Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Present for YOU

Have the Christmas Crazies got you yet? Have you panicked and grabbed something you don't even want just to escape all the pushing, hurrying people and get a jump in line? Have you given in and gone for the gift card because you are just SICK AND TIRED of Christmas shopping? Have you looked around your house and been overwhelmed at the amount of work left to do and the unbelievable mess? Have you opened yet another Christmas card that arrived before Christmas and been overcome with guilt that you haven’t even started yours yet?

OK, so maybe I exaggerate, or maybe not. My cats and I spent the day baking cookies for a cookie exchange and wrapping homemade candy for the teachers at the middle school. I felt very on top of things, like I have this Christmas thing under control - as long as I stayed in the kitchen and didn’t venture towards the filthy living room with pine needles and dog toys covering the carpet. Or the laundry room with the kids hampers stacked in the hall outside because of the sheets, towels, and last week’s laundry already claiming the place. And I didn’t dare go in my office where the boxes are stacked waist deep and the Christmas wrapping covers the bed and the workbench is sagging with the weight of all the Christmas projects yet to be finished and wrapped. And let’s definitely not talk about the bathrooms, the barn, or the front porch that is showcasing my broken treadmill, a case of oranges from Florida, two broken flower pots (WHO did this???), and several mouse carcasses (grateful gifts from the cats now lounged in front of the woodstove).

As long as I stay in the kitchen I am on top of Christmas. Got it under control. Possibly you’ve noticed there was no blog post last week, and there wasn’t going to be one this week either, but as I cooked and wrapped today I thought about what I might be able to give you, dear reader, since I have no enlightening post prepared for the week. My day has gone swimmingly, but now dinner hour approaches and I honestly have no idea what to make for dinner. Nothing has been thawed out and my mind is occupied by the question of how to decorate these yummy chocolate-caramel delights (a recipe stolen from the York Daily Record’s Cookie Contest). It occurs to me, that maybe you wrestle with the same daily dilemma – what should I make for dinner?

So, as a gift to you I have posted a week’s worth of recipes. All are fairly simple to make and several utilize a crock pot, my favorite kitchen helper. Enjoy! 

May you holidays be filled with delicious food, precious children, beautiful music, and moments of wonder.

Blessings to you.

Bistro Roast Chicken
(adapted from Cooking Light)

2 T minced fresh tarragon (or 3 t dried)
1 T minced fresh thyme (or 2 t dried)
4 t butter, melted
1 t salt
1 t Dijon Mustard
½ t black pepper
1 roasting chicken

Preheat oven to 375.

1.     Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl.
2.     Remove and discard (or save for broth) giblets and neck from chicken. Starting at the neck cavity, loosen skin from breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers, gently pushing between skin and meat. Rub herb mixture under loosened skin and over breast and drumsticks. Tie legs together with kitchen twine. (I can never find any kitchen twine – my kids have other uses for it – so I skip this usually and it works out fine) Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under chicken. (I can’t seem to figure out how to do this either – again it’s all fine) Place the chicken breast side down, on the rack of a broiler pan or shallow roasting pan (I put it in a stone cooker with lid).
3.     Bake chicken for 40 minutes. Carefully turn chicken over (breast side up). Bake an additional 40 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the meaty part of  thigh registers 165. (Must confess that I never remember to flip the bird and I pull it out when the thermometer approaches 160 because I hate a dry chicken. It will continue to cook after you pull it out and we’ve never ended up with underdone chicken)
4.     Place chicken on cutting board and let stand 10 minutes before carving.

I’ve made this replacing the melted butter with lemon grapeseed oil – divine.

Beer Beef Stew with Dumplings

1 1/4 lbs beef, cut in small pieces
3 T flour
2 onions – sliced
3 carrots – sliced
½ pint beer
2 t mustard
1 t brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Dried herbs and/or steak seasoning (oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, etc.)

1 cup flour
1/4 cup butter, softened
½ cup  milk
1 tsp dried herbs
Pinch salt and pepper

1 Put flour in plastic bag and add beef. Toss to coat.
2. Put onion and carrots in crock pot, add beef.
3. mix the other ingredients together and pour over the beef.
4. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
5. Combine ingredients for dumplings to make a soft dough (add more flour or milk if necessary). Shape in to small balls.
6. About 45 minutes before beef is finished, add dumplings to crock pot.
7 Turn on high, replace lid.

Note: Everything in this recipe is approximate, because I don’t have exact measurements and just “eye ball” everything. You really can’t go wrong here. I like to use a fairly strong beer like Yeungling.

Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas
(adapted from Cooking Light)

1 Cup chopped onion
1 ½ C shredded cooked chicken breast (about ½ lb)
1 1/2 C (4 oz) shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar, divided
1 C bottled picante sauce (or mild salsa)
3 oz 1/3-less fat cream cheese (about 1/3 cup)
1 t cumin
1 ½ T green taco sauce (optional)
8 six inch flour tortillas

Preheat oven to 350

1.     Place large skillet, coated with spray on medium-high heat. Add onion, sauté 6 minutes or until tender.
2.     Add chicken, ½ cup cheese, 1 cup picante, cream cheese, and cumin. Cook 3 minutes or until cheese melts.
3.     Spoon 1/3 cup chicken mixture down center of each tortilla and roll up.
4.     Place in 13x9” baking dish, drizzle with ½ cup picante sauce and taco sauce and sprinkle with ½ cup cheddar. Cover and bake 15 minutes.

This is absolutely yummy. It’s the dish I always make for other families when I have to take a meal to them. Never fails. I usually try to double it and freeze half so I have one ready to go.

Spicy Shrimp in Coconut Sauce
(Cooking Light)

½ Cup coconut milk
1 T fresh lime juice
1 t bottled minced ginger
1 t low-sodium soy sauce
1 t honey
½ t cornstarch
½ t chile paste with garlic
½ t bottled minced garlic
¼ t salt
2 t canola oil
1 ½ lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 T chopped green onions
½ t crushed red pepper
2 cups jasmine rice (I serve this over coconut rice, see below – WOW!)

Combine first 9 ingredients in a medium bowl – set aside.

Heat canola oil or grapeseed oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and sauté 2 minutes. Add green onions and red pepper; cook 1 minute. Add coconut milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 minute or until shrimp turn pink. Serve immediately over rice.

Yield: 4 servings (1 cup shrimp mixture and ½ cup rice), 310 calories per serving

Quite possibly my absolute favorite recipe when served over coconut rice. 

Coconut Rice
(Nourishing Traditions)

2 cups long-grain brown rice
2 T butter
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 cardamom pods
2 cups chicken stock and/or water
2 cups coconut milk
½ t salt

1. Melt butter and olive oil.
2. Open cardamom pods and add seeds to the pan.
3. Saute rice in butter and oil, stirring constantly, until rice begins to turn milky.
4. Pour in liquid, add salt and bring to a rolling boil. Boil, uncovered, for about 10 minutes until water has reduced to the level of the rice. Reduce to lowest heat, cover tightly and cook forever or until done.

Dave’s Crab Chowder
(Shirley Pigliacampi)
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
3 T butter
3 cups milk
1 16oz can cream corn
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
¼ t salt
¼ t thyme
1 bay leaf
¼ cup dry sherry
8 oz crab
5 oz frozen baby shrimp

1.     Sauté onion and celery in butter until tender.
2.     Add remaining ingredients except sherry and cook 15 minutes or until heated.
3.     Add sherry and cook 2 minutes more.
4.     Remove bay leaf and serve.

We also add cooked diced potato and because Nick is allergic to shrimp, I usually double or triple the crab and occasionally add bay scallops. I don’t always use cream of corn either (to much sugar), so I add regular corn and a little cream. Be sure to use the sherry – it’s the key ingredient. We have this soup on Christmas Eve every year. (Shirley P is my other mom)

Honey-Hoison Pork Tenderloin
Cooking Light

2 T sliced green onions
2 T hoison sauce
2 T low-sodium soy sauce
2 T sage honey (isn’t honey, honey? Not sure this matters)
1 T hot water
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1 pound) pork tenderloin
¼ t salt
½ t sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400.

1.     Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl.  Pour ¼ C honey mixture into a large zip-top plastic bag; reserve remaining honey mixture.
2.     Add pork to bag; seal and marinate in refrigerator 20 minutes, turning bag occasionally.
3.     Remove pork from bag; discard marinade.  Sprinkle port with salt 
4.     Heat a large ovenproof skillet over med-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add pork; cook 2 minutes, browning on all sides.
5.     Brush 1 tablespoon reserved honey mixture over pork; sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Place skillet in oven Bake for 20 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160 (slightly pink) or until desired degree of doneness.
6.     Place pork on platter; let stand 5 minutes.  Cut pork across the grain in to thin slices.  Drizzle with remaining honey mixture.

I love everything with hoison, but this one is especially good.  It’s nice that it only has to be marinated 30 minutes – I’m forever forgetting to do the marinade until 5:00, and I still have time for this one.  I didn’t have an oven-safe skillet the first time I did this recipe, so I just transferred the pork to a casserole dish I had pre-warmed in the oven and it worked out fine.

Spinach Lasagna
(adapted from Prevention Cooking)

2 cans (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (28ox) tomatoes, drained
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon marjoram
½ teaspoon tarragon
2 teaspoons minced garlic
¼ t black pepper
1 package (10 oz) fresh spinach, chopped or 2 frozen, squeezed dry
8 oz no-cook lasagna (or cook your own noodles – better!)
1 container (15oz) ricotta
1 cup (8 oz) shredded mozzarella

1.     In large bowl, combine sauce, tomatoes, and spices.  Set aside
2.     Coat skillet with spray.  Cook spinach until wilted.
3.     Spread ½ cup tomato mixture in 13”x 9” baking dish.  Place 2 sheets lasagna on top.  Spread ½ of ricotta over noodles. Layer with ½ of spinach.  Top with 1/3 of remaining sauce and sprinkle with 1/3 mozzarella.  Cover with three more noodles, remaining ricotta, then remaining spinach.   Spoon on ¼ cup remaining sauce and ¼ remaining mozzarella.  Cover with three more noodles and top with remaining sauce and mozzarella.
4.     Cover and bake 30 minutes at 375.  Uncover and bake 15 minutes more.  Let stand 10 minutes.

Makes 8 servings
253 cal, 17g protein, 10g fat, 3g fiber

My Mother-in-law Margot will tell you – this is a really good vegetarian lasagna (and she would know!). 

Crock Pot Meatloaf
(I found this in my junk pile copied on an old "xerox" with the purple ink and don’t know where it came from! Maybe my high school home ec class?)
2 eggs
¾ c milk
2/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 t dried minced onion
¼ t salt
½ t sage
1 t oregano
1 t basil
½ t rosemary
½ t thyme
¼ t tarragon
2 t minced garlic (or less if you don’t love garlic like I do)
1 ½ pound ground beef
¼ c ketchup
2 T brown sugar
1 t ground mustard
½ t Worcestershire sauce

1.     In a large bowl, combine the first 12 ingredients.
2.     Crumble beef over mixture and mix well (mixture will be moist)
3.     Shape into a round loaf. Place in a 5 qt slow cooker. Cover and cook over low heat 5-6 hours or until meat thermometer reads 160.
4.     In a small bowl, whisk ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Spoon over the meatloaf. Cook 15 minutes more.
5.     Remove and let stand 15 minutes before serving.

This is absolutely delish. I played with the recipe and added all the spices. I also used 2 pounds of beef. Everyone loved this recipe and I loved that I could make it at lunch time and it made the house smell yummy.
A few side dishes:

Oven Fries
(Cooks Illustrated)

3 russett potatoes (about 8 oz each), peeled, each potato cut lengthwise into 10 to 12 evenly sized wedges
5 T vegetable or peanut oil (or grapeseed oil)
Salt and ground black pepper

1.     Adjust oven rack to lowest position; heat oven to 475 degrees.
2.     Place potatoes in large bowl and cover with hot tap water; soak 10 minutes.
3.     Coat 18 by 12 inch heavy duty rimmed baking sheet (I used my stone) with 4 tablespoons oil (I didn’t use quite this much!) and sprinkle evenly with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper; set aside.
4.     Drain potatoes. Spread potatoes out on a triple layer of paper towels (horrors! Use dish towels!). Rinse and wipe out now-empty bowl; return potatoes to bowl and toss with remaining 1 tablespoon oil.
5.     Arrange potatoes in single layer on prepared baking sheet; cover tightly with foil and bake 5 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until bottoms of potatoes are spotty golden brown, 15-20 minutes, rotating baking sheet after 10 minutes.
6.     Using metal spatula and tongs, scrape to loosen potatoes from pan, then flip each wedge, keeping potatoes in single layer. Continue baking until fries are golden and crisp, 5 -15 minutes longer, rotating pan as needed if fries are browning unevenly.
7.     Transfer fries to second baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

I have to confess that I don’t always follow this recipe exactly. When I do the fries are perfect, but when I don’t cover them with foil or flip them, they still turn out pretty good. This recipe also works with sweet potato fries. I don’t usually coat the pan with oil; just really coat the fries with oil (maybe 2 tablespoons tops). Cooks magazine is for gourmets, so their recipes are always pretty complicated, but incredible.

Quinoa with Parsley and Pine nuts

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add 1 cup plain quinoa.  Cook 2 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently.  Add 1 (14 oz) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken (or vegetable) broth; bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes or until most of liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes.  Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, and 1 ½ tablespoons yellow raisins.

This is way yummy, real quick, and super healthy! If you don’t have broth on hand, water works fine too.

(from the book So The Woman Went Her Way)
4 Tablespoons oil
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons salt

Put in a big bowl.
Pour about 5 cups warm water over the top so the sugar dissolves.
Add 2 packages yeast until it bubbles and then enough flour mixed in to make a kneadable bunch. 
Knead, set aside for 20 minutes or so.
Punch down.
Divide in to 2 or 3 leaves. ( I always make 3 BIG loaves)
Put in cake baking pan with sides touching.
Let sit another 20 minutes.
Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

I know this recipe sounds loosy goosy, but it is awesome!  The author’s point during the story was that anyone can make bread, it isn’t that mysterious.  You can add other ingredients – different flours, beer, etc and it almost always works out.  It is classic – doughy and soft inside with a wonderful crust.  I make one recipe and freeze two of the loaves

And of course, a few sweet things:

Caribbean Dream Pie
(Enchanted Broccoli Forest)

Sweet Crumb Crust:
2 cups crushed graham crackers or ginger snaps
½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/ cup finely minced pecans
6 T butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350.

1.     Combine all ingredients and mix well. Press mixture firmly into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie pan, building a ½ inch ridge around the edge. You will have more than enough to fill the pie pan – sprinkle the rest in another pan. Place both in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

1 14 or 15 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 T grated lime rind
½ cup plus 1 T fresh lime juice
2 bananas, peeled and sliced
½ a ripe mango, peeled and sliced (or chopped)

1.     Pour the milk into a medium –sized bowl.
2.     Add the grated rind and juice, and whisk for a few minutes until the milk thickens.
3.     Layer the banana and mango slices in the baked, cooled crust. Pour the thickened milk mixture over the fruit, spreading it into place. Sprinkle the top with the extra crumb mixture, and chill until cold. Serve cold.

Super yum. Kind of healthy.

Spicy Molasses Crackles
(Adapted from Weight Watchers)

1 C flour
1 C whole wheat flour
2 t baking soda
1 ¼ t cinnamon
1 t ginger
¼ t nutmeg
1/8 ground cloves
1/8 t salt
1/3 Cup butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
2 T Molasses
2 ½ T sugar

Preheat 350.

1.     Combine flours and next six ingredients.
2.     Beat butter with mixer at medium speed until creamy; graduatlly add brown sugar, beating well.
3.     Add egg and molasses; beat well.
4.     Add flour mixture; beat until smooth (dough will be slightly crumbly)
5.     Shape into 1” balls. Roll balls in sugar and place on sheets coated with spray.
  1. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Cool 2 minutes in pans. Remove and cool completely on wire racks.
 Yield: 38 cookies
1 cookie: 68 caloried, 1.8 g fat, 0.2 fiber

This recipe makes more than 38 cookies. These are yummy and always elicit recipe requests. They freeze well too.

Bourbon Fudge Brownies
(Cooking Light)

¼ cup bourbon
¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs

1.     Preheat over to 350
2.     Bring bourbon to a boil in a small saucepan; remove from heat.  Add chocolate chips, stirring until smooth.
3.     Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt, stirring with w whisk.
4.     Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined.  Add vanilla and eggs; beat well. Add flour mixture and bourbon mixture to sugar mixture, beating at low speed just until combined.
5.     Spread batter in to a 9” square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on wire rack.

Yield: 20 servings
148 calories, 5g fat, 1g fiber, 2.2g protein

These brownies are my go-to recipe and always get rave reviews.  The bourbon makes them taste like a rich expensive chocolate.  Don’t overcook – better gooey than dried out!

1 comment:

  1. I've been looking for a vegetarian lasagna dish for a while now, so I'm delighted about your Spinach Lasagna recipe as I've got 2 vegetarians coming for lunch on Christmas day. I've got a lot more time to focus on cooking and baking this Christmas because I've discovered how convenient and time saving shopping on line is in the last 2 months. I've ordered bracelets from Macy's for my daughters,a Tracfone phone for my son and a GPS for my hubby and I haven't set foot in the Aventura Mall. I've now got more time to enjoy with my kids over the holidays and I'm not so stressed.
    Happy Christmas to you all, and we'll start dieting on the 2nd of January right?