Thursday, January 30, 2014

Slow Cooker Sweet & Spicy Orange Chicken

     When I want hilariously unhealthy slow-cooker recipes, I turn to Gooseberry Patch Super Fast Slow Cooking. Many of the recipes call for Velveeta by the pound. This particular recipe called for an entire jar of orange marmalade. My recent blood workup said my blood sugars were fine, so I figured I'd give it a spin. I ramped up the heat a little by doubling the cayenne. I also added a cornstarch slurry to thicken up the sauce. We wound up serving it over white rice. This isn't going to blow your mind. It's simple and tasty and that's about it. It does leave plenty of room for interpretation. I'd certainly make it again. As always, and notes or changes are in blue.

Slow Cooker
Sweet & Spicy Orange Chicken

  • 4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (we just used one of those 2.5 pound bags of frozen chicken breast planks)
  • 12-ounce jar orange marmalade 
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used 3/4 teaspoon because I am a total badass)
  • Optional: 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger (I used 1/4 teaspoon because, again, I am a total badass)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I used bouillon powder for the chicken stock, so I didn't need any extra salt. A few good shots of fresh cracked black pepper works wonders here)
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch mixed with 3 tablespoons cold water
  1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper (I totally missed this step when I made it. Doesn't matter because I left out the salt anyway. And now that I think of it, I'm calling bullshit. 
     The recipe clearly called for "salt and pepper to taste." Are they suggesting I taste raw chicken to see if it's seasoned correctly? What the hell is wrong with people?) Place chicken in slow cooker (if you're not already debilitated with food poisoning from licking raw chicken to see if it's properly seasoned.)
  2. In a bowl, whisk together marmalade, broth and spices. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on LOW for 5-7 hours, or HIGH for 3-4 hours, turning chicken halfway though cooking (that didn't happen).
  3. 30 minutes before serving, add the cornstarch/water mixture to help thicken the sauce.
UPDATE: I have posted up the video that accompanies this recipe:

Good times!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Butterscotch Maple Chocolate Chip Layer Cake

     I'm not sure what came over me when I did this. I was all of a sudden consumed with the idea of making a layer cake. I grabbed a box of cake mix and decided to screw around with it. Naturally, I added booze. Maple Crown Royal has become a staple in my kitchen. Then I decided to do something different. If you haven't heard of Inbru, you need to check it out. It's a totally natural coffee flavoring made from California rice hulls.
Prepare to be amazed with the power of SCIENCE!
You just add them to your coffee grounds while brewing and *POOF!* your coffee is flavored for zero calories. I had heard rumors that you could use Inbru in baking, so I gave it a try. I added their Butterscotch Drop flavor. It worked wonderfully. You could smell the aroma of Butterscotch throughout the house. It imparted a fantastic flavor to the cake. If you're patient and let the cake sit a while, the flavor deepens and really adds a fantastic dimension to a plain old yellow cake. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Butterscotch Maple
Chocolate Chip Layer Cake
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • substitute 1/4 cup water from the cake mix with Maple Crown Royal
  • 2 teaspoons Inbru Butterscotch Drop coffee flavoring
  • 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (I got this recipe from Sweet Savory Life. Definitely check out the page, there's lots of great stuff to be found! The recipe yields around 3 cups, which is way more then you'll need unless you have a heavy hand with the frosting. I had about a cup left over)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or ½ pound), softened (but not melted!)
  • 3½ cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract (I went with vanilla)
  • 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream (I used milk. I figured it was plenty rich already)
  1. Cream butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Turn off the mixer. Sift 3 cups powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. Turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time.
  1. Begin preparing cake according to directions on box. Remember to swap 1/4 cup of the Crown in for the water. 
  2. While batter is mixing, add the Inbru
  3. Add the chocolate chips and mix until they are distributed through the batter.
  4. Divide the batter between two greased 9" cake pans.
  5. Cook cakes according to directions on box.
  6. When cakes have cooled, remove from pans. (Be patient here. The chocolate chips will make the bottoms stick to the pan a bit. Give it time and you'll get the cakes out without destroying them). Here's where things become difficult. With a good, long bread knife, cut horizontally across one of the cakes to remove the rounded top. Spread a layer of frosting across the flat surface.
    Try to cut as level as possible or you get a slightly lopsided cake.
    Just like mine!
  7. Lay the other cake on top of the frosted layer. Frost the sonofabitch! Give it a couple hours before you eat it to really let the butterscotch flavor develop!
Good times!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Chicken Makhani

     The first Indian meal my wife ever had was Chicken Makhani. I took her out to an Indian restaurant. She was a little leery, thinking everything would be spicy and overwhelming. She tried the makhani and it began her love affair with Indian food. I've been cooking Indian around once a week now. One of The Wife's demands is that I replicate the restaurant's makhani. This recipe comes very close. We had to do some tinkering. The restaurant used yogurt, so we swapped it in here. We also kept it mild.  I was super pleased with the results here. The sauce was creamy and extremely flavorful. This is a good place to start if you have never had Indian food. There are quite a few notes and changes made in this recipe, so read carefully if the text is blue.

Chicken Makhani
via Madhur Jaffrey's Quick & Easy Indian Cooking

  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (I stopped making it myself and just started buying it by the jar. In the end, it costs almost the same and is way less of a hassle)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (as I watch my salt intake, I cut this back to 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (we like the heat, so we went with the 1/2 teaspoon. I wouldn't ramp it up much more than that because you'll start drowning out the other flavors)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (we used 2 tablespoons)
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream (we subbed 3/4 cup plain yogurt)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (we used bottled)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh cilantro
  • 1 fresh, hot green chile, finely chopped, with seeds (since we were trying to duplicate a restaurant recipe, we omitted the hot chile. The makhani we had was mild)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen peas (omitted)
  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless chicken
  1. Combine sugar, ground cumin, garam masala, salt, cayenne and tomato paste. Slowly add 2 tablespoons water, mixing as you go. Add the cream (or yogurt, if that's what you're using) slowly and mix. Put in the lemon juice, cilantro and green chile (if using). Mix again and set the cream sauce aside
  2. Put the oil in a large frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the cumin and mustard seeds. IF YOU WANT TO SKIP THE PEAS AND USE CHICKEN, SKIP STEP #3 AND GO TO STEP #4. 
  3. After a few seconds, the mustard seeds will begin to pop. When this happens, put in the peas. Stir and fry the peas for 30 seconds
  4. Add the chicken and stir and fry until cooked through.
  5. Add the cream sauce. Cook on high heat for about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes or until the sauce has thickened (if you used yogurt instead of cream, it's going to be plenty thick already. Just cook it until everything is heated through). Stir gently as you cook. 
Good times!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Too Damned Easy Ceviche

     I discovered ceviche at our favorite Mexican restaurant. As you know, I count all of my calories, so I was looking for something that wouldn't break the bank. I found their Ceviche Bowl. It was just vegetables and shrimp with some crackers on the side. I had it and was hooked. I figured there's not much to making it they way they do, so I'd try to make it at home. For the $12 they charged at the restaurant, I can buy enough ingredients to make four! I know that many versions of ceviche use fish that is cooking in the acids of the citrus, but I'm keeping it simple and just parroting what I got in the restaurant. As always, any notes are in blue. 

Too Damned Easy Ceviche

  • 12 ounces frozen shrimp, defrosted and tails removed (Don't throw the tails away! Boil them in some water and make yourself some shrimp stock to freeze for another day!)
  • 2 avocados, cut into into 3/4" cubes (if you did this without first pitting the avocado and scooping it from the shell, just put everything away and go order a pizza)
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 medium roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (the stuff from the little plastic lime is fine)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 medium jalapenos, diced (if you're a wuss and can't handle the heat, throw the seeds away. If you are a stud like myself, leave them in)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I actually had some pink Himalayan salt on hand and went with that)
  1. Put all ingredients except avocado and salt in a large bowl. Toss to incorporate ingredients (I will not be held responsible for overenthusiastic tossing)
  2. Add avocado and sprinkle salt. Lightly toss to incorporate (I held the avocado back because it tends to get mushed up if you toss it too much. Ideally you want the cubes of avocado to remain cube-shaped. This is one of the few times where I actually worry about presentation. To me, ceviche should taste and LOOK clean)
  3. Serve up in a small bowl or goblet with nacho chips (or as I've seen in several restaurants, with packs of Saltine crackers)
Good times!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Braided Butternut Squash Bread

     It's a good thing The Wife is really good at braiding bread. Her challah is supreme. This time we used her preternatural braiding abilities to make a braided butternut squash bread. I found the original recipe at Allrecipes. We wound up making this bread because we've had a surplus of frozen butternut squash and have been on a crusade to find fun ways to use it. This is certainly a great way to use butternut squash. After the bread came out of the oven, we just stood there like morons, vacantly shoving hot bread in our mouths until we were through half a loaf. As always, any notes or changes are in blue.

Braided Butternut Squash Bread
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (I always wonder why we have to be told to peel a butternut squash. Do you think there's anybody out there who just can't get enough butternut squash peel?)
  • 1 (0.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons warm (110F) water
  • 1/3 cup warm (110F) milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar (we used 4 tablespoons. You could probably do 5 or 6 if you wanted a really sweet bread)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (we followed a suggestion to go with 3/4 teaspoon salt to bring out the butternut squash flavor)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (the dough is totally unworkable with this much flour. It's almost still liquid. We wound up using 4-1/2 cups flour)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  1. In a large saucepan, cover cubed squash with water. Bring water to a boil and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool and mash. Reserve 1 cup for use and freeze the remainder for later use (or just tell me I only needed 1 cup of boiled, mashed squash so I didn't have to cook all of it! What if I didn't want all that extra mashed squash? Why doesn't anybody consider my feelings? THIS IS WHY I DRINK)
  2. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water (2 tablespoons of water). Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes (this is the first time I've ever seen yeast described as "creamy." I'm not sure I'm comfortable with it)
  3. In a large bowl (I used the Kitchenaid for this, so I just used the mixing bowl) combine the yeast mixture with milk, butter, 1 cup mashed squash, 1 egg, brown sugar, salt and 2 cups of the flour; stir well to combine. Stir in remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time (I used 1/4 cup at a time just to be spiteful), beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes (I just used the dough hook on the mixer for this. I don't have time for needless manual labor)
  4. Lightly oil a large bowl; place dough in bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. 
  5. Deflate the dough ("Deflate?" It makes it sound like you're working with an air mattress. When I work with dough, I "punch it down." It's what Chuck Norris would do)
    Told you so.
  6. This section describes how to cut the dough and get it braided. I consider it a Pain In The Ass (PITA) and will not waste the time or space typing it. Instead, I'm going to just link you the YouTube video the wife used to learn. It obviously works. You're going to want to split the dough in half first. You're looking to make 2 loaves here. Once you figure out the braiding, cover the loaves and let rise for another 30 minutes on a greased baking sheet.
  7. In a small bowl, beat together remaining egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush loaves with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350F (we went with 25 minutes and the bread came out great)
Good times!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Spiked Apples

     We rustic types love to preserve our own food. Fortunately for us, our in-laws both have access to apple trees. Each year, they bring us somewhere around eighty pounds of apples over the course of the season. One of our favorite ways to process them is to can them in syrup and booze. The original formula came out of the Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cookbook. We found it was great fun to use bourbon or other liquor in place of some of the liquid in these recipes. If you don't want to use booze, just swap water back in. Depending on the booze, the flavor will change dramatically. With regular bourbon, the apples are sweet and mellow. When I use an herbal liquor like Elisir M.P. Roux, the herbals really come through in the apples. No matter how you make them, they're great. We use them in cakes, on pancakes, over vanilla ice cream or just straight out of the jar! Since this recipe does involve boiling water canning, as always, please refer to the National Center for Home Food Preservation for tips on how to prevent giving everyone the green apple splatters. As always, any notes or changes are in blue.

Spiked Apples

  • 3 pounds of apples for each quart you intend to make
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup booze (pick your favorite. I use Jim Beam for my bourbon apples and Elisir M.P. Roux for my herbal elixir apples. I imagine cinnamon or honey whiskey would be outstanding, too).
  • 6-8 whole cloves per quart
  1. Prepare a boiling water canner. Load your empty jars in while the water is boiling so they will be hot and clean when you go to use them.
  2. Wash, peel and core the apples. (Cut the apples however you want. I use small apples which I cut into wedges) Load them in a bowl with some color keeper so they don't brown.
  3. In a large pot, add liquid and sugar. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring syrup to boil.
  4. Add apples to syrup and boil for 5 minutes.
  5. Lower heat on the apples to a simmer and load the hot apples into the jars (yes, take the jars out of the canner and empty the water first, you goof. If I find out anybody was trying to fill the jars while they were still in the canner, I'm going to be very upset). Add the cloves to the jar. Cover with hot syrup, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. Secure with a clean lid and ring. Load into the canner. 
  6. Process for 20 minutes (20 minutes is fine for either pints or quarts)
  7. Remove jars to a wire rack with about 1" between them. Wait a while until you hear the satisfying thunk of the jar sealing. If you don't hear it after a few hours, you can either run it through another water bath and try again or just put them in the fridge for immediate devouring.
Good times!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Cranberry Bread Pudding

     Ever since I had bread pudding at the buffet at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas some twenty years ago, I've been a huge fan. Of bread pudding, I mean. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the Golden Nugget immensely. They comped me and my dad to a fabulous breakfast after I put in 17 hours at a $3 blackjack table. They also told me I hold the casino record for smallest marker ever taken at $7. I also hold the fastest repayment of a marker at less than ten minutes from borrow to payback. My buddy Dave and I had a bender and came back from Glitter Gulch at 4AM and wound up hitting $750 on the Double Diamonds machine right before we went back to our rooms. Man, those were some good times. I have to get back there again sometime soon. Anyways, this is bread pudding with cranberries and I can't remember where the original recipe came from. Let me know if you know. Regardless, it's good and you should make some. As always, any notes or changes are in blue.

Cranberry Bread Pudding
  • Cooking spray for greasing pan
  • 1 (1-pound) loaf artisan white bread, cubed (I hope that Pepperidge Farms Cranberry bread counts as artisan, because I can get it for 99 cents a loaf at my local grocery store and that's what I use)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cup dried cranberries (I prefer to call them craisins)
  • 4 cups milk
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 7 eggs, slightly beaten
  1. Preheat oven 325F
  2. Grease 13x9” baking dish. Place bread in pan and sprinkle with cinnamon and cranberries
  3. Combine milk, sugar and corn syrup in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat until small bubbles form around edge of pan. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla
  4. Slowly pour hot milk mixture over eggs, whisking constantly (please make sure the mixture isn't too hot or you're going to end up cooking the eggs on the spot). Pour mixture over bread and cover with foil
  5. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet in oven. Pour water onto baking sheet to create a water bath (PROTIP: Don't be a schmuck and try to put the water in the sheet first, then carry it to the oven. I guarantee it won't end well). Bake 30-45 minutes until custard has just set. Test by inserting knife into center to be sure custard is thoroughly cooked.
Good times!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Lemon Chicken with Broccoli

     Chicken and broccoli is just one of those classic combinations that you find everywhere. Those two ingredients lend themselves to dozens and dozens of recipes across numerous cultures. I have no numbers to back that up, but it sounds impressive so just go with it. This recipe is pretty simple and certainly healthy, coming in at around 260 calories per serving. You could probably ditch the crackers and replace it with panko and save yourself a few extra calories. This is certainly a winning work-week dinner. As always, any notes and changes are in blue.

Lemon Chicken with Broccoli
via Betty Crocker 300 Calorie Cookbook
  • 2 cups (4 ounces) uncooked bow-tie (farfalle) pasta (naturally, I went with shells instead)
  • 1/4 cup crushed round buttery crackers (I will gladly endorse Ritz crackers here for a fat paycheck)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel (I just used an equal amount of dried lemon zest)
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4" strips (it is clear from the picture that I willfully ignored this direction and cut the chicken into chunks. TAKE THAT, BETTY CROCKER!)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (lazy, as always, I used 2 teaspoons minced garlic from a jar)
  • 2 cups frozen broccoli florets or broccoli cuts, thawed and drained
  • 1 can (10.5 ounces) condensed low-fat, low-sodium cream of chicken soup (I actually make it a point to use this kind of soup in recipes. Otherwise, the sodium gets totally out of hand and I inflate like a tick)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fat-free (skim) milk (Not happening. I can't stand skim. I used 2%)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (I hope they meant from a bottle, because that's what I used)
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  1. Heat oven to 350F. Spray 13x9" glass baking dish with cooking spray (I used a Corningware dish here just to be spiteful)
  2. Cook and drain pasta as directed on package (Really? They could have saved everyone time by just changing "uncooked pasta" to "cooked pasta" up in the ingredients. And don't start any crap with amount changing because of cooking. It would have been just fine. This is just Betty Crocker intentionally giving me shit). Meanhwile, in a small bowl, mix crushed crackers and lemon peel; set aside.
  3. Spray 10-inch skillet with cooking spray (I used a 12 inch skillet. I am done with being bullied by a fictional cook); heat over medium-high heat. Add chicken and garlic; cook 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until chicken is brown. Remove from heat; stir in pasta and remaining ingredients. Spoon chicken mixture into baking dish. Sprinkle with crumb mixture.
  4. Cover with foil; bake 25 minutes. Bake uncovered 10-15 minutes longer or until hot and bubbly. 
Good times!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Golden Molasses Pear Cake

     Let us once again go back to the carefree days of the early 1990's for this recipe from Pol Martin's Supreme Cuisine. This recipe uses molasses, which is one of those ingredients I continually forget is in my pantry. It also originally called for apples, but I was looking for a way to use up some pears I had canned, so changes were made. The cake turned out rich and mellow.

Like Barry White's voice in cake form. 
     Anyways, if you'd like to try a cake that's a little different from your normal frosted variety, this is a nice change of pace. As always, any notes or changes are in blue.

Golden Molasses Pear Cake
via Pol Martin's Supreme Cuisine

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3 apples, cored, peeled and diced small (I used about 2 cups of my own pears canned in bourbon syrup. Everything is better with booze)
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind (I had no oranges on hand when I made this. I used 2 teaspoons of dried orange zest)
  • 1-1/2 cups pastry flour (I'm guessing that's the same thing as regular flour, because that's what I used and everything worked out fine)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  1. Preheat oven to 300F. Line bottom of 9" springform cake pan with waxed paper. Butter paper and sides of pan (It's a circle. Technically it only has two sides: the inside and the outside. Just the inside of the pan, please).
  2. Place all eggs in a bowl (Protip: Take the eggs out of the shells first). Add brown sugar and molasses. Beat 3 minutes with electric hand mixer (or by hand if you're feeling particularly industrious). 
  3. Stir in fruit and orange rind.
  4. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together. Place in sifter and re-sift over cake batter while incorporating with a wooden spoon (pretty sure Pol Martin was drunk at this point. How am I going to re-sift over the cake batter when I haven't actually made the cake batter yet? Is this some sort of quantum theory experiment? Is the cake existing in multiple states? Is this Schrödinger's Cake? You know what else? I used a silicone spatula here. Screw you, Pol Martin)
  5. Pour batter into cake pan and cook 60-65 minutes or until cake is done (unless you want to just stop before then and serve a half-cooked cake. Seriously, did nobody proofread this recipe?)
  6. Cool in pan slightly before unmolding. Finish cooling on wire rack. Serve with whipped cream (I did no such thing. YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME, POL MARTIN!)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Vinegar Braised Chicken and Onions

    Cooking in a Dutch oven is awesome. It feels like high-end slow cooking. It also makes wonderful meals. You may remember me raving about the Baked Daube Provencal I made last year. Maybe you didn't. OK, it's more than likely you didn't. Go read the post now, I'll wait. Back? All right. Anyways, I found this recipe in an issue of Bon Appetit. Naturally, I had to make some changes to compensate for lack of requested ingredients. I figure onions are onions and I can't be bothered to make a special trip to the store. I was a bit leery of this recipe. A bunch of vinegar and raisins added in there didn't sound like a great idea, but it worked. We served it up with an Oven Gratin of Potatoes. I'd definitely make this one again. As always, any notes or changes are in blue.

Vinegar Braised Chicken and Onions
via Bon Appetit
  • 2 pounds cipolline or pearl onions (Didn't have either of these. I used two pounds of yellow and red onions)
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces pancetta (Italian bacon), cut into 1/4-inch pieces (Nope. I used regular bacon.)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
  • 5 pounds skin-on bone-in chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, and/or legs; breasts halved crosswise)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 bay leaves
  1. Cook onions in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, 5-8 minutes. Drain and let cool. Trim root ends; peel (I totally ignored most of this step. I just peeled and sliced the onions and moved on).
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add pancetta to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and pancetta is brown, 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to a large bowl.
  3. Add onions to same pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer onions and garlic to bowl with pancetta.
  4. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add chicken to pot skin side down and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, 10-15 minutes per batch; transfer to bowl with onions.
  5. Carefully drain fat from pot and return to medium-high heat. Add both vinegars to pot and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pot. Add broth, raisins, bay leaves, and reserved chicken, pancetta, onions, and garlic to pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, until chicken is fork-tender, 35-40 minutes.
  6. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken and onions to a large platter. Skim fat from cooking liquid and discard. Remove bay leaves (remember what my mom taught us: bay leaves left in a dish will lead to a choking death every time), and season sauce with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over chicken and onions.
Good times!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Crab and Spinach Enchiladas

     After the holidays, I'm glad I have cookbooks like the Betty Crocker 300 Calorie Cookbook.  I'm not one for cleanses or detoxes. I just try to eat more sensibly and get back to my standard 1600 calorie a day intake. Recipes like these enchiladas are great because they are filling, but super-low in calories. Each of these enchiladas come in at around 300 calories. Have two of these and some black beans and a bit of rice and you've got a great meal in the 600 calorie range. As always, and notes or changes are in blue.

Crabmeat and Spinach Enchiladas
via Betty Crocker 300 Calorie Cookbook
  • 1 cup chunky-style salsa (if you can use home-made, you'll save yourself some unneeded preservatives and sodium)
  • 1/4 cup chili sauce (if you want to do a bit of fusion here, use Sriracha)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I used 1 tablespoon of dried. If you can't stand cilantro, you could always swap in parsley or basil)
  • 1 pound refrigerated chunk-style imitation crabmeat (as I call it, "Crabuluxe")
  • 2 cups frozen cut leaf spinach, thawed and squeezed to drain
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Pepper Jack cheese
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  1. Heat oven to 350F. Spray 13x9 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray (I can't imagine anything cataclysmic is going to happen if you don't use glass. However, if you use Corningware and subsequently die, please don't blame me)
  2. In a small bowl, mix salsa, chili sauce, cumin and cilantro.
  3. In a medium bowl, break up crabmeat and combine with spinach, Pepper Jack cheese and 1/4 cup of the sauce mixture. Spread about 1/2 cup of the sauce mixture over the bottom of the baking dish (because spreading the mixture under the baking dish would just be stupid).
  4. Top each tortilla with about 2/3 cup of the crabmeat mixture; roll up. Place tortillas, seam side down, in baking dish. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.
  5. Spray sheet of foil with cooking spray. Cover dish with foil, sprayed side down (I'm going to tell you that if you need to be instructed to put the sprayed side down, maybe you should just order out instead) Bake 35-40 minutes or until thoroughly heated. 
Good times!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Slow Cooker Black Bean and Sausage Stew

     Black beans are great. They're versatile and super filling. I usually have three or four cans on hand at any given time. I also love smoked sausages. There's nothing like gaining six pounds in water after chowing down one of those sodium bombs.  When black beans and smoked sausages collide, good things happen.

Yup. Just like this, but with way more giggling.
     This particular recipe came out of the Slow-Cooker Magic in Minutes book. It's a fairly easy recipe, but does require moving some ingredients in and out of the cooker, which I absolutely hate. It's a small complaint, since this recipe is tasty and filling. It also benefits greatly from the addition of some hot sauce. Tabasco is great here. As always, any notes or changes are in blue.

Slow Cooker Black Bean and Sausage Stew
via Slow Cooker Magic in Minutes

  • 3 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1-1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup chopped red pepper (for whatever reason, I didn't have red pepper available when I made this and went with green pepper. It worked fine.)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander (did you know that coriander is the seeds of cilantro? You do now! Never let it be said this isn't an educational blog)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 6 ounces cooked turkey sausage, thinly sliced (I went ahead with the smoked pork sausage for that extra 62,000mg of sodium. Plus, I didn't slice it thinly. MADNESS)
  1. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker, except sausage. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.
  2. Transfer about 1-1/2 cups bean mixture from slow cooker to blender or food processor, puree mixture (I have said it before and I'll say it again. I hate it when a slow cooker recipe has me taking stuff in and out of the cooker. I just want to throw it in and forget about it. This is time that could be spent drinking or smoking cigars)
  3. Return blended mixture to slow cook. Stir in sausage. Cover and cook on LOW an additional 10-15 minutes.
Good times!