Sunday, September 5, 2010

Roasted Chicken... Without the Roaster

Crock Pot "Roasted" Chicken

I roasted a whole chicken once. It was a lot of work, a lot of sweat, and a lot of waiting around wondering how it would turn out. In the end? Meh. It was just OK. I felt like all my efforts resulted in a bland, slightly slimy dinner.
This time, I decided to turn to my trusty kitchen friend, the Crock Pot. She's rarely let me down and when I found a simple recipe for roasted chicken, slow cooker style, I knew I had to give it a go.

This chicken is full of flavor, a fix it and forget it contender, and still just as messy!
We served this chicken with roasted brussel sprouts and Kalamata pasta salad the first night and used the remaining meat in other dishes. I hope you can find an opportunity to put it to the test and enjoy hassle-free meals all week long.

Slow Roasted Crock Pot Chicken
The Ingredients:
-1 whole chicken (I used about a 4 pounder)
-3 Tbsp. Butter
-1 tsp. Paprika
-1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
-1/2 tsp. Oregano
-3-4 Garlic cloves, minced
-1 whole red bell pepper, quartered
-1 small yellow onion, quartered

The Process:
-Wash chicken, cleaning out cavity, and pat dry.
-Combine spices and room temperature butter in a small dish. Add half the fresh garlic and mix ingredients until combined.
-Take small amounts of butter mixture in your hand and rub under chicken skin on breast and thigh meat. Rub remaining mixture over chicken skin.
-Stuff chicken cavity with bell peppers, 1/2 the onion and remaining garlic.
-Place remaining onion in bottom of slow cooker and place chicken breast side down on top on onion.
-Cover Crock Pot and set on low. Cook for 6-8 hours until chicken is done (About 175 degrees, no longer pink, juices run clear).
-Pull meat from bones and enjoy!

Frozen Pizza No More

I will admit to being a bit of a pizzaholic. I honestly could eat pizza once a week, if not more often. However, when it comes to making pizza at home, I have been a big baby. I don't know why but pizza dough totally intimidated me. Until now!

A few weeks ago, I finally broke down and purchased my new favorite kitchen accessory: The KitchenAid Stand Mixer. Isn't she beautiful?

I guess now would be the time to confess that I had previously vowed that I did not need such a ginormous gadget in MY kitchen... until I literally broke my hand/stand mixer last Christmas whilst making cookies. But that's a whole other post!

Back to the pizza....

The stand mixer makes this dough recipe fairly easy to follow, especially if you use all bread flour instead of mixing in the whole wheat. I am still working on getting the hang of forming a round, truly round, pizza pie. Guess that just means I need to practice more often!


Traditional Pizza Dough- Adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles

The Ingredients:
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-½ teaspoon dried oregano (I also added dried Basil and a pinch of Rosemary)
-4 cups bread flour (I used 2 1/2 c. All-Purpose flour and 1 1/2 c. Whole Wheat flour)
-1¾ teaspoons salt
-1 teaspoon sugar
-2 teaspoons instant yeast
-¼ cups white wine (I used 1/2 c. wine and 1/4 less c. water)
-1½ cups water

The Process:
-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast.

-Heat the oil and oregano in a small saucepan over medium low heat until warm and fragrant. Mix in the water and white wine and simmer until mixture begins to bubble slightly.

***Note: Make sure you read the instructions for your mixer speed requirements for pizza/bread dough before proceeding***

-With the mixer on low speed, pour in the liquid mixture. Continue mixing on medium-low speed until the dough comes together, and then knead on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 8-10 minutes).
Add more flour or water as necessary to form a dough that is sticky but does not cling to the sides of the bowl. When the mixer is running on medium-low speed, the dough should not stick to the bottom of the bowl. (I had to add about 3 Tbsp. more flour, which may have been from the increased amount of wine I used).

-Spray a large bowl with non-stick spray. Coat your hands with oil, then quickly form the dough into a ball. Place the ball of dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Either set the dough aside to rise at room temperature, which will take 1½ to 2 hours, or refrigerate it until the next day. If it’s chilled overnight, it will take about 5 hours at room temperature to warm and finish rising.

-Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

-Divide the dough and shape each portion into a ball. The original recipe states it makes enough dough for three 12-inch pizzas. Apparently the Mr. and I are pigs because we only divided it in half. Let the dough relax while oven preheats.

-Work with one ball of dough at a time on a lightly floured surface. Flatten the dough, then pick it up and gently stretch it out, trying to keep it as circular as possible. Curl your fingers and let the dough hang on your knuckles, moving and rotating the dough so it stretches evenly. If it tears, just piece it together. If the dough stretches too much, put it down and gently tug on the thick spots.

-Dust a pizza peel lightly with cornmeal and transfer the round of dough to the peel (We don't have a peel or pizza stone, so I used a regular cookie sheet). Stab it several times with a fork.

-Add the sauce and toppings of your choice, then bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is spotty brown.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Chicken Tamales Made Easy

I try to cook health conscious foods, I really do! But every once in a while you've just got to let it all go and indulge! For me, that jump off the tracks typically involves cheese. Lots AND lots of cheese. Yum!
This recipe makes good use of a smaller amount of cheese and it is from Cooking Light, so it can't be that bad, right? Well if it is, I don't want to be right!
The delicious taste of chicken tamales without the hassle of making them from scratch when it is a weeknight and you just want to hurry up and watch your favorite DVRed shows.

Chicken Tamale Casserole (adapted from Cooking Light):
1 cup (4 ounces) 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese, divided
1/3 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn
1 (8.5-ounce) box corn muffin mix (such as Martha White)
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
Cooking spray
1 (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce (such as Old El Paso)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

-Preheat oven to 400°.
-Combine 1/4 cup cheese and next 7 ingredients (through chiles) in a large bowl, stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
-Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until set. Pierce entire surface liberally with a fork; pour enchilada sauce over top. Top with chicken; sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces; serve with sour cream.

Pasta Salad... Without the Guilt!

Rotini Pasta Salad with Kalamata Vinaigrette

Pasta salad just embodies Summer to me. But as you will find at most festive BBQs in the steamy months, pasta salad is usually loaded down with heavy dressings and fatty ingredients. Not to mention all those carbs in the star of the dish.
I found this alternative in my trusty Cooking Light subscription and added my own twist to make it a Mr. and Mrs. favorite summer-time staple.

Rotini Pasta Salad- Adapted from Cooking Light
The Ingredients:
-1 box Whole Wheat rotini pasta (I use Barilla)
-1 red bell pepper, sliced and chopped
-1 yellow bell pepper, sliced and chopped
-1 small red onion, thinly sliced (I typically only use about a quarter of the onion.)
-1 pint grape tomatoes, washed and sliced in half
-1 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
-3oz. smoked deli turkey, cut in chunks (I always ask my deli counter to chunk the turkey for me. Just tell them you need it for a salad dish).
-1/4 c. Kalamata olives, sliced (you can use whatever olives you have or just omit these)

-3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
-1 large shallot, peeled and minced (you can use red onion if you don't have shallots)
-4 Tbsp. White Balsamic vinegar (regular Balsamic works too)
-2 Tbsp. water
-1 tsp. Dijon mustard
-salt and pepper to taste.

The Process:
-Preheat broiler.
-Cut red bell pepper in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place red and yellow pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 15 minutes or until blackened. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel and dice; place in a large bowl.
-Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Add pasta mixture, tomatoes, onion and turkey to peppers; toss well.
-Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add garlic and shallot to pan. Cook 15 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally.
-Place the garlic mixture, vinegar, and remaining ingredients in a blender; process until smooth. -Pour dressing over pasta mixture; toss well.
-Sprinkle salad with fresh sliced basil.

Heavenly Halibut

My Dad and step mom came to visit and we visited our favorite local seafood provider to pick up some shrimp cocktail. While there, we spotted these beautiful Halibut fillets and I knew that had to come home with us. I had saved this recipe about a year ago and now was the time to whip it out and put it to use.
These fillets turned out very light, perfectly flaky and full of flavor. An easy weeknight meal that will leave you room for a glass of wine, dessert... or both : )


Halibut with Balsamic Glaze (adapted from Food Network)
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
2 to 3 Tbsp. honey (I used 3 because I like the sweet contrast)
3 Tbsp. EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
4 (6 ounce) Halibut fillets

-Whisk vinegar, honey, oil and garlic in a glass bowl. Place halibut in an 8-inch baking dish and pour marinade over, coating fish completely. Cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours.
-Preheat broiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Spray with cooking spray.
-Remove fish from marinade and place on baking sheet.
-Broil fillets about 12 minutes, until they are lightly browned on top and cooked through.
-Pour reserve marinade into a small saucepan. Bring sauce to a boil and simmer. Continue to whisk mixture until it becomes thick and syrupy.

OMG! Panko Pork Chops

Dear readers- RUN! Run to your kitchen and make.these.chops!!!! Does that give you an idea of how fabulous I think this recipe is? Wow. The Mr. and I are trying to buy more bulk meats at our local Sam's Club to cut down on our weekly bill at the grocery store and to add to our convenience when cooking. We had these beautiful, thick, boneless pork chops just begging to step up to the plate (our plates, that is). So I went to my recipe folder and started digging for inspiration. I had saved this recipe from an old copy of Cooking Light (my own version of a Bible) and decided to try it out since we had most of the ingredients on hand. Let's just say I think some divine intervention came into play ; )
We served them with a spring mix, steamed green beans and sauteed, tri-colored peppers.

Panko-Crusted pork Chops with Creamy Herb dressing (adapted from Cooking Light)
6 tsp. all purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper (i used flakes)
3 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
2 large egg whites
1 c. Panko (Japanese bread crumbs. You can find them in the Asian section of your grocery store)
6 (4 ounce) boneless pork chops (we used center cut, about 2 inch thick(
1 tsp. oil

2 Tbsp. chopped green onion
2 Tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley
4 Tbsp. fat-free sour cream (I used plain Greek yogurt because I had it)
2 Tbsp. skim milk
2 Tbsp. light mayo
2 tsp. cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

-Preheat oven to 450 degrees
-Combine first 6 ingredients in shallow bowl. Combine egg whites and soy sauce in a separate bowl, whisking to combine. Place Panko in a third shallow dish.
Dredge pork in flour mixture; dip in egg mixture. Dredge in Panko, pressing to adhere breadcrumbs to pork.
-Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork to pan, cooking about a minute on each side, till slightly golden.
-Place pork on cookie sheet, sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 450 degrees for about 8 minutes. Pull pan out and flip pork over. Continue cooking until done (about 8-10 minutes).
-Combine dressing ingredients in glass bowl and stir. Pour mixture over pork chops and serve!

Turkey Burgers, Take Two

There's nothing better, in my humble cook's opinion, than grilling out during the summer months. I am by no means adept at handling said grill. That is the Mr's area of expertise. BUT! I do get involved with the preparations before the food hits the sizzle.
We eat quite a bit of turkey in the Mr./Mrs. household. I like the fact that it tastes lighter and we tend to buy the leanest cuts available to make our meals somewhat healthier. But I will admit that turkey can be B-O-R-I-N-G! So I started searching for ways to jazz up our old standby. This recipe works with fresh or dried herbs and spices and is sure to add some zest to your summer gathering.

Spicy Turkey Burgers (adapted from allrecipes)
2 pounds lean ground turkey
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 green chile peppers, diced (I used canned green chiles)
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (just grab a good handful and go to town)
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp. Paprika
1 Tbsp. ground dry mustard
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
salt and pepper to your tastes

Mr. likes to spread the ground turkey out on a cutting board (strictly used for raw meat!) and evenly distribute the remaining ingredients before mixing by hand. Pack combined mixture into patties, making sure to press tightly so they stay formed on the grill. Add to the fire and cook to desired temperature (about 7 minutes per side).