Everyday recipes, life and craziness from Jen's house.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Don't Worry, Eat Chicken Curry

I received a Christmas card from my Aunt Helen this year.  Inside the card, she wrote, "Don't worry, eat curry."  It made me laugh quite a bit.  Every time I use curry in the kitchen, I think, "Don't worry, eat curry."  And it makes me laugh.  So, don't worry...eat curry!  :)  And if you'd like to read about some benefits to adding curry to your diet, check out this site.  I'm not sure how true the information is...I didn't check the sources, but it was an interesting article.  

Don't worry.  Eat curry!


Chicken Curry

2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 T. EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 T. red curry paste
1 T. curry powder
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
3 T. fish sauce
1 can lite coconut milk (not coconut cream)
2-1/2 c. chicken broth
1-1/2 c. rice
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped (optional)

Heat the EVOO in a dutch oven.  Add sliced shallots, onions and garlic.  Cook 2-3 minutes over medium heat.  Push the mixture to one side and add the chicken.  Cook 3-4 min on each side.  Remove the chicken from the dutch oven and add curry paste and curry powder.  Stir in coconut milk, tomatoes, fish sauce and chicken broth.  Stir well and increase heat to medium high.  Bring to a boil and add the rice.  Turn the heat down to low, add the chicken, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Add more chicken broth, if necessary.  During the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the frozen peas.  Sprinkle with chopped cilantro when ready to serve.  Serves 4-6.

Review:  This is a very flavorful dish.  It is a one-pot meal that both JP and I love.  The chicken curry keeps very well and makes great leftovers.  I use hot curry powder from Penzeys.com to add a little more heat, but you can make is less spicy by using less of the red curry paste and regular curry powder.  I buy the red chili paste at the Asian market.  Enjoy~

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday Salads for Supper

This morning JP and I spent some time at the Farmer's Market.  The town that I live in has a small Farmer's Market.  I would love to shop at our Market, but usually I end up driving to Manhattan to the bigger Farmer's Market.  The prices are usually better and there is so much more variety.

So today I picked up some beets, green onions, basil and sugar snap peas.  We stopped at the commissary on the way home and bought some awesome looking (and tasting) cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and a few other things to get us through the week.

Tonight is meatless salad night, and not just your ordinary green salad.  Oh, no...these are super salads using the fresh veggies I bought today.  Yum!

Lentil and Beet Salad

1 c. lentils
3 c. water
1 onion, cut in half
1 rib of celery, cut in half
1 carrot, cut in half
1/4. t. salt

1 bunch of beets, cooked and roughly diced
3 medium carrots, roughly diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced

1/3 c. stone ground mustard (or your favorite mustard...just as long as it's not the bright yellow mustard!)
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper

Bring the water to a boil and add lentils, onion, celery and carrot.  Cook over medium/high heat for 15-20 minutes until lentils are done.  Remove the onion, celery and carrot and discard.  Drain lentils and cool.

Cook the beets and roughly chop them.  Roughly chop the carrots and cook in boiling water for 3-5 minutes.  Drain.  Cool and add to the lentils.

Whisk the mustard, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper together.  Pour the dressing over the lentils.  Stir well and refrigerate.  You may want to double the dressing, depending on your taste.  Add salt and pepper according to your taste.

Review:  This salad is very earthy and has wonderful flavor.  The mustard vinaigrette is tangy, yet complements the beet and lentil flavors.  When I cook my beets, I usually add the bottom 4 inches or so of the greens during the last 10 min. of cooking.  I chop them into inch long pieces add them to the salad.  I've also cooked the greens, chopped them and added to the salad.  Adding the greens gives more of a beet flavor to the salad.   Enjoy~

 Here's a picture of my dad, my step-mother Joannie, JP and his 2 cousins from Maine.  We were enjoying a family meal on New Year's Eve.

This is one of my FAVORITE salads of all time.  I got the basic recipe from my step-mother's sister, 
Kathy Blecatsis Erskine

JP and I went to Joannie's beach house in Rye, NH several years ago and Kathy had made this salad.

Feta and Tomato Salad

1 pt. cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. Extra Virgin olive oil (pull out the good olive oil for this!)
6 medium basil leaves, chiffonaded (is it chiffonade?  chiffonaded?)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
freshly ground pepper
salt to taste

Wash and cut the tomatoes.  Place in a medium sized bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate for about 1 hour before serving.  

Review:  I LOVE THIS SALAD!  I love the tangyness of the feta cheese and the juicy tomatoes.  The red wine vinegar and the Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  I've used dried basil when I haven't had fresh, and it is good, but not as good as the fresh basil.  During late summer when tomatoes are ripe, I've used 2 chopped tomatoes instead of the cheery tomatoes, and it's delicious that way, too!  This is good with a crusty bread to soak up the juices.  Enjoy~

This last salad is one of our favorites.  It's easy to whip up and keeps well.  You can add any combination of veggies that you like!

Couscous Salad

1 c. couscous
1 c. water
1 c. chicken broth

1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese

1/2 seeded and diced cucumber
1/2 pint cheery tomatoes, cut into 1/8ths
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 onion, diced
6 fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded
1/2 c. Ken's Lite Northern Italian Salad Dressing
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the water and chicken broth to a boil.  Add 1 c. couscous.  Put a cover on the pot and remove from heat.  Let sit for 5 minutes and fluff with a fork.  Put the couscous into a bowl.  Fluff any clumps with a fork and cool.

Mix the couscous, feta, cucumber, tomatoes, green onions and onion together.  Add the salad dressing, salt and pepper.  You may want to add more/less of the salad dressing depending on your tastes. 

Review:  This salad is so good and it keeps well.  I buy whole wheat couscous at the natural market.  You can also buy plain couscous that comes in a box.  I've used leftover couscous to make this salad.  This salad is very versatile and you can use what ever vegetables you like!  Enjoy~

Friday, June 18, 2010

Gingerbread Pancakes

Every morning this week, there's been a conversation in my house:

"Darling, what you would like for breakfast this morning?"  


I put on my apron every morning and I whipped up a fresh batch of pancakes and waited on him hand and foot.  Cooking bacon, sausage, eggs, grits, oatmeal, toast, hash browns, French toast....

Oh wait...that's what he wished for.  Reality was a little different....  Let me start again.

 As I stumble to the coffee maker, I yell,

"JP, what kind of cereal would you like?"  

"Do I have to have cereal?"

Um, yeah.

"Can't you make pancakes?"

Um, no.  Maybe later.

And every morning he's eaten Cheerios, Rice Krispies or Raisin Bran...or a combination of the 3.

So tonight, I made pancakes for supper without telling JP.  As soon as he smelled them cooking, he came running to the kitchen to look.  I got a big hug and, "Mama, you're the best."

I found the recipe in my King Arthur 200th Anniversary Cook Book.  I didn't want plain old pancakes, so I opted for something different.

Gingerbread Pancakes

1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2-1/2 t. ground ginger
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. allspice
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. nutmeg
2 eggs
2-1/4 c. milk
1/3 c. molasses
1 T. oil

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  

Beat the eggs and milk until they're light.  Whisk in the molasses and oil.

Blend the wet ingredients with the dry.  You can add more milk if you'd like the batter to be thinner.

Preheat a pan or griddle over medium/low heat.  

Pour the batter (I use a soup ladle) onto the preheated pan.  Turn the pancakes when the bubbles on the top surface pop and don't fill in.  The second side takes only half of the amount of time needed to cook the first.

Review:  These pancakes were awesome!  They had a strong gingerbread flavor, but not overwhelming.  We topped them with warm maple syrup and they were very good.  This recipe will become a favorite!  Enjoy~

If you haven't tried King Arthur Flour, you're missing out on the best flour!  They have a great cooking catalog, recipes and website.  I've even been to one of their cooking classes!  King Arthur also has wonderful cookbooks.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Church Supper Dish

My dad gave me this recipe and he's been urging me to try it.  It's a recipe from my grandmother, Annie Haskell.  When my dad was growing up, this dish was always taken to potlucks and to church suppers (hence the name, Church Supper Dish.)

My dad has sent this recipe to me several times through email and I've resisted making it.  Finally, I decided to try it.  I was skeptical.  I knew it was going to end up with TLS written across the top.  I knew I wouldn't like it.  Tomato soup, chili powder and cornbread all in a casserole?  Ewww...  But, I made it anyways.  And surprise, surprise!  It was good!  It wasn't a TLS recipe!  JP told me this was a "make again" recipe!  So look past the ingredients (the tomato soup is what did it for me) and make this!  You'll be glad you did!

Grandma's Church Supper Dish

1 can condensed tomato soup
1 can of corn, drained
1 lb. hamburger (I used 93%)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1-1/2 T. chili powder
3/4 t. cumin

1-1/4 c. flour (I used 3/4 c. white and 1/2 c. wheat flour)
3/4 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. sugar (I used Splenda)
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

1 c. milk (I used skim)
1/4 c. oil (I used olive oil)
1 egg, beaten

Brown the hamburger, onion and garlic in a skillet over medium heat.  Drain when the hamburger is done.  Add the chili powder, cumin, corn and the tomato soup (just the condensed soup, NO water or milk added.)  Stir well and pour into a 9x13 pan sprayed with Pam.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt together.  In a separate bowl, mix the milk, oil and egg together.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the milk mixture.  Stir until just mixed.  Spread over the hamburger mixture.

Bake at 350* for 35-45 min.

Review:  I thought this was an excellent casserole.  I couldn't taste the tomato soup by itself, instead it was a chili-type taste.  This was surprising since the use of tomato soup really turned me off.  The cornbread layer on top was light and tasty.  I used a combination of white and whole wheat flour.  The combination was light enough that it didn't have a "wheaty" taste to it.  It tasted like cornbread!  I also added 1 c. of shredded cheddar cheese.  I sprinkled the cheese on the meat mixture before adding the cornbread layer.  I think the cheese added a little more depth of flavor...besides, I like cheese!  I will make this again!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

To Market, To Market: The 10 Best Summer Cookbooks

 I was listening to NPR the other day and heard a segment about summer cookbooks.  I just heard the very end of it, so I looked up the story on NPR's website and found some great cookbooks I'd love to have!  If you're looking for a new cookbook, check out the NPR reviews.  Listen or read the story for your self!

I've linked the titles of the books to Amazon, where the prices are lower that the suggested listed price from the NPR segment.   

While I'd love to have ALL of the cookbooks, I just can't justify spending $200+ on them.  I'm thinking about buying 1 of them, however, I can't decide! Here are my favorites...

Melissa's Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce: A Guide to Easy-to-Make Dishes with Fresh Organic Fruits & Vegetables, by Cathy Thomas, hardcover, 336 pages, Wiley, list price: $29.95
One quote I took away from the review is, "It's more like an alphabetical, quick-reference greatest hits of produce than a complete works."
The other cookbook that I'm looking at is:
Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking, by Mario Batali and Mark Ladner, hardcover, 272 pages, Ecco, list price: $29.99
  "Every recipe had something new to add to my vegetable repertoire, and every page looks like a centerfold. As a frequent sufferer of the green bean blues, I was really happy to vary my routine by trying Green Beans with Charred Onions."
Then, well, there is another cookbook that I'd like to have....
Farmer's Market Desserts, by Jennie Schacht, paperback, 208 pages, Chronicle Books, list price: $24.95

Friday, June 11, 2010

Company Chicken

So yesterday, I took part in the Kindred  Connection from the Windy Poplars blog. 

Kindred Connection from Windy Poplars

One of the questions was about your signature dish...  Company Chicken is one of mine.  I've decided to share my recipe of Company Chicken with all of you great folks that read my blog!

A little background:  In the 1970's, my dad was in the Army and my mum was a part of the Officer Wives Club at one of the posts we were at...I believe it was Ft. Bliss, in El Paso, Texas.  This club had a recipe exchange and this is one of the recipes that was received.   My mum occasionally made this recipe when I was growing up.  I forget what it was originally called, but I started calling it Company Chicken because that is what we had when we had company for dinner!  I've lightened the original dish up a little bit...every little bit counts!  I've used lightened products, precooked my bacon and less sour cream...you can use regular products, uncooked Center Cut bacon, and more sour cream if you're so inclined!  Also, you can find dried beef in the canned meat section of your grocery store.  It's near the tuna fish and comes in a jar.  I buy Armor brand...because that's the only brand my store sells!  And they don't sell the pouches at my store!  I freeze the rest of the dried beef for the next time I make Company Chicken.  You may also find dried beef in your deli.  My inlaws can get it in their deli at their local market.

Company Chicken
serves 4-6
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
8 slices bacon (I use Center Cut)
16 slices dried beef
1 can 98% reduced fat cream of chicken soup
8 ounces reduced fat sour cream
1/8 t. garlic powder
1/8/ t. onion powder
fresh ground pepper

Rinse the dried beef several times in warm water, and let soak in a bowl of warm water and change the water twice while you're getting everything else ready.  Preheat the oven to 325*.

Cook the bacon until is is almost completely cooked.  You want the bacon to be soft and flexible rather than crisp.  I usually do this in the microwave.  Drain the bacon and pat dry with paper towels.

Mix the sour cream and cream of chicken soup together in a bowl.

Remove the dried beef from the bowl of water and squeeze dry.

Butterfly cut each chicken breast (cut it in half lengthwise.)  Check out this video from "Taste of Home" magazine for tips on butterflying chicken.  Open the chicken along the cut and place 4 pieces of dried beef.  Fold the chicken back up, like it was before you butterflied it.  If you're using thighs, you don't need to butterfly the meat.  Instead, place 2 pieces of dried beef along the "bone side" of the chicken thigh, and fold in half.

Wrap each chicken breast with 2 slices of precooked bacon and secure with a toothpick.  With the thighs, wrap each thigh with 1 slice of precooked bacon.

Place the chicken in a 9x9x2 inch casserole dish that has been sprayed with Pam, or whatever cooking spray you use.  Sprinkle the chicken with pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.  I usually don't measure this, but just sprinkle it on lightly.  Top with the sour cream mixture.

Cook for 40-50 minutes until it is bubbly and the chicken is cooked through.

Serve over pasta.  I always make peas as a vegetable.  The peas go really well with the chicken and the sauce.


And there you have it...a chicken (and beef and pork) recipe good enough for company!  This recipe is always on the list of things to make when my husband returns from deployments!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Kindred Connection from Windy Poplars

 Kindred Connection
So I follow a blog called "Windy Poplars."  Today, is "Kindred Connection" day where you answer questions and post a link to your blog.  So here are my answers.  Check out her blog...it's pretty cool! 

1. What is your favorite ethnicity of food?
Hmmmm, tough one.  I don't know if I can just pick one...German, Italian, American, Mexican, Mediterranean....  If I had to pick one, I guess it would be German!

2. If you could eat only one meal for two weeks straight, what would it be?
 Two weeks is a long time...  I'm thinking I could do spaghetti or grilled chicken...even Cheerios for a week.  Two??  That's pushing it!  
3.What is the "signature" dish that you cook? (you know, that always receives rave reviews and/or you get requests for)
 I have 2...spaghetti with homemade sauce and Company Chicken, which is a recipe that is loaded with calories, but is soo, soo good.  I usually make it on special occasions...like company!

4. Is there something that you just can't handle eating - like gag reflex?
 Blue cheese will make me vomit.  I am serious.  Don't bring blue cheese around me unless you'd like me to run to the bathroom.

5. Do you think that the Kindred Connection should continue through the summer, or take the summer off?
 This is my first Kindred Connection, so I vote YES!  This is cool!  This is neat!  Let's do it in the summer!  :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

There's a Hummus Among Us

 Hummus.  Yummmm.  JP and I love hummus.  It's good and tasty, it makes a great snack.  Funny story...when JP was about 2, we were visiting my inlaws.  My mother-in-law asked JP what he'd like for a snack.  She was expecting cookie, crackers, fruit snacks, candy, etc...stuff the other grand kids like to eat.  JP said, "I'll have some hummus, please."  She looked at him like he had 3 heads!  But alas, she didn't have any hummus and JP cried. 

I have a love/hate relationship with hummus.  I love it!  I buy it!  But I hate the price.  So I don't buy it.  I try and make it, and it doesn't taste the same, so I go back to buying it.  And the cycle continues...  So I've decided to experiment with hummus recipes and find one that I like so I can stop the hummus cycle. 

Red Pepper Hummus
2 cans Garbanzo beans, reserve 1 c. of liquid 
2 T. tahini
1/3 c. lemon juice
1 t. salt
1 T. olive oil (this is the time to break out that really good olive oil...the EVOO...the kind that has the greenish tinge to it)
1/8 t. paprika
1/2 t. cumin
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2/3 c. roasted red peppers, divided

In a food processor, whirl the beans, tahini, lemon juice, salt, olive oil, paprika, cumin, garlic and 1/3 c. of roasted red peppers for a few seconds to mix everything up.  Turn the food processor on and add the reserved garbanzo bean juice until the hummus is in the consistency that you like.  (I added about 3/4 c.)  Taste the hummus!  Add a little more salt/lemon juice/olive oil/etc. to make it fit your tastes.  Once it is at the right consistency and right taste, add the remaining roasted red peppers.  Whirl a few more seconds until the red pepper is in small pieces.  Refrigerate.

Serve with warm pita bread, as a dip with pretzels, use instead of mayo on sandwiches, or however you enjoy hummus!

Review:  I've finally found the right combination of ingredients for homemade hummus for our tastes.  I like having the garlic pressed before adding it to the food processor, this makes sure the garlic is really small and you don't get a great big hunk of it, that failed to get chopped.  I also like that some of the red pepper is left out until the very end, so there are small nuggets of red pepper goodness.  In other recipes, more tahini is used, and this is where I was finding the biggest problem.  This recipe has a smaller amount of tahini that still gives flavor, but is not overpowering.  Enjoy~

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Johnny's Grub Rub by Johnny

JP and I headed northeast this morning to the big town of Manhattan and their farmer's market.  We got some fabulous fresh fruits and veggies...Swiss chard, beets, strawberries, tomatoes, asparagus, cilantro, peanuts, sugar snap peas and gooseberries.  Have you ever tried a gooseberry??  The lady who sold them to us described them as tart.  She said they were a little bit more tart than Sour Airheads (a candy) or sour gummy candies.  Um, I don't know when she last ate sour candy, but gooseberries are a TAD more tart than sour candy.  Holy Moly Macaroni, they are tart!  Pure Pucker Power.

I spent this afternoon cooking.  I made roasted red pepper hummus, couscous salad, strawberry/gooseberry crunch and a superb BBQ rub.  I'll share other recipes later this week.  But for today, I'm all about the BBQ Rub.  I kind of stumbled upon this recipe.  Earlier this week, I found a BBQ rub recipe that was actually 2 recipes.  You made a spice mixture, and then used that in the Rub recipe, along with other ingredients.  I had it scribbled on 2 sticky notes and those sticky notes got stuck to something and never found it's way into the kitchen.  So I quickly looked up BBQ Rub on allrecipes.com, my go-to recipe website.  I sprinkled the Rub on boneless, skinless chicken breasts and let them sit for about 15 minutes before grilling.  Oh, it was delicious!

I used Penzeys Chili 3000 for the chili powder.  Penzeys says it's the Now Chili, and it is good...a little more spicy than traditional chili powder. 

Johnny's Grub Rub  by Johnny

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons ground paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

In a small, nonporous bowl, combine the garlic powder, ground black pepper, salt, mustard powder, chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, paprika and oregano. Mix well and apply to meat. 

Review:  I was a little worried about the amount of salt and pepper, but it worked well in the rub.  My chicken was tender and juicy with a little zing from the rub.  Some of the reviews on allrecipes.com said they thought there was too much cumin in the recipe,  However, I thought it was the right amount.  Next time, I'm going to use Penzys 4/S Special Smoky Seasoned Sea Salt
I think that will give it just a little bit more zing!  This rub would be great on pork chops, steaks, ribs and any other meat that is grilled.  I can't wait to experiment with other types of meat!  Enjoy~

By the way, if you're puzzled about who JP is...well, it's a funny story.  When Jacob was a toddler, we called his Jakey.  My niece thought we were calling him JP...and the name stuck.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sweet Tea

It's supposed to be in the mid to upper 90's in Kansas this week, so I thought I'd share my best ever iced tea!

One of my favorite things to drink is iced tea.  I love it!  In fact, I have a gallon iced tea container in my fridge all year, not just in the summer.  But for those hot summer days, nothing quenches my thirst like a big, frosty glass of iced tea. 

I wasn't always a sweet tea drinker.  For years, I drank unsweetened tea.  I liked it, it was good, all was well with the world.  It was my standard drink to have at a restaurant (and no, it wasn't LONG ISLAND iced tea...I stopped drinking those at Geddy's with my Alpha Phi sisters!)  Anywho...unsweetened iced tea was my drink of choice...until I moved to Georgia in 1995/96.  I went out to eat with my newlywed husband and ordered iced tea...and surprise, surprise, I got a glass of sweet tea!  It was so good!  So sweet!  But so much sugar!  I tried to replicate it by ordering unsweetened iced tea and stirring in endless packets of pink or blue sweetener, but it just wasn't the same.  I bought sugar free iced tea mix and it was OK, but not the same as that Georgia sweet tea.    I just kind of gave up on sweet iced tea and saved the sugar version for a once-in-a-while treat. 

Fast forward to last summer.  I began to experiment with making sweet tea with Splenda.  I tried, tried and tried.  We had gallons of tea that were OK, not OK, kind of OK and finally I managed to get it right.  So enjoy my version of sweet tea.  Feel free to replace the Splenda with sugar, if you're so inclined...or even mix half sugar/half Splenda!

 Jen's Sweet Tea

2 One gallon sized tea bags (I use Lipton...I buy them at Sam's Club)
1-1/3 c. Splenda
scant 1/2 c. lemon juice (just a little less than half of a cup, but a little bit more than 1/3 of a cup!)

Place ingredients inside an empty gallon container (I got mine at Walmart.)  Fill to the top with cold water.  Refrigerate and serve! It will take about an hour to be ready.

That's it!  No boiling, no sitting it in the sun,