Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cheery Cherry Chicken for George Washington (and me)

Do you think he really did it? At least if he did, he fessed up after. "I can not tell a lie." Or is it just another legend to show that our upstanding first President was a little rascal in his youth? In any case, it proves to the pesky children of America, a couple of whom live under my roof, that you can recover from the naughtiness and achieve great heights of respect and admiration. Why, kiddos, you might even grow up to be President of the You-Nited States. Happy Birthday, General George. I think you'd like this chicken, sir. It might even prompt you to save a few cherry trees for future generations, if I might be so bold to say so.
Remember this recipe for Cheery Cherry Chicken that I entered in the French's Cook Off? You all were kind enough to cast votes for me so that I could make it to the finals in NYC. The time has come and I'm leaving tomorrow for the Big Apple. The Cook off is Thursday morning. I'll get Sailor to do a guest post (she'll love it!) and let you know wether I win the big $25K. I'm jjjjittery!!!! I don't actually think I'll win, I don't think so, but maybe, and you never know, and it could happen. (Nervous laughter.) I made my Cheery Cherry chicken last night to practice, and also because it really was Washington's Birthday yesterday. Fellow Americans, it really is delicious. Cross my heart -"I can not tell a lie." Now, wish me some cheery-cherry good luck!
Cheery Cherry Chicken
Estimated Cost: $5.00 for four generous servings
Notes: Sub polenta or mashed potatoes for the grits, if you like. The grits are even tastier if you use broth instead of water.
1 tbsp FRENCH'S® Classic Worcestershire Sauce
2 tbsp FRENCH'S® Honey Mustard
3/4 cup FRENCH'S® French Fried Onions
1 lb chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup cherry preserves
1 cup instant grits
2 tbsp chopped parsley
26 oz water (4 and 1/4 cups)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Sprikle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and FRENCH'S worcestershire sauce. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook for four minutes per side, or until nicely browned. In a small bowl combine FRENCH'S honey mustard, 1/4 cup water, and cherry preserves. Add to chicken in pan and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes or until sauce is warmed through and chicken is cooked through. Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in grits and 1/4 teaspoon salt; reduce heat to low and cook for 6 minutes, or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Keep grits warm Chop FRENCH's Fried onions into small pieces. In a medium bowl, combine parsley and FRENCH'S fried onions. Stir 1/2 cup mixture into grits. To serve, divide grits between each of four bowls. Cover with one chicken breast and cherry pan sauce. Sprinkle with remaining FRENCH's onion/parsley mixture, dividing evenly, and serve. Yield: 4 servings, Prep Time: 25 minutes

Next Up:
A Report from the Front Lines of the French's 2010 Cook off
PS Become a follower by clicking on the top left link. It's easy , free, painless, pleasurable and good for America.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Honey Wheat Waffles for Future Olympians

Hey, become a follower by clicking on the link on the left hand side. I promise not to lead any followers astray, but instead will tempt you with hundreds of easy, money-saving recipes. Start clicking, and don't forget to tell your grandma, hair-dresser, and dog groomer. How bout those Olympics? My eyes have been glued to the set. Collectively, the four of us have had 8 bulging eyes glued to the set. Which means, of course, that no one goes to bed before 11 at night. It's no sweat when you're, ahem, 30 something, but what about my little charges? They nod off after 11 every night, full of flying tomato gold medal dreams. These are good times to be a homeschooler. So what if they sleep in a little the next day? As long as they get their work done, they can watch Lysacek best Plushenko even on a school night. And they can wake up to a lip-smacking breakfast of honey wheat waffles, with Canadian maple syrup, bien sur.
These truly are fantastic waffles. They aren't crisp, just soft, hearty and suprisingly tender, and perfect for soaking up puddles of melted butter and syrup. Plus they're round and golden, just like that certain Olympic medal that's dancing through the wee little heads of my sleepy children. Who knows? Maybe someday it'll be my Sailor the Olympic Curler, or my West the Olympic Hockey player. Oh dear, we'd better start practicing. But first, a breakfast for champions.....

Honey Wheat Waffles
Slightly Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Estimated Cost: $3.00 for six waffles
1 and 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
7 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine flours, powder, soda and salt in large bowl. In separate bowl, combine buttermilk, honey, melted butter, eggs and vanilla. Pour over dry ingredients and whisk just until combined. Cook on preheated, greased waffle iron and serve with lots of butter and Canadian Maple Syrup.
Next Up:
Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup-with a surprise twist

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps for Chinese New Year

I can't help it. I still want to celebrate happy everything, even if I'm falling behind. So Happy Chinese New Year, everybody. My little sister, Catherine, reminded me that I hadn't ever posted my Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Peanut Sauce. How did that happen? These used to be on my weekly menu, and now that I've made them again, they're getting their starring role back. They're simple, healthful, cheap, and so addictive. I only had one little problem when I made them this week. I had no good "wrapping" lettuce. You need soft leaved lettuces, like butter, or red-leaf to make a good wrap. All I had on hand was baby spinach, so they became an open-faced lettuce wrap. And now a word about the peanut sauce: YUMMA! I'm sorry to say that I ate it huddled over the sink, right out of the pan, with a spoon. It's that good. It's thin enough that you could douse it all over your whole meal. You'll have extra, so try it on noodles with veggies tomorrow. And the main ingredient of peanut sauce, as you may have guessed is peanut butter. Jif Peanut Butter for us. So for my stream of consciousness post today, that brings me to the Jif Contest. We have to wait a little longer, until the results are posted on the website next week, to share any news about West's status. Lips are sealed until that time. But not so sealed that I can't eat lettuce wraps. With lots and lots of peanut butter.
Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Peanut Sauce
Serves 4
Estimated Cost: $8.00
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sugar (or honey)
1 Tbsp garlic
1 Tbsp grated ginger or ginger powder
1 lb. boneless, skinless, chicken breats
Place chicken in marinade for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. Cook chicken by grilling, broiling, or pan frying. I've used all three methods with great success. Slice into bite sized pieces.
Prepare Peanut Sauce:
1 can of chicken broth
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/3 cup peanut butter... JIF for us
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Simmer broth, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil for two minutes then add peanut butter, chili garlic sauce and brown sugar. Sauce will be very thin. You can also use it as a salad dressing.
Have cooked and ready:
Rice (I like jasmine, but white or brown or fine, too)
Have ready:
sliced radishes, sliced cucumber, grated carrots, red or green onion sliced, chicken, peanut sauce, peanuts
Place ingredients inside soft lettuce leaves, or serve over spinach, salad style.
Up Next:
Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

All Occasion Chocolate Chip Cookies

You know how you can walk into Baskin and Robbins with a kid to get an ice cream cone, and they just can't seem to make up their mind? They get a pink-spooned sample of every flavor, and then they stare through the glass cases and shrug their shoulders. Finally, you shout, "OK-That's it, bucko! Chocolate or vanilla!" And then they quickly make up their mind and settle in to their sugary cone.
Well, that's how I'm feeling today. I'm in the land of too many choices, only it's not ice cream; it's holidays. I can't decide what to celebrate, and for me that means I don't know what to eat, either. We had President's Weekend competing with Valentine's Day. Today is Mardi Gras too, right? We skimmed right over Ground Hogs Day-since that was also a family birthday. And wait, Chinese New Year began on Sunday, too. Not to mention the Olympics, right on the heels of Super Bowl Sunday, I might add. Should I make one merry feast to celebrate them all? Hmm, let's see. We could have some Egg Foo Yung (Chinese New Year), with a side of Canadian Bacon (for the Olympics), a bowl full of gumbo (Mardi Gras), and finish it off with a Cherry Pie for Washington's Birthday. Except I get a World War III stomach ache just thinking about about it.
So why not just make a batch of chocolate chip cookies and celebrate everything all at once? Because I forgot to mention that in addition to all of the aforementioned holidays, today is also Tuesdays with Dorie, my weekly online baking club. And we're baking Greenspan's very favorite bumpy and chewy chocolate chip cookie. You can never ever go wrong with this American culinary treasure. Everyone within reach of the cookie jar will be happy. Chocolate or vanilla, bucko? Both. That was easy.
Click here for the recipe.
Next Up:
Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Peanut Sauce
PS I should find out today if West made it to NYC for the Jif Cook Off. I'll keep you posted. Thanks again for your stunning show of support.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Red and White Pasta for Valentine's Day

Pasta...za food uv love.
Are you ready for Valentine's Day? Yep, the charges have Star Wars and Disney Princess Valentines and Fun Dips to pass out. I've got some Reese's Peanut Butter Hearts up my sleeve, too. One more stop at Barnes and Noble, and that should take care of the Quiet Man. And I know what I'm making for dinner: an oh-so-easy and delicious pasta dinner.
The credit for this recipe goes to my sister Leslie, who loves to tinker around with recipes until she gets them just perfect-o. Then she makes them over and over and over again until she finds something else that she loves, and she moves on and starts again. I'm glad she landed on this pasta, because she made me love it too. It's so easy to make, and I'll bet you have just about everything you need already. The marinara is straight from the pantry, but you could swap in some fresh ingredients, if so inclined. I use fresh garlic when I make this sauce, just because I love that fresh, pungent taste. Doesn't that sound like it would make romantic garlic breath for Valentine's Day smooching? The Quiet Man likes his garlic too, and we brought up the charges with garlic in their baby bottles, so we can have a big fat garlic-y family love fest and no one will mind. Round out the menu with a green salad, lots of crusty bread, and definitely something chocolatey for dessert.
If you need a Valentine's movie to go with your Italian dinner, may I recommend Moonstruck? Please tell me you've seen it, or I'm sending you directly to Blockbuster video.
Look at Nicholas Cage. He's so young and nubile and angry, with a full head of hair, too. "I bake bread, bread, bread!"
And here's Cher with Olympia Dukakis. Cher's life is "going down the toilet" because her mom just caught her with a love bite on her neck from Nicholas Cage. Please tell me you already love Moonstruck.
And be sure to put on Lady and the Tramp for the kids, so they can croon "Bella Notte" while they slurp up spaghetti. Happy Valentine's Day to everybody! With any luck, I'll be back with one more breakfast recipe.
Notes: I almost rewrote this recipe in my regular format, but then I decided that I like it just the way it is. It reads like your best friend is giving you a casual recipe over the phone.
Estimated Cost: $10.00 for 6 generous servings
2 TBSP. olive oil
2 TBSP. butter
Heat this in a large pot and don't let it burn.
Place 4 - 14. 0z. cans of undrained Hunt's, garlic, basil and oregano diced tomatoes in the blender.Add this to the olive oil and butter.
Add 2 tsp. garlic powder, 2 tsp. oregano, 2 tsp. basil, 2 tsp. crushed red pepper (use less if you don't like it super-spicy), and 2 TBSP. sugar
Heat it all up and let it simmer.
Make sure you have good bread on hand so you can dip your bread in the marinara and eat that while you finish the rest of the recipe because it's that good.
Boil a box of penne.
Bechamel Sauce
Add 5 TBSP. butter, and 4 TBSP. flour to a saucepan.
Add 4 C. of whipping cream (Prudy here-I used only 1 cup of whipping cream, and a combo of evaporated milk and low fat milk. I'm sure it's better with cream, but I don't need to find that out.) because it is so much better than half and half or milk, but you can use those too if you don't want to get bigger. Let that cook, and watch it carefully as it thickens. Add 1 tsp. salt and a dash or two of nutmeg.That's it. It's so easy and so delicious. You don't even have to bake it.Place penne on a plate, cover with marinara, pour the bechamel sauce on top, and sprinkle with parmesan.I love it, eat it twice a week, and hope you'll love it, too.
Next Up:
Waffles for your Valentine's Breakfast (I'm still deciding between good-for-you Honey Wheat Waffles, or bad-for-you Chocolate Waffles)
PS Two days left to vote for West's More Rockin Moroccan Peanutty Pitas. I'm so glad my career as peppy voter -promoter is almost over. Remind me to never run for office.

Bittersweet Brownies for your Valentine

Post Edit:
My friend Stephanie called this morning from Vegas to tell me they were talking about the Jif contest on a radio morning show. I quickly dialed in and they put poor, shy West on the air. He's even timid on the telephone, in his pajamas before breakfast. Hey- he didn't have a heart attack and maybe he'll even get a few more votes! Thanks Stephanie!
Two brownies diverged in Dorie's cookbook,
And sorry I was that I could not make them both.
I chose the wrong one,
And that has made all the difference.

Maybe it's not quite as poetic as Frost, but it's true. This week's assignment for my weekly baking club was for "Brownie's for Julia." But unfortunately, it sat plainfaced in the cookbook, side by side with another brownie recipe: "Bittersweet Brownies." I didn't realize I was making the wrong recipe until they were already in the oven. (It didn't help that the ingredient list was practically identical.) And when they came out of the oven, I was overjoyed at my error. I'm a picky, picky brownie biter. They have to be fudgy, rich, chocolatey, without being too gooey, or cakey, or sweet. I've made dozens of brownie recipes over the years, and I only like a handful, and there are even fewer that I can say that I love.
This is my new number two go-to brownie. (Here's the link for my number one.) Dense, without being gooey. Sweet, without being cloying. Chocolatey, without being bitter.
I made them on Sunday night.... then I woke up and made them on Monday morning again. And that alone is evidence of their endearing and addictive nature. I think I'm in love. And isn't that what Valentine's Day is all about?

Money Saving tips: I used Baker's chocolate (in the red box) with great results here. Since the recipe calls for 4 and 1/2 ounces of chocolate, I used four squares of Bakers and a generous tablespoon of chocolate chips. You can use a pricier chocolate, if you are so inclined, but you don't need to! When Baker's goes on sale for $1 a box, I load up my cart with bittersweet, unsweetened, and white chocolate for baking.
Bittersweet Brownies
Slightly adapted from Dorie Greenspan
Estimated Cost: $3.00 for 12 brownies
1 stick butter
4 and 1/2 ounces bittersweet (or semi-sweet) chocolate, NOT UNSWEETENED
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspon salt
1/2 cup flour, plus 1 tablespoon, divided use
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with foil. Butter foil and set aside. In a medium microwaveable bowl, melt butter and chocolate, stirring often. Mix in sugar. Add eggs and mix well, until combined. Add vanilla and salt. Stir in 1/2 flour. In a small bowl, combine chocolate chips and remaining 1 tablespoon flour; fold gently into batter. Pour into prepared foil-lined baking pan. Bake for 30-33 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean, but with fudgy crumbs. Let cool completely before removing foil and slicing, or using a cookie-cutter.
Next Up:
My sister Leslie's Red and White Pasta for Valentine's Day
PS Four more days to vote for West's More Rockin' Moroccan Peanutty Pitas. The contest ends Friday, so help us get West that $25,000 scholarship and a chance to compete in the NYC cook-off.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cast Iron Skillet Bacon CheeseBurgers with Smoky Orange Onions

Post Edit:
My sister MK called me after the Super Bowl to tell me that these were the best burgers she's ever eaten. That means a heckuva lot coming from MK, since she used to eat just about a burger a day all through high school. Thanks for your testimonial, MK.
Oh, hooray-it's Friday! It's so easy to be cheerful on Fridays, with all of the breezy, wide-open potential for the weekend. I'm feeling especially jocular (love that word) today because I've got a brand new novel from one of my favorite authors waiting for me. My sister Leslie was kind enough to send me a copy, since I was fourth in line on the waiting list at the library. Do you read Anne Tyler? I don't read-I swallow. Then I reread deliberately and chew slowly in tiny, purposeful nibbles.
And besides a superbly written (no doubt with Anne Tyler), crisp, new novel waiting for me, this weekend promises other enticements. The Super Bowl! Not the game itself, but the fun and yummy foods that taste like victory. I've got a burger to share that's sure to score a taste-bud touchdown. Here's what you do: Get out your cast iron skillet and fry up some bacon. (A well seasoned skillet gives the food a deeper, more complex flavor-but a frying pan will work just as well, if it's all you've got.) Leave behind a slick of smoky grease and cook up your burgers, then smother them with a scattering of smoky orange onions. Those onions! Sweet, smoky, and tart-you could eat them right out of the pan, but they'll make your burger bliss. A game, a book, a burger, a Friday. What could be better?
Money Saving Tips:
You can use the cheaper selections of ground beef here, as long as you buy it fresh. Don't freeze it before using for the best burger. Look for meat that is cheery red in color, with no signs of graying. Just a couple of slices of bacon are needed to impart the smoky flavor to the burger.
Cast Iron Skillet Bacon Cheeseburgers with Smoky Orange Onions
Estimated Cost: $10.00 for four
8 slices bacon
1 and 1/4 lb. ground beef-not too lean
1 teaspoon garlic salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
4 buns, lightly toasted
fresh spinach leaves, for serving
sliced tomatoes, for serving
In a cast iron skillet, fry bacon until crisp. Remove to paper towel to drain. Discard all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine beef, garlic salt, pepper and worcestershire sauce. Form four patties. Fry patties in same skillet with bacon grease. Cook until no longer pink in center, about 5 minutes per side. Add cheese slices to patties for final minutes of cooking. While burgers cook, in a separate pan, cook onions over high heat in oil, until softened and beginning to brown in places. Add orange juice, brown sugar, vinegar, and liquid smoke. Cook until thick and syruppy, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. To assemble, place spinach, tomato, burger, bacon and onions on buns. You know what to do!
Make a pile of these, if you've got time.
Next Up:
Brownies for Julia
Don't forget to keep voting for West. We're down to the wire here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Milk Chocolate Baby Cakes

Oh, Baby...

I'm a day late, more than a dollar short, but all sins are forgiveable when chocolate is involved.
There's something extra virtuous about itty-bittyness, which might explain the current cupcake craze. These aren't cupcakes, though. They're tiny little bundt cakes, sweet and light and dripping with a milk chocolate ganache. With their shiny brown coating, with just a stitch or two of white from a powdered sugar sprinkle, they look almost like a football. And speaking of football, wouldn't you like to polish off a couple of these while you watch the game this Sunday? Me, too. Actually, me three or four. Click here for the recipe. (The recipe isn't up yet-if it isn't posted by this evening, I'll type it up right here.)
Next Up:
Cast Iron Skillet Burgers with Smoky Orange Onions
PS West had his seventh birthday this week. Help him celebrate by sending him to New York to compete in the Jif Cook-Off. Head over and vote for his More Morrocan Morrocan Peanutty Pitas. Just ten days left, so please be sure to vote every day.

Monday, February 1, 2010

5 Super Supper Ideas for the Super Bowl

All right, you Super Bowl Fans. (And non football fans, like me, who just happen to be fans of Super Bowl foods.) What are we having for dinner this Sunday? What will fill the plate that teeters on your lap while you watch the game? Chili? Burgers? Pizza? Wings? Dips and Chips? All of the Above? Inspire me with your brilliance, in the form of a comment.

I'm leaning heavily towards a juicy cast iron skillet beef burger, with piles of smoky orange onions, and gimme a side of salty fries. Come on back for the recipe and for goodness sake, leave me a comment and let me know what you're having for dinner.

PS Keep on voting for my little West's More Rockin Moroccan Peanutty Pitas...just twelve more days to help him win a $25,000 scholarship. Think how many gray hairs that could save me.