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Archive for December, 2009

Caramel Apple Pie

I promised Mom apple pie. for our Domino Night at Jacob’s house. So do I make the reliable standard apple pie with two crusts and an apple filling? Of course not!

I started with Joy the Baker’s Easy No Roll Pie Crust. I pressed the crust into a 9 1/2 inch pie plate and used a measuring cup to make sure the crust wasn’t extra thick on the edges. I made this a day ahead and froze it. The next day, I baked it at 350 for 15 ish minutes. It never really browned but that’s ok.

The rest of the pie was courtesy of RZ’s Yummy Crunchy Caramel Apple Pie. I used 3 large granny smiths, which we lazily peeled. I added a little extra cinnamon to the filling. I only made half of the crumb topping and I didn’t even use it all. I probably should have though. I also should have pushed the apples down into the pie a little better so the top would have been flatter. I baked it for 25+27 minutes in Jacob’s house’s oven. I covered the edges for the first 25.

I made Kittencal’s Easy Caramel Ice Cream Topping the day before and let it thicken in the fridge. It makes a lot! After pulling the pie out of the oven, I drizzled it with the caramel sauce and sprinkled it with chopped, toasted pecans. It cooled for maybe 10 minutes and we ate it with vanilla ice cream.

Everyone loved it! Or at least said they did, haha. Even though I wasn’t too excited about making an apple pie, these extra additions made this dessert really special. I am very proud of this dessert, and I think it gave me the boost to win our domino game!

Cajun Chicken Pasta

OMG so good!! Here are step by step directions, since I combined several recipes and did some of my own thing.

You need:

  • Penne (or another pasta)
  • Water
  • Pasta pot
  • Jumbo skillet
  • Salt (lots and lots and lots)
  • Chicken Breasts (not too big)
  • Garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, cayenne, oregano
  • Butter, or olive oil, or a little of both
  • Chicken stock or broth (you don’t need that much)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Sun dried tomatoes (rehydrated in microwave if dried, but ones in the jar taste better!)
  • Heavy cream (I think half and half would work too)
  • Milk
  • Green onions
  • Thyme, basil
  • Parmesan cheese (no green can crap!)

Fill pasta pot with water and add lots of salt. Then add more salt.

Chop: 3 cloves garlic, a BIG handful sun dried tomatoes, 2 green onions. Keep seperate and set aside.

Use tongs to put chicken on a piece of plastic wrap. Cover the chicken with another piece of plastic wrap. Pound chicken with a rolling pin, or whatev. They should be pretty thin, like 1 inch or less. Pretend the chicken is someone you hate! Be a wild woman!

Turn stove on medium and and heat a little butter and a little olive oil in a big pan.

Season chicken on the side that’s facing up. I used:

Lots of salt and pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. I used a little less of onion powder, cayenne, and oregano. You can be pretty generous if you want it to be spicier than last time. The chicken might taste really spicy right after you cook it but it’ll be less once you mix everything together.

Test to see if oil/butter is hot by sprinkling a little water onto the pan. If it sizzles, you’re ready to saute.

Use tongs to put chicken seasoned side down on the pan. You should be looking at the naked side of the chicken. Season the second side the same way you did the first.

Let the chicken cook for 4 or 5 minutes. Set the timer so you don’t have to stare at the clock. You want the chicken to start getting white on the edges. Flip and let it cook for 2 ish minutes. Get some chicken stock and pour a little into the pan. Cover the pan quickly and let it steam for maybe two minutes. You kind of have to guess when it’s done. Put the chicken onto a plate, and let it sit for 2 minutes. Cut the biggest piece in half and see if it’s done. If it is, leave it alone! Just let it sit on the plate.

You can cut the other ones in half if you really want to make sure they are done. If they aren’t done, put them back in the pan and pour chicken stock in and cover for another 1-2 minutes, until done.

If the pan looks kind of gross, you can scrape off the blackest bits with a spoon or something. You want burnt bits on the pan, but when I made it, some of the spices burned and turned way way black so I took a little bit off.

Turn on the pasta pot and get that water bubblin’!

Throw in the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes into the (now empty) chicken pan. Don’t miss! Stir a little. In one of the big bowls with pink dots, pour 1 1/2 cups cream or half and half and 1 cup milk.  Sprinkle a little basil and thyme into the milk and cream. Add the green onions you chopped earlier.

Stir the garlic and sun dried tomatoes. The stove should still be on medium. Pour a little chicken stock into the pan and stir some. It should bubble and fizz tightly. Now add the cream/milk/basil/thyme mix. Add a little salt and pepper. Stir a little. After a minute or so, turn the heat down to 3 or 4.

Hopefully the pasta water should be boiling, so add the pasta. An entire box of penne is too much for three people. Half of a box (which is what is left) should be good. Let it cook for 10 minutes. Use the timer! I use the timer for everything.

While you’re waiting for the pasta, stir the cream occasionally. It should thicken a little, but it probably won’t thicken too much.

While the pasta is cooking and the sauce is thickening, cut the chicken into slices. I cut the longest slices in half. Put the cut chicken back on the plate.

Once the pasta is done and drained, you can use cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Pour about a tablespoon of cornstarch into a salsa/kitty water bowl and fill it not even halfway with water. Stir well, then add some of that to the cream. After a minute, it should thicken a little. Then keep adding the cornstarch water little by little until the sauce coats the back of the spoon and your finger leaves a path on the back of the spoon.

Once the sauce is thick enough, pour the chicken into the pan. Make sure any chicken juice gets back into the sauce. No survivors! Now add the pasta and  a nice handful parmesan cheese, stir well, and after a minute or so, you’ve got a SCRUMPTIOUS pasta dinner.

Eat. Make Paula Deen eating noises. No talking allowed. Now call me and tell me how it turned out!

Btw, I served this with a simple salad with balsamic vinaigrette. Gotta get those veggies in!

Beer and Three Cheese Bread

I had a really strong urge to cook with beer over the break, so I decided on a extra fancy, flavorful Beer and Three Cheese Bread from BEB. I thought it was amazing! I cooked it to 190 degrees, but it seemed a little underdone. My only complaint about the recipe itself is that it had so many ingredients and flavors that it was hard to distinguish each one. Also, even though I could taste the beer, it wasn’t the dominant taste. I would like to know what simple beer breads and simple beer and cheese breads taste like. But this bread was so tasty I would hate to make a simple recipe and regret it becuase it didn’t taste as good as my first one!

American Sandwich Bread

I wanted to make some bread for leftover ham and fontina sandwiches, so I chose to make BEB’s American Sandwich Bread. This bread had milk, honey, and butter, so I knew it would be delicious. It rose so much and turned into a beautiful, HUGE loaf! I wasn’t sure it would fit in our oven. I used the thermometer to tell when it was done and it wasn’t underbaked at all. I also made it early enough so it was completely cooled by dinner time. It was so so good, and I’m glad there’s some leftovers in the freezer for another day.

Sugar cookies compared

I made two batches of sugar cookie dough for the holidays. The first was Dorie Greenspan’s Grandma Sugar Cookie. This is a traditional recipe, with sugar and vanilla and butter. I made this dough at school, and it ended up being too dry and crumbly. At home, I made sure to measure the flour extra carefully and it was still too dry and crumbly. I added milk until the dough became soft and malleable, like it was supposed to be. This dough was hard to make shapes out of unless it was really cold, which I expected.

The second was Serious Eat’s Sugar Cookie. It had the additions of lemon zest, cream cheese, and almond extract. It also needed to be pretty cold to roll out and make shapes.

The majority prefered the SE sugar cookie, and everyone except my dad liked the thicker, non crunchy cookies better. Jacob chose the more traditional recipe as his favorite. These cooked anywhere from 8-12 minutes. Don’t let them brown at the edges!

I made a royal icing, using 2 egg whites, vanilla, lemon juice, and lots of powdered sugar. I started with 2 cups and increased it from there. You’ve reached the right consistency when a ribbon of icing disappears in the icing after 5 seconds. Decorating these cookies was fun, but after the first 20 or so it got really messy and we got tired. Some of the last ones were dipped in chocolate bark, but I don’t think chocolate and sugar cookies go together.

I took the SE sugar cookies to Christmas, since that recipe made a lot more. Everyone loved them and most of them were eaten before we even sat down to eat!

Christmas 2009!

I took a lesson from previous events, and only made tested recipes to share at our Christmas meal. I made ratatouille, with a few changes. I used 2 cans diced tomatoes, one regular and one roasted garlic. I also added some anchovy paste and a splash of balsamic vinegar, which I didn’t do last time. I thought it was delicious, and I devoured the leftovers. Hopefully everyone else liked it too! 

I also made the rest of the crusty, crackly KA bread that had been sitting in the fridge for about a week. The top was a little dry, but I put that part on the bottom and it didn’t seem to affect the loaf. It ended up being a little underbaked, and I probably should have used a thermometer. The oven at home seems to be a little too cool, maybe I should increase my temps by 15 degrees or something. It looked beautiful and I really enjoyed the tanginess of it.

For dessert, I made pecan pie bars and sugar cookies (which ended up being appetizers.) The sugar cookies get their own post. I lined the pecan pie bar pan with sprayed aluminum oil, which helped them not stick. About 1/4 of the crust ended up being really gooey on the bottom, but I’m not sure why.

My favorite dish (besides mine!) was the sausage stuffed cabbage rolls with mushroom sauce. We also had perogies, potato salad, this saukraut thing courtesy of Tom’s mom. Other dishes included cheese pies, pastitsio, grape leaves with lemon sauce, angela’s mashed potatoes, brisket, and ham. Other desserts were cheesecake and pumpkin pie.

Balsamic Roast Pork, Dirty Broccoli, Stuffed Dates

My sister made Balsamic Roast Pork Tenderloins by Rachael Ray tonight, and it was awesome! I’ve never had pork tenderloin, but I will definitely have it again! We only made one loin for the 4 of us, but we probably could have finished off two. It took longer than the recipe said, but I used my thermometer and took it out when it hit 160. We let it rest for a few minutes before slicing, and next time I’ll wait 10 minutes. I loved it! It had an herby-crust, great flavor, and was juicy.

I made Dirty Broccoli (Ellie Krieger) from the Cookies with Boys blog. 5 minutes in the microwave made the broccoli a little too soft. This is definitely a last minute dish, because the breadcrumb mix gets soft after a few minutes. This would be a great dish to make while meat is resting. It really shouldn’t sit on the stove any. But I loved the flavor and I want to try it again sometime.

I also made BEB’s Fontina-Stuffed, Bacon Wrapped Dates. They took maybe 7 minutes in the broiler, but the combo of salty-sweet-cheesy was amazing. 🙂 I will scoop out a little of the date’s middle next time. I used smoked bacon instead of regular, which I think is much better in any circumstance.