; the sweetness comes from the apple -- so, I recommend a nice sweet one for this. I think I used a HoneyCrisp.

1 c. unbleached white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. rolled oats
1 TB baking powder
2 TB ground flaxseed
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1 stick butter, frozen
3/4 c. vanilla yogurt
1/4 c. milk
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and diced

1 TB half & half
1 TB honey

Friday, February 3, 2012

Warm Spinach Salad

This salad could make up for some of this weekend's not-so-healthy Super Bowl snacks.
2 TB olive oil
1 TB maple syrup or brown sugar
1 bunch spinach with stems removed, rinsed and drained (but not completely dry)
2 med. shallots, peeled & sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, peeled & sliced thin
1/2 large apple, diced
1/8 c. raisins
1/8 c. sliced almonds

Heat oil over medium heat in large skillet or wide-bottom pan. Add shallots and cook until translucent. Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic, apple and maple syrup or brown sugar. Cook until beginning to caramelize, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes. Return to medium heat, add raisins and cook for a few more minutes, stirring more frequently. When onions and garlic are all golden brown with some good caramelized spots, toss in spinach and cover. Cook just until spinach begins to wilt; 2-3 minutes. Uncover and stir for less than a minute. Remove from heat and transfer to serving bowl, leaving behind as much of the liquid as possible. Top with sliced almonds. Serve immediately.

We ate ours with pecan-crusted tilapia. Going to work on the recipe some more before I'm happy enough with it to post here, but it was pretty good:

Lastly, just in case you care, here are two of my favorite kitchen items that came in handy for this salad:

The Cuisinart 12" Everyday Pan, which we recently receive for Josh's birthday ;). I love this thing. Still true to my old cast-iron, but this is quite a bit roomier, and definitely easier to clean.

And the collapsable over-the-sink colander for rinsing greens. Nice and deep, so I can rinse a lot of greens without tossing any overboard.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sweet & Creamy Parsnip Soup

A very satisfying mid-winter soup. Even if it is feeling a lot more like spring, around here! Not too sweet, and a little bit spicy from a healthy dose of black pepper, plus the natural bite of parsnips. It doesn't taste too cheesy, either. The gruyere adds a depth of flavor, and of course creaminess, that I definitely wouldn't want to do without. All of the flavors manage to play nice, without any one taking over.

2 TB olive oil
1 TB unsalted butter
1 TB maple syrup

1 med. yellow onion, chopped
2 med. carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed & chopped
1 sweet apple, peeled, cored & chopped
1 TB fresh rosemary, minced

1 lb parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 med. yukon gold potato, peeled and chopped

1/4 tsp black pepper
few gratings fresh nutmeg
big pinch sea salt

1/2 c. grated gruyere cheese, plus extra for topping
chopped parsley for topping

Heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, sweet apple and rosemary. Add maple syrup. Saute until onion is translucent, about 8 minutes.

Add parsnips and potato, stir. Add veggie broth and spices. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 35 minutes or until parsnips and potatoes are soft and pierce easily.

Remove from heat and blend until completely smooth, either with immersion blender or in batches in regular blender. 

Stir in grated gruyere until melted.

Serve with chopped parsley and extra cheese.

P.S. If you live around here and are enjoying these mid 60's temperatures like us, (and if you're still reading!) I must suggest a trip to Huntley Meadows. I'd never been in the winter before, and it was still very beautiful, and very full of birds and beaver dams and adventures of all kinds (few frogs and snakes, though). I LOVE this great big wildlife sanctuary in the middle of Alexandria.

A well-maintained boardwalk takes you all around the wetland.

Our friend spotted a beaver dam!

The trails continue in the woods. A winter walk was especially fun with Ingrid and a friend because they got to run pretty far ahead, and I could still see them (plus, our friend brought walkie-talkies!)