Sunday, May 28, 2017

Joey's Mashed Potato Salad

  This is a super easy feed-a-crowd dish that is so delicious, I feel like I should be asking.. Why didn't we invent this sooner? Basically, if mashed potatoes and potato salad had a baby, it would be this dish. Cool, huh? It has a lot of the usual potato salad ingredients, only you stir them into mashed potatoes instead of tossing them with diced. You get the fluffiness of the mash with the flavors of the salad. Brilliant! Also, I think it's a little lighter than regular potato salad because you use half sour cream and half mayonnaise, instead of using all mayonnaise. It's absolutely a much better trade, and it makes it nice and creamy too. You could even do Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, if you like.
 As I was searching for the right variation of this recipe, I discovered many that are all pretty similar, much like a regular potato salad recipe. This is my version, but definitely tweak it as much as you like. I promise it'll be a new favorite! Again, I ask you.. why didn't we invent this sooner?!?

5 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
6 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1/2 cup sweet pickles, (can also use dill), finely chopped
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3 tbs brown mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

 Peel potatoes and cut into large chunks. Rinse well with cold water and drain well. Place in a pot and cover with cold water. Add a handful of salt. Boil them in the salted water until they are fork tender but not mushy. Drain the potatoes and let them cool completely.  Mash or rice the potatoes and place in a large mixing bowl. Add chopped eggs, celery, scallions, and pickles. Add mayonnaise, sour cream, and mustard. Season to taste. Stir to combine. Chill until ready to serve.

You can absolutely go in any direction with this. Add diced red and/or green bell pepper. Add crisped and crumbled bacon. You could even add a little splash of vinegar, any kind you like, just to brighten everything up a bit.
The amounts are just guidelines. Add as much or as little of each thing as you like. Add more scallions. Add less celery. To be honest, I was tempted to add more chopped pickles. Maybe I'l do that next time. You do you!
You can use a different kind of potato, but I find that the Yukon Golds are the best ones for mashing!
Oh, and just one other note, I always use a potato ricer instead of using a hand masher to mash them. They tend to be a little fluffier that way, otherwise they may turn out a little like spackle. Rinsing and draining them also helps you to that end because it gets rid of a lot of the extra starch in the potatoes. Just sayin!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Orange Chicken

 Let me just start by saying that I have no idea where I got this recipe. I've seen it on several sites, and I honestly have no idea who should get the credit for it. At first, I saw it labeled as 3-ingredient orange chicken. But the thing is, there are more than three ingredients! So I decided to just call it orange chicken. Fair enough?
 And OMG wait'll you taste it. It's REALLY delicious. You know how take-out sesame chicken has that sort of sweet and sticky thing going on? This has pretty much the same kinda vibe, only it's more tangy, and has that yummy hit of orange. Also the soy sauce and chopped scallions help to balance all of the sweet. The first time I made it, I couldn't stop eating it. And when my friend AJ helped me test it, he had that MMMMM expression on his face from the very first bite. You could even just make the sauce and use it as you would regular BBQ sauce when cooking different kinds of meat on the grill. It's just that good. Definitely give this one a try! So thank you, mystery person, for coming up with it in the first place! It's now one of my new favorites recipes!

1 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s or other favorite BBQ sauce
1 cup sweet orange marmalade
2 tbs soy sauce
3 to 4 chicken breasts
1 cup flour or cornstarch, (can use both or either/or)
2 eggs
Oil for frying
1/4 cup chopped scallions
cooked rice

 In a small bowl, mix the BBQ sauce, marmalade, and soy sauce. Set aside.
Cut up the chicken breasts into cubes and place in a large bowl. Add beaten eggs to coat chicken pieces. Place flour and/or cornstarch in another bowl. Dip pieces of egg-coated chicken in flour/cornstarch, tossing to completely coat.
In a large saute pan, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Over medium high heat, cook the chicken in batches, just until slightly browned on the outside, but not all the way cooked through. After you remove your last batch of chicken from the pan, pour the sauce in, being sure to scrape up any browned bits. Add the chicken back to the pan and toss to coat. Reduce heat and then simmer for 5 minutes, just until the chicken is finished cooking through. Top with chopped scallions. Serve over rice.

Usually, if I'm using purchased orange marmalade, it comes in a 12oz jar. So I usually just increase the whole sauce recipe by half, which uses the entire jar. (1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce, 1 1/2 cups marmalade, 3 tbs soy sauce).
Be sure to serve with the chopped scallions on top. They're more than just a garnish! That little hit of mild onion flavor is key!
If you'd like to use the sauce on its own, (it's great on pulled pork or grilled chicken!) place the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and then simmer over low-medium heat for 10-15 minutes, just to blend the flavors and mellow out the sharp bite of the orange peel.
For extra delicious rice, saute a small chopped onion in a little oil, then add dry rice. Toss to coat. Add twice as much chicken broth as rice (instead of plain water). Reduce heat, and cook until broth is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes.
For an extra spicy hit, add a few crushed red pepper flakes to your sauce!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Slow Cooker Chicken and Biscuits

 This is a tweaked version of a recipe I saw in a Tasty Video. I've always felt that recipes are often just guidelines and you should adjust your cooking to suit your own taste. It's basically the same thing I always say about the way my Mom always cooked. If you like a lot of something, add a lot! If you like a lot of carrots, then add a lot of carrots! This rule is especially true when you're cooking soups and stews. It's not like baking, where you have a bit of science involved. So that's what I did with this recipe. Perhaps when YOU make this recipe, you'll swap out different veggies, or use a different kind of cream soup, or you'll leave out the biscuits and serve the whole stew over a big pile of mashed potatoes or even rice. Make how YOU like and you'll come back to the recipe again and again. That's how recipes stand the test of time!! Oh, and don't forget to let me know if you make any changes.
I'd love to hear about it!

4 boneless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, diced
2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups carrots, diced (or a 1lb bag of baby carrots)
2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 10oz pkg frozen peas
1 can refrigerated biscuits

Cut the chicken into small pieces. Place the chicken in a 7-quart slow cooker. Sprinkle on salt and pepper. Add the veggies, condensed soup, and poultry seasoning, and mix thoroughly. Cook on high for 3 hours. Cut each biscuit into quarters, and drop evenly over chicken. Cook an additional hour.

Be sure you use boneless thighs instead of breasts. Tbh, I don't often do slow cooker recipes involving chicken (especially boneless breasts) because they just don't need that much time to cook and they wind up coming out dry and over cooked. Boneless thighs, however, are a much better choice because they stay juicier longer.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Indian Kidney Bean Stew

 A while back, I saw Bal Arneson making this recipe on her show "Spice Goddess", and I thought "ooooo I need to try that." And then I promptly forgot all about it. Cut to several months later, I happened to turn her show on again, and I saw the same episode. I thought "OH! There's that recipe I never tried!" And now that I've built up my collection of Indian spices, I finally have all the ingredients on hand to make it! Perfect!
 It's spicy and warm, it has a couple sweet elements, it's comforting and aromatic and flavorful, and it all blends PERFECTLY! It's really easy too! If you like Indian flavors, you MUST try this. Serve it up in big bowls as is, or serve it over rice as I did. (Yes, yes, I know this stew already has potatoes in it so it should be served in a bowl, but I served it over rice anyway!) Either way, it's absolutely delicious. I'm so glad I finally gave it a try. You should too!

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or vegetable oil)
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh garlic
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds*
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tamarind pulp*
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups diced sweet potato
1 cup water
1 (14-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 small seedless oranges, peeled and cubed

 *Can be found at specialty Asian and Indian markets!

 Place the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the bay leaves, cumin seeds, garam masala, fenugreek seeds, oregano, rosemary, and turmeric, and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add the tamarind pulp, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
Add the kidney beans and oranges and cook for 2 minutes to heat through. Turn the heat off, cover with a lid and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and serve.

Before you start  cooking, make sure you have all of your spices measured into a small bowl and ready to go. You don't want one spice to burn in the pan while you're searching your spice rack for the next one! 
There are A LOT of very strong flavors here. The spices bring quite a lot of flavor to the party. So it's nice to have the sweet potatoes and oranges to help balance everything out. Definitely be sure to include them!
 When I bought the tamarind, it was a solid block. So I soaked it in some warm water for a while, just to soften it, used my fingers to separate it and smash it up a bit, then strained it and pushed the pulp through a sieve. If you can't find tamarind, just use mango or peach puree.
 Instead of cooking the sweet potatoes in the stew, I roasted them on a sheet pan in the oven until they were just about cooked through, and then added them to the stew at the last minute. I think it helps to keep the them from becoming too mushy. Then you can just simmer them in the stew until they're done. Oh, and be sure to be gentle when you stir everything together!
 If you don't like kidney beans, you can substitute chickpeas or any other kind of bean. Just be sure to drain and rinse them, just as with the kidney beans. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Cream Cheese Brownies

 One of my favorite people on the planet is my friend, Anthony. I'm thoroughly convinced that he is the most positive person in the history of the world. If you ask "How are you?" He'll say "Never had a bad day in my life!" If you ask "Can you do that? He'll say "I can do anything!" I'm not even kidding. He's always challenging himself, and his glass is ALWAYS half full, if you know what I mean. Fun fact, in my phone, I have a note labeled "Anthony Quotes", and if ever I'm feeling a little down, I read them. (hmm... come to think of it, I can't remember if I've ever told him this. Well, I guess he knows now lol) He truly inspires me on a daily basis.
 So, of course, since he does so much for me, I decided to do something for him, for a change. His birthday was approaching, so I asked him what his favorite kind of cake is. He said he's not much of a cake guy. (I seriously don't understand this. But he's Superman, so I guess I'm not surprised that he eats healthy too) So I said "well, EVERYONE needs to have a treat on his birthday, so what is your favorite treat?" He said "How about cream cheese brownies?" Perfect! (especially, since I happened to have all the ingredients on hand.) Side note... he was surprised that I happened to have everything on hand, even the cream cheese. Is that an odd ingredient to just happen to have?? So I whipped up a batch, and they were a big hit! I'm so glad he liked them. They're very rich and chocolatey, and they're the perfect thing for a birthday treat for the world's most positive person.
So, Happy Birthday, Mr Man. Thank you for all that you do, and for always inspiring me. Hope you enjoyed your birthday treat!!

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for pan
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces cream cheese, room-temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-inch square baking pan with butter. Line bottom and two sides with a strip of parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the two sides. Butter paper, and set pan aside.
In a small bowl, whisk 1 cup flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
Place 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter and chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes; remove bowl from pan. Add 1 1/4 cups sugar; mix to combine. Add 3 eggs, and mix to combine. Add flour and cocoa mixture; mix just until moistened (do not overmix).
Prepare cream-cheese mixture: Whisk cream cheese with 2 tablespoons room-temperature butter. Whisk in 1/4 cup sugar, 1 egg, and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour. Alternately spoon chocolate batter and cream-cheese mixture into pan; with the tip of a paring knife, swirl to marble.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan for 30 minutes. Using paper overhang, lift brownies out of pan; transfer to a rack to cool completely (still on paper). On a cutting board, using a dampened serrated knife, cut into 16 squares.

I know the recipe says to bake for 50-60 minutes, but that just seemed too long to me. I decided to check it at 40 minutes, and they were already quite done. This is a Martha Stewart recipe, so you'd think it would be spot on, but that's not how it went for me. Honestly, I don't like the cream cheese part to be so brown, so I think next time I'll check it at 35!