Monday, February 21, 2011

Project 7: Corn and Sausage Casserole

$5 Dinners posted this yummy looking recipe for Corn and Sausage Casserole last week, and I had to try it.  Since today was Presidents Day, and I had the day off, I had plenty of time to stop by the store to grab the goodies and cook something that didn't come with microwave instructions.  Besides, KP has a cast iron skillet, and I don't.

The pile on the right is my discard pile.
The problem?  Well, KP is a bit of a tomatophobe, and when I read him the ingredients over the phone he was totally on board through the peppers and onions, the sausage and corn, and then ---woah! Why does it always have to be tomatoes?  I promised him there would be less tomatoes in this dish than the spaghetti and meatsauce he cooks for himself all the time (I believe I called it a "wee can of tomatoes"), but I resigned myself to the fact that I might be taking the rest of this dish home with me to eat during the week. 
Cook baby cook!

So I started out browning the sausage on low while I chopped up the pepper and the onion on the cutting board.  I'm not really sure that I did the pepper right, as it seems that you trim more off of it that you actually use, but it was plenty for what I needed it for.  After the sausage was done, I left a little of the sausage grease in the skillet to brown the onions and peppers.  They smelled amazing!  Then in went the corn, and the tomatoes, and while I stirred the skillet I might have started up a little mantra of "Come on tomatoes, cook down to an unnoticeable size!"

Before it went into the oven.
Once most of the juice had evaporated, I added the sausage back to the skillet, stirred it up with some maybe questionable Italian seasoning (we're still working on getting rid of the old stuff) and then covered the whole thing in a layer of shredded Italian cheese blend.  While it melted, I put a cup of flour, a cup of milk, an egg and three tablespoons of olive oil in bowl, stirred it, and poured it on top.  The (very heavy by this point) skillet went in the oven at 400 for 20 minutes to bake, and I went in the other room to do something that didn't involve staring at the oven (you can't actually see through the door of KP's oven, so I would literally be staring at the door) and waiting for the timer to go off. 
The finished product!

The result?  Pure YUM.  I had a piece, and it's an interesting mix of italian with a sort of mexican feel (come on, I can't be the only one that associates pan fried onions and peppers with fajitas) but the whole thing works.  In fact, KP came home just after I finished it, and ate half of my second helping (bent over the plate going "Oh no--omnomnom--I don't think this is very good--omnomnom--wouldn't want you to eat it and get sick or anything--omnomnomnom.") He gives it two thumbs up, and so do I.  Yum!


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Revisit: Crock Pot Chicken Bog

So back in November, I made Crock Pot Chicken Bog for the first time.  I just made it again this week, but some of my changes didn't work out as well as I'd hoped.

First off, the box of Uncle Ben's rice is a great idea.  I loved it in the original attempt at this recipe, because the wild rice is a nice touch, and the included seasoning pretty much makes it no fail.  But two boxes?  Not so great.  The seasoning really overpowered the dish, and wild rice just doesn't have the same texture as white rice.  It was okay, but next time I'm going back to one box of Uncle Ben's, and then adding white rice until all the juice has soaked up.

The other thing that was different in this was that this time it was greasier than before.  You know how when you eat storebought Mac and Cheese, and while the food itself is not dripping grease it leaves a film on the dish you ate it in?  (I know it sounds gross, but work with me.)  So yeah, that's what this new round of chicken bog did.  The first time I did this, it didn't.  So what changed?  Well, I used chicken thighs this time instead of chicken breasts, and while they were still boneless and skinless, I wonder if chicken thighs can't be a slight bit more fatty than breasts.  (I suppose I could have trimmed them of some of the fat too, but that is always such a pain.) 

The other thing that changed, is I used chicken broth (I originally typed "brothel"-- oops!) that actually came from cooking chicken instead of buying the store bought kind.  I had some left over from when I cooked up some shredded chicken for burritos, and dumped it in the crock pot instead of buying a package from the grocery.  I didn't notice any fat floating on top when I took it out of the fridge, but maybe a more careful look is in order next time.  I don't expect chicken bog to be health food by any means, but hey, a little less grease can only make it better for you, right?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Project 6: Roast Chicken with Pears

This recipe came right to my inbox one day, courtesy of SC Johnson's Right @ Home.  The combination of chicken and pears was entirely too intriguing to ignore, so I tucked the recipe into my purse for later. (See?  New Years resolutions at work!)  I ran it by KP, and then yesterday at the grocery, we picked up the ingredients.
What the heck are these things?

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Did you look at the recipe?  Turnips?  Parsnips?  I don't even know what those look like, let alone what they taste like or how to prepare them for cooking.  I know what a pear looks like, and what it tastes like in a fruit cup, but I've never bought a fresh one before.  (I admit, I almost bought a can of pears to cheat.)  This could turn out totally tasty, or it could go down in history as the single worst thing I have ever made so far (it was definitely going to be the most involved recipe I had ever attempted).  We bought a frozen pizza just in case.

So last night I did some research.  Parsnips seem to get prepared almost identically to carrots (which makes sense, as they look, smell, and taste similarly), so that I can handle.  Turnips get peeled and then chopped sort of like an onion.  Pears, it seems have a core that needs removed, but you can do it with a melon-baller.  I expect a teaspoon will work just as well.  I think I can do this. 

So today I got started, and threw half a cup-ish of cranberries into a bowl of hot water to rehydrate.  The recipe said ten minutes, but I just let them sit till I was done chopping up my veggies.  The parsnips were peeled and chopped, followed by the turnip, and then the red onion.  KP helped cut the top and bottom off of the turnip (since they aren't as wide as onions, there wasn't much to hold on to while you cut), but I managed everything else all by myself.  Everything went into a bowl, followed by the drained cranberries, and the wet ingredients.  (We used thyme to season, because KP says rosemary has a minty note to it, and he doesn't do mint.  It worked excellently.) I used my hands to mix everything up, and then everything got scooped into a baking dish, to go into the oven for 6-7 minutes. 

I did get KP's help with the chicken.  I figured I would make less of a mess if I had four hands instead of two. :)  The same seasonings that went on the veggies went in the bag, plus the chicken, and then you shake.  If you can make shake-and-bake, you can do this.  The chicken goes on top of the veggies in the baking dish, and everything goes back into the oven.

But wait, I hear you say, what happened to the pears?  Weren't there pears in this recipe?  Well, yes!  While everything was in the oven, I chopped up the pears (a teaspoon worked perfectly, and I used a small knife to cut out the stringy part in the middle), and after the chicken had been in the oven for half-an-hour, the pears went in.  Everything cooked for another five minutes, and that gave me just enough time to make a can of green beans (look, I cannot possibly make all this and real green beans).

The finished product looked absolutely fantastic.  It smelled yummy, and I crossed my fingers and hoped it tasted as good as it looked/smelled.

It did.  Oh my god did it ever.  The chicken was moist and had a great flavor, and the veggies had a wonderful sweetness that balanced out the balsamic vinagarette (you could really smell the vinegar, but while KP says it had a great vinegarette flavor it wasn't strong enough to turn my tastebuds off), and the veggies weren't mushy or burnt.  (I imagine it could be really easy to overcook this if you weren't careful.)

Overall, we give it an A++.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Project 5: Cranberry Pork Tenderloin

Spoiler: This turns out totally nomalicious.

So this recipe was an adventure.  I'd never ever attempted pork before, and short of bacon, I don't eat a lot of it.  But it looked too good to pass up, so right after New Years I made a trip out to the grocery to pick up the ingredients.  But apparently, Pork tenderloin was on sale when I showed up.  There were two left in the entire store, and both of them had the stickers pulled off.  I really only needed a two pound piece of meat, so I picked the smallest of the two.  Surely it would be close to what I needed, right?

This is a five pound piece of meat.
If by "close", you mean "way over the size of what I need", you would be right.  This particular piece of meat rang up at about 5 pounds, making it completely overkill to feed me and KP for an evening.  I was worried the damn thing wouldn't fit in the crockpot, but I lucked out.  Barely.

Since the meat was more than what the recipe called for, I doubled the sauce ingredients as well. (I know the meat was really more than double, but I wasn't sure I needed that much sauce. Besides, I only had two cans of cranberry sauce.)

So all of my lovely and delicious ingredients went in the crockpot, including cloves, which smelled absolutely heavenly.  And it sat overnight.  And then it sat through breakfast.  And then lunch. Looking back, that was probably not the greatest idea in the world.  Unlike pot roast, there were ingredients in the sauce that scorch.  And they did just a little bit.

But the pork?  Well that was delicious.  It was sweet and tender, and with a little sauce on top, it was as KP termed it "nomalicious".  I'll take that as a win.

(Next time, however, I will not leave it on as long.  We'll either eat earlier, or I'll just put it in first thing in the morning, instead of overnight.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Food sites I love:

So I'm in the process of writing up this nomalicious pork dish I cooked up the other day, but I thought I would share some of my favorite recipe treasure troves first.

Taste of Home - I discovered this site through a book at the library, and I loves it. Yummy recipes, lots of them easy enough for even me to cook. I'm totally itching to get my hands on the Almost Homemade book, which looks to be right up my alley.

EatingWell - My subscription to EatingWell came paired with my subscription to Yoga Magazine.  For some reason I rarely touched the magazine I actually wanted, and found myself flipping through this occasionally and wishing I could cook. EatingWell recipes are often high on the style aspect, meaning they're often a little complicated for me right now.  Expect to need seasonings you don't have, and have lots of onions, celery and garlic on hand for chopping. My really tasty cookies came from here though, so the effort is usually well worth it!

$5 Dinners - One day I will master the art of food planning and coupons and not spending a ridiculous amount of money because I went to the store after work and I was hungry and decided that I needed $30 worth of chinese food microwavable dinners for the week (true story). Or I buy things for food like milk or eggs or onions and they go bad long before I think to use them.  Until then, I will read $5 dinners for the yummy recipes, and hope maybe some of it will rub off on me.

A Year of Slow Cooking - I seriously love my crock-pot. Maybe not as much as this lady does, but I love crock-pot cooking and all the things I am willing to try in a crock-pot that I definitely wouldn't be willing to try just yet in the oven or on the stove.  I love reading the recipes on this site, and seeing that someone else gets into wacky adventures in the kitchen (she tried to make HAGGIS for goodness sake)!

Just Bento - I adore bento boxes.   They're cute, and if you packed it right you've got a colorful meal with fruits, vegetables, protein and carbs! My mother would be proud.  On the other hand, bento often looks very complicated to emulate, and while eating Japanese food doesn't scare me, cooking it does.  I drool for now (and pack little American-style boxes occasionally).

Hasty Tasty Meals - Cheri is a friend of the family, and the author of books that she once warned me "might be a little naughty".  She writes cookbooks too.  I like to see what she's cooking, and I promise you if Cheri says it's good, then it is.  :)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Holidays in recap:

There was lots of baking for me over the holidays, and everything went well!  It's really hard to write about kitchen adventures when there aren't really any adventures to speak of.  My New Years Resolution?  Have a kitchen adventure at least once a month.  (This is currently in the Crock-Pot, and will be the first time I've ever made pork!  The cloves smell amazing.)  Also, to keep a copy of a recipe or two I want to try so when I'm at the store and go "Damn, I should pick up something to put in the Crock-pot," I'll actually have a list of ingredients handy.

So what did I make?  Well, there were buckeyes, (in which the directions are pretty much "stir peanut butter, butter and confectioners sugar until you can't stir anymore and then add more confectioners sugar and continue stirring until your arm really does fall off") but I need to perfect my chocolate dipping technique.  There was a sweet chex mix (KP approved!) and very yummy spiced apple juice (the leftovers are in the fridge, but I haven't tried it since to see how well it holds up).  There was banana bread for Christmas breakfast at KP's parents, and citrus honey button cookies as presents for both his and my parents.  I picked the recipe because it had a little less sugar, and it wouldn't be very nice to wave sugary cookies in front of KP's dad since he's not supposed to eat them.  Despite rumors to the contrary, I'm not evil.  The cookies were an especially big surprise hit at my family's house though, where my mom told me I'm turning into Betty Crocker (with motherly pride) and my teenage brother ate two (while I was there, who knows how long they lasted after I left!).  Success!

So those were my holidays, how were yours?