Winter Storm Comfort Food: Jambalaya!

January 26, 2015
Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

As Winter Storm Juno begins burying us out here, I found myself at work earlier today, waiting for the announcement that we would be closed tomorrow, and really just craving the heck out of a nice pile of spicy jambalaya.  Thing is – jambalaya is amazingly easy to make!  It’s very much an everyone-in-the-pool kind of dish.  So yay! (more…)

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Banana Muffins!

December 23, 2014

So I gotta say, I love banana bread.  Not only is it a fantastic way to use up overripe bananas, it’s also so tasty.  Especially nice and warm, with a schmear of cream cheese. Good stuff, man.

I also love muffins, and though they require a bit more work pre-baking, the benefit is that you don’t have to do any slicing to get them into your mouth.  Also, clean-up is a breeze, since I’m a lazy bugger and use paper muffin cups when I bake. =) (more…)

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Buffalo Chicken Dip

December 21, 2014

This is something I’ve loved for a very long time but been too lazy to actually try to make until… well, now.  But honestly – it’s so embarrassingly simple, I almost feel bad posting a recipe.  Anyway, here goes.

The goods:

2 8-oz packages of cream cheese or neufchatel (which is low-fat cream cheese)

1 rotisserie chicken, cooked (what? I’m lazy.)

1 16-ish oz jar chunky bleu cheese dressing

1 pint container bleu cheese crumbles

12 oz (1 good sized bottle) AT LEAST your favorite buffalo sauce (I actually used a mix of Frank’s Red Hot and Texas Pete’s)

shredded pepper jack cheese (or “Mexican blend” or, y’know, whatever you like.) a couple handfuls

 

The method:

– Shred all your chicken (get every last meaty bit) into itty bitty pieces in a large bowl.  Discard the skin and bones, but seriously, get all the meat you can off of the bird.  This is incredibly messy, but deliciously so.

– In a saucepan, melt your cream cheese on low/medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Once it’s decently runny, stir in the bleu cheese dressing and crumbles.  Stir it all together into one great gooey mass.

– Pour your hot cheesy goo over your chicken.  Add your hot sauce.  Stir it all together.  Taste.  Add more hot sauce if necessary (for me, it’s necessary).  If for some reason it’s too spicy, you can add some sour cream or mayo to mellow it out.

– Sprinkle shredded cheese over top

– Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20 ish minutes or until it’s all bubbly.

*Optional: garnish with sliced scallions or chives

 

Serve with tortilla chips and/or celery and/or carrot sticks. Enjoy! =)

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Lemony Kale and White Beans

June 8, 2014

I like this recipe because it’s almost as simple as it sounds – and the lemon adds a nice bit of zing to what would otherwise be a bit on the bitter/bland side.  Also – man, do I love kale.  Seriously.

The goods:

1 large yellow onion

1 bunch kale

1 15-0z can white beans (cannellini are great, as are great northern)

1 tbsp or so minced garlic

salt, pepper to taste

1 or 2 lemons

extra virgin olive oil

 

The method:

As always, this is calibrated for the biggest cooking vessel you own – mostly because kale is just so bulky until it cooks down a bit.  Your biggest skillet or your trusty wok will make this process much easier.

– Get your pan on medium-ish heat.  While it’s heating up, peel and thinly slice your onion.  Add a couple glugs of olive oil.  Once your oil has heated up, toss in your onions.

– Cook your onions gently, stirring once in a while, until lightly caramelized.  Lower the heat if it’s going to fast.  You don’t want to burn them.

– While your onions are going, de-stem and roughly chop your kale.  Set aside.  Drain and rinse your beans. Set those aside, too.

– Throw some minced garlic into the pan, once your onions are soft.  Any earlier and the garlic will burn before your food is done.

– Okay, so you don’t really have to take your onions all the way to caramelized.  But you do want them sauteed until they’re nice and soft.  So whenever you decide your onions are about there, start adding your kale, in big handfuls.  Move it around until it wilts enough to allow more kale to get into your pan.  Continue until it’s all in there.  Add your beans too.

– Cook, stirring occasionally, until all your kale is lovely and wilted (to your desired level of “wilted”).  If your food looks like it’s burning or getting crispy or getting dry, add a little bit of water.

– While kale is cooking, zest and juice at least one lemon.  Do another if you want a serious lemon flavor.  Add zest and juice to pan (to taste).

– Stir this all together, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serving options:

Goes great with lean proteins like pork and poultry.  Would be pretty great with grilled fish too, I’d say.

I was having a vegetarian day, so I served it over Israeli couscous, and topped it with a couple scrambled eggs, for added protein.

(You’ll get around 3 to 4 servings out of this, depending on whether you’re using it as a main or a side.)

Enjoy!

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Turkey and Kale Soup

May 4, 2014

This is actually a really simple recipe – as most broth-based soups tend to be, it’s just aromatics, broth, and flavoring.  Which works fine by me, actually, given that I’m often feeling pretty lazy after work, but in need of sustenance and comfort.  When I first learned this recipe, it included rice, but I left that out in favor of having lovely buttery bread, as pictured.  If you want to give your soup a bit more substance and body, go ahead and add some cooked rice – but you’ll also have to add more liquid, as the rice will absorb a surprising amount of it.  (I get around this problem by cooking and storing the rice separately, and combining the two when I’m serving)

The goods:

1 pound ground turkey

1 large-ish yellow onion

3 to 4 carrots

3 to 4 ribs of celery

minced garlic

1 head kale

6ish cups chicken stock

salt, pepper, oregano, thyme

olive oil

 

The method:

In your favorite soup-cooking vessel (for me, it’s still my wok), brown your turkey in a bit of oil, if needed. (I actually skipped the oil, as my wok is non-stick)  Break up any chunks as you go.

As your turkey is browning, dice your onions and celery, and peel and dice your carrots.  Any size you like, depending on whether you want big rustic chunks or little uniform bits.

Once turkey is browned, drain off as much of the liquid as you can, add a glug of oil, and throw in your onions, celery, and carrots.   Add a good amount of garlic.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent.

Add your stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Add salt, pepper, oregano, thyme to taste. (I go with a good several pinches of everything.  Keep in mind though that I also generally use reduced-sodium chicken stock, so if you’re going with regular, be careful.)

While soup is simmering, de-stem and chop your kale.  Add to the pot. Bring back to a simmer.

Simmer for at least half an hour, or until all your veggies are tender.  (Because, seriously, I cannot tell you how  annoying it is to bite into crunchy carrot bits in my soup.  Ugh.)

Optional: Add several dashes of curry powder towards the end to give your soup a unique kick.

Enjoy =)

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Chicken Paella

April 16, 2014

It... uh, didn't last very long.

I’ve been wanting to learn paella for some time now – and for some reason always managed to talk myself out of it.  “Oh, it takes too long, it’s too difficult, etc etc”

Which really?  Load of bunk.  If you can figure out risotto and/or rice pilaf – you can do paella.  This version is chicken-only, as I was making it for a party that included some guests who kept kosher.  Me, I’d totally add shrimp and maybe some sausage, if I were doing it myself. =)

The goods:

6 to 6.5 cups chicken stock

saffron threads, a good pinch

2.5 ish pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks

1 large red pepper, seeded and diced

1 large green pepper, seeded and diced

1 large yellow onion, seeded and diced

great whopping tablespoon minced garlic (or more, hey, I’m not going to judge)

olive oil

3 cups short-grain rice (I actually used arborio – I happened to have it on hand so why not?)

10oz bag frozen peas

salt, pepper to taste

ground chipotle powder (optional)

The method:

Get your stock simmering.  Drop in your saffron.  Let it simmer.

Meanwhile, you’ll need your biggest skillet or your trusty wok.  Heat up your olive oil – 3 or 4 glugs around the pan should do it.

Once your oil is barely shimmery, throw in your chicken chunks.  Saute on high until no visible pink bits remain.  Ideally you’d even get a nice sear going on, but with my wok, that just wasn’t going to happen.  Remove your partially cooked chicken to a clean bowl.

Toss in your onions and peppers.  Saute for about a minute, then drop in your garlic.  Saute a few more minutes until onions are translucent. (I took them to “almost starting to caramelize” because I really wanted that rich, bold flavor to come out)

Add rice, stir until coated.  (And here, I very nearly went on risotto auto-pilot.  I heated the rice until they were half translucent.  Which, hey, no worries.  But you don’t really have to do this)

Add stock.  Bring to boil, stirring occasionally.  I should note here that this just about FILLED my wok, so stir carefully, lest you want to be picking paella bits off your stove for the next several hours.

Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.

Add chicken and peas.

Drop the heat to a simmer, cook for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

At this point, you’re done.  If you want to dry it out a little/get some nice crust action going on, continue by:

Transfer paella to sprayed casserole dish (It will fill a 9×13 dish; plan accordingly)

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, uncovered.

Remove from oven, tent with foil, let rest for another 10 minutes.

Et voila!  Garnish with lemon wedges, chopped parsley, or if you’re me, some slightly obscene amount of hot sauce.

 

 

 

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Arancini – Way less difficult than learning how to pronounce it.

February 16, 2014

Fancy word, easy dish – it’s just crispy risotto balls, you guys, no need to panic!

So here’s what you do:  Make your favorite risotto recipe.  Mushroom risotto?  Awesome.  Spring risotto with peas and arugula?  Beautiful.  Butternut squash risotto with caramelized onions?  Fantastic!  (Though, uh, make sure your butternut is cut into little bitty chunks, or your arancini are going to be huge.)

Once your risotto is made, spread it out onto some sheet pans and let it cool.  (Pro tip.  Freezer for twenty minutes?  Works like a dream.)

Form your cooled risotto into balls.  Use a cookie scoop for easy portioning.  Or, y’know, eyeball it, or whatever’s easiest.  You want like 1-inch diameter babies, or thereabouts.

If your risotto is on the dry side, dredge them in some beaten eggs, then lightly coat them in bread crumbs.  I used panko because I love the extra crunch and coarse texture.

Fry ’em up.  You can deep fry them or pan-fry them and finish them in the oven.  Or if you’re me and you managed to totally run out of time, spray the everliving tar out of them with good cooking spray and throw them in the oven.  375 degrees, until heated through and a bit browned.

That’s it!  So amazing.

Oh, fancypants variation: stuffed arancini!  If you’ve made plain risotto, stuff the balls with your choice of: little cube of mozzarella, little cube of truffle butter (or heck, go uber fancy and go with a lovely pate), little bit of meat of choice, whatever you like.  Also an option: serve with sauce! (Marinara seems standard, but no reason you can’t go with a nice cream sauce or wine sauce.  Sky’s the limit, man.)

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Balsamic Roast Chicken

February 16, 2014

Okay, so this marinade also works amazingly well on pork chops, and I suspect it’d be fantastic on any poultry as well, but this incarnation uses it on chicken thighs, because that’s what I had in my fridge.

This is how easy the marinade is: it’s just olive oil and balsamic vinegar. That’s it. Don’t even measure it.

Just stick your meat in a big ziplock bag, sprinkle in some salt and pepper, and drizzle in some balsamic and some oil. When you seal the bag, do your best to squeeze out all the air. Massage the bag a little to make sure that the chicken is all happy and coated. Walk away for at least an hour (but not more than 24).

I was lazy and just stuck it on a sheet pan to roast, but for better presentation you can sear it in a screaming hot pan before finishing it in the oven. Then you get a beautiful crispy crust.

Try it. You won’t regret it.

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Mascarpone and Sun-Dried Tomato Puff Pastry

December 25, 2013

Just trust me on this one.  It’s a great little nibbly-treat for any occasion.

The goods:

1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry, thawed

1 tub (8oz) mascarpone cheese, softened

handful of sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted (soaked in warm water for at least twenty minutes), drained, patted dry, and chopped

shredded parmesan cheese

extra virgin olive oil

dried oregano, thyme, basil

coarse kosher salt (optional)

 

There’s a couple different form factors you can use here – and these work for any sort of puff pastry treat. I’ll go over both.

THE BRAID:

– Unfold your puff pastry on a lightly floured surface or a sheet of parchment paper.  Press the seams together and smooth it out.

– spread a generous amount (roughly half your tub) of mascarpone onto the middle third.

– sprinkle on some sun-dried tomato.  press it gently into the mascarpone.

– sprinkle on some parmesan.  You don’t want a huge mound of filling, so be gentle.

– make slices in the other two thirds of the puff pastry, perpendicular to the filling, about a finger’s width thick.  you should end up with two fringed sides, and a slab of filling in the middle.

– alternating sides, fold each slice of puff pastry over the filling so it ends up looking like a pretty braid.

– brush a little olive oil over the top and sprinkle with oregano, thyme, and sea salt, if desired

– Place on greased cookie sheet, or if you’ve been working on a sheet of parchment paper, put the whole thing, paper and all, on a cookie sheet

– Bake in a preheated oven according to package directions, until golden brown and crispy.

– Let cool, then slice up and enjoy

THE SWIRL

– Unfold pastry, pinch together seams, smooth out

– spread mascarpone (you might need a little more than half the tub here) over entire sheet, leaving 1 inch at the top and bottom

– sprinkle on tomato, pressing gently into the cheese

– sprinkle on parmesan, oregano, and thyme

– starting at the top, roll the whole sheet towards you

– smooth out your pastry log, then slice into about 3/4-inch slices

– place cut sides up onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheets

– bake in preheated oven according to directions until golden and beautiful

 

Enjoy =)

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Breakfast Carbonara – Not for the faint of heart!

November 30, 2013

This came about as I was rooting in a friend’s fridge for something to eat – I am trying to do more of the “invite myself over and I’ll cook for you” because it gets me out of my house and hanging out with people, and also because I can scam a free meal out of it. =)

Measurements are completely approximate, and honestly this is a pretty simple dish so feel free to play with it.  What I made was 5 good-sized servings.

The goods:

6-8 slices of applewood bacon, chopped

8-ish links raw breakfast sausage links, casing removed (I think what I used was some sort of maple flavored sausage)

about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of chorizo (or chourico, depending on where you are), ground or chopped

1 large onion, peeled and sliced thin.

1 small head of garlic, peeled and minced (Yes, I said a HEAD of garlic.  All of it.  I like garlic, okay?)

1 lb pasta – any shape you like.  Traditionally carbonaras are done with long noodles, but I like tube pastas better for holding sauce.  Penne would be great, so would rigatoni or fusili.  This time I used “campanelle”, which came out to be a very pretty flowery shape.

Seasonings: salt, pepper, dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, paprika, crushed red peppers, whatever you like

4 eggs, beaten

Some cheese! (Parmesan would be lovely, of course.  I had some sharp cheddar and provolone.)

The method:

Get a big pot of water boiling to cook your pasta in.  While you’re waiting for water to boil, you can be doing all your chopping.

In a big skillet on medium-ish heat, cook your bacon.  Go relatively gently on it to render out all that lovely bacon fat, because THAT is what you’re cooking everything else in.  Cook the bacon until it’s good and dark and crispy, then remove it from the pan.

Oh, at some point in here, hopefully your water will be boiling, so go ahead and add your pasta to it.  Give it a good stir and cook it to al-dente, so somewhere around 10 minutes of boiling, but check the instructions on the package first to be safe.

Crank the heat on the skillet up to medium-high and add your onions.  Cook onions until soft and lightly caramelized, then add your garlic.  Saute for about a minute.

Add your sausage, breaking up the chunks with a wooden spoon or spatula. Do the same with the chorizo/chourico.  Once the meat is cooked through, add the bacon back in.

Hopefully by this point your pasta is done cooking and drained (reserving the pasta liquid).  Add the pasta into your pan (This is why you always use the biggest skillet you have!) and mix everything all up.  Add some of the pasta water if you want things a bit looser.  Add some salt, pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, and dried thyme (or whatever herbs you’d like) to taste.  Stir and heat through, adding pasta water if it’s too dry (You honestly shouldn’t need to add more than a cup/a cup and a half of liquid)

TURN OFF THE HEAT.  Then add your beaten eggs to the pan and stir it in.  The residual heat from the pan and pasta will cook the eggs until you have a lovely gooey sauce.  But you know what?  If you have too much heat and the eggs scramble, it’s totally cool.  It is breakfast, after all.

Scoop this lovely mixture out into bowls or plates and top with cheese.

Enjoy! (Though perhaps pair it with a nice salad; this is an AWFULLY rich meal.)

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