Saturday, April 20, 2013

Apple Butter

I have to confess I'm a little scared to leave my crockpot on all day while I go to work. Leaving it on on weekends and days off while I'm in and out running errands all day is fine, but leaving it on while I'm at work squicks me out a little. I know it's irrational. I know that my crockpot won't suddenly, after over 4 years of reliable use, won't all of a sudden blow up on me... But what if it does?

This apple butter is my first experiment with putting something in my crockpot while I was away at work. Do you think I could concentrate at work? Of course not. Instead of brilliant legal thoughts, my imagination went wild with thoughts of burned apples (at best) and charred house remains (at worst). 

Needless to say, my house was still standing when I got home, the apples were cooking nicely, and it smelled like I had spent all day making apple pies. It was wonderful.

Now if only I could convince myself that this all-day-while-I'm-at-work success wasn't a fluke and I should try it again.


Crockpot Apple Butter
From My Baking Addiction, adapted
Makes about 4 pints

INGREDIENTS
6 1/2 lbs tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2/3 - 1 cup white sugar (depending on how sour your apples are)
2/3 - 1 cup brown sugar (depending on how sour your apples are)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp cinnamon 
1/4 tsp salt
1 TBSP vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
Place the apples in the crockpot. Add the sugars, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Stir to combine.

Cook on low for about 10 hours, stirring very occasionally (I stirred once after it cooked for about 9 hrs), until the mixture is thickened and dark brown.

Uncover, stir in the vanilla, and cook for about 2 hrs. It'll probably look like the apples are sort of breaking down and liquefying, but that's ok. Cooking uncovered will allow some of the excess liquid to evaporate.

Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Put in sterile containers and store in the fridge or freezer.

Monday, March 25, 2013

21-Ingredient Chili



In preparation to install my magic shelves, I cleaned out the cabinets. These are my spices. Well, most of them. My cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon got left out. Clearly, I have a problem. A delicious one.

Because of this delicious problem, I was able to make this 21-ingredient chili with only having to buy one spice. I'm not sure if that's something I should be proud of...

We both really liked this chili. My husband, who has a very narrow definition of what a chili is, declared this his "new favorite tortilla soup." It took some work, but I will definitely be making it again, with a few changes - I'll note those below.

The most exciting part of this is that I got to make it in my new crockpot. Behold:


It's pretty and shiny and I love it.

But now onto the chili.



Slow Cooker 21-Ingredient Chili
From A Year of Crockpotting
Prep Time - 25 min
Cook Time - 8 hrs
Serves 8ish

INGREDIENTS
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks.
1 onion, diced
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 (15 oz) can white cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1 (15 oz) can corn (drained & rinsed)*
1 (15 oz) can fire-roasted tomatoes (NOT drained)
1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and grated
1/2 cup spicy grown mustard
2 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP honey
3 TBSP chili powder
1 TBSP chipotle chili powder
1 TBSP onion powder
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 tsp white peper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon**
1/4 tsp cloves
2 cups chicken broth

DIRECTIONS
Put the chicken into the bottom of your cooker; frozen is okay, but cut it into chunks. Add the diced onion, canned beans, tomatoes, chiles, corn, and grated sweet potato. 

In a small bowl, mix together the mustard, honey, dried spices, and broth. Whisk together and pour into the crockpot. Stir to combine.

Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until chicken easily shreds with two large forks. Stir very well and serve in a large bowl with your favorite chili toppings, like sour cream and cheese.

Serve and enjoy.
NOTES
*I used a second can of kidney beans instead of corn. 
** When I make this again, I will omit. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

White Cheddar Mac & Cheese


Hello there! Nice seeing you again! Thanks for stopping by and not forgetting about me during my unintentional blogging sabbatical. I appreciate it. :)

When I was about 14, my family moved into a new house. The kitchen had been re-done shortly before my parents bought the place and the cabinets were custom and most of them had sliding, pull-out shelves (a la Ikea). I was fascinated by them.  I had no idea this was a "thing." I'd never heard of Ikea (forgive me, Swedish ancestry). The state of Minnesota didn't even have an Ikea until I was well into my twenties. I thought that whomever designed the kitchen cabinets was genius, and really onto something.

So, fast-forward until we bought our house. We have a few really deep cabinets. I hated going into them. It was impossible to get things out of them (you can guess where this is going now, can't you). Every time I took out my flour container, it felt like a puzzle getting it back in. I had wanted for almost the entire year-and-a-half we've lived here to do something about those damn cabinets. I was crushed when I learned that one particular cabinet was not the right size to be able to drive the 4 miles to our Ikea and pick up some of the magical shelves. Then, I discovered a company that will custom-make the shelves to fit the actual dimensions of your cabinets.

So, I present to you, the before and after:





I swear, the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah went through my head. It's amazing how much easier it is to get things out - like the pasta to make this mac & cheese. Even my husband, who firmly believes that mac & cheese is a side dish, not a main dish, agrees that this is really good stuff.



Yes, this picture was taken a while ago while it was nice outside.

White Cheddar Mac & Cheese
Recipe from Annie's Eats (she got it from panera.com)
Serves 4-ish (probably should be at least 6)

INGREDIENTS
1 lb small pasta
4 TBSP butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups dairy liquid (milk, cream, half & half - whatever)
4 oz white American cheese, chopped  (I usually just use Velveeta - white American is oddly hard to find around here)
8 oz sharp white cheddar, shredded (I usually use reg. orange cheddar)
1 tsp Dijon mustard (or more, if you really like dijon)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp hot sauce

DIRECTIONS
Cook pasta to al dente. Drain & set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the bugger in a large saucepan over medium heat (my dutch oven works well). When the butter is melted and a little bubbly, whisk in the flour, stirring constantly, for about 1 1/2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and keep whisking until the lumps are gone. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens, about 8 minutes.

Remove from heat and add the cheese by the handful, whisking until the cheese is entirely melted before adding more. Repeat until the cheese is all added. Stir in the mustard, salt, & hot sauce.

Return the pan to the heat and stir in the pasta, stirring to thoroughly coat all of the pasta with the sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes to make sure everything is heated through.

Enjoy!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Roasted Tomato Penne alla Vodka

We've now been back from San Francisco for about a month. Our trip was a wonderful week filled with great sight-seeing and absolutely wonderful food. The Golden Gate Bridge really is as cool to see in person as you'd think it is. I want to go back, badly. I mean, look at this. It's beautiful.



We both fell in love with the North Beach neighborhood, San Francisco's "Little Italy." The Twin Cities have a lot of really great restaurants, but they truly don't hold a candle to anything we ate in San Francisco. I don't think I've eaten better Italian since I was in Italy. If you're ever there, you should go to Tommaso's.  It's an adorable little hole-in-the wall place - very small, quaint, and cute. Order their lasagna. It's amazing.

And in the meantime, make this Penne alla Vodka. You won't regret it.


Roasted Tomato Penne alla Vodka
Recipe from Rachael Ray, adapted
Serves 4ish

INGREDIENTS
1 lb penne pasta
3 lbs plum tomatoes
2 TBSP olive oil, plus drizzles
2 TBSP fresh thyme, finely chopped
salt & pepper
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced fine
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup mascarpone cheese
handful basil leaves, torn

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Cut the tomatoes in half and arrange cut-side up on baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the thyme, salt, & pepper.

Roast for about 1 hr, 15 min. Let cool.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions & garlic and season with salt & pepper. Cook until soft, about 12-15 min. Add the vodka and cook until reduced by about half. Add the chicken stock.and roasted tomatoes and heat through.

Stir in the mascarpone cheese, and then, using an immersion blender (or transfer to food processor), puree until smooth and creamy. Add the basil and stir until it is wilted.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, and drain. Toss the pasta with the sauce, and serve. Top with some grated Parmesan cheese.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pollo Asado

I've started getting sucked into The Voice this season. Past seasons, I've just watched if, for example, it was on when I was at the gym, but I never really tuned in at home or recorded it.  For some reason, I'm totally hooked on this season. One of the contestants is from the city where I live - I tell myself I watch to cheer him on (nevermind that I think he said he moved out of the suburbs a while ago).

Usually when I watch, I have a cat on my lap. In one of the blind audition episodes, said cat started meowing pretty loudly when one of the hopefuls was singing off-key.

Fast-forward about a week or two and The X Factor was on (I wasn't actually watching - I just forgot to turn off the TV when the show I was watching was over). One of the contestants was absolutely murdering a Kelly Clarkson song, and again, the same cat started meowing loudly. 

Back to The Voice - kitty was not a fan of the woman who ultimately won the battle where the contestants sang Katy Perry's Hot and Cold.

I'm still haven't decided if I think she really likes bad intonation and is trying to sing along or if she's offended by the bad singing. 

This is another recipe I made back when the weather was nice and warm. I miss that weather. We first made  it and used the meat as tacos, but I felt the flavor was too subtle to make a great taco. The second time we made it, we ate it off-the-bone, which really brought out the hints of garlic, onion, and citrus. This will be a great one to make in the dead of winter when I'm really craving a nice hint of summer.


Pollo Asado
Recipe from Pioneer Woman
Serves up to 8
Prep Time - 2-24 hrs (mostly inactive)
Cook Time - 25 min

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup orange juice*
2 lemons, juiced (save the halves)
2 limes, juiced (save the halves)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 onions, peeled and copped into big chunks
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
up to 16 chicken parts (we used 6 but the marinade is plenty for more

DIRECTIONS
In a bowl, combine the olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, salt, pepper, and garlic. Whisk to combine. Save the little of the marinade for basting during the cooking process, and put the rest in a large ziplock bag and place the chicken parts in the bag. Add the fruit halves and onion chunks. Toss everything to combine. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hrs, up to over night.

About a half hour before you're going to cook, take the chicken out of the fridge and put it on the counter to get the chill off. 

Preheat a grill to about medium heat (or a broiler to high). 

Place the chicken on the grill and cook until cooked through, turning a few times, and marinading with each flip. This probably will take about 25 minutes whether you're broiling or grilling your chicken.

*I can not strongly advise enough not to try squeezing your own. My hand muscles hurt for several days after I tried to squeeze my own orange juice for this recipe.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Grilled Chicken Caprese Sandwiches

The magazine companies are on to me. I subscribed to CookingLight about a year ago. Since then, I've been inundated with other magazine subscription offers - Everyday with Rachael Ray, Food Network Magazine, People, Parents, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens.... they all want me. I feel so popular.

The sad thing about this is that if it's a magazine I'm even somewhat interested in, and the deal is good, I'll probably subscribe. My husband tells me "oh, but honey, you can get those recipes online." Which is true. But looking them up online is nowhere near as fun as getting a fresh new magazine in the mail every month. I like to think I have the self-control to know when it's time to stop (and hey, I turned down Parents magazine, even though it was truly a great deal. That's gotta count for something, right? Nevermind that I have no children or need for such a magazine).

I made these sandwiches when my tomatoes and basil were at their absolute peak - before the fall weather officially arrived and far before I had to start bringing my plants in at night for fear of frost (I'm not a fan of this weather). You should make them and enjoy them while the you still have access to fresh tomatoes and basil.



Grilled Chicken Caprese Sandwiches
Serves 2

INGREDIENTS
4-6 chicken tenders
Italian dressing, for marinading
2 Roma tomatoes
1-2 tsp olive oil
salt & pepper
6ish leaves fresh basil
Mozzarella cheese slices
baguette

DIRECTIONS
Marinade the chicken tenders in Italian dressing for at least a few hours. Cut the tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt & pepper.

Pre-heat the broiler.

Grill the chicken till cooked through (3-5 min per side or so) and grill the tomatoes till soft.

Meanwhile, cut the baguette in half, length-wise, and put slices of mozzarella. Right before the chicken is done, place the bread under the broiler until the cheese melts and starts to get bubbly.

Cut the basil into little ribbons.

Place the chicken on top of the bread, then top with tomato and fresh basil.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Monte Cristo with Strawberry Habanero Jam

We're now entering year two of home ownership. It's great. When we first moved in, we didn't do much. The previous owners did a lot of work on the place, and we didn't see ourselves wanting to change much.

How naive we were. We (and by "we" I mostly mean my husband) have since learned that home ownership is a continuous string of projects that are assured to take at least twice as long as you think they're going to take. And I have since learned the wonders of stations like HGTV and DIY network and am convinced that the shower/tub area of our master bath needs to be re-done with mosaic tiles. I think my husband would appreciate it if I stopped watching these stations.

Most recently, we installed a ceiling fan in our kitchen. The fixture the previous owners chose for the kitchen used LED lights that burned so hot that it was almost unbearable to be in the kitchen while the light was on for any length of time.

At least it looked cool?

Next up - replacing the two-prong sockets with grounded three-prong sockets. It's bound to be riveting.

We both really liked these Monte Cristo sandwiches. They were a great alternative to the traditional kind that is battered and deep fried (please do not interpret that to mean I'm trying to convey that these sandwiches are healthy - they're not). We weren't the hugest fans of the strawberry habanero jam. Honestly, I think I would've really loved it on a waffle or on ice cream, but for me, it didn't go well with the meat.




Monte Cristo Sandwiches with Strawberry Habanero Jam
Recipe from Jeff Mauro, adapted
Serves 4
Prep Time - 10 min
Cook Time - 20 min

INGREDIENTS

Strawberry Habanero Jam
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 lbs frozen strawberries
1 habanero pepper, stem and seeds removed, finely minced

Custard
1 cup 2% milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
pinch nutmeg
2 eggs

Sandwich Build
8 slices Sourdough
4 slices Swiss Cheese
4 slices American Cheese
6 oz shaved honey ham
6 oz shaved turkey breast
4 TBSP salted butter
Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

Directions
Strawberry Habanero Jam
In a 4-quart saucepan set over medium heat, add the sugar and orange juice, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Turn up the heat to high and add the strawberries and habanero. Bring to a boil, stirring often. After boiling for about a minute, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Once cooled, you can serve immediately. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week.

Custard
In a baking dish, whisk together the milk, salt, sugar, nutmeg, and eggs. Set aside.

Sandwich Build
Preheat a large pan over medium heat. Top a slice of sourdough with a slice of Swiss, one-quarter of the ham, one-quarter of the turkey, a slice of American cheese, and the second slice of sourdough.

Dip the sandwiches into the custard, letting the excess drip off. Add some butter to the pan and gently fry each sandwich until golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from the pan, dust with some powdered sugar, and serve some of the strawberry habanero jam on the side.