Thursday, September 29, 2011

Saute of Garden Vegetables

Does anyone else occasionally have trouble coming up with a side dish for whichever epic main dish you're having for dinner? I know I do. I'm always looking for certain criteria in a good side dish, and rarely does everything line up. A) It has to taste good (obviously). B) I'd like if were healthy. Mostly vegetables is a good way to go. It's easy to come up with a starch, like potatoes or pasta or rice, but somehow I don't think it's a good idea to eat starch and only starch as my side. and C) Preferably, it should be simple, or at very least, easy to throw together. Lord knows my main is usually enough work all by itself.

Enter: the answer to your side dish prayers.

You've got fresh, hardly fussed-with, garden flavors. You've got three different kinds of veggies (four, if you want to count the onion), sauced with just a touch of olive oil and butter, most of which you'll most likely already have on hand. And it's easy - blanch, saute, serve. It's not terribly impressive... but it is pretty darn good. And heck, it's even pretty. :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sweet & Sticky Chicken Drumsticks

Who doesn't love a drumstick?

For me, drumsticks remind me of being a kid, and the novelty of eating natures first food on a stick. Drumsticks were cool in the way corn dogs were cool... it allowed me to succumb to my natural human instinct to pick up my food with my bare hands and rip into it with my bare teeth. No nice neat bites, no worry about lady-like eating habits. Everyone knows when you eat a drumstick, things will get a little messy... so no one judges when you finish dinner with sauce all over your face. I might need a wet wipe when I'm done, but by God I didn't need a fork!

I don't need to tell you how tasty these are... the name pretty much says it all. Sticky-sweet balsamic sauce over crispy skin over juicy dark meat chicken - how could these be anything but absolutely yummy? Point is, you'll love these both for their amazing adult flavors and for their wonderful juvenile nostalgia. So bring out your inner kid this weekend... just be sure to have plenty of napkins around. :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My First Roasted Chicken

Next on the list of my late night cooking adventures: roasted chicken.

This was another first for me. Weird, right? What aspiring chef has never roasted a chicken before? Well, this aspiring chef, for one. And I figured it was about time to change that. The way I think about it, roasting a chicken is like boiling an egg... everyone should know how to do it.

So with blind ambition and a whole night ahead of me, I set out on a mission... to roast my first chicken.

I wasn't particularly picky about the kind of roasted chicken I wanted to make. I just wanted to make one! I remembered the recipe featured in Cristina Ferarre's Big Bowl of Love. She called it "Chicken Roasted to Perfection," so it had to be good, right?

Well, good was a freaking understatement.

I think what surprised me most about this chicken was how moist it was. I've had roasted chicken before that was dry and tough, but this was so tender and juicy it was damn near falling off the bone by the time it was done. And every bit of it had flavor. The Dijon mustard right on the skin was almost too much for me, but Dane really loved it. But even after picking off the skin I found that the meat below had retained the perfect meld of Dijon, thyme, and rosemary. It was heavenly.

And the leftovers even made for some great fajitas the next day.

So what do you guys think? Not bad for my first try, eh? :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Spinach-Stuffed Shells

Is it weird that I'm a 22 year-old food-lover, who has a blog that's almost a year old, and I have never until this week tried stuffed shells? It's not that I haven't wanted to... this recipe (in one form or another) has been on my mind for years. I've seen countless recipes, countless mouth-watering photos, countless claims of heavenly flavor and consistency... why oh why has it taken me so long to try this dish?

Well let's just say, friends... I think I have a new favorite meal.

I've always been a big fan of lasagna. Starchy pasta, creamy cheese, gratuitous amounts of tomato-y, basil-y, galric-y marinara... what's not to love? And, after perusing the ingredients lists on most of the recipes I found, I wondered how much different stuffed shells could be from lasagna. Not that it really needed to be different. After all, I do love me some lasagna.

But somehow these are different. In the same way that calzones and pizza are comprised of essentially the same things but somehow totally crave-able in completely different ways. But, most importantly, stuffed shells are different from lasagna in an amazing, I-could-eat-this-every-night-of-the-week kind of way. Not kidding folks... new favorite meal, right here. :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Roast Pork & Veggie Burritos

Since I've begun working night shift indefinitely, I've been looking for and cooking a lot of meals that require the same base ingredient, which can be made in large quantities and then created into two or more different recipes. For me this serves two purposes. One, it gives me something to do (read: keep me awake) the night before my first night shift in the stretch, so I can stay up late and sleep most of the day. Two, it makes meal planning during my stretch of night shifts a breeze, because my main ingredient is already done... all I have to do is quickly throw the other ingredients together and voila! Dinner is ready.

Lucky for me, the September edition of Everyday with Rachel Ray was all about these kinds of meals, and I felt fortunate to come across this very tasty - and quite easy - burrito recipe. It starts with a great base roast pork, which can be eaten on its own with the usual roast sides, like mashed potatoes and gravy, but it can also easily be tossed with a little bottled BBQ sauce and piled on a bun with tasty results. The roast can also be easily frozen in smaller quantities once cooked, which makes future meal planning easy too. The rice pilaf used in these burritos is also quick and simple to throw together, and it too can be frozen for future use. Between the pork and pilaf alone, the recipe possibilities seem quite endless!

Even if you only make the roast and the rice for these burritos you won't regret it... freeze the leftovers because you'll definitely want to make these again and again!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

J&J's Agave Waffles

Dane and I received a lot of gifts for our wedding... and lucky for me, most of them were kitchen-related! And while I was definitely surprised and super-excited to receive my KitchenAid stand mixer from my best friend, Sydney, and her family, one of the gifts I was most excited about was a small compilation of recipes from my grandparents, Jan and Jerry.

Jan and Jerry are food people... the kind of people who can happily spend a whole evening with a variety plate of cheese and crackers, a couple bottles of wine, and a good jazz station on the satellite radio. They're also the kind of food people who aren't afraid to play around with a recipe, so when they actually write down a recipe and stick to it, you know it's good. So you can imagine my excitement when I got a whole binder full of them! And when Jerry adamantly impressed that we must try the Agave waffles, I knew it had to be the first recipe I tried.

And true to J&J form... these were dynamite waffles. It's a pretty basic waffle recipe, true, but simple substitutions like Agave for sugar and melted butter for oil make all the difference. These waffles are sweet, but in a way that's more full-bodied than saccharine. And I really can't describe how important it is to use melted butter... just do it! The difference is incredible, I'm telling you. I'll never use oil in waffles again.

For breakfast-lovers like us, this was the perfect beginning to our J&J journey. Thanks guys!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pasta with Proscuitto & Peas

I love recipes that require a little simmering time. I'm a huge multi-tasker - verging on ADD sometimes, but don't tell anyone - and I'll frequently find any excuse to step away from the stove, even for just a moment to look at or do something else. So I love when I get to prep a few ingredients, get them simmering beautifully, and walk away. It feels like a little surprise, to suddenly have an extra half hour or more to fritter away on facebook accomplish important things.

But what I love more than my extra free time, is the amazing, tastes-like-I-slaved-all-day-over-a-hot-stove flavor that usually results. It's almost like the recipe agrees to keep my secret about that whole time away from the stove thing, like a good friend who'll keep your economics teacher from finding out that you totally cut class. What they don't know won't hurt 'em, right?

And trust me, your secret is totally safe with this recipe. With knock-your-socks-off full-bodied flavor, no one will know you only put about 15 minutes worth of work into it. All anyone will know is that they want to eat it again and again. ...and that's what it's all about. :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Parmesan-Crusted Zucchini & Potatoes

Ask most people to list their favorite vegetables, and I would bet that a majority of the time zucchini won't make the top ten. It's nothing to hold against the poor veggie... like any other squash, if prepared by an amateur hand, it can be woody and flavorless, or worse, limp and soggy. The zucchini can be a fickle friend, requiring a little extra attention in order to shine.

But, like a diamond in the rough, you'll totally be rewarded for your extra effort in the end.

Dane and I were definitely among the majority of zucchini non-enthusiasts before this recipe. But it's amazing what a little crisping and Parmesan can do. Before I even told him what was in it, Dane took a couple bites of this and exclaimed, "Whatever you did to the zucchini and potatoes - AHmazing! I could eat this 7 days a week." Winning!

Yes, the potatoes are delicious in this recipe too... but I'm less impressed because, for me, potatoes taste good 99% of the time, no matter what you do to them. But the zucchini is the truly dramatic component here. The pan-frying step creates a beautiful crispy crust and brings out the signature sweetness of the squash... no woodiness here! Add in some fresh thyme, earthy rosemary, and salty Parmesan, and you've got an irresistible combination of early fall flavors. Give this a try and join the ranks of zucchini-lovers everywhere!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Peach & Blueberry Tart

Where has summer gone? It seems like just yesterday that I was counting down the days until I was finished with RT school, and now I look up and it's September. This has honestly been one of the greatest summers of my life - for many obvious reasons - so why does it have to be over? *whine*

Well I intend to hold onto it for as long as I can... with sweet summer peaches and juicy blueberries, baked into this simple yet amazing tart.

Seriously, this tart could not be more simple. The filling is nothing but fresh fruit, fruit preserves, and a little cornstarch. Definitely a case where simple is better. The crust - little more than ground pecans and whole whet pastry flour - is a stark complement to the sweet fruit filling. Nutty and crumbly... the perfect bite to offset the silky smooth peaches. It's a substantial dessert, which will leave you feeling happily sated without any discomfort and very little guilt. But hurry friends... these summer fruits won't be around much longer! Better make it while you can!
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