Monday, July 30, 2012

Chicken Tikka Masala

 In honor of the summer Olympics in London, I decided to do a little research to find out what England's national dish is. Well, there seems to be a lot of different opinions about this subject. Many people think of a Sunday Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding as the national dish. Others think of Fish and Chips or Bangers and Mash (which is sausages and mashed potatoes). A survey in the United Kingdom concluded that Chicken Tikka Masala is the country's most popular restaurant dish, claiming it as one in every seven curries sold in the UK. The cross-cultural popularity of the dish in the UK led former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook to proclaim it as "a true British national dish". So there you have it. For me, it's still definitely an Indian dish (which is where the dish originated), but who am I to argue?
 I guess it really doesn't matter. The bottom line is that it's easy and delicious! Everyone LOVED it when I made it for my family's Opening Ceremonies party at my Jeanie's house. SO delicious!! This recipe is from Aarti Sequeira. It's simple and quick, warm and comforting and you should definitely try it!

1 cup plain yogurt, whisked until smooth  
1 tbs fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, put through a garlic press or finely minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into large bite-size chunks

3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch thumb ginger, peeled and minced
2 serrano peppers, minced (seeds removed if you don't want it spicy)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
8 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups water
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves, optional
1/2 cup heavy cream
Fresh cilantro leaves, minced
Cooked rice, warm naan bread or crusty bread.

For the marinade:
In large bowl, mix the yogurt, ginger, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Poke chicken with a fork, then add to marinade. Fold to cover and marinate at least 30 minutes, at most refrigerated overnight.

For the sauce:
Place a large skillet over medium heat, and add the butter and olive oil. When butter has melted, add the garlic, ginger, and serrano pepper. Saute until lightly browned around the edges.
Add the tomato paste and cook until the tomato has darkened in color, about 3 minutes. Add the paprika and garam masala, and saute for about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, salt, and water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer, and cover. Cook for 20 minutes. Take the pan off the fire, and allow the sauce to cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, fire up your broiler, and cover your broiler pan in foil. Pull the chicken thigh chunks out of the marinade and place on the sheet. Place under the broiler, and cook about 7 minutes on each side, until charred and cooked through. Cook's Note: Don't worry if the chicken is still a little uncooked, but very charred on the outside; you can finish cooking the chicken in the sauce.
Pour sauce into a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Pour back into the pan, and bring back up to a boil. Add the chicken and fenugreek leaves, if using. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes.
Add cream and stir through. Garnish with minced fresh cilantro if you like, and serve over rice, with naan or a crusty piece of bread!

Joey's Tips:
It seems to me that people either LOVE cilantro or they hate it. (I've heard many people say that, to them, it tastes like soap! Crazy, huh?) For me, I like it, but a little goes a long way. If you're not a fan, just substitute fresh parsley, or simply omit it entirely.
 I didn't have fresh tomatoes on hand, so I just used canned crushed tomatoes. It worked beautifully!

If you don't want to broil the chicken, you can easily grill it on your outside grill. Just make sure you get a nice black char on it.
Instead of transferring everything to a blender or food processor, I just used an immersion blender, and pureed the sauce right in the pot. It made life so much easier!!!
If you'd like to add some heat, then by all means, make it as hot as you dare! Just add some diced chilis, as much as you like!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Skillet Lasagna

 I was recently browsing a few recipes, looking for a new delicious something, and I happened upon another food blog called Tracy's Culinary Adventures. Right away I felt a sort of connection with her because she seems to enjoy writing blogs and taking pictures of her food creations as much as I do. I loved that the little blurb about this recipe is about how the dish fits into her personal life, which is also how I usually write. I guess that's why people like my blog. People say to me all the time "I can hear your voice saying the things you write." I love that. :)
 Ok, so anyway, this recipe is pretty freaking awesome. I literally didn't change one thing (which is really saying something!). It reminded me of the Skillet Baked Ziti that I got from ATK a while back, and figured this MUST be worth a try as well. It's so easy and yummy, is ready in a fraction of the time, and you only have one pan to clean up after dinner. Isn't that perfect? Tracy lists it as being "Barely adapted from Cook's Country's Skillet Suppers", but let's still give her the credit since it was her post that brought it to me. Fair enough? Hope you'll give it a try!
Thanx Tracy!

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound meatloaf mix (ground beef, pork and veal)
10 lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch pieces
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Add the diced tomatoes along with their juice to a 1 quart (4 cup) measuring cup. Add enough water to bring the volume to 1 quart total.

Set a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the oil. When it starts to shimmer, add the onion and the salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion begins to brown, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the meat, using a wooden spoon to break it apart. Cook until the meat is browned.

Add the broken noodles to the pan, but do not stir - just let them sit on top of the onion/meat mixture. Pour the tomato/water mixture and the tomato sauce over the noodles (again, don't stir). Cover the pan and bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, now stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender (about 20 minutes).

Turn off the heat under the pan. Stir in 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drop the ricotta by heaping spoonfuls onto the top of the lasagna (don't stir to incorporate), then cover and let stand for about 5 minutes to allow the cheese to soften. Remove the cover and sprinkle with the basil and remaining Parmesan, then serve.

There's not much I would change about this recipe. It's fabulous exactly as it's written. The only thing I would add is a little shredded mozzarella cheese sprinkled over the top.
The only variation I think I'd do is to substitute half of the ground meat with sweet Italian sausage. Just break it up and brown it with the meat as directed.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Joey's Easy Orange Chicken

 This is an easy and quick recipe to make for a mid week dinner. It only took me about a half hour to throw it all together, and it's REALLY flavorful! Actually, I must confess that the entire recipe isn't exactly mine. I found a recipe online and used it as a base, then I made a few additions and changed the amounts of a few things (as I often do!) and now here we are! So, I guess I can still call it mine, right? Kinda? Anyway, the most important thing is that you'll LOVE it! It has such a refreshing burst of orange flavor and the vinegar and soy sauce just balance everything out. I couldn't stop eating it!!  And Chris and Claire gave me the official "thumbs up" when I asked them to try it. Actually, "Slammin" was the word they used. Come to think of it, they say that for everything.... And btw,....Terri.... NO this is not too many ingredients.... it's just a couple things that you probably already have on hand.
So try it!!!

3-4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into small chunks
flour for dredging
olive oil
salt and pepper
6 oz frozen orange juice concentrate (thawed, not diluted)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs soy sauce
1 onion
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated or minced
1 cup chicken broth (or water)

 In a small bowl, mix the orange juice concentrate, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce. Set aside.
Dredge the chicken pieces in flour and shake off the excess. Add a few glugs of olive oil to a skillet and lightly brown the chicken on the outside, but don't cook it all the way through. Do this in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan, adding more oil as needed. Transfer the chicken to a bowl and set aside.While the chicken is cooking, roughly chop the onion and peppers. After browning the last batch of chicken, add the onions and peppers to the pan. Saute until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a minute or two longer. Add the chicken broth (or water) to deglaze the pan. Scrape up any remaining brown bits. Add the chicken back to the pan along with the sauce mixture. Give it a good stir. Reduce heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Adjust seasoning if needed. Serve over rice.

I could only find a 12oz container of frozen concentrated orange juice, so I just used half of it. It should be about 3/4 cup. If you're not sure what to do with the rest of the concentrated juice, just store it in the freezer, or make a double batch of the recipe......and of course you can still mix it up to make orange juice. Just simply use half as much water!
I didn't add anything spicy to the dish because I prefer things mild, but Chris thought it needed a little something hot. So, if heat is your thing, go ahead and add a few chopped red chilis, or sprinkle a few red pepper flakes. Add as much as you dare!

Monday, July 9, 2012

M&M Brownies

About a million years ago, I remember my sister, Patty, making home made brownies from scratch. I specifically remember that she didn't need to use a mixer because all the ingredients were easily just stirred together with a big wooden spoon. Years later, I asked her for that recipe, but I SWEAR that the one she gave me is not the one she made so long ago. Since then, I've been trying to find one that is similar. It was just a basic brownie, rich and fudgy, not too cakey, cut into squares that were not too thick.
 Well, I think I've FINALLY found it! I saw someone post it on Pinterest from a website called and frankly I have no idea whose recipe this is. Anyway, yes, I know this one has M&Ms in it, but the basic brownie recipe is EXACTLY what I wanted!! Lots of melted butter and cocoa to make it as rich and fudgy as I remember! And the M&Ms just push it over the top. If you need to satisfy a chocolate craving THIS is the answer. They're simple and delicious and ready in no time. 
 Try 'em!

 1 1/3 cups flour  
1 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp salt 
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted 
1 cup cocoa 
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tbs pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups M&Ms candies plus more

Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, stir cocoa into melted butter. Blend in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to chocolate mixture. Stir in M&Ms. Pour batter into greased 13x9x2 inch pan. Bake 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the top with more M&Ms. Then bake for another 15 minutes.

If you use M&Ms Minis, they won't sink to the bottom of the brownies. If you only have regular M&Ms, you can still use them. Just toss them in a small bowl with a little bit of flour. Shake off the excess, then stir them into the brownie batter as directed.
Don't have any M&Ms? Stir in your favorite chips or just omit them altogether!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Berries and Cream Tart

 Every so often, I'll decide to try HALF of a recipe. Have you ever done that? No, I don't mean reducing the quantity by half. I mean only making a portion of it. In other words, I'll take just the part that I like from one recipe and put it together with part of another recipe and boom, we have a new recipe! This is exactly what I did when I decided to make a red white and blue tart to celebrate the 4th of July. I knew I wanted to do berries and cream, but I didn't want to make just a regular pie crust. I didn't want to do a graham cracker crust either. So I decided to go to Ina's Easy Lemon Tart recipe that I posted a while back and use the shortbread cookie crust. THAT's exactly what I had in mind! It's really easy to make, it's OMG good, and it goes perfectly with a summer fruit and cream topping, perfect for your next BBQ. Btw, does anyone else mix and match recipes like this?  Well, now you know one of my secrets for always coming up with something new!!! Enjoy!

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces 

1/3 cup sour cream
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh raspberries

Heat oven to 425ºF.
Grease with butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable cooking spray, an 8 - 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. 
In a large bowl, sift together the flour sugar and salt. Using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter and vanilla until it resembles coarse crumbs. Scoop up a handful and squeeze it to make sure it easily clumps together. If you have a food processor, just throw everything into the bowl and pulse it until it forms a clump. Place the pastry in the prepared tart pan and, using your fingertips, evenly press the pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. (You can use the back of a spoon or the bottom of a measuring cup to smooth the surface of the pastry.) Pierce the bottom of the crust with the tines of a fork. (This will prevent the pastry crust from puffing up while it bakes.) Cover and place the pastry crust in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill. (This will help prevent the crust from shrinking while it bakes.)
When the pastry is completely chilled, place the tart pan on a larger baking pan and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 13 - 15 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool while you make the filling.

 Beat all filling ingredients in a large bowl. Spread mixture evenly into cooled tart shell. Arrange berries on top. Chill 2 hours for easiest slicing.

It's much easier to work with the crust dough if you chill it for a while before you press it into the pan.
I like to use an 11" tart pan instead of an 8" or 9", so I increased all of the crust and filling ingredients by half.
If you're not doing a patriotic theme, use any kind of fruits you like. Ripe peeled peaches or nectarines, kiwi, pineapple, strawberries. ALL fabulous. You could even forget the fresh fruit and top it with your favorite pie filling. Cherry pie filling would be delish!