Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tandoori Spiced Chicken Breast with Tomato Jam

  It's official; summer is on our doorstep.  Sonic is open until midnight.  Memorial Day is rolling in on Monday for you lucky ducks that have a long weekend.  (Just know I'll be giving you the stink eye, because I'm working.)  I figure it's time to share a grilling recipe.  Gas up the grills, if you haven't already.  This one probably has the longest ingredient list out of the recipes I make, but it's not complex, and a great wake-up from the winter doldrums.  Spicy - not for the faint of tastebud.  It's a tweaked version of a Bobby Flay recipe he fired up on a Boy Meets Grill episode.  I don't care much for the herbed yogurt Bobby made to accompany this dish, so I use sour cream to tame the heat.  If you wander by FN's website and see this dish -do not go by the amounts listed there- you will end up wasting lots of spices.

Let's start off by making the Grilled Tomato Jam - it'll need a little cooling time and has the longest cooking time.

Grilled Tomato Jam
Yields about 6 servings

5 Roma tomatoes (also known as plum tomatoes)
1 serrano chile
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 pinch turmeric or saffron (I'm on a budget, so I use the turmeric since I need it for the chicken anyway- original recipe calls for saffron)

  We're going to start by prepping and grilling our tomatoes and chile.  Brush the tomatoes and chile with about 1 TBS of the oil.  Sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  Grill the tomatoes and chile until you get a char on all sides - this won't take long at all, so don't wander off from the grill.  Remove from the grill and to a plate and let cool until you can handle them.  Give them a rough chop.  Optional: I seed my chile at this point, because the spice rub for the chicken is plenty hot.  If you go that route, wear gloves and don't rub your eyes!

  Heat up the remaining 2 TBS of oil in a medium saucepan.  Toss in the chopped onion and cook until the onion becomes soft. Add in the chopped tomatoes, chile, balsamic vinegar and saffron. (Sub a bit of turmeric if you don't have saffron.) Cook the mixture down on medium-low until it gets thick - I usually go 30 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before you serve.

*  After the mixture cools, I take an immersion blender and blend it just a bit, so it's a bit smoother but still has chunks, as a personal preference.

Tandoori Spiced Chicken Breasts 
Serves 4

2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne (can reduce to 1/2 teaspoon if you're worried about the heat)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil (may need a bit more)
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, 8 ounces each
4 whole pitas
Sour cream

  Heat up your grill to medium high.

  Pound your chicken breasts until they are even thickness, if needed.

  Make the spice paste - mix all of the spices and oil together in a small bowl. The paste will be thick, and you can add more oil if needed to achieve a paste consistency.

  Spread a thin layer of the spice paste on ONE side of the chicken ONLY.  If you do both sides, the spices will be too overwhelming. Trust me, it'll have plenty of taste.

  Grill your chicken until cooked through - about 3-4 minutes on each side. Pull the chicken off the grill and let it rest for 5 minutes. Slice the grilled breasts, 1/2 inch thick slices.

  While the chicken is resting, warm the pitas on the grill - just until they are pliable. Top with the chicken slices and serve with grilled tomato jam and sour cream.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Baked Potatoes & Vidalia Onions

  I've got Georgia on my mind.  Dinner is in the oven, courtesy of two of my favorite cooks, that just happen to be from the Peach state - Alton Brown and Paula Deen. I'm using AB's methodology for baking potatoes and Paula's recipe for wonderful baked onions.  I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to eating it, because it'll be the first meal I've had in a week and a half that didn't consist of broth or ramen noodles.  Suffice it to say, I've been sick - hence not much going on here past few days.  So, to make up for a bit o' silence, 2 recipes!  Great thing about both of these, they are single serving, but so easy to scale as needed.

  A recipe for baked potatoes - some of you are out in la-la land, rolling your eyes.  Go on, skip this post, but the rest of us will enjoy a well-cooked potato because of it.  The key - the spuds will bake in the oven with no foil jacket, which holds in steam, making the skin soggy.  I was a bit skeptical the first time I did this, but I've not done it any other way since then.

The Baked Potato
Servings: 1

1 large russet potato
canola oil
kosher salt

Start by preheating the oven to 350°F.

  Scrub your potato clean under running water with a stiff brush.  Pat it dry.  Take a fork and pierce deeply a few times (AB goes 8-12 times; I go 10 - 3 on front and back, and 2 on the sides.)  Drizzle canola oil over the spud; it won't take much.  Rub the potato to make sure the whole skin is covered.  Sprinkle with kosher salt.

  Place a sheet of aluminum foil (or a cookie sheet) on the bottom rack- this will save you some heartache and oven scrubbin' later.  Position the potato on the middle rack over the foil - the foil will grab the drips.  Bake for 1 hour.  The skin will be crispy, and the potato flesh, oh so soft.  You can bake up to 4 without any time change, over that, add about 15 minutes to the bake time.

Saturday Night Vidalia Onions

Servings: 1

1 Vidalia onion
1 beef bouillon cube
1 tablespoon butter
fresh ground black pepper, to taste

  Cut a slice off the top of the onion.  Making sure you leave the root end intact, peel off the outer layer of the onion.  Cut out a small cone or core out of the center, again, leaving the root end untouched.  Cut the onions in quarters, stopping about 1/2 inch shy of the root.  Place a bouillon cube in the onion center.  Cut the butter into slivers and place over the bouillon and in between the quarter sections.  Pepper to taste.

  Wrap the onion well in a double layer of foil.  During the cooking, the onion will give off a lot of yummy juice that you don't want to lose.  Place in a 350°F preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or throw the wrapped onion directly on hot coals of a grill for 45 minutes, turning occasionally.

Variation - This was the first way I ever had a baked onion; momma made a similar dish using those microwave onion cookers.  She peeled the onion and sliced the top, added a little butter and Worcestershire sauce and baked in the microwave.  Absolutely wonderful, just like my momma.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

App Review: Grill Guide

  Gather 'round, kids.  Time to get a bit of a background here.  About a month ago, I put my old 30 gig Ipod photo into semi-retirement.  I have a long drive back and forth to work, and have a hard time picking up radio stations I enjoy listening to.  My Ipod had been my faithful companion, hooked to my car stereo, providing me with music for the ride.  But lately, the charge just wasn't holding very well.  With the stars aligned and tax refund in hand, (plus a really kick butt sale at Best Buy), I came into the modern ages and bought an Ipod Touch.  Don't worry, friends - our old standby is still around.  He keeps my hubby entertained around the house, playing numerous audio podcasts for his delight.  I, on the other hand, am in lurve with all the things you can do on the Touch - especially apps, and there are some nice ones out there for us foodies.

  So, occasionally, I would like to share my thoughts on some apps, and cookbooks (Lord knows, I gots a plenty of them, too.)  Being my first review, I'd like to say, everyone's tastes are going to be different, but I'll try to give my honest thoughts.  I refuse to do stars or number ratings, as that's pretty subjective, as anyone that follows critical reviews for movies and games will tell you.  What I will give you is, if knowing what I know now, would I buy it again if given the chance.  I think that's probably the best assessment I can give.  If I lost you back there on that maze of thought, I apologize, and remember, moss grows on the north side of the tree.

*Claps her hands and signals for a drum roll*  Our first review will be:  Dadoo Grill Guide!

App:  Grill Guide
Publisher:  dadoo
Compatible with Iphone, Ipod Touch, & Ipad
Price as of posting (5/16/10) 99 cents

  I bought the Grill Guide app as this spring has been unusually hot, bringing to mind the summer state of mind at our house.  Grilling.  Admittedly, I leave most of the grunt work to the hubby when it comes to fire and food in the great outdoors of our cement stoop.  But I usually get the question, "How long should I put this on for?" Being that I know little of grilling, I usually pull up recommended times online.

  Of course, there was the epic app frenzy that overtook me when I got the Touch, and started searching for food apps.  Found it recommended on a tech blog, so I tracked it down on the Itunes store and bought it.  One of the big stand-outs for me is the simple, but very visually appealing interface.  Upon opening the app - you get a picture of a hot grill with different foods cooking away.  Each piece of food represents the 7 grilling groups the app covers: pork, vegetables, red meat, lamb, poultry, fish & seafood, and fruit.  The bottom has the app logo, along with touch access to the ruler feature.  The food icons take you to a menu, where you select your food of choice.  Dadoo tells you recommended cooking times, and direct or indirect heat.  With meat products, you'll be given a choice of thicknesses and the appropriate times for each.  Which brings me to the ruler feature - it can be used in the horizontal or vertical position of the Ipod.

Final thoughts:  Would I buy it again? Yes.  But don't buy it expecting grilling recipes.  There are a few tips and ideas on how to cook a variety of foods, but these are for a basic grill.  But it serves the basic function of listing grilling times for a variety of foods and thicknesses, deciding on the right flame, and the ruler function is a nice and handy feature. For 99 cents, I can't ask for much more than that.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sloppy Joes

  Our school fundraiser cookbooks have arrived safely and gone on sale.  Beautifully printed, and they are jammed pack with all kinds of goodies.  Today, I'd like to share one of my submissions for the cookbook - Sloppy Joes!  Sloppy joes are filling, and tasty way to sneak in a few veggies.  I wish I could tell you where I found this recipe, but my memory fails - but it is a hearty, tasty and kid-friendly meal.  If you like a sloppier (saucier) joe, feel free to increase the sauce ingredients.

Sloppy Joes
6 servings

1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar (I use light)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
6 hamburger buns
Optional - slices of cheese
Optional - salt and pepper, to taste

  Add the green pepper, onions, and ground beef to a skillet.  Brown the meat over medium heat, and drain off the liquids.

  Return the skillet to the stove, and turn the heat to low.  Stir in the garlic powder, mustard, brown sugar, ketchup, and barbecue sauce, and mix thoroughly.  Let it simmer on the low heat for 30 minutes.  Add salt and pepper, to taste if you want.  Scoop up the sloppy joe mix onto hamburger buns and add a slice of cheese, if desired.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Teaching an ol' dog blog tricks

I'm glad I started this blog - it's pushing me to step up to the plate and become a better, albeit very amateur, photographer.  One of the key things I've learned - natural sunlight is definitely best for illuminating subjects.  Working late hours lately, and cloudy weather for the next week, I've decided to put off taking a picture to go with every recipe - at the posting.  I do plan on going back and adding photos for recipes as I can.  I've got a lot to share, and I don't want to impede the info flow just for the sake of having a picture upon posting.  I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so I don't just want to slap sub-par stuff out there.  Nosiree.

There's some catching up to do around here, and hopefully this will make the site more useful to any readers.  (If y'all are out there...*giggles*)  Look for another info page coming soon - on measurement! 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Creamy Hummus

  By now, you've probably seen the commercials for the Nintendo DSi with their newest cooking software, America's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking.  Yes, I have a DSi.  Yes, I have the ATK software.  And yes, I have the previously released Personal Trainer: Cooking.  Y'all did see over on my profile, I am a gamer.  *grins* But back to the topic at hand, I have tried a couple of the recipes on the game, and they have indeedy come out well.  Today, I'll share the creamy hummus recipe.  It's a good basic hummus, super simple, and my best success making homemade hummus yet.  I've had three or four less than stellar attempts with other recipes - this one's a keeper.  I'll work up the gumption to do a review of the Nintendo game for Volunteer Vittles in the future.

Creamy Hummus
Yields about 2 cups

1 (15.5 oz) can garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas, ceci, or cici beans)
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water
3/4 tsp salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
pinch (1/8 tsp) cayenne pepper

Equipment: food processor, garlic press

  Drain off your garbanzo beans and rinse them well.  Pour them into your food processor.

  Use the garlic press to finely mince the garlic.  It'll incorporate better into the final product.  Add it to the beans.

  Add everything else to the food processor.  Pulse it for 40 seconds, or everything is nice and smooth.

  Chill in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving to allow flavors to blend.

Notes: You can hand mince the garlic, but it may not incorporate as well as if you used a press.  The first time I made this, I used the press as per the game said. The batch I just whirled together, I just minced the garlic by hand because my press was in the dishwasher.  I could tell a slight difference when I was scraping the hummus out.

Don't skip the 30 minute meld - it makes a huge difference.  Gotta give the lemon and tahini time to work their mojo.  This hummus is even better the next day.

Tahini is sesame paste, and its becoming more and more available in grocery stores.  Pending on your local grocer, there's a couple of places to check to see if they carry it.  I've seen it in the ethnic section and also with the peanut butter.  It may seem a little pricey, but if you are as keen on hummus as I am - trust me, making it at home quickly becomes cheaper than adding those tubs to your cart. 

Now, y'all, don't get the idea everything I share is going to be pureed.  Just happens I wanted hummus and veggies for my lunch this week, and I'm trying to post pics with my recipes, if possible.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The cookbooks are coming, the cookbooks are coming!

Don't reckon you caught any excitement there, did ya?  One of our school's fundraisers is a cookbook.  I love fundraiser cookbooks from churches and schools.  Those are hidden gems of tried and true recipes, the best of the best someone's hearth and home has to offer.  And boy howdy, I work with some a-mazing cooks.  And they are arriving three weeks early.  As in, probably tomorrow.  400+ recipes.  Squeeeeee!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Roasted Sweet Potato and Carrot Puree

  A lovely recipe from the Taste of Home Cooking School magazine (spring 2010); it can also be found on Philadelphia cream cheese's website.  It's a very filling and velvety side dish.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Carrot Puree
Serves 6

1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar (I used light)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided -more may be used at the end if desired
4 oz cream cheese, cubed

Equipment: food processor, jelly roll pan (or half sheet pan), saucepan

   Preheat your oven to 375°F.  Now would be a good time to prep your jelly roll pan, if you so choose.  I personally lined my pan with aluminum foil to help with clean up.

  After you've peeled and chopped the carrots and sweet potatoes, move them to a medium mixing bowl.  Pour the olive oil over the veggies, and sprinkle with brown sugar and salt.  Mix so that everything is well coated.  (Clean hands are the best tool for this job.)  Spread them out on the jelly roll pan in an even layer.  Pour 1 cup of the chicken broth over the potatoes and carrots. 

  Roast the carrots and sweet potatoes for 45-55 minutes, or until all the broth is soaked up and your vegetables are tender and a bit caramelized.  While roasting, give everything a good stir occasionally.

  When the vegetables are roasted, move them to the food processor.  Add to the processor the last 1/2 cup of broth and the cream cheese cubes.  Process until the mixture is smooth.  If you want a bit thinner puree, add more chicken broth and process again.  Move the mixture to a saucepan and heat through, stirring often.

Notes: I changed a bit of the methodology from the original recipe - they would have you pour your puree back on the sheet pan to reheat.  To me, that seems like a large pain to move the finished product to a serving bowl from that pan, so I say use a saucepan.  Honestly, my puree was plenty piping warm after being processed, I skipped the reheating at the end.  

Use regular olive oil for this - save the good stuff where the flavor adds something to the dish.  The olive oil is just for roasting the veggies, you aren't going to taste it.

And, if you are like me, you grew up calling a jelly roll pan a cookie sheet (and I still do around the house).  The main difference is - the jelly roll pan has those short sides where as a cookie sheet is a pan that may or may not have sides.  For clarification, I said jelly roll because with that broth, you are obviously gonna need sides.