Friday, June 19, 2015

Feta Cucumber Tomato Salad


This is healthy-ish until you get to the sour cream base.  You could substitute IMO that imitation sour cream with no problems.   It doesn't quite have the same mouth feel and tang but it works well.  What this does devilishly well is use up garden fresh ingredients into a refreshing treat from seasonal ingredients.

I used heirloom grape tomatoes but any grape or cherry tomato would work well.  I'm lucky in that I have a Pavilions market here in town and they do carry the more unusual items.  If you grow your own, use it and might I add...I'm totally jealous!

I use rice wine vinegar as it has both sugar and salt already in it.  Its a nice way to thin the sour cream to a dressing consistency without losing flavor. As it is already seasoned, don't add salt until the two are combined and you taste for seasoning, depending on brand of vinegar you may not need to add any salt or just add pinch to balance the flavor.

With the cheese simply let it lie on top of the salad while you chill and let the flavors marry.  If you toss to early the cheese starts to dissolve into the dressing and gets kind of mushy slimy grossness.

Feta Cucumber Tomato Salad
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 8 oz grape tomatoes
  • 4 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 oz sour cream'
  • 2 T seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 2 T minced fresh Parsley
  • 1 T minced fresh Mint
  • 1/2 black pepper

Peel cucumbers. Seed cucumbers.  Slice length wise in half, then in half again.  Cut into 1/2 cubes.  Place in bowl.  Half the tomatoes and place in bowl.  Sprinkle minced herbs over the veggies.

Whisk together sour cream and seasoned rice wine vinegar.  Test taste and add salt if needed.  Pour over the veggie herb mixture.  Toss lightly until combined.

Sprinkle feta cheese over the salad.  Cover and place in fridge on hour, but not more than 4 to allow flavors to marry.  Just before serving toss gently to distribute the cheese.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Chicken with Prosciutto and Mozzarella

Think of it as a somewhat lighter deconstructed version of a classic Cordon Bleu.  No heavy breading.  No worries about getting the center cooked through and the filling leaking out.  Its really the best of both worlds.  Salty melty pork product and cheese...how can that be bad?

This falls into the incredibly stupid easy category as well.  Easily doubles for a bigger crowd or family.  I cheat and by at Trader Joe's or Fresh & Easy the already made prosciutto and mozzarella rolls from the deli section to speed the process.  Its also cheaper than buying either separately and rolling your own.

Chicken with Prosciutto and Mozzarella

  • 4 chicken breasts, skinless and dry
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 t garlic powder
  • 2 t dried thyme
  • 8 oz mozzarella and prosciutto roll


Preheat oven to 350F  Line baking tray with aluminum foil and spritz with cooking oil spray.

Clean and dry chicken breasts.  Salt and pepper both sides to taste.  Divide garlic powder into 4, 1/2 teaspoon portions.  Dust 1/2 t garlic powder evenly on both sides of chicken breast.  Repeat with remaining breasts.  

Split the dried thyme into 4, 1/2 teaspoon portions, dust one portion both sides of a chicken breast. Repeat with remaining breasts and portions of thyme.

Place chicken breasts onto prepared sheet and let set 10 minutes or so until the oven comes to temp.  Bake 30 minutes.  Remove baking sheet from oven.  Cut the prosciutto/mozzarella roll into 12 even slices.  Lay 3 slices on each breast.  Return to oven additional 5-10 minutes to melt cheese.  Serve warm.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Chicken and Biscuit Casserole

Somewhere between a Pot Pie and Chicken 'n Dumplings is where this casserole lies.  Hearty comfort food, enjoy and you really don't have to classify everything in life.  Pretend you're in Minnesota and call it a Hot Dish and be done with it.  Seriously.  Its simple hearty fare no need to make more out of it than what it is.

This is a stupid easy, go to when you're too busy to do everything from scratch.  Left over roast chicken/check.  Frozen veggies/check.  Canned soup/check.  Biscuit mix/check. Open whiz, whir bake and you have dinner on the table/

Chicken & Biscuit Casserole

  • 3 c diced cooked chicken
  • 1 1/2 c peas and carrots
  • 2 T butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c chopped onion
  • 1/2 t dried Thyme
  • 2 cans cream of chicken and mushroom soup
  • 1 1/2 cans milk

Topping

  • 2 1/4 c biscuit mix
  • 2/3 c milk
  • 1/4 t dried Thyme


Preheat oven to 400F  Grease a large casserole dish and place on a baking sheet.

In large sauce pot add butter and over medium heat sweat onions with salt and thyme until onions are translucent.  Add soup to pan and stir in milk until smooth.  Heat until just starting to simmer.  Add chicken and vegetables.  Stir until combined.  Reduced heat and let simmer while preparing the biscuit topping.

For biscuit topping combine the biscuit mix, thyme and milk.  Stir until just combined.

Pour hot chicken mixture into casserole.  Drop golf ball sized biscuit dough balls onto hot filling.  There will be some gaps...which is fine as the biscuits rise they will fill into those empty spots.  

Place in preheated oven.  Bake 20 minutes until bubbly and biscuits are light golden brown.  Serve hot. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie


This pie would have done either of my Grandmas proud.  Perfectly tart Rhubarb and just a hint of citrus and a touch of sweetness.  Not overly sweet as that would hide the tartness of the Rhubarb.

Pie crust...its the bane of my existence.  It really is. I just don't have a dough hand, my Grandma Z never met a dough she couldn't master...me not so much.  But with so many really terrific pie crusts already made...just unroll and use why bother?  Pillsbury for years has made the best, but now even Ralph's and Albertson's do a decent store brand.  Save yourself some time and bother and go that route when you're in a hurry.

Instead of regular sugar on top of the pie I use Turbanado sugar.  Its a raw unbleached sugar that is coarser and because its darker it lends a light caramel note to the taste instead of just sweet.

Save your clean oven from a kitchen disaster.  Place your pie plate in a baking sheet.  If your berries or rhubarb are "wet" you'll have a boil over and the baking sheet will catch it instead of your oven floor.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
  • 2 pie crust sheets to fit 9" pan
  • 1 lb diced rhubarb
  • 1 lb sliced strawberry
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 T corn starch
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of one lemon
  • egg
  • 1 T Milk, cream or half-n-half
  • Turbanado Sugar

Preheat oven to 400F

Place 9" Pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet.  Place 1 sheet of crust into the pie plate and set aside.

Dice/Slice rhubarb into half inch cubes.  Slice strawberry's. Combine fruit in large mixing bowl.  Zest lemon and add it and lemon juice to the fruit mixture.  Combine sugar and corn starch and whisk with a fork until it combines to prevent lumping.  Sprinkle on top of fruit and fold lightly to combine but not crush fruit.  Pour into prepared pie plate.

Place top layer of the pie crust on the bottom crust.  Center.  Fold edges under and crimp decoratively.  Mix egg and milk.  Brush egg mixture on top of pie crust.  Sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons Turbanado sugar.

Place in oven and bake 40-50 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.  Check pie half way through, if edges getting too brown place a browning shield on the outside edges or use aluminum foil to do the trick.  Cool to room temp...enjoy!
Fruit filling in pie plate sitting on a rimmed baking sheet
Egg washed and sugared ready for the oven
One complete pie, note the boil over went onto the sheet not my oven!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Farro Risotto...righteous and good for you


This is really a righteous grain.  Taste and texture along the lines of pearled barley, just a little nuttier in taste.  It took me a few times before I got this right.   It was worth the trial and error.  The perfect side companion to serve as a bed for a simple oven roasted chicken breast.  This recipe serves 2, but can be easily doubled or tripled.

For those of you that don't know farro is in the wheat family.  Its an ancient grain that was hybridized later to make the modern variety of wheat used in making flour and such.  This stuff is pretty amazing, rich in flavor and fiber, you can' go wrong.  More about it HERE. The nice thing is that I can get the stuff at a regular groc cheap...2.49 for a pound vs triple that at the local hippy mart.  Pays to shop, I knooowwww.

As both the broth and Parmesan Reggiano are salty wait until the very end to actually salt the farro.  I found I needed none, but your broth many be less salty and you won't need any extra.  And for goodness sakes, use real fresh grated Parmesan, not that awful additive laced so it pours crap in the green can at the groc. I swear, I catch you using that I'm sicking Uncle Vito to have a conversation wit you.  Capiche?

Farro "Risotto"
  • 3/4 c farro 
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1/8 t fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 t dried basil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1/3 c fresh grated Parmesan
  • salt

Combine farro, chicken broth, butter, pepper and basil in a small lidded saucepan.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.  Cover and simmer 25-30 minutes until only a couple tablespoons of broth remain.  Stir occasionally.  When its all fluffy and broth has nearly completely absorbed remove from heat and stir in Parmesan.  Test for seasoning and salt if needed.   Serve hot as a hearty side!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Peanut Butter Bars


I'll be the first to say "Stupid Easy Cooking" is also lazy cooking.  A few simple ingredients and you're done.  No fussing about.  I like bars, or bar cookies as they are called in some circles as you skip the tedious scooping individual cookies and pop it all into a 9X13 baking dish and call it a day.  

This recipe is reminiscent of those peanut butter cup candies in the orange package.  It's the rich peanut butter and chocolate chips playing together well that makes it such a satisfying treat.  Or bribe if you have a toddler under foot that needs a little friendly persuasion to do things right.

I use the traditional Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate chips for this recipe.  I like the more intense pure chocolate flavor.  Its also not as sweet as milk chocolate, but if thats your perference have at it.  You won't see a significant change in the flavor of the bars.

Peanut Butter Bars
  • 3/4 c creamy peanut butter
  • 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 3 T milk
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F  Butter or spray with cooking spray a 9X13 baking dish.

Cream together peanut butter, butter and brown sugar.  Beat 3-5 minutes until very fluffy a light in color.  Add egg, beat until well combined.  Add vanilla and milk and beat until well combined.  

Reduce speed on mixer. Sprinkle on salt and baking soda.  Add flour slowly and stir until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.  This is a very thick dough.  When combined dump into prepared baking dish and lightly press smooth and level across the pan.

Bake 18-22 minutes until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.  Cool on wire rack before cutting into bars.

Parmesan Fennel Pork Loin Chops

Dang this was some good grub and stupid easy to make and assemble.  I came up with the idea as I'm so tired of chicken I could scream.  Yes, I eat it for health reasons and the fam just adores the stuff.  But I grew up in Hog country...with corn fed beef a close second so I can only do so much of the stuff.

The one indispensable tool in my arsenal is a mini-food processor.  Makes the fine mincing of the basil and garlic so much easier than trying to do it by hand.  Whizzing some of the grated parm with the basil and garlic ensures a good fine mince and even distribution.  Key to making this dish so tasty.

One thing I do different from the chicken version of the dish is add ground fennel to the mix.  It has a sweet taste that compliments nicely the sweet pork.  Kinda like Italian sausage without the sausage casing stuffing nonsense.

For Parmesan, get the real deal block of Parmesan reggiano...its so much better than the domestic stuff.  Grind, grate or shred as needed.  If I catch you using that commercially produced stuff in the green can, or worse grocery store generic I will personally arrange for Uncle Vito to pay you a visit.  Capiche?

Parmesan Fennel Pork Loin Chops

  • 4 1" thick boneless Pork Loin Chops
  • 1 1/2 c panko bread crumbs
  • 1 c grated Parmesan
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 c loose packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 T fennel
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T whole milk or half and half
  • 1 c flour


Preheat oven to 350F  Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with olive oil or cooking spray.

Trim pork loin chops of excess fat.  Salt and pepper, set aside to come to room temp as you prepare the breading station.

In a spice grinder grind fennel until it is a coarse powder.  Set aside

In mini food prep combine half of the grated Parmesan with half of the ground fennel, basil and garlic. Pulse several times until finely minced.

In first bowl combine flour and half of the ground fennel.  Season with salt and pepper.  Mix well.
In second bowl combine eggs, dairy product, whisk until well mixed.
In third bowl combine panko, the Parmesan cheese mixture, the remaining Parmesan, remaining half of the ground fennel with salt and pepper.  Toss lightly to combined.

Dredge a pork in flour.  Dip pork loin chop into the egg mixture turning to evenly coat.  Put pork loin chop into the bread crumb mixture.  Scoop mixture up onto the top of the Pork loin chop and side and press lightly.  Carefully remove and place on prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining loin chops.

Bake 40-45 minutes until browned and cooked through.  Test with a knife poke...juices should run clear.