Rosemary’s Gravy

Tonight I searched around for ideas to use the fresh rosemary in my fridge, along with the frozen chicken breasts that made up my last remaining supply of meat. The menu? Chicken breasts baked with red wine, olive oil, fresh chopped rosemary, and salt & pepper – inspired by a Foster Farms recipe.

I baked the chicken at 400 degrees for nearly an hour, but it was too dry. I also sauteed spinach in butter, fresh chopped rosemary and salt & pepper, inspired by this recipe; and mashed potatoes (with butter and almond milk).

I sprinkled some of the juices from the pan over mashed potatoes. My only regret is that I didn’t make gravy out of the tempting golden bits at the bottom of the pan. Maybe next time!

Cleaning out the fridge: white bean chili

In the third and last chapter of desperation in the kitchen, I used my stash of white beans, frozen chicken breasts, onion and spices to make an amended version (for spicy weaklings) of Epicurious’ White Bean Chicken Chili. You’ll see some suggestions at the end on how to make it vegan or vegetarian, as well.

It’s pretty simple when you break it down. I sauteed onion, oregano and cumin; and added the frozen chicken breasts directly on one side of the pan. They required more cooking time since they were frozen, but easy regardless. Next, you basically add the beans and water (I didn’t have chicken broth) and it thickens over time. Note: I don’t think chicken is necessary; you could skip that step and I don’t think you’d miss it.

David and I are both sensitive to spicy foods, so I skipped the green chilies, red pepper and cilantro. Also, a tablespoon of cumin was too much; I almost wondered if it was a typo. In order to cut down on heat, I added about 3/4 a stick of butter towards the end, and it did the trick. (I skipped the whipping cream, so that may have had something to do with it.)

So to summarize, if you cut down on cumin and skipped the chicken, chicken broth and butter/cream, you’d have a vegan, dairy-free white bean chili.

Cleaning out the Fridge

Desperate times call for desperate measures. In the midst of a move, the last thing you want to do is buy more stuff to pack – including groceries. So I had to get a little creative and make sure to use fresh ingredients before they expired…

First “cleaning out the fridge” concept:

Caprese Chicken Breasts – I broiled frozen (nearly thawed) chicken breasts in the oven, and then topped them with a spoonful of ricotta, fresh basil and tomato slices. Rice served on the side was a nice way to scoop up the oozing cheese and basil.

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Next concept for “we’ve moved but don’t have any groceries yet:”

Turkey Meatballs with Roasted Squash – I combined ground turkey with bread crumbs, fresh parmesan, salt and pepper. I roasted the meatballs in the oven along with sliced summer squash that had been coated in olive oil and sprinkled with thyme. Despite my foil “barrier,” the juices from the squash may have added a nice dose of moisture to the meatballs. Either way, the results were quite tasty served with rice. Thyme was one of the first herbs I learned to cook with, and it’s a key ingredient in herbes de provence. For those two reasons, it’s nostalgic and quite pleasing to the senses.

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Last but not least, the “I need to use this milk before it expires” concept:

Milk-Braised Pork Tenderloin – After searching far and wide, I found a recipe on my iPad for “Pork Roast Braised with Milk and Fresh Herbs” from Epicurious, but took a few creative liberties. I used a pork tenderloin, which cooked in about half the time. Also, I used 1% milk, and I didn’t have juniper berries or any of the herbs, except for bay leaves. Even with all the shortcomings, it turned out delicious! I can’t really put my finger on the flavor of the meat and “gravy” but it was a little sweet, slightly caramelized and rich in a good way. I think this particular recipe beats out the first one I tried last year.

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What about Kabob?

Spring weather + BBQ = kabobs for all seasons. This weekend started out sunny, making it the ideal climate for BBQ and coincidentally we had two such invitations from friends. I thought I’d pass along their savvy skewer ideas…

My brother-in-law Tim and sister-in-law Laura christened their newly purchased grill with a rainbow of kabob ingredients: steak, chicken, pineapple, red onions and bell peppers. Delicious!

Next up, my friend Monica assembled a very impressive feast which included an appetizer kabob: fresh green grapes, mozzarella, and prosciutto. No grilling necessary, but equally attractive and tasty.

I look forward to sharing more BBQ ideas when summer officially kicks off. For now, we get to enjoy “spring showers” (and/or downpours).

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Meat and Potatoes

Dittmer’s Gourmet Meats & Wurst-Haus = local Mountain View gem. Tonight I needed to pick up some meat for dinner and two friends on Facebook recommended Dittmer’s for an old school butcher shop experience. Luckily, it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for: friendly butchers with good advice on dinner pairings, and the lingering aroma of smoked meats (in a good way).

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For my inaugural trip, I tried the butter garlic chicken breasts, which produced a delicious gravy to go with mashed potatoes. First I “caramelized” the meat by cooking it over medium heat in a frying pan for a couple of minutes on each side. Then I baked the chicken in its juices for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees (until cooked through).

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Danke schoen Dittmers – I’ll be back.

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One Pot Wonder

One pot casserole = less dishes + uber flavor. There’s something pleasant about cooking a full dinner in one pot. Maybe it’s the fact that you see a future without a pile of dishes, or because the flavors all meld together and it smells more and more aromatic as you go.

This weekend I picked up a bargain cookbook called “One Pot” at Books Inc. in Mountain View for $6 on clearance. There are some pretty intuitive recipes that use ingredients which can be stored ahead of time (i.e. canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables, rice, etc.) and they’re healthy too.

Tonight’s chicken & rice casserole took about 1.5 hours total, but I used brown rice which takes longer to absorb liquid. On a cold Sunday night, it was a good recipe to try and we have leftovers for the work week. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven or stove/oven-friendly casserole dish over medium heat.
  2. Cook 2-4 chicken breasts until golden brown on the outisde, and no longer pink inside. Transfer to a plate.
  3. In the same pot, saute 1 finely chopped onion for 5 minutes or until soft; repeat with 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic.
  4. Add 1 cup of long grain rice and stir for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add 10 ounces of frozen vegetables (I used peas), two cups of heated broth (chicken or vegetable is fine), plus 1 teaspoon thyme (and 1 tsp paprika – which I didn’t have). Bring to a boil.
  6. Add chicken breasts on top and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon thyme and 1 teaspoon paprika. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. (Brown rice took an additional 20 minutes but it likely varies.)
  7. Sprinkle with 1.5 cups cheddar cheese and broil in the oven until cheese is melted. Serve warm.

Accidental Gravy and Other Experiments

Buttery potatoes + leftover chicken + broth = surprise gravy! Tonight I was short on time, but had a random burst of ideas for a “hands-off” meal. First, a fresh delivery from Farm Fresh to You arrived, so I prepared “Herbed New Potatoes” from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot in Paris” cookbook (using red potatoes, even though she calls for white or Yukon Gold).

While the potatoes steamed for 30 minutes or so, I microwaved frozen corn and pulled out the leftover “honey-baked” chicken breast from last night. The potatoes left a nice frothy butter sauce in the pan, so I poured chicken broth in and added the chicken breast. After bringing it to a boil, a delicious aroma started rising. Suddenly David was asking for some of the “sauce” to pour over the chicken – and voila, gravy!

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In our quest to eat healthy in 2010, I thought I’d share some of my other recent experiments:

Honey-Baked Chicken Breast with Sauteed Peas & Baby Bella Mushrooms and Brown Rice

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Leftover Turkey & Butternut Squash Meatballs with Broccoli and Flax Fettuccini

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Chicken Dinners for Days

Boiled chicken is not sexy, but it is healthy. I survey the talented women in my family about the best way to boil chicken. Basically, put a whole chicken (i.e. Foster Farms with guts removed) in a pot of boiling water with onions, herbs, or carrots and celery, and cook for at least an hour.

The first time I boiled a chicken, I cooked it with half an onion (chopped) for about 1.25 hours. It was so tender it fell right off the bone. Tonight we were hungry, so I took it out after 1 hour and picked off enough meat for burritos using a fork and knife, since it takes a few minutes to cool down.

Save the leftover broth! It helps tenderize the meat on days 2 and 3. Just simmer the leftovers in broth, with salt and pepper as desired. I’m sure there are other great recipes to be made, so feel free to send suggestions!

Chicken food safety is crucial, so wash your hands between steps! And throw away the bones, or boil them for stock. I keep the broth and meat stored separately too. Food poisoning is defintely not sexy!

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