Monday, January 24, 2011

Piecrust Cutters

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Such cuteness! I had to share this fun little post-Christmas gift I gave myself. Williams Sonoma had an after holiday sale and I just had to purchase their piecrust cutters. The fall pack is discontinued for now but it includes four leaves, my favorite being the maple leaf. The other day I made a chicken pot pie and instead of using a normal pie crust top I cut 50+ maple leaves to cover my pie. Time consuming? Yes. Great looking? Yes, yes!!

Today I made one of our favorite side dishes, the Tomato Basil Pie. With a little extra dough I embellished the pie with another leaf design. I think it looks too good to eat. My family thought otherwise and they ate it up without any comments. Some day when my children are older hopefully I'll hear some: "Aw! How cute!" or "Wow Mom! This is the best looking pie I've ever seen!"

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The second set I bought on clearance is the winter holiday set. I can't find these anymore on William Sonoma's site but hopefully next year they come back. My favorite is the holly leaf. Besides cutting the crust pieces for embellishments or layering them to make a piecrust top you can use the large "cut" piece as your pie topper. In the end it will look somewhat like a lattice pie but with the shape of your cutter instead of squares. I love the idea of creating a picture landscape on a berry pie with reindeer prancing,  gingerbread men marching and snowflakes falling. Too much? Probably.
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Chicken Marinade

I was looking for a new chicken marinade and found this on AllRecipes. Let me tell you, this recipe has some zing! Soy sauce + lemon juice + vinegar + Worcestershire created a mixture that left my mouth hopping!

We ate this with the mushrooms featured here. It was a fabulous combination.

Chicken Marinade
Recipe courtesy of AllRecipes

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 T dry mustard
1 t salt
1 T black pepper
1 1/2 t finely minced fresh parsley

In a medium bowl mix together oil, soy sauce, Worcestershire, wine vinegar and lemon juice. Stir in mustard powder, salt, pepper and parsley. Use to marinate chicken before cooking as desired. The longer you marinate, the more flavor it will have.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sauteed Mushrooms

Do your kids refuse to eat mushrooms? Do YOU? My oldest child is the one who silently pushes the tomatoes and mushrooms to the side of her plate and says she's full. The litmus test for this recipe is that she actually ate the 'shrooms without a single complaint! We didn't even have to mention our typical bribery of dessert. I guess that says something for this tasty side-dish.

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Sauteed Mushrooms
Recipe courtesy of Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network


2 pounds mixed wild mushrooms
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 cup chopped shallots (4 large)
4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
2 T chopped garlic (6 cloves)
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Directions

Brush the caps of each mushroom with a clean sponge. Remove and discard the stems. Slice the small mushrooms thickly and cut the large ones in a large dice.
Heat the olive oil in a large (11 - inch) Dutch oven or saucepan. Add the shallots and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until the shallots are translucent. Add the butter, mushrooms, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes, until they are tender and begin to release their juices, stirring often. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Toss in the parsley, sprinkle with salt, and serve warm.
*My Notes: I had a lot of common white button mushrooms and used those instead of a wild mushroom mix. Also, this dish had a lot of oil so I think I'll cut down the amount of olive oil next time I cook it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Italian Sausage Risotto

I made an Italian Sausage Risotto for dinner and there was happiness in the land! My family loves this recipe! My husband, who was doubtful that risotto could compare to his beloved Asian fried rice, served himself thirds. My kids loved the recipe as evident in this conversation we had after dinner:

Kindergarten-aged Daughter: "Mom, can I have these leftovers in my lunch at school tomorrow?"
Me: "Sorry, no. It has meat and you need a microwave to warm it up to eat it."
Daughter: "Can I have the leftovers when I get home from school as a snack?"

A risotto is a class of Italian dishes of rice cooked in broth to a creamy consistency. To make this more than just a deliciously flavored rice with meat and peas I added some sliced mushrooms and served it alongside a fresh green salad. This will definitely become a favorite meal in our future menu plans.

Italian Sausage Risotto
Recipe courtesy of Once a Month Mom


    * 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
    * 16 ounces Italian Sausage links (like Johnsohnville), sliced
    * 1 cup apple juice
    * 1 cup onion, diced
    * 1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
    * 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    * 1.25 cups rice
    * 1 cup Chardonnay or dry white wine (can also sub apple juice)
    * 3.5 cups chicken broth
    * 1 cup peas, frozen
    * 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
    * 1/2 cup Romano Cheese, grated

In a large saucepan, cook the sausage in apple juice. When finished cooking, remove from pan and slice. Heat oil in a large stockpot,  add sliced sausage and onion, cooking until browned and softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme, cook for one minute longer. (*I added sliced mushrooms at this point as well.) Add wine and rice and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in 3 cups of the chicken broth. Lower the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until broth is absorbed. Add the rest of the chicken broth slowly, stirring until rice is cooked and creamy. Stir in peas and cheeses; cook until heated through. Serve.

Freezing Directions:
Follow all directions above. Allow to cool. Package in freezer containers. To serve: Thaw. Slowly warm on stove top, in slow cooker or in microwave. You may need to add a little chicken broth to bring it back to it’s creamy texture.

*My Notes: I used ground Italian sausage instead of sliced. I cooked the meat in 1 cup apple juice and continued adding the other ingredients without removing the meat from the pan. (I did drain off some of the meat fat which might have drained off my apple juice if it hadn't already evaporated.) I didn't add another cup of apple juice later in the recipe (no wine for us!) but instead just added the broth.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bleu Cheese Dipping Sauce

Betty Crocker is offering a free cookbook download including 20 recipes divided into seasonal categories. Click here to download the Betty Crocker cookbook. The recipes look fun and easy for even the simplest day of cooking.


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One of the recipes featured in this download is Betty's Buffalo Chicken Sticks. Lately I've found quite a few recipes online relating to either buffalo flavoring (sandwiches, fajitas, wings) and bleu cheese (bleu and bacon burgers HERE and HERE, etc). I just can't get enough of these flavors so I decided to whip up my own version of a fresh bleu cheese dip. Enjoy!

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Bleu Cheese Dipping Sauce
An original Dish List recipe

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 T freshly cut chives
1/2 T freshly cut parsley
1 T powdered ranch dressing mix
1/3 cup bleu cheese

Mix together all ingredients, breaking the bleu cheese into small pieces. Chill for at least an hour prior to serving to allow the flavors to blend.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Braised Kabocha Squash and Chicken

Have you heard of a Kabocha Squash? It's also called a Japanese pumpkin. No? Either had I until recently when one came in my fruit and veggie box from our local coop.
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I have to admit that this little green guy sat on my counter for a month as I searched for the perfect recipe. I found many recipes for slicing, seasoning (some with chili powder and cayenne. Wow!), and baking. Finally I found this gem of a recipe on the website for The Washington Post and we all (children included) enjoyed this sweet yet savory recipe. 
I know what your first thoughts must be. Squash chunks with meat? And it's an Asian dish? Are you sure it's good? Yes!  The meat and soy sauce bring savor along with a slight sweetness of the squash.  My main disclaimer about this recipe is the carving of the vegetable. Be warned because it takes a good ten-plus minutes with a sharp knife and a strong arm. My second disclaimer is that I'm posting this recipe exactly as Chef Kaz Okochi of Kaz Sushi Bistro would have it even though I haven't cooked it per his exact instructions. (See my notes at the bottom of this post.) I usually don't post a recipe without trying it exactly per the original recipe but since some of my neighbors have the same squash sitting all by his lonesome on their counters I thought I would share this recipe before experimenting with it more. Plus, like I said, this recipe is kid-approved in my house so it must taste good enough to share. Agreed? 
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Braised Kabocha Squash and Chicken
Courtesy of The Washington Post

1 3-pound kabocha squash
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces ground chicken*
1 tablespoon minced ginger root
2 1/2 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mirin*
2 1/2 tablespoons tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon potato starch or tapioca starch*

Use a long, heavy knife to cut the squash into quarters. Discard the seeds and strings inside; peel each quarter and cut the flesh into 1/2-inch cubes. There should be about 4 1/2 cups.
Heat the oil in a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the chicken and ginger and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring to break up clumps, until no pink remains in the chicken. Add the squash and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once or twice, until it is well coated. Add 2 1/2 cups of water and cook for 5 to 6 minutes; the squash should be submerged.
Combine the sugar and mirin in a measuring cup, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and add to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the tamari or soy sauce and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the liquid in the pan or skillet has reduced by half. The squash should be firm but tender and easily pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons water with the potato starch or tapioca starch in a measuring cup and add to the pan. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly; the sauce will thicken almost immediately and will take on a smooth sheen when it's done. Divide among individual bowls and serve hot.
*My Notes: I didn't have a couple of ingredients, including mirin or the preferred starch and ground meat. Instead I substituted rice vinegar for the mirin since they're very similar and cornstarch for the potato or tapioca starch. Ground chicken is expensive and hard to come by (someday I'll have my own meat grinder!) and I love the flavor of ground turkey but we ate our last package the previous night so I resorted to using ground beef. Believe it or not this dish still tasted good with ground beef.
If you try this recipe with the ground chicken or turkey before I do feel free to leave a comment with your reaction!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bacon & Bleu Burgers

It's a new year and one of my resolutions is to be more efficient in my menu planning. A good friend of mine referred me to Once a Month Mom's website where she documents monthly menu plans and the accompanying ingredient shopping lists to make you a once a month mom. What does being a once a month mom mean? This website lists meal ideas and shopping lists as well as thorough instructions on how to cook one day in the month and freeze these prepared meals. I haven't had my own big day of cooking and freezing because I'm first experimenting with the recipes to see which I like but so far I haven't been disappointed.

This recipe of bacon and bleu burgers is really good! If you don't like bleu cheese I think you'll still enjoy this recipe. The combination of flavors is really mouthwatering and the cheese adds a lot of moisture but the flavor is subtle and not too overpowering.

Bacon & Bleu Burgers
recipe courtesy of Once a Month Mom

1 pound ground beef
2/3 c bacon crumbles
1/3 c bleu cheese

Cook bacon in 400 degree oven on a cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes or until crisp. Remove, allow to cool and chop in food processor.  In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients until well incorporated. Make a large ball of the meat and then divide into fourths. Make 4 quarter pound hamburger balls and then mold into patties. Cook on hot grill for 3 minutes on each side or until hamburgers are cooked to desired preference. Serve on buns with additional toppings if desired.
Freezing Directions:
You can make up these hamburgers and freeze them using sheets of wax paper to divide them and then place them in freezer bags. To serve: Thaw, cook and serve according to previous instructions.
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