Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Soup

     While Yahoo is one of the most worthless sources of reliable news reporting, they do have a fairly robust food section that I refer to on a regular basis. The Wife happened across this slow-cooker recipe in her search for quick and easy meals for the week. In addition to being quick and easy, this was also right tasty, which is something I don't often say about slow cooker fare. Throw down some good crusty bread with this and you're good to go. I do suggest you take the suggestion for the pasta you'll see later in the recipe; you'll thank us for it. Or not, if you're totally ungrateful. We give and give and give and all you do is take and take and take. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Soup
via Yahoo Food
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (we got lazy and used 3 teaspoons minced garlic from a jar)
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped (The Wife doesn't like green peppers, so we went with red)
  • 14 1/2 ounces crushed tomatoes (we used a can of undrained diced tomatoes)
  • 1/2 pound raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
  • 3 cups chicken broth 
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (none on hand, we used 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (none on hand either, 1.5 teaspoons dried)
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
  • 4 ounces uncooked dry gemelli or penne pasta
  • Chopped fresh basil or parsley, for garnish (no fresh on hand, omitted)
  1. In the slow cooker, stir together the garlic, bell pepper, crushed tomatoes, chicken, broth, onion, the cheese, basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook on high for 3 1/2 hours, or on low for 7 hours.
  2. Transfer chicken breasts to a cutting board and coarsely shred them; return them to the slow cooker; stir in the pasta. Cook on high for 30 minutes longer or until pasta is cooked al dente (adding the pasta at this step is a Bad Idea unless you plan on eating everything in one sitting. That pasta will turn to mush overnight if you put any aside for later. We suggest cooking the pasta separately and adding it as needed when you serve the soup. Unless you like mushy pasta. We won't judge. Yes we will. Don't do it.)
  3. Serve garnished with more Parmesan cheese and chopped basil or parsley.
Good times!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Swedish Rye Bread

     There seems to be a sharp division on rye bread. It's like pumpernickel. People either love it or hate it. There is no middle ground. Those people who don't like it are totally entitled to their opinions. They are however, totally wrong. Rye bread is great. Especially this rye bread. Granted, this bread will qualify as a PITA due to the 2+ hours of rising time. It's worth the wait. The recipe makes 3 loaves and the loaves freeze really well. Just wrap each loaf in plastic shrink and then in a layer of heavy aluminum foil. When you're ready, just take it out and let it get back to room temperature on it's own. This is a good, hearty bread with just a touch of sweetness. You'll love it. Or you're wrong. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Swedish Rye Loaves
via Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals

  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided (we omitted the 1 divided tablespoon of butter for reasons that will become apparent)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3 cups bread flour (theoretically, if you use any flour for bread, doesn't it count as "bread" flour? I hope they meant white flour, because that's what I used)
  • 2 packages (.25 ounce each) of active dry yeast
  • 3 cups rye flour
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (omitted. The Wife is not a fan of bread with seeds)
  1. In a bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, molasses, 4 tablespoons butter and salt; stir in boiling water. Let stand until mixture cools to 120-130F, stirring occasionally.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of bread flour and yeast. Add the molasses mixture. Stir in rye flour and enough of the remaining flour to form a medium stiff dough (we used all the flour called for in the recipe and a tiny bit more). Turn out onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes (we did this entire step in our KitchenAid with the dough hook. I plan on using that thing until it explodes)
  3. Place in bowl covered with non-stick cooking spray, turning once to coat the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  4. Punch down dough, cover and let rise in again until doubled, about 30 minutes. 
  5. Punch down dough, Turn out onto floured surface and divide into three portions. Shape into loaves (I went with round loaves because it's the easiest and very rustic looking. Everybody loves that rustic looking stuff). Place on baking sheets covered with nonstick cooking spray (I used a pizza stone and everything came out wonderfully). Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes (I know! The rising times qualify this as a PITA. This is the last rise. I promise. This will be totally worth it. Unless you don't like rye bread, in which case you just wasted a bunch of time and ingredients).
  6. Cut a shallow cross across the top of each loaf to prevent uneven expansion during baking, Bake at 375F (190C, Gasmark5) for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown (our oven consistently takes 35 minutes to cook these loaves)
  7. Cool on wire racks
  8. Melt remaining butter; brush over loaves and sprinkle with caraway seeds. Cool. (Omitted)
Good times!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken with Cheesy Grits

     Cheesy grits seem to be all the rage lately. You can't open a cooking magazine and not find something served over grits. For me, grits were always something you'd order at Huddle House- a bowl of mush swimming in melted butter. This time, it's swimming in cheese. Cheese makes everything better. At the very least, cheese makes The Wife happy, which makes my life very easy. Though the recipe isn't made entirely in the slow-cooker, it is about the lamest, laziest recipe I've ever devised, which is hilarious because it's really damned good. Give it a try and tell me I'm wrong. You'd be lying, because I'm not wrong. It's really damned good. As always, notes are in blue.

Slow-cooker BBQ Chicken
and Cheesy Grits
BBQ Chicken

  • 1 pound chicken, skin removed (we used drumsticks. There's nothing stopping you from using boneless, skinless chicken. In the long run, that would probably save you a little time and work)
  • 1 bottle of BBQ sauce of your choice. 
Cheesy Grits
  • 1 cup grits
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
  • 1 cup shredded cheese of your choice (we used a bagged mix of cheddar, American and Swiss)
  1. Pour BBQ sauce into a slow cooker. 
  2. Fill BBQ sauce bottle half-way and shake. Pour into slow-cooker.
  3. Add chicken and cook on LOW 6-7 hours or until chicken is done.
  4. Remove the meat from the bone and discard the bones. Return the meat to the sauce. If using boneless, shred the meat and return to the sauce.
Cheesy Grits (Done on the stove)
  1. In a saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add the adobo seasoning.
  2. Stir in grits and cheese. Lower heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. About halfway through the cooking, stir to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan (you may find this step is easier if you remove the lid first. Put the lid back on when you're done stirring)
  3. After 5 minutes, take off lid and remove from heat. Grits should be creamy.
  1. Take a big scoop of grits and put them on a plate.
  2. Take a big scoop of chicken and sauce and place it on the grits.
  3. Unceremoniously shovel the concoction in your face and enjoy. Maybe have a beer or two with this. I'd recommend a nice wheat beer. Or Guinness. You can never go wrong with Guinness. 
  4. Damn it, now I want a Guinness and I don't have any in the house.
  5. I'll be damned if I'm making a special trip to the store to buy Guinness.
  6. It's better on draft anyway.
  7. Ah screw it, I'll just have a bourbon and cola.
Good times!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Slow Cooker Indian Style Chicken Chili

     Sometimes it's fun to make totally inauthentic food. We've all done it. Take some ingredients that follow a theme and just get stupid. That's what happened here. And I'll be damned, it worked! It is certainly no chili and definitely not genuine Indian food, it combines from both and makes for a very fragrant and satisfying meal. I didn't ramp the heat much for the base recipe, but you can certainly add more cayenne or chopped green chiles if you want more heat. Give it a try and see what you think. Or don't I know you only come here for my rugged good looks and roguish charm.

Indian-Style Chicken Chili

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 2- 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use more if you want more heat)
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Load everything into a slow cooker.
  2. Cook on LOW for about 7 hours. If needed, add 1/2 cup more water during cooking.
  3. When done cooking, take out the bay leaf and discard. Shred chicken with two forks
  4. Eat and be happy.
Good tines!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Shells with Broccoli and Anchovy

     It's always a good idea to have some truly speedy recipes in your repertoire. A home-cooked meal is a wonderful thing to carry you through to the weekend. Usually when we get home from work we're not in the mood to cook. We normally reheat something we prepared with a slow cooker on Sunday. This is a fantastic and simple recipe. It also has anchovies, which I love. If you're squeamish about anchovies, get over that sort of shit. You're not six. Unless you're allergic, give it a try. If you are allergic, try it anyway, but add an Epipen to the silverware layout. As always, notes and changes are in blue. 

Shells with Broccoli and Anchovy
via The Essential Pasta Cookbook
  • 1 lb. medium shell pasta
  • 14 ounces broccoli (we used a 10 ounce bag of frozen broccoli and it was plenty)
  • 1 tablespoon oil (I used the oil from the can of anchovies we opened)
  • 1 onion, chopped (I used a Vidalia, figuring the sweetness would go well in here)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 3 anchovy fillets, chopped (in retrospect, we probably could have easily doubled the amount of anchovies. The Wife even said it could have used a bit more anchovy, which is impressive considering she's not a big fan of the little fishies!)
  • 1-1/4 cups cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, for serving (we added it directly to the pasta instead of over the top)
  1. Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente (I went to school with Al Dente. Nice guy). Drain and return to the pan.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, cut the broccoli into florets and cook in a pan of boiling water for 1 minute. Drain, plunge in cold water and drain again. Set aside. Alternately, if you're lazy like us, just microwave a steamer bag of broccoli and be done with it. This frees up valuable time for wine drinking.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onion, garlic and anchovies and cook over low heat, stirring for 3 minutes (I changed this up a bit because The Wife prefers her onions with no snap. I wound up sauteeing for closer to 7-8 minutes to make sure the onions were the right consistency)
  4. Add the cream to the pan, stirring constantly; bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for about 2 minutes. Add the broccoli and cook for another minute. Salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss to combine. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve (we opted to toss the cheese with the pasta)
Good times!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Braised Chicken and Tomato

     The early 1990's must have been an interesting time to cook. Based on cookbooks from the era like my well-worn copy of Pol Martin's Supreme Cuisine, everything looked like a hot mess. Lots of earth tones and frightening sauces. I love that sort of shit. This recipe comes from the aforementioned book and is super easy to make. It turns out a really nice sauce that's good over rice or egg noodles. Give it a try and relive the days of grunge rock, Tamogotchis and Hypercolor shirts! As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Braised Chicken and Tomato
via Pol Martin's Supreme Cuisine
  • 3-4 pounds chicken, cut into sections, washed and skinned
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter (I wound up using 5 for reasons still not entirely understood)
  • 2 dry shallots, peeled and chopped (None on hand. I used one chopped red onion)
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushroom, cleaned and halved
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
  • 3 plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock, heated
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • (I substituted the previous 6 items with one quart of my own garlic basil canned tomatoes and 1/2 cup water. Nothing really groundbreaking, my canned stuff pretty much had everything they asked for all in one)
  1. Preheat oven to 375F (180C, Gasmark 4)
  2. Dredge chicken pieces in flour
  3. Heat butter in ovenproof pan (I used my trusty cast iron enameled Dutch oven) over medium heat, Add chicken pieces and sear on all sides for 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add shallots (or onions), garlic, mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes. Season and cook 6 minutes over medium heat (since I used my own mix, I added the onions and mushrooms for 4-5 minutes, then dumped my canned tomatoes in)
  5. Incorporate wine, chicken stock and basil (I skipped this part since I was kind of doing my own thing at this point). Bring to a boil. Cover and cook for 25-30 minutes in the oven.
Good Times!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Spiced Gatehouse Tea Bread

If you've never read any of the Redwall books by Brian Jacques, you're really missing out. I even devoted a whole blog post to his dedication to describing food. Go read his books; you won't regret it. Lately, we've been dabbling with a few of the recipes from an actual cookbook that he released some time ago. I mention it in the post linked earlier. Check that out, too. The first one we tried was a tea bread. This is a fantastic breakfast bread. Toasted and slathered in butter and/or honey, you've got a real treat. It also is a very good looking bread, just loaded with fruit. Make it and sit around pretending you're a mouse and it's like you're living the book! As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Spiced Gatehouse Tea Bread
via Brian Jacques The Redwall Cookbook

  • 3 cups mixed dried fruit, preferably 1 cup each raisins, currants and golden raisins (no currants on hand so we went with dried cranberries instead)
  • 1-1/2 cup hot brewed tea (we used pomegranate tea)
  • 4 packed teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice or 2 teaspoons each cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • butter, for greasing pan
  1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C, Gasmark 5). Butter an 8-cup, preferably nonstick loaf pan (I suspect the book may have a typo. I've never seen an 8 cup loaf pan. That's huge. I am thinking they meant 8 inch loaf pan, because that's what I used and it was the perfect size. Go me.)
  2. Place the dried fruit in a large bowl, Pour the hot tea over the fruit, stir in the brown sugar, and let the mixture cool for 5 minutes.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the flours, spices, baking powder and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the fruit mixture, then stir in the egg until well combined (I did the final mixing in the KitchenAid because I 'm lazy and didn't want to do it by hand)
  4. Scrape the batter into the pan, level the surface and place it in the top third of the oven. Bake for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 
  5. Let the loaf cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.
Good times!