Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Barbecue Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

A couple of weeks ago I had the honor and privilege of winning a copy of Cristina Ferrare's Big Bowl of Love from a wonderful giveaway Annie was doing over on her blog. Not only was I ecstatic to have won a copy of such a highly-reviewed cookbook, but it's also the first thing I've ever won from a blog giveaway!

As soon as it arrived on my doorstep I immediately sat down with it and flipped through every recipe...

...and promptly bookmarked more than half of them to try. (If you've been following this blog long you'll know this is kind of a habit, tehe.) So expect to see many more big bowl of delicious love recipes in the coming weeks!

But back to the epic pulled chicken sandwiches!

Even though it took me longer than I'd really hoped to finally try something out of my shiny new cookbook, my first recipe was definitely worth the wait. These sandwiches were a huge hit! I think the use of thighs was ingenious for this recipe - white meat is often too dry for my taste, but the dark thigh meat stayed mouthwateringly moist. Plus, after a 2-hour slow roast in thick, smoky-sweet BBQ sauce, the meat literally fell off the bone. I could have eaten it without the bun! I followed the recipe as written this time around and used my oven, but you could easily use a slow-cooker to keep your house cool this summer if you wanted to. But no matter the method... I'll definitely be making these again!

Thanks again, Annie!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Silent Sunday

Here's a little peek at what yesterday's Saturday market had to offer.

Have a great Sunday, everyone.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Grilled Steak Tacos

I'm a little grill obsessed right now.

There's just so much to love about grilling. The light smokey flavor it adds to the food. The ability to keep the house cool when the temperature reaches hellish proportions outside. And - my personal favorite - the awesome lack of pots and pans to wash when you're done.

Are you ready to grill yet?

Plus, grilled foods are usually easy foods. Usually "everyone-builds-their-own" kinds of foods. Sometimes even "done-in-under-30-minutes" foods.

But always delicious foods. That's what matters after all.

These tacos are no exception. Smokey, slightly spicy steak. Warm, chewy, slightly charred tortillas. Crunchy cabbage, sour lime. Cool sour cream, fresh cilantro. How can you possibly resist? These guys are tasty, and filling... and served with a cold corona, downright fantastic. Plus they come together in under half an hour. Your grill - and your tastebuds - are begging you make these. So give your house and your dishwasher a break. Make these this week - you totally have time. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Grilled Southwest Chicken Salad

There's something about grilled corn that really gets my juices flowing.

I mean, look at those sexy, perfectly charred ears of deliciousness. Nothing screams summer to me like sweet, smokey grilled corn. Mmm.

Usually, that would be the end of the story. Beautiful fresh corn on the cob would go onto the grill to become slightly charred and ultra sweet, and then I'd promptly stuff my face with all the epic summer flavor my little tummy could handle. But for some reason, this time I decided to share the amazingness of the grilled corn... with lightly grilled bell pepper, black beans, chicken, and fresh cilantro. And more green chili-chipotle sour cream dressing than I should probably admit, let's be honest.

Even though this salad is comprised of relatively simple ingredients, the combination was quite extraordinary. Black beans and corn are some of my favorite salad toppings to begin with, but grilling the corn and bell pepper took the flavors to a whole new level of awesome. It took an otherwise unimpressive salad and turned it into a dish that tastes as quintessentially of summer as a wedge of watermelon and a glass of iced tea. The dressing - which I created completely ad lib, adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that until the flavor resembled what I had in mind - is creamy without being heavy, and tasty without being overwhelmingly spicy.

But perhaps the most exciting thing about this salad is that it's completely versatile. Don't like red bell peppers? Leave them out! Craving a little avocado? Add a few slices, or, better yet, mix it into the dressing! This salad was completely spontaneous and perfectly fit my cravings at the time, but I love knowing that I could easily tweak it to fulfill whatever cravings I may have tomorrow.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Chicken Cordon Bleu. Sounds pretty fancy, doesn't it? I mean, anything with a fancy French "bleu" on the end of its name has to be fancy, right?

Sadly, this is not always true. I've ordered chicken cordon bleu in restaurants that was nothing more than a dry grilled piece of chicken with a slab of ham and a slice of Swiss cheese apathetically thrown on top. Talk about blah.

My version is so much better.

My version of chicken cordon bleu is fit for Napolean himself. Fit to be served on fancy French china with fancy French wine and finished off with a fancy French dessert.

Or served on a bed of greens, if that's the kind of thing you're into.

True, it's basically fried in butter. But that's what makes it good. This is the kind of fried-in-butter food that makes you want to quote Julie Powell and claim that the day there is a meteorite rushing toward the Earth and we have thirty days to live that you are going to spend it eating butter.

Well maybe not butter itself so much as things fried in butter. But that's just me.

But the point, my friends, is that you need to make this. Stat. With salty, smokey prosciutto and creamy Swiss cheese that melts all over the pan and gets brown and crispy and makes you just want to spend every day browning cheese in butter and eating that all by itself... this recipe will you make you forget you ever tried that lame, flavorless chicken cordon bleu. Now go and make it. Thank me later.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mom's Basmati Rice

I can't believe I have never posted this recipe before. It's a staple in our household, and one of my favorite recipes, for sure. This recipe has a history for me. It's totally my mother's creation, and I cannot begin to count the number of times we ate it at home. In fact, I love it so much that I asked Mom to make it for me almost every time I came home during my first year of college. Eventually, I asked for the recipe so I could make it myself, but Mom didn't have much of an answer - "I don't know really... I just throw some stuff in there." The conversation went something like this...

Me: "Well you put onions and garlic and scallions in it right?"
Mom: "Yeah..."
Me: "Well how much?"
Mom: "I don't know... depends how much I'm making and how onion-y I want it."
Me: "Well what about seasonings? Is it basil and oregano or what?"
Mom: "You can use whatever you want really... I make it differently every time."
Me: "I don't imagine you measure anything..."
Mom: "Nope."
Me: "Well you're a lot of help."

So I watched her make it once and kind of picked up on the general process - saute veggie-like ingredients, toast seasonings and rice, add hot broth, cover and simmer. Easy, easy, easy. So I started playing with flavors and ingredients. I've made it with celery and carrots too, sometimes with sage and thyme instead of Italian, sometimes even with wild rice too. Mom was right - you can use whatever you want. It's a lot like risotto in the fact that once you get the process down the flavor possibilities are endless. But the recipe I present to you today is my favorite rendition. It's light, with delicate onion flavor and a texture that melts in your mouth like butter. And it goes with anything... we've eaten it with steak, grilled chicken, rosemary pork chops, and probably some other things that aren't coming to mind right now. It's definitely a recipe to keep in your back pocket for this summer!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Italian Stuffed Turkey Burgers

Now that June is finally here, I think it's officially grilling season! Not that it really feels like it here in Boise, with the monsoon-like weather we've been having. The days without threat of rain are few and far between, although I did manage to get my first sunburn of the summer while out cheering Megan on at Special Olympics last Saturday! It doesn't matter though... growing up, my parents would grill almost every day, rain or shine, even in the snow. The only reason I've waited so long to grill anything this season is that our propane tank has been empty and both the boy and I have been either too busy or too lazy to refill it. But that is an excuse no longer! Let the summer grilling begin!

I've been in the mood to grill a really good burger for a long time, but I'm trying to eat a little lighter these days since my appointment for dress alterations is in 2 weeks. But when I saw this recipe in my Ellie Krieger cookbook, I knew I had to try it. Even though previous experiences with ground turkey have left me wanting - for flavor and juicy-ness - I will always jump at the chance to stuff anything with roasted red peppers and mozzarella.

Well talk about a hit! These burgers were fan-freaking-tastic. Plump and juicy and full of flavor, these bad boys had everything I look for in a good burger. I added a little dried Italian seasoning to the ground meat before pattying - just because I felt like the recipe was practically begging for it - and it complemented the sweet, smoky red peppers perfectly. Next time, I think I'll marinate some beefsteak tomatoes in a little balsamic vinegar and grill them a little, and top the burgers with a slice and a fresh basil leaf... can you imagine how tasty that would be? But as is, these burgers are great. Even the beef-loving boy said he'd eat these 5 days a week. Give them a try and you'll understand why!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pina Colada Cake

Next up on the dessert menu for our awesome graduation BBQ was this epic Pina Colada cake! I knew the peanut butter chocolate cake was going to be rich, even before I made it, so I knew we would need a lighter option for the cake table. As a self-admitted chocolate addict, it was very difficult not to pick another chocolate cake out of the book, but I realized that not everyone loves chocolate as much as I do and that we needed something completely different for our second cake.

Enter this fine piece of dessert.

Light, brown sugar cake... pineapple-rum filling... and rich, coconut buttercream with toasty flakes of sweet coconut... what's not to love? It was the perfect airy, tropical counterpart to the other cake. It was sweet, it was boozy, and oh boy was it good. I even sent a few doggie bags home, because everyone wanted more.

I won't lie to you though... this cake was more work than I honestly expected. First, the pineapple filling took almost an hour to thicken like it was supposed to. Luckily I made it up the night before and didn't have to wait on it! Then, the frosting nearly gave me a heat attack. I decided to frost and decorate the cake the morning of the party, thinking it wouldn't take that long, but the first time I made the frosting I added the butter too soon and it separated into an oily mess and I had to make it all over again. So learn from me, and make sure you whip the egg whites and syrup until they're glossy before you add the butter! By some stroke of luck I had left extra eggs out overnight, but I hadn't softened any extra butter so I had to do it in the microwave and pray that the thinner butter would work. So I tried again. I boiled more syrup. I whipped more egg whites. And I whipped and whipped and whipped until I was afraid my mixer would overheat. And just when I had resigned myself to the idea that I would have to run to Albertson's and buy canned frosting so I could at least serve the damn cake... it came together. It was light and fluffy and glossy, just like it was supposed to be. 

And it was totally worth it. :)

So if you've got a tropical party coming up soon or any occasion that needs a spectacular cake that tastes like the beach, give this cake a try. It might be take a little extra work, but trust me... it won't disappoint.
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