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!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Three Cheese Chicken Spinach and Pasta Bake

     There's been a can of spinach in my pantry for a couple of years now. It sat quietly towards the back. It wasn't bothering anybody. It had to be dealt with. I wound up using it in this recipe I dug out of one of the myriad cookbooks I buy from school fundraisers. I need to stop. The books are overpriced and generally only involve recipes that call for gallons of canned cream soups. This is one of the less offensive recipes, mildly doctored to ensure some flavor. In its defense, it comes together quickly and doesn't use a terribly frightening amount of sodium. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Three Cheese Chicken Spinach and Pasta Bake
via Kraft Easy Cheesy Meals
  • 1-1/2 cups multi-grain penne pasta, uncooked (bah. Regular one grain pasta)
  • 1 package, (9 ounces) fresh spinach leaves (none on hand. Not even frozen. Wound up using a 14.5 ounce can of spinach, drained. Popeye would be proud)
  • 1 lb.boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 1 jar (14.5 ounce) spaghetti sauce (I used my standby recipe for red sauce. I also only used about 9 ounces)
  • 2 ounces Neufchatel, cubed (nice to see people finally using this stuff instead of regular cream cheese)
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Bronzeville Rib Rub from The Spice House
  1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C, Gasmark 5)
  2. Cook pasta as directed on package. (If you're using fresh spinach), add spinach to the boiling water at the last minute. If you're using the canned, hang on a second.
  3. Cook and stir chicken and basil (and Rib Rub, if you're using it) in a large, nonstick skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray on medium-high heat for 3 minutes (we did a shade over 5. Nobody wants salmonella.) Stir in spaghetti sauce and tomatoes (if you're using the drained canned spinach, it goes in now); bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat 3 minutes or until chicken is done. Stir in Neufchatel.
  4. Drain pasta, return to pan. Stir in chicken mixture and 1/2 cup mozzarella. Load into 2 quart casserole or 8" baking dish. 
  5. Bake for 20 minutes. Top with remaining cheese. Bake 3 minutes more or until cheese is melted. 
Good times!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hearty Slow Cooker Breakfast Sludge

     Before we go any further, let me make one thing very clear: this recipe looks like shit. Literally. It looks like something scraped out of a diaper. At second glance it also resembles fake vomit. Possibly real vomit. However, it smells wonderful and tastes great. On a cold day, you can't go wrong with a steaming bowl of this stuff. It's hearty and warm and filling. Maybe just close your eyes while you eat it.
Hearty Slow Cooker
Breakfast Sludge

  • 3 cups oats, uncooked
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 very ripe bananas, sliced
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (chunky or creamy as you desire. We used creamy)
  • 21 ounce can banana cream pie filling
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  1. Coat a slow cooker (at least 2 quart) with nonstick cooking spray (coat the inside of the slow cooker. The bowl specifically. Don't spray all over the outside. Unless you want to)
  2. Chuck all the ingredients in there and stir it up.
  3. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours.
Good times!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ham and Pea Soup

     Peas are a bit of an oddity with The Wife. Normally, she'll pick the peas out of most anything she's eating and wouldn't eat them as a side dish. However, if I make ham and pea soup, she goes batshit crazy over it and will eat it with gusto. This particular recipe is super simple and can be pressure canned for later use. Just remember to consult The National Center for Home Food Preservation to make sure you don't accidentally poison anyone. As always, notes are in blue.

Ham and Pea Soup
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cookbook
Ingredients (Yields 4 pints)

  • 5 cups frozen green peas (you can use fresh if you'd like)
  • 2 cups finely chopped ham 
  • 3/4 cup celery
  • 1 teaspoon salt (Use the full teaspoon if your ham isn't salty. We dropped it to 1/4 teaspoon since our ham was super salty)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  1. Add 3-1/2 cups water, peas, ham, onion, celery and seasonings in a 4-6 quart pot. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer, covered for about 20-30 minutes.
  2. Blend until smooth (If you've got steady hands, you can do it in batches in a blender. We used our immersion blender since I'm likely to spill everywhere trying to transfer scalding hot soup)
  3. If you plan on eating this right away, stop here. If you plan on canning this for later use, carry on:
    Heat soup back to the boil Ladle hod soup into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Secure lids and process in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure. 60 minutes for pints and 75 minutes for quarts. 
  4. Before serving and pressure canned food, make sure to boil it at least 10 minutes before you try to eat it.
    Optional: If you're not a fan of thick soups, thin this out with 1/2 cup of milk per pint when you go to serve. 
Good times!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Ham & Bean Soup

     I think I may no longer be completely terrified of pressure canning. I've done it a half-dozen or so times and haven't caused any notable damage. I haven't poisoned anybody yet, which is a real surprise. It's a good thing I'm comfortable with it, because it was a great way to use up some of the HUGE surplus of ham from the holidays. For not having many ingredients, this soup was surprisingly tasty. I have no regrets canning a gallon of it. You can serve this up right after it's done, or pressure can it for long term storage. Just be careful if you do. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Ham and Bean Soup
via Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cook Book
  • 2 pounds dry navy beans (about 4 cups)
  • 1 meaty ham bone
  • 1 cup chopped ham
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 12 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  1. Rinse beans. Add to 4 quarts water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cover for one hour. 
  2. Add ham bone, ham, onion and one teaspoon salt (we omitted the salt because the ham we used was plenty salty on its own). Tie peppercorns and bay leaf in cheesecloth and add to mixture (or do like we did and load it into a tea ball and hang it in off the edge of the pot)
    Sometimes I'm so clever it hurts.
  3. Simmer, covered for 1 hour.
  4. After 1 hour, remove spice bag/ball and ham bone. Cut off meat and dice. Use about 1-1/2 cups meat. (Use more if you want. We didn't because the ham was so salty and it would have thrown off the flavor of the soup).
  5. If you plan on serving the soup, you're done. If you want the soup a bit thinner, cut it with about 1 cup of water per quart of soup. From here on out these steps are for pressure canning the soup. 
  6. Keep soup hot. Pack hot soup into hot jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Adjust lids. Process in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure. Process pints for 75 minutes, quarts for 90 minutes. This recipe will yield 4 quarts, but is easily halved. 
  7. Before serving from a processed can: add 1-1/2 cups water to each quart of soup. Boil, uncovered at least 10 minutes before tasting or serving. As always, it's a good idea to consult the fine folks at the National Center for Home Food Preservation for detailed information on pressure canning. Check the site especially if you've never pressure canned before. Not only can you accidentally poison everyone if you screw up, you can also burn the shit out of yourself or explode your kitchen. Remember, we're trained professionals working in a controlled environment.