Monday, May 9, 2016

Funky Fusion Fajitas

I realize I missed Cinco de Mayo here on the blog, but I didn't at home!  Mexican food is my favorite, so you better believe we had a South of the Border feast at our house.  I remember watching the episode of Throwdown! where these fajitas were prepared and I knew I needed to make them at home.  I'm so glad I did, too!  My husband loves steak fajitas, so these were a huge hit, even though I typically prefer chicken.  I went right from stove to table, serving these right out of the cast iron skillet, with plenty of salsa and sour cream on the side, allowing each person to fix up their fajitas according to preference.  This would be a fabulous party meal, creating a buffet-style Fajita Bar.  I sense a theme party brewing!!  Ole!

1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground ginger
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/4 pounds flank steak
1/2 red onion, sliced into half-moons
1 green bell pepper, sliced into 1/4-inch wide strips
1 yellow or red bell pepper, sliced into 1/4-inch wide strips
4 green onions, white and green parts, sliced
12 8-inch flour tortillas
Screamin' Sour Cream (recipe linked)

Combine the wine, soy sauce, vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, ketchup, brown sugar, 2 garlic cloves, ginger, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder in a large bowl.  Whisk together to mix well.  Set aside about 1/2 cup of the mixture for serving.

Tenderize the steak (pierce it all over with a fork on both sides) and place in a container with the marinade.  Refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 4 hours, turning occasionally.  Remove meat from fridge about half an hour before grilling.

Heat the grill to medium high.  Remove steak from marinade and discard the marinade.  Season with salt and pepper (optional) and grill about 6 minutes per side for medium-rare.  Allow the meat the rest for 10 minutes while you cook the veggies.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet.  All the red onion, bell peppers, green onions, remaining garlic, and a couple tablespoons of the marinade you reserved earlier.  Cook, tossing occasionally, until crisp-tender.

Slice the steak into thin strips across the grain.  Spread each tortilla with some guacamole, then top with a few strips of meat, veggies, sour cream, and a drizzle of the reserved marinade.

Serves 6.

Recipe adapted from Throwdown! by Bobby Flay.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Screamin' Sour Cream

1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Serve with tacos, burritos, fajitas, or any of your favorite Mexican dishes!!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Corona-Steamed Shrimp

Many, many, many years ago, on the side of Jefferson-Davis Highway, there was a ramshackle place that served up the best steamed shrimp to go.  They sold crabs, too, but the shrimp were what had my family going back week after week.  Years would pass and I'd buy steamed shrimp from the seafood counter at the grocery, but I'd still remember that place on the side of the road, even though the family that owned it would come to have several more locations and a riverfront restaurant.  Nostalgia aside, I saw a steamer basket in the kitchen gadget aisle a while ago and decided that this was the year I started steaming my own shrimp...and loved all the wonderful memories that came flooding back with the first bite!

2 12-ounce bottles Corona
2 pounds large shrimp, deveined, but unpeeled, with tails on
1/4 - 1/3 cup Old Bay (more or less to taste)
Cocktail sauce, for dipping.

Pour the beer in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed pot with tight-fitting lid (I used my soup pot).  Place steamer basket in the bottom of your pot.  Rinse shrimp and toss with Old Bay according to preference.  Place shrimp in steamer basket and arrange in an even layer.  Cover the pot and raise heat to medium-high.  Keep an eye on the shrimp and toss a few times.  Using your own judgement, you may choose to raise the temperature to high for the last few minutes of steaming.  Shrimp is done when it's bright pink and fragrant.

Serve hot, with cocktail sauce and extra napkins to clean the Old Bay off your fingers!

Serves 2-4, depending on your appetite!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Chicken Pasta Caprese

I love just about any type of pasta salad.  And I also love Caprese salads.  So when I saw this recipe, I just knew I had to try it!  And it didn't disappoint, of course!  In fact, my husband even raved about this recipe, which wasn't totally shocking, but I was a little surprised he liked it that much.  When dinner was over, I added some balsamic vinegar, pine nuts, and crushed red pepper and turned this into a cold pasta salad to take for lunch at the hospital, where heating time eats too far in to the five minutes I might have to wolf down my lunch between rounding on patients!  Either way you serve it, this pasta is a crowd pleaser and travels easily, making it perfect for a Spring Potluck or picnic in the park!

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized bits
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
cooking spray or oil mister
9 ounces pasta (gemelli is pictured, but any will do)
4 teaspoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 cups halved grape tomatoes
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
4 ounces part skim mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes, or buy the smaller pearls (bocconcini)

Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat.  Season the chicken with dried basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste.  Spray the skillet with oil and add chicken.  Cook until cooked through, then transfer to a plate.

Cook the pasta to al dente.  Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, increase the heat until the skillet to high.  Add the olive oil and garlic, stirring until golden, about 1 minute.  Be careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the tomatoes, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until tomatoes become tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the pasta to the tomatoes.  If pasta seems dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.  Add chicken and toss well.  Remove the pan from heat and stir in the fresh basil and cheese.  Serve hot.

Serves 5.

Recipe adapted from The Skinnytaste Cookbook, by Gina Homolka.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Chicken Cordon Bleu Meatballs

I admit, I've never had chicken cordon bleu before in my life.  At least not that I remember.  But I remember when my family lived on Okinawa, a tropical Japanese island, and we'd normally go to the Officers Club for dinner once a week.  My older brother always ordered chicken cordon bleu, and every time I see the dish on a menu I think of him.  It wasn't until I saw this recipe that I even thought about trying the flavors myself.  When I put the ground chicken in the grocery cart, my husband wrinkled up his nose and decided that whatever I planned to make with ground chicken would be inedible.  And then he tasted this, quickly rescinded his previous statement, and asked for seconds.  Funny how that works, isn't it?!  I've made this meal a few times now, and each time, I call my mama and tell her she needs to make this for my brother.  Except that maybe I should just do it!

For the meatballs:
Cooking spray
1 pound lean ground chicken
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
14/ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 large egg
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 slices prosciutto, cut in half
2 slices reduced-fat Swiss cheese, cut into 4 pieces each

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon dijon
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 425.  Spray a large nonstick baking sheet with oil.

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, bread crumbs, parmesan, parsley, egg, garlic, and salt.  Form 8 meatballs using slightly wet hands to keep them from sticking.  Stuff each meatball with one piece prosciutto and one piece Swiss in the center.  Seal the meatballs well by pinching them closed at the bottom.  Place on the oiled baking sheet and bake 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce.  In a large, nonstick skillet with lid, melt the butter over medium heat.  Spring in the flour and whisk constantly for about 1 minute.  Whisk in the wine, cooking for a minute longer, and then add the stock and milk.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until the sauce thickens slightly.  Whisk in mustard, lemon juice, and Parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and keep covered.

When the meatballs are done, add to the skillet with the sauce.  Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Serve 2 meatballs over rice with roasted asparagus.  Top with the sauce and remaining parsley.

Serves 4.

Recipe adapted from The Skinnytaste Cookbook, by Gina Homolka.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Corn Dogs

My youngest son is the Hot Dog King.  And since his third birthday was Saturday, he got his choice for dinner.  Corn Dogs were on the menu, but rather than buying the frozen variety, I opted to make some from scratch!  These turned out much better than expected, and while a little time consuming in my countertop fryer, they were worth it as a special occasion.  After a fun day riding the Metro and visiting the Zoo, my little birthday boy was ready to chow down on corn dogs, macaroni and cheese, and applesauce!  Not bad menu planning for a three year-old!!

2 2/3 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/3 cups flour, plus more for rolling
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
salt and pepper
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
vegetable or peanut oil, for frying
12 hot dogs
ketchup and mustard, for serving

Whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Stir in eggs and milk (this will be about 5 cups batter).  Fill a large pot or deep fryer with enough oil to submerge hotdogs and heat to 360 degrees.

While oil is heating, pat hot dogs dry and insert a 10-inch wooden skewer through each.  Roll in flour to coat.  Dip a hotdog into the batter, turning until completely coated.  I've found that the easiest way is to pour some of the batter into a tall water glass, then, using the skewers, dip each hot dog.  Holding it by the skewer, carefully add each hot dog to the hot oil.  Repeat with remaining hot dogs.

Cook corn dogs, turning with tongs to cook evenly, until deep golden brown, 5-7 minutes for each.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined platter, turning to blot oil.  Serve warm, with ketchup and mustard.

Serves 12.

Recipe adapted from Martha's American Food, by Martha Stewart.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Rosemary Bread

I've been itching to try this recipe for years but never had the right opportunity.  Until my mama came for a mid-winter visit and we made the yummiest creamy broccoli soup for supper.  This bread would be the perfect accompaniment, and my mama, who used to make all her own bread from scratch (and without a bread machine!) would be the perfect advisor since my bread-making experience is rather limited.  My kitchen smelled divine as this bread was baking, my husband raved about its deliciousness,  my kids loved dipping it into their soup, and I shared the second loaf with my mama as a gift.  Very rarely does my own cooking look so similarly to the picture in the cookbooks, but this was pretty close!  The recipe seems long (it's bread) and fussy (again, bread) but it's not overly complicated, and so worth it in the end.  I will be making this bread again and again!

3 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1/4 cup olive oil
5 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup minced fresh rosemary (or 1 1/2 tablespoons crushed dried)
4 teaspoons fine salt
1-1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
white cornmeal, for baking

In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir the yeast into the warm water.  Let stand until frothy, 10 minutes.  Stir in the milk and oil.  Combine 4 1/2 cups of the flour in another bowl with the rosemary and fine salt and stir to mix.  Add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture and blend with the paddle attachment at low speed until the flour is absorbed.  Using the dough hook, knead the dough on medium speed until velvety, elastic, smooth, and somewhat moist.  Gradually add enough of the remaining flour until the dough stick to the bottom and sides of the bowl (this step may be omitted based on the consistency of your dough; I did not need additional flour).  Finish kneading the dough in an oiled bowl, turning the dough so the surface is lightly and evenly coated in oil all over, cover with a dry dish towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Gently punch the dough down on a floured surface but do not knead it.  Cut the dough in half and shape each half into a round ball.  Put the loaves on a lightly floured bread board, cover loosely with a dry dish towel, and let rise until almost doubled, 45-55 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450.  Put a baking stone in the cold oven and preheat in the oven 30 minutes before baking.  Just before you put the loaves in the oven, make as asterisk of shallow slashes in the top of each loaf with a sharp knife, and sprinkle with the coarse salt inside the slits.  Carefully sprinkle the hot stone with cornmeal, then slide the loaves onto it.  Alternatively, you may place the loaves on a lightly oiled baking sheet, omitting the cornmeal and baking stone.

Bake for 10 minutes.  As soon as you place the bread in the oven, use a spray bottle of water (like you use for ironing) to spray the inside of the oven three times.  This will help develop a chewy crust.  After the initial 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400 and bake until the bread is nicely browned and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, 15-20 minutes.  The original recipe called for 30-35 minutes, so your bread may take longer, but my bread was perfect much sooner!  Let bread cool on wire racks before cutting to serve.

Makes 2 loaves.

Recipe adapted from Celebrate the Rain, by the Junior League of Seattle.