Monday, July 28, 2014

Joey's Hawaiian Chicken

I recently invited a few friends for dinner, but wasn't really in the mood for a huge project in the kitchen. I just wanted something that was quick and easy, but still deliciously comforting and satisfying. Based on a few of the ingredients I already had on hand, I Googled a few recipes, made a few changes and here we are!
 I must say this recipe FAR exceeded my expectations. It turned out perfectly! Just the right amount of sweet and savory and garlic and soy sauce and colorful vegetables. And it was ready in a snap!!!
 It doesn't happen all the time, but this one was perfect right on the first try. It's just the thing for a warm summer day when you don't feel like turning on the oven. You should definitely try this one!!

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
flour for dredging 
salt and pepper
a few glugs of peanut oil (or other nut oil, or regular vegetable oil)
1 (20-oz) can pineapple chunks in pineapple juice 
2 tbs soy sauce 
2 tbs honey 
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tsp fresh ginger,grated
2 tsp fresh garlic, minced 
pinch crushed red pepper flakes 
drizzle of toasted sesame oil
1 bunch of broccoli, cut into florets 
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
2 tbs corn starch
2 tbs water
Scallions and sesame seeds to garnish, optional

  Place flour in a bowl with a little salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in seasoned flour until lightly coated. Shake off excess. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium high heat. Working in batches, add chicken to the skillet. Cook until slightly browned on all sides, but not cooked all the way through. Remove to a plate.
In the meantime, combine pineapple chunks and juice, soy sauce, honey, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, pepper flakes, and sesame oil in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Add pepper slices and broccoli florets to the skillet and stir fry until crisp tender. Add pineapple mixture and chicken to the pan and turn to high heat. Give everything a good stir and bring it to a boil.
 Combine corn starch and cold water in a small bowl. Pour over chicken mixture in skillet. Toss everything to combine and cook until the sauce thickens to syrup-like consistency. Serve over rice. Sprinkle with chopped scallions and sesame seeds over top, if desired. 
I served this over Jasmine rice, but you can choose any favorite rice. For extra flavorful rice, cook it with chicken broth instead of water! 
I think next time I make this, maybe I'll add some sugar snap peas. Just sayin!
If you're cooking for guests, get a head start before your guests arrive: Yes, partially cook the chicken as directed, but also do the same by steaming the vegetables for a bit, and also mixing the sauce ingredients. Just have everything at the ready until your guests arrive. Then you can just throw everything into a hot wok. By the time the sauce thickens, the chicken and veggies will be perfectly cooked!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mini Corn Dog Muffins

Here's an easy app to make for your next party. I made them for Jim and Bridgette's party and they were a big hit! They kind of make you say "Now, why didn't I think of that?" I showed them to Kelli and her response was "Genius!!"
 Actually, their brilliance is in their simplicity. You just mix up some corn muffins and add a hot dog to the center, then bake, sort of like a different riff on pigs in a blanket. Fun, huh? Perfect for a summer party!!!  You should make them.  Like, today. Great then.

1 pkg.  (8-1/2 oz.) corn muffin mix
5 hot dogs, each cut into 5 pieces

mustard, for dipping

Heat oven to 375ºF.
Prepare muffin batter as directed on package.
Spoon into 24 mini muffin pan cups sprayed with baking spray.
Place 1 hot dog slice into batter in center of each muffin cup.
Bake 10 to 12 min. or until golden brown.
Cool 5 min. before removing from pans. Serve warm with mustard, etc.

I doubled the entire recipe. A, they won't last long, so it's better to make extra. And B, doubling the recipe uses up the entire package of 10 hot dogs. I like it better when things come out even. Well, almost even. (You'll have 2 extra pieces of hot dog if you cut each one into 5 pieces. Extra bonus for the cook!)
Be sure to spray the muffin pans REALLY well with flour baking spray so they'll easily come out of the pan. You can also grease and flour the pans, but spraying is just so much easier.
This recipe originally had a little cube of Velveeta cheese added to the center of the muffin along with the hot dog. Sounds fabulous to me! You may need to make your hot dogs slightly smaller, though, to fit everything in the center of the muffin.
 To vary the dipping sauce, add pickle relish to ketchup or mustard. I just did plain mustard and ketchup in little bowls placed in the center of the dish. You could even do BBQ sauce. Yum.
Try adding some finely diced jalapenos to the corn muffin batter, just for a little spicy poke!
Yes, of course you can make your corn muffin batter from scratch, but the mix was so easy and I was short on ingredients and time. This was clearly the answer!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fresh Berries and Chicken Summer Salad

  Have you noticed that strawberries and grilled chicken seem to be the salad stars of the summer lately? Everywhere you go, from chain restaurants to fast foods, you seem to see a salad on the menu with grilled chicken and strawberries. I've always been a big fan of of sweet/savory dishes, so this one is right up my alley. So I decided to take this seasonal trend and go a little further with it. Strawberries, yes, but how about some blueberries too? Grape tomatoes, absolutely. And how about some avocado? LOVE 'em.
 So here's my version of this summer's salad. There's really no science to it at all, and there's really no recipe. It's just a salad, I know, but I seem to keep coming back to this combination of ingredients. Just toss everything together! It always hits all the right notes! The sweet from the berries, the richness from the avocado and cheese, the freshness from the tomatoes and lettuce. I just love it! Add as much or as little of each ingredient as you like. Try it!  I know you'll like it!

For the salad:
grilled boneless chicken
grape tomatoes
cubed American cheese
strawberries, halved or quartered
avocado, sliced
romaine lettuce (or other favorite salad greens)

For the dressing:
red wine or apple cider vinegar
a little honey or sugar (Splenda works too if you're counting carbs)
a tbs Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

 I like to place the dressing ingredients in a mason jar and just shake until well combined. To continue with the berry theme, try using raspberry or blueberry vinegar. Delish! Balsamic vinegar also pairs famously with strawberries. You should definitely try it.
 Not a fan or strawberries or blueberries? Add whatever kind of fruit you like! Peaches? Mangoes? Pineapples? Go for it.
  The chicken can be served warm or chilled, so I like to grill a lot of it and then keep the extra in the fridge so it'll be already ready already for the next salad. Then it's a snap to just throw everything together!
When you make the dressing, taste it on a piece of lettuce. You'll get a better idea of whether or not it needs more of this or that, instead of just tasting it on a spoon.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Fresh Sweet Cherry Crumble Pie

Ok, so, I recently had the gang over for dinner. Usually we have some kind of theme, and this theme was going to be Southern BBQ comfort food. I had the whole menu planned: Oven BBQ Chicken, Bacon Collard Greens, Potato and Onion Bundles, Baked Bean Casserole, with Sweet Tea, of course, and a deliciously easy Eclair Cake for dessert. Sounds good, right? So the next step was to make grocery lists and do the shopping.
 As I was walking through the produce section of the grocery store, I noticed there were TONS of fabulous gorgeous beautifully ripe fresh cherries. I thought "ooo they look good, better get some in case I need an extra dessert." I had no idea what I'd be making or if I'd even have time, but I bought them anyway.
 After I finished cooking and prepping everything, I found myself with a bunch of extra time, (which is NOT the norm, btw), so I started looking for something to do with the cherries. Since we were doing a southern theme, I knew it had to be a pie. And this was the result! It's just a basic pie, but OMG it was so good! It was sweet and juicy and absolutely amazing. The only thing that would make this pie any better would be a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. So the moral of the story is if you see fresh produce that looks particularly good, definitely buy it!!! 

 One crust pie, (either purchased or your own)

5-6 cups sweet cherries, fresh and pitted (or frozen)
1/2 brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 tbs cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt

Crumble topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
4 tbs cold butter

Preheat oven to 350F.
Roll out pie dough and fit crust to a 9-inch pie plate. Flute (crimp) the dough to make a decorative edge. set aside.
In a large bowl, combine cherries (do not defrost if using frozen) with 1/2 cup brown sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon, cornstarch, and 1/8 tsp salt. Stir gently with a spatula to combine.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup all purpose flour, remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, oats, and remaining 1/8 tsp salt. Cut butter into small pieces and rub into flour mixture until butter is well-incorporated and mixture resembles wet sand.
Pour cherry mixture into prepared crust. Top evenly with crumble topping.
Bake for 70-75 minutes, until the pie is well browned and the filling is bubbling. Allow pie to cool completely before slicing.

 If you're using fresh cherries, you simply MUST purchase a cherry pitter. It's absolutely essential! I'm all for using fresh fruit over frozen, but if you don't have a cherry pitter, just go with the frozen or choose another kind of fruit. You should really buy one, though. Looks like a big ear piercer! hee hee
 If you're using sour cherries, you can bump up the sugar a little. Best thing to do is taste one of the cherries after you've tossed them with the other filling ingredients. If everything is balanced, you're good to go.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dijon Potato Salad

 Here's a quick and easy alternative to your regular mayonnaise based potato salad. Not that there's anything wrong with regular potato salad (which I LOVE, btw), but sometimes you might go for something a little different, no? Something with a little sharper flavor, perhaps? How about mustard instead of mayo? This recipe (from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food) is basically just a simple mustard vinaigrette tossed with some steamed potatoes. Easy! And the freshness that you get from the chopped parsley makes this the perfect side dish. Chris and Claire loved it when I made it for them. I think you'll love it too! Sometimes the simplest things are the best, dontcha think?

1 1/2 pounds red new potatoes, scrubbed and halved (quartered if large)
1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Place a steamer basket in a saucepan filled with 1 inch water. Bring to a gentle boil. Add potatoes. Cover, and cook just until tender, 15 to 20 minutes, tossing occasionally.
In a serving bowl, combine vinegar and Dijon; season with salt and pepper. Add hot cooked potatoes; toss. Let cool, tossing occasionally.
Add oil and parsley to cooled potato mixture. Season with salt and pepper, and toss.

I added a tiny bit of honey to the mustard just before tossing it with the potatoes. It's not enough to make it sweet, in fact you barely notice it's there. It's just so the mustard and the vinegar aren't too harsh. Oh, and be sure to toss the dressing on the potatoes while they're still hot so that the flavor really sinks in.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Low and Slow Oven BBQ Chicken

If you're looking for a BBQ chicken recipe that's a snap to cook and is quick to throw together for a midweek dinner, this is absolutely NOT the recipe you're looking for. This one is the do ahead recipe, the one that you cook for HOURS until it is so tender it just falls apart!
  I recently made this for the gang and everyone loved it! Actually, I'm not surprised. I've always been a huge fan of cooking low and slow, whether I'm braising a pot roast or using a crock pot. This recipe falls right into that category. It's absolutely some of the best BBQ chicken I've ever cooked! Not even kidding. Yes, it takes a little extra planning and patience, but it's ABSOLUTELY worth it!

2-1/2 cups barbecue sauce
3 Tbsp. grill seasoning
2 Tbsp. spicy mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 lbs. (bone-in, skin on) chicken pieces (breasts, legs, thighs)

 Whisk together 2 cups of the barbecue sauce, the grill seasoning, mustard and apple cider vinegar. Place chicken in a large, heavy plastic or glass bowl. Pour barbecue sauce mixture over chicken, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate 6-8 hours.
 Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Place chicken pieces in a large pan. Cover with foil, and bake 3 hours. Uncover. Brush with reserved barbecue sauce. Bake an additional 30-60 minutes.

Even if you just use plain BBQ sauce (without the mustard, spices, and vinegar) and cook it as directed, it'll still be amazing. It's all about the cooking method!
 Use whatever kind of BBQ sauce you like, or make your own! It all works.
If you don't have 6-8 hours to marinate the chicken, just let it go for as long as your time allows. Even marinating for 30-60 minutes will make your chicken more flavorful!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer Squash Sauté

 Ok, so, I was in the mood to make something summery and seasonal and light and quick and easy and fresh. Naturally, the first thing I did was go to the produce market to see what looked good. The zucchini and yellow squash looked SO vibrant and fresh, I decided that this was clearly the way to go. I did a few Google searches, added a few other key ingredients, and landed on this recipe. Now, I have to say, when I told Claire I was gonna make summer squash with sun dried tomatoes, she said that she wasn't really a fan of zucchini. But when she tasted it in this recipe, she loved it! I told her "Basically, you can cook anything in olive oil with garlic, basil, and sun dried tomatoes, and it's gonna be amazing!" I'm sticking by it. My point is even if you're not a fan of summer squash, you should definitely try this recipe. Have I ever lied to you before??? Just ask Claire! It's REALLY delicious!

3 or 4 small zucchini 
3 or 4 small yellow squash
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt; more to taste  
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 
2 or 3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled  
1 whole jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and sliced
6-10 fresh basil leaves, sliced into thin ribbons
Freshly ground black pepper

  Wash the zucchini well to remove any grit and dry them with paper towels. Trim off the ends and quarter the zucchini and squash lengthwise. Slice off the top 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the soft seed core by running a sharp knife down the length of each quarter; it’s all right if some of the seeds remain. Arrange the zucchini and squash, cut side up, on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with the salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Blot the quarters dry with the paper towels. Cut each quarter on the diagonal into 3/4-inch-thick diamonds.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Pour in 2 Tbs. of the oil. When the oil is hot, add the zucchini and squash, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until it browns and softens enough that you can cut through it with the side of a fork, about 5 min. Add the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Saute for a minute or two longer. Remove from heat. Add basil and season generously with salt and pepper.

If you don't mind the seeds in the center of the squash and the zucchini, you can just go ahead and slice them up instead of removing the centers.