Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fabulous Chicken Marsala

Despite having an impending organic chemistry final tomorrow, at a weak moment I logged onto Pinterest. I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest.  I love it because it has so many wonderful ideas, but hate it because it has the tendency to lead to hours and hours of procrastination.  
Ah, procrastination.  Why do today what I can do tomorrow? 

 Of course, after scrolling through all sorts of flavorful fare, I just had to try out one of the new recipes I pinned.  And so, suddenly needing a break from my study of Nucleophilic Substitution reactions, I decided that I would make this Chicken Marsala for dinner!  It did not disappoint! 

Chicken Marsala

For the pan-fried chicken:
1-1/2 lb. chicken breasts
salt & pepper
1/2 c. flour
vegetable oil

Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, coat with flour, and pan-fry in a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat. (If chicken breasts are thick, slice in half or pound out before frying.)  Allow cooked chicken to drain on paper towels. Reserve drippings for sauce.

For the marsala sauce:
3-4 strips of bacon, chopped
8 oz. white button mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. tomato paste
1-1/4 c. Marsala wine
1/2 c. chicken stock
4 t. lemon juice***
4 T. butter
salt & pepper

To drippings leftover from chicken breasts, add your chopped bacon.  Fry until crispy and remove--drain on paper towels.  Toss in sliced mushrooms.  Saute until soft and golden over medium heat.  Drain off any excess oil, especially if there is a lot (I prefer blotting with paper towels).  Add in garlic, continue sauteing until golden.  Add tomato paste to sauteed mushrooms, and stir to dissolve paste and coat all of the mushrooms.  Allow the tomato paste to brown a little bit (~1-2 minutes), then deglaze the pan with marsala wine.  Over medium-high heat, allow the sauce to come to a simmer and begin reducing.  Add in chicken broth.  Continue simmering and reducing.  After a couple of minutes, once sauce has reduced and is no longer a thin liquid, cut heat to low and stir in lemon juice and butter. Add crisped bacon. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Return chicken breasts to pan.  Turn to coat with sauce.  Best served with egg noodles.

***The original recipe called for lemon juice.  Although I did add it, it seemed pointless.  I think the tomato paste provided enough acidity, and the lemon flavor was also masked by the wine, for the most part.  If you don't have lemon juice on hand, then I would consider skipping it altogether.  

Adapted slightly from Pass the Sushi

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hamburger Steaks with Caramelized Beef-Onion Gravy

I don't post sub-par things on this blog.  I post food that is "tried and true"; food that we like enough to make again and again.  This homestyle dinner is definitely worthy of writing a post about, regardless of how ugly it might look, because it really hits the spot.  Essentially, this is a recipe for fried hamburger steaks, simmered in a beef-onion gravy, and served over mashed potatoes.  Yes, I know--it sounds "onion-y," which isn't always a good thing--but these really are very tasty! As a general rule of thumb, each person usually eats as many burger steaks as they would hamburgers.   Tyler eats 2 hamburgers, so I make him 2 hamburger steaks. Furthermore,  my gravy measurements are more of estimates/suggestions.  Adjust the seasonings and thickness to your personal preferences. If your gravy seems a little thick, whisk in some more broth, and if your gravy seems too thin, whisk in some more flour combined with milk or water.

Roasted Carrots
Drizzle carrots with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Season generously with Salt & Pepper
Bake @ 400 for about 20 minutes
After 20 minutes, toss and season with Dill (or thyme)
Continue roasting for 10-15 minutes

As you can see, there is a LOT of excess oil.  Blot up using paper towels to keep as many of the lovely beef drippings and as little of the oil as possible. 

Hamburger Steaks with Caramelized Beef-Onion Gravy
Hamburger Steaks:
1-1/2 lbs. ground beef
seasoning salt & pepper
1/2 c. flour
vegetable oil
Season ground beef with seasoning salt and pepper. Shape into patties.  Coat with flour and fry in pre-heated vegetable oil.  Drain on paper towels to remove excess oil. Reserve drippings for gravy.

Onion Gravy:
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
2-1/2 c. beef broth
1/4 c. milk
1/4 c. flour
1/4 t. seasoning salt
1/4 t. pepper
3-4 dashes worcestershire sauce
1 T. ketchup
Add onions to beef drippings and saute until golden and slightly translucent over medium heat.  Using paper towels, blot up some of the excess oil.  In a separate bowl, mix up the broth, milk, flour, and seasonings with a whisk until smooth and well incorporated.  Add gravy mix to caramelized onions, and allow to thicken, stirring frequently.  Add a few dashes of worcestershire and ketchup for extra flavoring*. Add in hamburger steaks and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes.  If desired, remove excess onions from gravy using a slotted spoon.  Serve steaks with mashed potatoes and plenty of gravy!

*I almost always add Worcestershire and ketchup to my gravies/sauces--a trick my grandma taught my mom, and my mom taught me.  It just gives them a little something extra!

Healthier Peanut Butter Fudge Cups

These peanut butter fudge cups are ridiculously easy to make and store in the freezer, and they can definitely satisfy a sweet craving.  What's even better?  They are a notch healthier than your run-of-the-mill peanut butter cups, so you don't feel as guilty about eating 2 or 3!  I'm sure these would also be great with crunchy peanut butter or even almond butter.

Peanut Butter Fudge Cups
makes 20 mini cups, as photographed

1/2 c. coconut oil
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 c. powdered sugar (if you prefer sweeter, increase to 1/2 c.)
1 t. vanilla extract

Combine ingredients until smooth and well incorporated using electric mixer. Pour into lined cupcake or muffin tins.  Freeze until solidified.  Ready to serve in about 20 minutes. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Crepes with Strawberries & Cream

The cream is what makes these so divine!

I made crepes for the first time this morning, and they turned out phenomenal. 
Tyler described them as being a "10 out of 10!"
His brother, sister, and our overnight house guest all raved about how good they were!
I'm already ready for round 2 of these!

While they were a little bit more labor-intensive for a breakfast....maybe time-consuming is a better choice of words, they were well worth the extra effort. Probably something I'll make every once in a while, now that I know how doable it is.  They have a great texture and the strawberries and cream complimented them well.  Use a good non-stick skillet for these and don't be discouraged if your first one doesn't turn out perfect. Also, the original recipe calls for the crepe batter to be mixed up with a blender.  I hate having to dig out my blender and clean it up, so I just used an electric hand mixer. I think the hand mixer gave me a lumpier-appearing batter than a blender would, but, lumpy batter or not, mine still turned out awesome.  

Step 1: Cream
Make this first so it can refrigerate while you complete the other steps.
Whip together until soft peaks form:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/3 c. powdered sugar

Step 2: Strawberries
Get these strawberries marinating while you're cooking your crepes.
For 12 crepes, I used about 2 lbs. of fresh sliced strawberries. 
I just sliced them up and sprinkled about a tablespoon of sugar on them.

Step 3: Crepes
makes 12--10" crepes
Combine the following in your blender or with an electric mixer:
4 eggs
1/2 c. melted butter
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 c. milk
1/4 c. water
1 T. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Slowly incorporate until smooth:
1 c. all-purpose flour
Cook crepes in an 8-10 inch (preheated) non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Pour approximately 1/4 cup of crepe batter into skillet, being sure to gently tilt or swirl the skillet until the batter is covering the bottom of the pan.  It should be a very thin layer.  (I used a 10 inch skillet, and just over 1/4 cup of batter per crepe.)  Once the crepe can easily lift up around the edges and looks mostly set up (shouldn't be more than a minute), flip with a spatula and allow to cook for another 15 seconds or so, just to gently brown the other side.  (Omelette technique?) If you notice that there is an exceptional amount of residual butter on your crepes, I would suggest separating with a paper towel as you stack them. Assemble as shown below--best eaten on crepes that are no longer warm.  


Recipe inspiration from:  Little Yellow Barn

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Better Than Spaghetti

Ground Beef & Italian Sausage
Marinara sauce
Spaghetti noodles
& Parmesan Cheese
The cast of members for a well-known favorite.
Inexpensive, fast, simple, family-friendly, and comforting. 

However, whenever I say I'm going to cook spaghetti for dinner, I usually mean something more like this sausage and pepper pasta.  While it's not really spaghetti, the boyfriend and I have both agreed that we like it much better than spaghetti!  

I used to make this as my Inside-Out Stuffed Peppers. I would brown sausage and ground beef, mix in acini de pepe or orzo and some marinara, and add lots of sauteed bell peppers.  However, it was a little too rich and heavy on it's own.  I love the conversion of this to a pasta dinner, and the leftovers are great!  I used colorful peppers in this because they are sweet and beautiful, but you can definitely try it out with green bell peppers.  You can also sub in regular pasta noodles in place of the egg noodles.  
Just have fun with it!

Forgive my lousy photography skills--the pictures just don't do this dish justice.

Sausage & Pepper Pasta

4-5 sweet italian sausage links, casings removed
2 T. olive oil
3/4 c. onion, diced
1/2 ea.--red, yellow, orange bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. white wine 
2-1/2 to 3 c. marinara sauce
1 t. Italian seasoning
1 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
pinch crushed red pepper 
1 T. sugar
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
4 T. fresh basil, ribboned
12 oz. egg noodles

Brown italian sausage.  Drain. Drizzle olive oil in large skillet.  Saute onions until slightly translucent.  Add in peppers.  Continue sauteing until tender, yet crisp.  Add in garlic and saute for 2-3 more minutes.  Toss in cooked sausage. Add in seasonings (no sugar) and white wine.  Allow white wine to reduce almost completely before mixing in marinara sauce.  Heat until warm and bubbly.  Add in sugar to cut the acidity of the marinara sauce, followed by parsley and basil.  Serve over cooked egg noodles.  

Sorry about the clutter in the background!

I prefer to leave my sausage kind of chunky. 


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Orange-Glazed Cajun Salmon

I love a nicely cooked slab of salmon.
Who doesn't?
Eating salmon just makes me feel good.  Not only is it tender, moist, flakey, and delicious, but it is also healthy and packed with beneficial nutrients.  Aside from the well known omega 3 fatty acids it contains, salmon is also high in Vitamin D, Vitamins B 3-6-12, proteins, and selenium.

The key to making the best salmon ever, is not overcooking it.  Overcooked salmon is dry and chewy.  You should cook salmon until it is just barely opaque and cooked through, and not any longer!  That way, it will have the optimum succulence.

One of my favorite ways to prepare salmon is with this recipe.  It is sooooo flavorful.  By starting the salmon at a medium/high heat, you get a good searing, or crusting of the seasoning on the outside, which also traps in moisture.  The sweetness of the glaze in this recipe compliments the heat of the cajun seasoning.  I served it with a simple rice pilaf and baked asparagus tonight; a baked potato and broccoli would  pair nicely with it, as well. 

I hope this turns out great for you!

All that yummy cajun seasoning makes for a fabulou blackened salmon...if you are feeding little kids, I would decrease the amount of seasoning you use on their piece (just so you don't risk it being too spicy).

Orange-Glazed Cajun Salmon
Makes 4--6 oz. fillets (1.5 lbs)
***I made 1 lb (~3--5 oz. fillets) b/c I'm only cooking for 2 people***

For the rub:
3 T. Cajun Seasoning (I use Weber Louisiana Cajun Seasoning--I would recommend not using the "Louisiana" brand that comes in an orange canister)
1 t. light brown sugar
1/4 t. kosher salt

Mix until well combined and rub generously onto your fillets.  
Cook over medium-high heat in a frying pan with 2 T butter, 3-4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of your fillets. 

For the glaze:
1/4 c. orange marmalade (I use Bonne Maman brand)
1 T lime juice

When fillets have cooked on each side, remove from heat and add glaze mixture to pan.  Swirl to combine and coat each side of your fillets with the glaze.  

Delicious Baked Asparagus
One bundle of asparagus per 2-3 people

Coat with Olive Oil &
Season with:
Kosher Salt
Garlic Powder
& a pinch of Lemon Pepper

Bake @ 400 F for approximately 20-25 minutes
 (Optional: Sprinkle with parmesan cheese in the last five minutes of cooking)