Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thrifty Thursday: Two for One

Today, I am posting TWO Thrifty Thursday recipes! I am very excited about both of these. The first one, I am going to just give you the link to it. It is what I am making for dinner tonight so I can't tell you (yet) what I think about it. However, it looks so yummy! I got a great deal on some white fish at Aldi this week. I got a bag of about 6 filets for $3.99. They were out of tilapia but I think these will work great. I will let you know what I think about Bobby Flay's Grilled Tilapia with Lemon Butter, Capers and Orzo (for dairy free, just substitue the butter for smart balance light and omit the cream). If you can find a similar deal on a white fish or tilapia, then you can make this meal for a family of four for around $7.00.
Here is a pic of Bobby Flay's meal that I made last night. It got rave reviews from my husband! Now, if you read the reviews from they say that the written recipe is not the same as how Bobby does it on his show. I did it like the reviews said to do it (make a butter sauce). However, my guess is that he changed it up a bit since making a butter sauce is kind of finicky. The trick is to remove the pot from the heat and whisk in room temperature cube at a time so that it doesn't separate. Do not re-heat in the microwave. If you need to warm it up put it in a bowl over hot water.

This next idea I got from Rachael Ray's Neapolitan Baked Ziti. I had planned on just making regular spaghetti but then I saw this on her show and thought it looked really good and figured I could do something similar with baked spaghetti. You can make this for around $6.10!! AND, it makes two dinners for a family of four!!

Jazzed Up Baked Spaghetti
1 pound spaghetti (Cooked a couple minutes short of what the package says...noodles will continue to cook when you bake it.)
1/2 lb ground turkey or beef, cooked
2 tbsp EVOO
1 onion, finely chopped
5-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped or use a microplane zester
seasonings (Use whatever seasonings you like in your spaghetti. I used about a tbsp of Italian seasoning and some extra basil because I LOVE basil.)
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes
S&P to taste
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1 bay leaf
nutmeg, freshly grated
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 -1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Heat EVOO in a medium to large saucepan. Add the onions and sweat on low heat until they are translucent (do not brown). Add garlic and cook another minute. Add your seasonings (do not add the S&P yet). Let cook for another minute and then add the tomato paste. Stir and let cook for another minute. Then, add your tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Let simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

While the sauce is simmering, melt the butter in a small to medium saucepan. Once melted, add the flour and whisk until combined. Let it cook for 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly. Slowly add the milk while whisking (you can also heat the milk before adding it so you don't have to worry about adding it as slowly). Add the bay leaf, nutmeg and season with S&P. Bring to a boil and then turn heat to low and simmer until thick, stirring often. Remove the bay leaf.

Combine the pasta, beef and red sauce and place in a greased 9x13 casserole dish (I split mine into 2 8x8 so I could freeze one of them). Pour the white sauce over the top. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese and then the parmesan cheese. Bake on 400 for 25 minutes. Then, place the oven on broil and broil for a couple of minutes until the top of the cheese is golden brown.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Whatever Wednesday: Dairy Free

I have been meaning to do a post like this on my personal life blog for a while now. My son is allergic to dairy products. We found out when he was around 4 or 5 months old (I can never keep up with dates). I was nursing him, so I had to cut all dairy and soy out of my diet. At the time, I was overwhelmed with all of it but was also willing to do anything to make him feel better and help improve his eczema. Now, we have introduced soy to him and he is doing great with it...Praise the Lord. However, we tried him on dairy when he was a year old and it was not good. He will be 2 in May and I am afraid to say that it will be a while before he grows out of his dairy allergy (if at all).

Well, recently a friend of mine found out that she has to go on a dairy free diet because of her sweet baby girl. So, that is the main reason that I am doing this post. I wanted to give her some information on cooking and eating out...dairy free. I figure I might as well post it for everyone just in case anyone else is going through this. Let me know if you have any questions about any other items or things. I might know the answer and just didn't post it on here. However, I might not know the answer but would be HAPPY to research it for you. It can be overwhelming at first.

Cooking meals at home is very easy. EVOO, soy milk, and Smart Balance Light (w/ EVOO or flaxseed) will become your friends. You can make just about any recipe with these three ingredients (unless it is something that contains cheese or creamed soups). I put soy milk in a lot of stuff from pancakes to mashed potatoes and have great results with it! Watch out for chicken and beef bouillon cubes. They contain milk (whey). So, always use canned chicken or beef broth. You will get SO good at reading labels that you just have to look at the label for a couple of seconds check for dairy. The wonderful thing about labels now is that most of them announce in bold letters if there is dairy in them. However, you should always double check for "hidden" dairy ingredients. If I am making pasta or a chicken dish that contains cheese, I will just take out some pasta and chicken (before adding dairy item) and put a dairy free sauce with it to serve it to Kael.

Here is a wonderful little cheat sheet that lists all of the "hidden" dairy ingredients AND it prints out on a business card size so that you can carry it in your purse or pocket...awesome!

This is also another favorite website of mine for dairy free information and recipes. However, their list of restaurant items that are dairy free are NOT always correct. So, I always go to the individual restaurant's website to double check.

Dairy free grocery store list: (These are items that you can find in your normal grocery store. There is a LOT more...this is just a short list)
Smart Balance Light (either w/ olive oil or flaxseed)
Fleischmann's Light margarine sticks
Oreos : )
Saltine crackers (Most crackers don't have dairy in them unless they are some kind of cheese or butter crackers. Except goldfish...ALL flavors of goldfish contain dairy.)
Wheat thins
Graham crackers
Teddy Grams
Soy yogurt

Potato chips and pretzels of course (as long as they aren't cheese flavored)
Duncan Hines brand of cake/brownie mix/frostings (even buttercream)
Orville Redenbacher's Simply Salted microwave popcorn
Arnold's sandwich bread (I was so excited when I found this. It is only $2 compared to the $4 and $5 that I was spending at Earth Fare. Now, I make my own bread which is much cheaper, but Arnold's is nice to have as a back up.)
Ghirardelli dark and semi-sweet chocolate chips Also, they have dark chocolate candy bars and dark and semi-sweet baking bars that do not contain milk. This is their allergy list.

Dairy Free restaurant food list
(Of course, ordered with no cheese if that applies and this is also not a complete list)
McDonald's: Quarter pounder, Southern style chicken sandwich ordered on either a honey wheat roll or sesame bun ( I love honey wheat roll with this), NO fries
Wendy's: Chicken nuggets and fries!
Chick-fil-a: NO meat, but you can eat their fries
Burger King: Chicken fries, whopper, french fries
Subway: any regular sub without cheese
Taco Bell: Spicy chicken soft taco or any fresco menu item
Little Caesar's: You can actually eat there pizza dough and sauce so just order a pizza with only veggies and no cheese...ugh ; ). Also, you can eat the crazy bread ordered with NO parmesan.
Zaxby's: fries
Red Robin: Burger and fries
This is not a good choice : ). You can eat a burger without the bun and no fries.
Barberito's (This is for you, Faith. I asked the Osbolt's.): You can totally eat a burrito just no cheese or dressing on it.
Hardee's: You can have grilled chicken or burger patty on a honey wheat bun.
Panera: Most of their sandwich bread (wheat, white) is dairy free so you can order a sandwich with no cheese.

Well, this is all for now. I will post more in the comments as I think of things. Let me know if anyone has specific restaurants, food items, etc. that you are wondering about!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Menu Planning Monday

If you want to join, Menu Planning Monday, go here and post a link on "I'm an Organizing Junkie" to your MMP blog post!

Monday: Parmesan Crusted Salmon (I am probably going to add some bread crumbs and parsley to the cheese and top it with balsamic drizzle and pesto...recipe to follow) and Truffle Garlic Creamed Potatoes
Tuesday: Engagement Chicken with rice
Wednesday: Grilled Tilapia with lemon butter, capers and orzo
Thursday: Chicken Picatta with rice (I am using a combo of this recipe and a recipe that I have in a magazine.)
Friday: Spaghetti with meat sauce (recipe to come...)
Saturday: French Onion Salisbury Steak (Recipe to come...)
Sunday: Pizza

Talia's Pesto
In a food processor, blend:
1 cup fresh basil (or you can use cilantro during the winter...really good)
1/2 cup pecans (or you can use pine nuts but I prefer pecans)
5 garlic cloves
1/2 cup asiago cheese (or parmesan or a mixture of both)
coarse ground black pepper (about one tsp)
kosher salt

Gradually add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup EVOO until desired consistency (thick paste). You will want to taste and add salt and pepper as you like.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thrifty Thursday: AMAZING pizza dough just the other day I posted a pizza recipe that I got from my cooking classes. However, you have to let the dough rise overnight. I didn't plan ahead for tonight's pizza night so I had to find a different recipe. I am SO glad I did! I found a pizza dough recipe on It is seriously amazing!! I had to add more flour as some of the other people commented. I added about a half a cup more flour. Just add flour until the dough has formed into a good consistency. You want it to be a little sticky (just use flour on your hands). Also, I put mine in a warm oven (turn your oven on about 200 degrees for a few minutes and then turn it off) and covered it with a thin dish towel to let it rise. You just want the oven to be warm...not hot. The cost of two pizzas (cheese, garlic, pepperoni for toppings) is around $7.00!!!

Now, for a few things that you must do in order to make this pizza dough taste like pizza at a restaurant. First of all, make sure that the dough triples in size while rising before forming it into a pizza crust. Mine took about an hour but it will all depend on the weather that day. I also double this recipe to make two pizzas since my boys can down some pizza!

The other pretty important thing is to use a pizza stone. I have one large and one medium round stone from pampered chef. I used 3/4ths of the dough for the large and the rest for the medium. I promise that it will make a HUGE difference in the crust of your pizza. There is no need to spray the stone with non-stick spray. First, place your cold stones into the oven. Then, turn your oven on 425 degrees and let it pre-heat. While the stones are in the oven, form your dough into pizza crust shapes on a well floured surface. After the stones have been in the oven for about 20 minutes, remove them from the oven and sprinkle them with ground cornmeal. Ground cornmeal will allow your pizza dough to move freely on the stone. Immediately after pulling the stones from the oven and sprinkling with cornmeal, lift your pizza dough from the counter and move it to the stones. Note: when making two pizzas I pull one stone out of the oven at a time so that the other stone will stay hot while I am situating the dough on the other stone. The heated stone will help the bottom of the pizza to set. Don't worry if, when you lift the dough from the counter, you get a couple of holes in the dough. Once you place it onto the stone, you can reshape it and fill in the holes.

Next, brush the dough with some olive oil and whatever spices you like (italian seasoning or basil). Top with sauce. Then, put whatever toppings on the pizza that you want. For this pizza, I just used freshly grated garlic, large pepperoni slices, and lots of cheese! Bake at 450 for 6-8 minutes.

If you can find this kind of chunky crushed tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano then you will have the easiest and most delicious pizza sauce! The only thing I did was add a couple of tablespoons of EVOO. One 28oz can is plenty for two pizzas.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Menu Planning Monday

Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie to see other meal plans or to join in on the planning!

Sunday - Rachael Ray's Baked Shell Casserole
Monday - Hungry Girl's Crispy Chicken Sandwiches
(tastes like Chick-fil-a and is SO yummy!) and Rachael Ray's Crispy Oven Veggie Fries
Tuesday - Chicken Curry with rice (Recipe to come later this week)
Wednesday - leftover stuffed shell casserole
Thursday - Homemade Pizza (dough and sauce recipe to follow)
Friday - Greek Chicken with roasted potatoes and broccoli (Recipe to come later this week)
Saturday - Parmesan Crusted Chicken with green beans and mashed potatoes (Recipe to come later this week)

Pizza Dough
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp instant dry yeast
2 tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup semolina flour
3 1/4 cups bread flour
2 tsp sea salt
To make the dough, add the lukewarm water to a large bowl, along with the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over top and wait until it dissolves. Pour in the olive oil, sprinkle in about half of the semolina flour and half of the bread flour and stir to combine. Then add the remaining flours and the salt. Stir a few times to combine the ingredients.

Use your hands to bring the dough together, and then turn it out onto the counter. Knead the dough for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until it feels and looks smooth.

Portion the dough and form each portion into a round. Lightly oil a large bowl with olive oil. Coat the dough very lightly with olive oil and place into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it slow-rise overnight in the refrigerator (or at room temperature) until double in size.

Step 2: Shaping the Dough
1/4 cup coarse cornmeal (for sprinkling on pizza stone)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (for brushing on dough)
Place the pizza stone into a cold oven then preheat the oven to 450º degrees Fahrenheit. Let the stone heat for at least 30 minutes before baking your first pizza.

Place a piece of room temperature dough onto a lightly floured counter. Press it flat into a round. Continue to press and turn the dough while stretching it. You can also hold the dough upright, rolling it between your fingers as you stretch it. The weight of the dough will help to stretch it.
Sprinkle the stone with cornmeal. Gently transfer the dough to the stone and proceed with your pizza recipe.

Two Pizza Sauces
1 can crushed tomato (15 ounces)
1 to 2 cloves Fresh garlic
1 tsp Salt
1 can whole tomatoes (15 ounces)
1 tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil
salt (to taste)
1 clove Fresh garlic
6 basil leafs
For a thicker sauce, with a more concentrated tomato flavor, use a can of quality crushed tomatoes (look at ingredients to make sure that the ONLY ingredient is tomatoes). Add a clove or two of thinly sliced garlic, a bit of salt and stir.

To make the second sauce, simply strain a can of whole tomatoes and crush them by hand. Add the olive oil, salt, garlic, and fresh basil and mix together.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thrifty Thursday: Mama Dip's Sunday Chicken Casserole

You have GOT to try this! It is absolutely my favorite chicken casserole! This is a Mama Dip's recipe. She has a (if you are not familiar) restaurant in Chapel Hill (not my favorite place...hehe). My husband and I are going through the "1000 Places to See" book and attempting to go to as many place in the book as we can. Mama Dip's is on that list so, of course, we have been there and came home with a cookbook. This chicken casserole is creamy and delicious. If you try this, I am pretty positive that you will add it to your recipe box. AND, it will cost around $7.95. You could also do a 9x13 pan or 2 8x8 with the same amount of chicken breast (just cut them one will ever know) and double the rest of the indredients which are really cheap.

4 chicken breasts
3/4 stick unsalted butter
1 tbsp flour
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup water
1 tsp instant chicken broth granules (or 1 cube disolved in the 3/4 cup of water or you can just use a cup of chicken broth/stock)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 small box wild rice or 1 cup uncooked white rice (cooked according to package)
1 cup grated mozzarella

Cook the rice according to the package directions (I buy whichever is the cheapest). While the rice is cooking, soak the fillets in a little salt and cold water for about 10 minutes. Then, pat them as dry as you can get them with a paper towel. In a frying pan, melt the butter, but do NOT brown (low heat). Place the chicken in the pan and let cook on medium heat until they appear done (about 10 minutes). While the chicken is cooking grease a 8x8 square pan and spread the rice in the bottom of the pan. Remove the chicken in the pan and let rest. Using a wire whisk, stir the flour into the butter in the frying pan. Then, add the sour cream while whisking. Continue to whisk while adding the water and the instand broth. Add the mushrooms (if I buy fresh, I usually saute them in some EVOO until they have a golden brown finish). Let this sauce simmer for 8 minutes. Place the chicken (you can cut up the chicken a bit if you want) on top of the rice and pour the sauce on top. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake at 350 for 30 mintues.

I should also note that I add a couple of cloves of garlic (minced) to the butter while it is melting in the pan. I just didn't put it in the list of ingredients because I wanted to keep it true to Mama Dip's recipe. I don't, however, add onions which normally I would. I love the texture of it without onions.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Taste Test Tuesday: Granola Bars

So, my friend Carlyn got me into making homemade granola bars. I wanted to make a couple of batches yesterday but I only had 1 cup of rolled oats and her recipe calls for 2 cups. So, I thought I would look around on to see if there was another recipe that I had the ingredients for. I couldn't find any. However, I found a recipe that I really wanted to try. I decided to just adapt it to what ingredients that I have in my pantry. I had no eggs, wheat germ, and only 1/2 cup total of honey. I really need to go to the store!

This is the original recipe for Playgroup Granola Bars. And, here are the two batches that I made. I had to make two since I had so few of each ingredient. I didn't want to get the kids out in the cold to walk to the store! I prefer the first recipe the best but they are both good. You can add anything in place of the chips or raisins...craisins, nuts, coconut, etc.

I made one batch this way:
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup granola cereal (You can use whatever kind you want. I used Feed Granola: Bittersweet-ness because I was trying to use it up.)
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup wheat bran
¼ cup milled flaxseed
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup flour
¾ cup chocolate chips or raisins (optional)
¾ tsp salt
¼ cup honey
¼ cup peanut butter
½ cup canola oil
2 tbsp milk (I used soy milk.)
2 tsp vanilla extract

And, one batch like this:
2 cups granola cereal (I used Feed Granola: Blueberry Almond. These are crispier than the first recipe since there are no rolled oats. I only had a cup of rolled oats so that is why I used all granola cereal in this one.)
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup wheat bran
¼ cup milled flaxseed
¾ tsp. cinnamon
½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup wheat flour
¾ cup chocolate chips or raisins (optional)
¾ tsp salt
¼ cup honey
¼ cup peanut butter
½ cup canola oil
2 tbsp milk (I used soy milk.)
2 tsp vanilla extract

For both of these recipes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients. Once incorporated, make a well in the center of the ingredients. Pour in the honey, peanut butter, oil, milk, and vanilla. Mix together with your hands. Dump into the greased pan. Firmly press into the pan with your hands. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the edges start to brown. Cool for 5 minutes and cut into bars while still a little warm.

I put them in the small snack bags (one in each) so I can just pull them out if I am headed out the door. I also took some and put them in the freezer to pull out later.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Truffle Garlic Creamed Potatoes

For Christmas, my amazing husband, bought me a food mill. I have been wanting one for a while now mainly to make creamed potatoes. However, a food mill can also be used to make marinara, jams, applesauce, etc. I am very excited to use it for all of these things. Tonight, I made a roast with some gravy and made mashed potatoes using my new food mill. The food mill is absolutely amazing! The potatoes were super creamy and yummy. I did a few things different with these creamed potatoes than I normally do so I thought I would share it with you. They probably aren't the best creamed potatoes ever but, they are definitely the best creamed potatoes that I have ever made (my husband agrees). The measurements are just a guess so make sure to taste your way through this recipe!

3-4 pounds of potatoes (peeled and diced about 1 inch cubes)
3-4 cups white or dark chicken stock (enough to cover the potatoes or just use what you have and cover them the rest of the way with water)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp kosher salt
3 garlic cloves (peeled and kept whole)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
5 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4-1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4-1/2 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp truffle oil (It can now be found in most groceries stores. Be careful...a little goes a long way)

Place potatoes in a large saucepan with the stock/water. The potatoes should be completely covered with liquid. Add the bay leaf, salt, and garlic to the pot. Bring water/stock to a boil, reduce heat to medium high and boil for 12-15 minutes (until they are fork tender). Remove from heat and drain. Keep the garlic cloves with the potatoes and discard the bay leaf.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, add the milk, cream, butter, nutmeg, white pepper and truffle oil. Heat on low just to warm the milk/cream and melt the butter. Keep on low heat until you are ready to use.

Food mill preparation: Place the food mill on top of a bowl. Place the cooked potatoes and garlic in the food mill. Grind until all potatoes/garlic have been milled.

No food mill preparation: If you have stand mixer, this would be your best option. If you don't, you can use a hand mixer. Mix the potatoes (on medium to high speed) until they are as lump free and creamy as you can get them. This might take a while so just be patient.

If you used a food mill, the potatoes can stay in the bowl they are in for this next part. If you used a stand mixer, keep the potatoes mixing as you add the next ingredients. Add the cream/milk mixture. Be sure to add a little at a time. You do not want your potatoes to be too watery. Continue to add until you reach your desired consistency (everyone is different). Taste. Add more pepper or salt if needed. Sea salt is wonderful to flavor creamed potatoes. It is okay for the potatoes to look a little wet as they while thicken as they sit.

Tip: If you are serving to guests that have not arrived, place a few thin pads of butter on top of the potatoes and cover tightly with plastic wrap. This will keep the potatoes from forming a crust on top.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thrifty Thursday: Chicken and Grits

If you would like to participate in Thrifty Thursday on your blog just post a recipe on your blog that costs $10 or less for a family of four. Then, link back to my blog. Also, enter your link and information at the bottom of this post.

Those of you that are my friends, know that I have never eaten shrimp, fish, or anything for that matter that lived in the water. Here in the last year, I have really been trying to make myself like all seafood. It was my dear sweet husband that triggered this desire in me. See, I have been talking about going to culinary school once all of our kids are in school. Chris' response to that was (in a joking manner), "You think you can go to culinary school if you don't eat any seafood. What would Bobby Flay think about that?" He is really hilarious to me. Even though it was a joke, I am glad he said it. He really inspired me to get over my dislike/fear of seafood and branch out. As of now, I have eaten and enjoyed: tilapia, salmon, sushi, mussels, and baby shrimp (still can't do large shrimp but will work up to it).

Today, however, I am going to share a recipe with you that I came up with to satisfy my desire to like shrimp and grits. Chris loves shrimp and grits but, of course, I would never make it for him. So, I came up with a recipe for chicken and grits. It is SO comforting and yummy! This meal comes out to be approximately $7.72 and that is using a good quality cornmeal. However, the price is figured by using water instead of chicken stock. I highly recommend spending the extra dollar or two and getting the stock. It adds a wonderful flavor to the grits! The flour, salt, pepper and oil are not figured into the cost as I think these are things that you already have in your pantry.

Chicken and Grits
1 pound chicken breasts (cut into small cubes)
3 tbsp flour
kosher salt
2 tbsp evoo (or any other oil you have on hand)
half onion
2 garlic cloves (minced or thin sliced...however you like it)
2 tbsp chicken stock/broth or water

2 cups milk (preferably whole milk if you have it)
2 cups chicken stock/broth or water
1.5 tsp kosher salt
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
pepper to taste
4 tbsp unsalted butter (If you use salted butter then leave out the 1.5 tsp of salt until you have finished the dish. Then, taste to see if it needs anymore salt)
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese (You can experiment with other cheeses as well. I think that sharp white cheddar or smoked gouda would also be good in this.)

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Mix the flour, salt and pepper together (about 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper). Dust the flour over the chicken pieces. Add the chicken to the skillet and brown on all sides until done (about 7-8 minutes depending on how big you cut your pieces). When chicken is done, remove it to a plate and set aside.

Add the onions to the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes and then add the garlic. Cook for a minute more or until you can smell the garlic (you don't want to brown the garlic because it will add a bitter taste to your food). Add the water or stock and return the chicken pieces to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until hot and there is not more water in the skillet.

While you are cooking the chicken, you can start the grits. In a medium saucepan, add the milk, water or chicken stock and salt. Bring it to a boil stirring often to make sure the milk is not burning on the bottom of the pan (Tip: rinse your saucepan in cold water before using it and dump out all of the water but do not wipe it out. This will prevent the milk from sticking). Once it is boiling, slowly add the cornmeal. Using a whisk, mix it into the milk. Once all of the cornmeal is well mixed into the milk, decrease the heat to low and cover with a lid. You must remove the lid and stir frequently (every 3-4 minutes) to keep the grits from sticking to the saucepan. Continue with this process for 20-25 minutes or until it is creamy.

Remove from heat and whisk in pepper and butter. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the cheese a little at a time. Place the grits in a shallow bowl and top with chicken. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dark Chicken Stock

Also, check out Taste Test Tuesday for the difference between stock/broth and white stock/dark stock.

4-6 tbsp of canola oil
chicken bones
celery ribs
1-2 heads of garlic
1-3 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 -3/4 cup dry white wine

Refer to White Chicken Stock for ingredient amounts.

Preheat the oven to 425º degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly coat a roasting pan with 2 tablespoons of the oil and lay the fresh bones in a single layer (I used bones from a chicken that had already been cooked but fresh bones are better). Place into the oven to caramelize.

Meanwhile, wash and roughly chop all of the mirepoix (carrots, onions, leeks, celery, garlic) into 1 inch pieces. Keep the leeks separate, as they will be added a bit later. Cut the garlic in half horizontally.

For easy clean up, line a baking tray with foil all the way up the sides. Add about 1tablespoon of oil and the mirepoix. Add another tablespoon of oil over top and toss to coat. Place into the oven for about 30 minutes.

Check the bones after about 40 minutes or so. If they’re golden brown, turn them over and place them back into the oven to caramelize on the other side. Toss the vegetables occasionally to ensure they are cooking evenly.

Now, add the leeks, toss again and place back into the oven. Once the mirepoix is done, push it towards the center of the foil, being careful not to tear it.

Next, heat a stock pot to medium and add the rest of the oil (about 2 tablespoons). Transfer the mirepoix to the pot and add the tomato paste. Cook for about a minute or so, turn off the heat and set aside while you check on the bones. Once the bones are nicely caramelized, add them to the stock pot.

Carefully drain the excess fat from the roasting pan. Place the pan onto the stove top and turn the heat to medium-high. Deglaze with the white wine. Once the wine has reduced, scrape the bottom and pour everything into the stock pot. Cover with enough cold water to cover everything by 2 inches. Refer to White Chicken Stock and follow the directions for finishing the stock. The only difference is that you will want to simmer it for at least 6 hours and up to 10 hours before adding the bouquet garni (bay leaves, thyme, parsley, peppercorns).

White Chicken Stock

Also, check out Taste Test Tuesday to read about the difference between broth/stock and white stock/dark stock. There is also a post with a recipe for dark chicken stock.

bones from your chicken
COLD water to cover your bones by about 2 inches
celery with the leaves
leeks (chop leeks first and then put them in a bowl of water to wash off the dirt before using them)
black peppercorns
1-2 bay leaves
8-12 stems fresh parsley
2-4 stems fresh thyme

I realize that I haven't put amounts by all of these ingredients. It will really depend on how many bones you are using. The typical rule is that you want a 3:1 ration, bones to vegetables. Some people even prefer a 5:1 ratio that the meat flavor really stands out. How much of each ingredient that you use is really up to you and what flavor that you want. Don't worry too much about it. When I am only using one whole chicken I use: 1 rib celery, 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 leek, 1 tsp peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 5 stems parsley, and 2 stems of thyme. Salt is also optional. Do not use anymore than 1 tsp per every 4 quarts of water.

To start the stock, rinse the bones under cold water and place them into a suitable-sized stock pot. Cover the bones with cold water, by about 2 inches. Turn the heat to medium and slowly bring the bones to a simmer, making sure it doesn’t come to a boil and skimming the fat off periodically. In the meantime, clean and chop the mirepoix (onions, leeks, celery and carrots) into about 1/2 inch pieces.

After the stock has simmered for about 30 minutes, skim one more time, then add the mirepoix. Let the stock gently simmer for at least another hour but preferably 4 more hours, skimming the surface as needed. Make sure to add more cold water if you can see your bones sticking out of the water. The bones should always be covered. Also, remember not to stir your stock.

In the last 30 minutes of cooking add the bouquet garni (peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley stems, fresh thyme and celery leaves), making sure to gently tuck it underneath the surface. Continue to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Once the stock has cooked for at least 1.5-2 hours but preferable 4 hours and up to 8hours, you can strain it. First, skim off as much fat as possible from the surface. Then, gently remove the solids and discard. Finally, strain the stock through a sieve lined with a piece of cheesecloth or clean very thin kitchen towel. You can either use the stock immediately or cool it over an ice bath. Store it in the refrigerator for a few days, or portion it out and freeze for several months.

I discovered a great trick the other day for getting the rest of the fat off of your stock. Place your stock in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. After a couple of hours (the fat as had a chance to come to the top), very gently press the plastic wrap down on top of the fat. The fat will stick to the plastic wrap allowing you to scoop the plastic wrap up with the fat trapped inside.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Taste Test Tuesday: White Chicken Stock Vs. Dark Chicken Stock

I know, I know. I was a complete slacker yesterday. I was planning on posting this last night but I fell asleep on the couch at 8pm and didn't wake up until 1am. By the way, I never fall asleep on the couch so I must have been extremely tired! We are going to chat about stock today. But, first I am going to tell you the difference between broth and stock. Most of you might already now this, but I thought we better talk about it just in case.

Chicken broth is made when using a whole chicken with the meat still attached or a whole chicken that has been cut up with the meat still attached. Since the meat is still attached and will more than likely be used for something else (pot pie, soup, etc.) then the cooking time is generally shorter (45 minutes to an hour). Broth can be used just like stock it just won't have quite as much flavor as stock as it has only simmered for about an hour.

Chicken stock is made using fresh bones from the chicken (no meat). Normally, the backs and necks are used but any bones will make a good stock. I buy whole chickens or split chicken breast and remove the meat (to be cooked later) and use all of the bones from the chicken. Three things that are important to remember when making stock: use COLD water, do NOT bring to a boil, and skim off the fat/impurities during the entire process, and do NOT stir. Chicken stock is simmered for at least 4 hours which makes it richer than chicken broth. You NEVER want to bring stock to a boil. Bringing stock to a boil will make the fat and impurities emulsify into the stock and will never be completed separated. This will make your stock cloudy. Other than the simmering time and bones vs. meat, broth and stock are made the same way.

Dark chicken stock is something I have never heard of until recently. This last year for our anniversary, I got a membership to online cooking courses. It is wonderful. This is where I learned about dark stock. When making dark chicken stock, you caramelize the bones and vegetables before placing them in the cold water to simmer. Also, dark stock is usually simmered anywhere from 6-10 hours. The last difference is that you add a small amount of tomato paste to dark stock. Dark stock is used to add a darker color and deeper flavor to dishes and sauces. You can also make dark chicken broth. Before you start simmering the meat in the water, you would caramelize it in a skillet making sure not to cook the meat all the way through. You would do the same with the veggies. You can caramelize them in the same pan as the meat.

I made white and dark stock this week. There is a HUGE difference in the color and the flavor. I am very excited that I have over 20 cups in my freezer, half white and half dark. I don't know exactly which I will choose for certain recipes. I will have to let you know. I guess it will just depend on the color and flavor that I want and the recipe that I am using. I am going to post the instructions for the white and dark stock today. I hope all of this makes sense! Making stock and freezing it will save you a lot of money!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Meal Planning Monday

Monday- Roast Chicken (brined with compound butter under skin...recipe to come) with potatoes and corn
Tuesday- Pork Won tons (that I made a while back and froze) with fried rice and stir fry veggies
Wednesday- Pasta with sausage cream sauce and Carlyn's garlic bread (follow recipe for cream sauce but add half an onion to melted butter until browned and then add a half pound or pound of sausage until no longer pink. Then, add the cream, salt, and garlic and follow the remaining instructions).
Thursday- Rachael Ray's Breaded Pork and Mozzarella Stacks with garlic broccoli
Friday- Chicken Spinach Lasagna (recipe to come)
Saturday- Rachael Ray's Steakhouse Chili (love trying new chili recipes...especially when it is so chilly outside!)
Sunday- leftover lasagna

Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie to see other meal plans or to join in on the planning!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Freezer Meal Friday

Cherry Pork Chops Freezer Recipe
6 boneless pork chops
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup beef broth
3 tbsp apple juice
1 can pitted cherries, drained but save juice
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp dried crushed rosemary

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Brown pork chops with a small amount of salt and pepper (to taste), about six minutes each side. Pour apple juice and broth into skillet, stir. Simmer covered for 20 minutes.

In a bowl, combine cherry juice and cornstarch. Add to skillet and stir. Add cherries and rosemary. Bring up the heat slightly and cook until sauce has thickened, about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.

Allow to cool then freeze in freezer container or large Ziploc bag.

On cooking day: Defrost overnight in refrigerator. Empty container into a skillet and cook on low heat until the pork chops and sauce are thoroughly heated. Serve over bed of Cherry Rice Pilaf.

Cherry Rice Pilaf
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon margarine
3 cups cooked rice

Heat margarine in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook onion, celery, cherries, walnuts, and spices over medium heat for about ten minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add rice and cook three to four minutes or until heated through. Freeze in Ziploc bag.

On cooking day: Open the Ziploc bag and place (no need to thaw) in the microwave for about 3 minutes or until heated through.
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