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Friday, February 24, 2012

Storing My Abundant Basil

At the end of the summer last year, I started an herb garden in my kitchen window. One of the herbs I planted was basil. I love basil. I love the way it smells, the way it tastes the way it looks. I DON'T like that it grows like a weed though! I was amazed at how quickly and abundantly it grew! It took over my window sill and made it difficult for the other plants to grow since it blocked the sunlight. I wanted to "harvest" my basil so I began to research how.

I knew I wanted to dry it out so I started by cutting off several "branches" and hung them upside down to dry. This didn't work at all. I didn't realize how "moist" or how much natural oil is in the basil leaves. This made it very difficult for them to really dry out before going bad. The more research I did, the more I found out that it's actually a more difficult plant to dry out. You can dry it out in the oven, but the heat tends to change the flavor. Putting it in front of the dehumidifier works the best, according to what I read, but I don't have one and I wasn't about to go out and purchase one. I found a website though that suggested freezing it and so I decided to give this method a whirl. I'm glad I did.

I clipped all the good leaves off the plant and then made sure I cut off all the stems from the leaves. I put them all in the blender and poured a little bit of olive oil on top. Then, in the blender, I chopped it all up. After that was completed, I put the basil/oil mix into ice cubes and then into a freezer Ziploc bag and froze it.

It worked like a charm. All the leaves are still a beautiful dark green, even frozen, they still smell great and the other night, I used some in a recipe and it still had all it's flavor. I will continue to store my basil like this.




 

Grilled Chicken and Vegtable Pasta


I LOVE grilling. Well, I like eating food that's been cooked on the grill. My husband is the grill King of our house. Last night, I had him grill some chicken while I cooked up some veggies and pasta that I ended up mixing all together.

Grilled Chicken:

I used half of one large breast. Seasoned and then grilled over briquettes to give it that chargrilled flavor.

Seasoning: garlic salt, lemon/pepper grinder, coriander (which happens to be one of my favorite seasonings for chicken). Don't use too much of the garlic salt or the lemon pepper mix but use plenty of coriander.

Vegetables:

Melt 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter in a pan. Cut up half of a medium sized red onion, a large handful of sliced portobella mushrooms, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, chopped grape tomatoes, and about 1 tablespoon of chopped basil. Sautee.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Pile everything together and enoy. Easy as that.

Valentine's Sugar Cookies


I got this recipe from the Better Homes and Garden NEW COOK BOOK. These are by far the best sugar cookies I've ever eaten or made and my family loves them.

I decided to make them for the family for Valentine's day and I dressed them up a bit to fit the occasion even better.

Recipe:
 (Preheat oven to 375 degrees F)

2/3 cup of softened butter
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
Drops of red food dye (I put in about 3 drops and it turned the cookies pink)
candy melts, meltable chocolate
sprinkles

Directions:

   The cookbook has a specific order but I rarely do so I'm just going to tell you what I did. Mix everything together. Seriously, just throw it all in the bowl and mix it up. I used my kitchen aid mixer.

   When all the ingredients are mixed, toss some flour onto the counter and roll out the dough and cut shapes using whatever cookie cutter you choose. You don't have to do this, you can just make small balls and place them on the cookie sheet but this recipe is perfect for cut out cookies.

   Bake the cookies for 7-8 minutes or until you notice that the bottoms are starting to turn golden brown.

   Melt the candy melt chocolates, dip the cookies into the chocolate and then decorate (or not) with sprinkles as desired. My husband isn't a huge fan of chocolate so I left about half the cookies undecorated. They were still amazing. These cookies stay soft for forever. They're amazing. And not too sweet.

   The cookbook suggests using an icing for the cookies, which I have done before and it's a really easy and delicious icing.

Powdered Sugar Icing:

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbs milk

Mix ingredients until smooth and drizzling. Super easy.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sliced Baked Potatoes



Alrighty, so I've been getting most of my recipe ideas from pinterest these days. I saw this one and just HAD to try it. I'm a HUGE fan of potatoes (hey, I AM part Irish) and I kept seeing a picture of this beautiful thing and it made my mouth water every time.

It's so flippin easy. I got the recipe from a site that named them Hasselback Potatoes. Mine didn't turn out as pretty as the ones pictured on the site but MAN OH MAN were they good.

Wash your potatoes first (I used three large ones). Also, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Then slice it really thin, not cutting it all the way through. I learned that next time I will slice them a little bit thinner and a little bit further through so to help the potato fan out better, therefor being crispier and cooking more fully.

Then drizzle onto your potatoes:
   2 tbs olive oil
   3 tbs  melted butter

Add salt and pepper to taste. I suggest adding a lot more salt that you would originally think because the way it gets in between all the slices makes a huge difference.

Bake for about 45 minutes.

Eat.

Enjoy.

Dream of eating them again soon.

They're so good and so simple. I could seriously make a meal out of this potato alone. It's crispy on the outside but super tender on the inside. Perfection.

Cilantro Lime Chicken in Tortilla Bowls with Seasoned Rice

I've been trying to try different recipes with out having to go out and buy a ton of stuff. I usually end up picking a great recipe but then have to run out to buy one of the ingredients. I decided to come up with something on my own with what I had in my fridge and pantry.

In the morning, I took some rice, long grain (not instant), and threw it in the crock pot on low for about 6 hours. I poured the water in. When using my rice cooker, I usually use two cups of water for every 1 cup of rice. I kept having to add water to the crock pot though through out the day as I stirred the rice.
I added chili powder, a chili con carne spice, garlic salt, pepper, sea salt and paprika. I cut up about 1 clove of garlic and threw that in as well. Toward the end, when I had about 30 minutes left, I added a Mexican mix cheese. I don't measure things out well so all of this was "to taste".

As time for dinner approached, I made Cilantro Lime Chicken in Tortilla Bowls.

Ingredients:

Olive Oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 half onion, chopped
3 tbs lime juice
1 tbs chopped cilantro with extra for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
tortilla shells

Directions:

In a pan with heated olive oil, saute onions and garlic until tender.

Add chicken, lime juice and cilantro. Cook at a lower heat until chicken is completely cooked.

While the chicken is cooking, cut up tortilla shells into triangles and place them into a greased muffin pan to form bowls or cups.

Bake cups at 350 degrees until golden brown.

Fill tortilla bowls with the chicken mixture, garnishing with a drop of sour cream and fresh cilantro.

EAT!

This meal is so good and it's so easy to make. Big hit with the whole family. It's light and fresh and I could be wrong but I thought it was on the healthy side as well.





Bacon, Egg and Toast Cups (Thank You Martha Stewart!)

I kept seeing these wonderful little breakfast "cups" on pinterest. They looked pretty simple so after I checked out the recipe from Martha Stewart, I decided that I could do them myself.

They're super easy and a HUGE crowd pleaser. My kids get bored easily with breakfasts but they were completely quiet (which is a big deal for a 3 and 2 year old) until they were finished. Also, my husband is now a huge fan.

I didn't follow her recipe exactly so here's my way of doing them.




Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a muffin pan.

Take slices of bread and cut them into pieces that you can form into a bowl shape. I actually took a small metal bowl and pressed the mouth of it into the bread like a cookie cutter. Then I cut that in half and molded the bread into the muffin pan.

Next, take cooked bacon and place it into the bread "bowl" you just made ( I used ham lunch meat one other time I made these and it tasted just as delicious). 

I sprinkled some cheese on top of that.

Crack open the egg and place it in the middle of each "cup". I had to carefully not put all the egg white into the cup or else it ran over and spilled onto the top of the pan. Not a big deal, I just didn't like it not looking perfect.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bake. Martha says to bake them for 20-25 minutes. I think I was closer to the 20 minutes. I wanted my yolks a little runny so I waited until I saw that the whites had set and then took it out.

So simple yet so delicious.



Thursday, January 19, 2012

Creamy Garlic sauce over Grilled Chicken and Home Made Egg Fettuccine

My husband, who travels far from home for long periods of time for his job, is home and hasn't had a good home cooked meal in quite some time. He, as I've mentioned before, is a pasta lover. Since my parents got me a pasta cutter for Christmas, I thought I'd make him some homemade fettuccine for dinner tonight.

I made a light wheat pasta last time and so I decided to try a recipe for egg pasta this time. I also made the pasta much thinner than last time which made it so much better. Then I topped it with some grilled chicken and a creamy garlic sauce that I whipped up really quick. I have to say that I was speechless over my own meal. Yup. I'm tooting my own horn. It was delicious. Looking at the pictures of it, my mouth is watering all over again. My true success was that my husband loved it.

Pasta Recipe and Instructions (using a Kitchen Aid mixer and it's Pasta attachments)

4 Large Eggs (if you don't have really large ones, use 5 like I had to)
1 tbs water
3 1/2 cups of sifted all purpose flour (because I added an egg, I also ended up adding 2 tablespoons of flour)
1/2 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in a mixer bowl (I use Kitchen Aid). Attach the flat beater and mix on speed 2 for about 30 seconds.

Replace flat beater with a dough hook and "knead" at speed 2 for roughly 2 minutes.

Hand knead dough for 1-2 minutes. 

Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

Dividing in 4 to 8 pieces, roll your dough through the flat roller attachment first. Do this several times, folding each sheet in half just to make sure there are no holes in the dough sheet.

Then, pass each sheet through your chosen pasta cutter, in my case, the fettuccine cutter.

Cook pasta (in water boiling with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a little salt) for about 4 minutes or until it is at your preferred tenderness.

Grilled Chicken:

Using a indoor grill press, grill one chicken breast seasoned with coriander, paprika, salt and pepper.

Creamy Garlic Sauce:

4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
2 whole chives, chopped
2 cups whipping cream
3 tablespoons of butter
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a pan. Saute garlic and chives on a low-medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a slight bubble, stirring frequently. Serve over pasta and grilled chicken. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.


SO AMAZING! And yes, I'm tooting my own horn again.




Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pesto Chicken with Home Made Light Wheat Fettuccine

One of the other amazing gifts my parents got me for Christmas was the pasta roller/cutter attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer. I think they know I like to cook :) I was SO excited about this one, especially since my husband is a total pasta lover. I like to make my husband foods that he loves. Seeing him happy makes me happy.

My first attempt was a little shaky. I've never seen any one make pasta before other than Gordon Ramsay on Hell's Kitchen. That man makes anything concerning food look as easy as tying your shoes. But I learned what to improve on and made some pretty tasty pasta in the meantime.

Using the recipe from the Kitchen Aid pasta cutter manual:

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
4 large eggs
2 tbs water
1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

1) Place flours, eggs, water and salt in mixer bowl. Mix for about 3 seconds.

2) Now using a dough hook, knead dough for about 2 minutes.

3) Remove from bowl and hand knead dough for about 2 minutes.

4) Divide into eight pieces, role with the dough roller attachment and then use what ever pasta cutter attachment you desire.

5) Cook pasta in boiling water until noodles are tender (took me about 5 minutes).


I'll make the pasta thinner next time but I was amazed, after I figured it all out, how easy it is to make your own pasta.

While the pasta was mixing, kneading and cooking, I made my pesto (basil, butter, garlic, almonds, Parmesan cheese and a dash of olive oil together), which for whatever reason didn't get as smooth as usual but I actually liked it "chunky". I browned some butter in a pan, threw in a chicken breast, seasoned it with salt and pepper and cooked.

I topped the pasta with the chicken and pesto. It was DELICIOUS! So simple and for the most part, fairly healthy. I was concerned about the kids eating the pasta. They like strange things and this wasn't strange but to my delight, they loved it. Score!







I'm a sucker for a sandwich.




I love sandwiches. I think it must be a hereditary thing. My dad LOVES sandwiches. Hogies specifically. I can't help myself though. Give me a good sandwich and I'm in momentary heaven.

We had prime rib for Christmas dinner. It was a holiday first for us. We usually do a Honey Baked Ham. This year, knowing my husband has been working SO hard, I thought we'd switch it up. We still went with the Honey Baked company though. Not to say anything negative about their company, but I don't think we'll get a prime rib from them again. It just wasn't our thing. We LOVE their hams though. Anyway...

There was a huge hunk of meat left over and I was so excited to try to make sandwiches out of it. I made a REALLY simple sandwich but it was delicious.

My parents left these odd "buns" at my house when they came to visit so I thought I'd use them up. They're multi grain thin sandwich buns. Not bad. I sliced up the prime rib really thin and laid it on the bottom half of a bun in a baking dish. Then I topped the meat with spinach and provolone cheese. I baked this at 350 degrees until the cheese was melted.

It was incredible. I was pretty excited that I had several days worth of these sandwiches. I didn't have to add any sauces or anything. All the flavors worked pretty well together and I loved it.

Sometimes it's the simple things that taste the best.

We All Scream for Raspberry Vanilla Almond Ice Cream!

My parents give some of the coolest gifts. This year, among many awesome presents they gave me for Christmas, they gave me an ice cream maker. It's the extension piece that attaches to my Kitchen Aid mixer. Thankfully, my husband also got me a new gym membership for a gift because this thing makes ice cream so stinkin easy to make that I'll be doing it all the time.

One of the things I like about Kitchen Aid mixer attachments is that they have recipes in the back of their instruction manuals. So I don't have to worry about trying to use a recipe not really intended for this piece on my first go around.

The recipe I chose from the back of the manual was for French Vanilla ice cream. I decided that I wanted to change it up a little (we're not a "vanilla" kinda family) . Instead of adding as much vanilla extract as it calls for, I added some raspberry extract as well. I also added a tiny bit of food coloring and almonds that I crushed up. It was amazing. I was surprised at how much this ends up yielding but at the same time, I'm thrilled. I've got a huge container of ice cream in my freezer right now!

Ok, first things first, the bowl has to be frozen for at least 15 hours. I didn't realize this and was a little bummed when I went to make the ice cream and realized I couldn't until the next day. Whatever. Now I know and the bowl stays in the freezer waiting to be filled with creamy deliciousness.

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups of half and half
8 egg yolks
1 cup of sugar
2 1/2 cups of whipping cream
3 tsp vanilla
2 tsp raspberry
3 drops of red food dye
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 cup of crushed almonds (more would be fine, I just didn't feel like cracking any more)

Directions (and I'm loosely quoting this from my Kitchen Aid manual):

1) In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the half and half until very hot but not boiling. Stir often.

2) Place egg yolks and sugar in mixer bowl. Stir at low speed (on speed 2 for Kitchen Aid mixers) for about 30 seconds. Gradually add heated half and half till blended and thicker.

3) Once blended, return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat but not boiling, stirring constantly (seriously, constantly... it'll burn... trust me...)

4) Transfer heated mixture to bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix together.

5) Cover and chill at least 8 hours.

6) Assemble ice cream bowl and mixing paddles. Pour in ice cream mix and turn on to a low speed for 15-20 minutes or until it's reached the desired consistency.

7) EAT!!!

Oh man. SO GOOD!!! I have to say that home made ice cream like this has ruined me. It's so much creamier than any ice cream I've ever gotten at the store. It's amazing. And I think I'm going to go grab a bowl now. I like that with this recipe though, you can add pretty much whatever you want. You can change up the extracts or add cookies or other kinds of nuts. I'm looking forward to trying some of the sorbet recipes in the back of the manual though. I LOVE any kind of desert made with fresh fruit!

If you don't have one and you can afford to buy one, get an ice cream maker attachment for your mixer. It'll be a great investment, especially if you have kids!