Monday, September 30, 2013

Shrimp and Wild Rice Casserole

Casseroles tend to be great weeknight dishes.  I love that many of them call for throwing a bunch of ingredients in a bowl, placing in a casserole dish, and then spreading on some yummy topping like cheese or crunchy breadcrumbs.  They also tend to be great dishes to make when you’re preparing for arrival of a new baby.  I’m in the process of testing out many casserole recipes in planning for having a bunch of meals prepared and frozen for when our little bundle of joy arrives :)  After all, I won’t have much time for cooking! 

This dish was inspired by a Paula Deen recipe.  However, I made significant modifications so that it was more of a “one-pot” meal.  I added veggies, reduced the butter, and added a few more spices that she didn’t use.  Adding celery and broccoli gave the casserole a little more substance so it’s less creamy and "one-noted" and all of the distinct flavors come out.  Can’t wait for you to try it!

Shrimp and Wild Rice Casserole

1 (8oz) package wild rice
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ green bell pepper, seeded & chopped
½ onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 lb large shrimp, peeled & deveined
2 tsp minced garlic
1 (10 ¾ oz can) condensed cream of mushroom soup
2c grated sharp or medium cheddar
2c small broccoli florets
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp ground thyme
salt & pepper
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 325F.

Cook the rice according to package directions minus 1/4 c water.  Fluff with a fork and cool.  Note: This prevents the rice from overcooking when baking in the oven.

Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat.  Add butter and olive oil. 

Heat the butter in saucepan and sauté the peppers, onions, and celery until sweating (about 1-2 mins).  Add shrimp.  Add garlic.  Sauté shrimp until just pink on each side.

Cooking lesson: A mirepoix (pronounced “meer-pwa”) is a set of 3 vegetables that are typically used as aromatics in cooking.  Mirepoix is a French term and consists of celery, carrots, and onion.  However, other variations for other cuisines have come on the scene.   The mirepoix often used in Cajun or Creole cooking includes onion, celery, and bell pepper – which is what I used in this recipe.  This combination is also known as the holy trinity.

In a large bowl, combine the rice, soup, 1 ½ c cheese, shrimp mixture, and broccoli.  Add crushed red pepper and thyme.  Add salt & pepper, to taste.  Mix well.  Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray.  Place the mixture in the pan and top with remaining ½ c cheese.  Bake for 30 mins, or until bubbly.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Coq au Vin - Chicken in Red Wine

When I moved away to college, my family donated many wonderful things to my move...  my aunt gave me plates with clocks on them, my Grammy gave me a Le Creuset pan and skillet that I still have and totally love, my stepmother gave me a couch, my mom gave me her car... and a cookbook. Thanks fam!  :)

The book was Better Homes and Gardens red plaid, OG cookbook. First printed in the 1930s this bad boy has sold 34 million copies. Its a great starter cookbook and I still use it all the time. It has a very tasty coq au vin recipe which just happens to be one of the first things I ever made. 

Coq au Vin - adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
Serves 4

2-3 pounds chicken - with the bone in - I used drumsticks and thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups pearl onions - I used frozen
1 1/2 cups red wine - I used Cabernet, but use whatever you like to drink
1 chicken bullion cube, or 1/2 teaspoon chicken stock paste  (if you use 1/4 cup of liquid chicken stock, reduce wine bu 1/4 cup.)
2 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup sliced carrots - about 2 carrots
2 tablespoons fresh parsley - divided in half
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh marjoram, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons softened butter
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and Pepper
Cooked egg noodles - I made about 4 cups of noodles

In a heavy bottomed pan with a lid, heat oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper and brown in the hot oil, flipping once. When chicken is browned, add in mushrooms, onions, garlic, bay leaf, half the parsley, and dried herbs (if you're using fresh thyme and/or marjoram, leave it out at this point.)

Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer and cover the pan. Cook on the stove for 30-40 minutes, flipping chicken once, or until the chicken is cooked through. (It starts to pull away from the bone and is very tender after 35 minutes.) Add fresh herbs halfway through cooking time.

Cook the noodles and keep hot. Egg noodles cook more quickly than regular pasta, so start these close to the end of the chicken cooking time.

When the chicken is done, remove chicken and veggies from the pan and place them on top of the hot noodles. Turn up the heat a bit so that the sauce begins to bubble.

Blend the softened butter and flour together into a smooth paste. Whisk into the bubbling sauce and allow to cook for about two minutes or until the sauce becomes a nice, thick gravy. Pour on top of the chicken and noodles and top with remaining chopped parsley. 

Eat and enjoy!!

A few things about this recipe...
The chicken looks really purple for a minute, but then turns a much more appetizing brown once it sits for a minute.
About the wine/stock combo... I like paste bullion or stock that keeps in the fridge rather than having to keep open chicken stock around for 1/4 cup here and a 1/4 cup there. What I do with this recipe is mix the paste bullion in with red wine for a more concentrated flavor.
I was short on meat, so these pictures will look a little different. 
The original recipe calls for crisp cooked, crumbled bacon as a topper. I've done this sometimes, and omitted it other times. I didn't use it this weekend. Totally optional.
I use a LOT more veggies than what's called for, but I love them.

Made this time last year:
Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes and Onions

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Cake

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dark Chocolate Pecan Cookies

I love dark chocolate.  I ALWAYS prefer it to milk chocolate.  Not only is it better for you (contains antioxidants) but it has a more complex and rich flavor.  I try and use dark chocolate whenever something calls for milk chocolate.  70% cacao is my favorite but for this recipe I used Ghirardelli 60% semi-sweet dark chocolate chips.  I bet you can’t eat just one of these delicious little chocolate morsels!

I winged it with these cookies.  I love really soft cookies so I like to add a little crunch with nuts.  Pecans are my favorite nut so I chose to use these for this recipe.  Honestly, these were heaven for me – my favorite chocolate and favorite nuts in a cookie?  You can’t go wrong!  Let these cool slightly and then dip them in milk until the soaked portion is just about to fall off.  Yummmm….ummmm….can I make these again???  Now???  They’re delicious.

Dark Chocolate Pecan Cookies

¾ c granulated sugar
¾ c packed brown sugar
1c butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 ¼ c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ c pecan pieces (or more if desired)
½ dark chocolate chips (or more if desired)

Heat oven to 375F.

Gently whisk egg in a small bowl.  In a stand mixer bowl, combine sugars, butter, vanilla and egg. 

Tip: Softening of butter is a very important step in baking cookies (and many other baking recipes).  Butter that’s too cold makes cookies hard and butter that is too melted makes cookies spread too much when cooking.  For best results, let butter stand at room temperature for 30-60 minutes prior to use.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.  Stir to combine.  Carefully add flour mixture to butter mixture with mixer on low.  Add nuts and chocolate chips.

Drop dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet using an ice cream scoop. 

Kitchen tool: Use a Size 16 spring-release ice cream scoop.  Scoop dough and run the scoop against the side of the bowl to ensure the same size cookies every time.  The spring allows for easy release of the dough onto the cookie sheet.  This is what mine looks like:

Bake 12-14 minutes or until light brown (center will be soft).  Cool cookie slightly and then place on a wire rack.

Serve with milk!  This recipe made 16 cookies. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Three Hour Bagels

The grown ups in our house are NOT morning people. However, we have a toddler, so somebody is always up in the mornings. We have a good weekend system... one parent gets Saturdays, one parent gets Sundays to sleep in and the other one spends the wee dark hours doing puzzles, reading stories and making extra pots of coffee. Sunday mornings are generally my mornings to get up early. This morning, the tiny tot and I made bagels! I'd never made bagels, but I read this recipe in the food section of the Oregonian newspaper a while back. I love yummy recipes that are easy enough to make on a weekend morning, but involved enough that you get an awesome result. I used the recipe in the Oregonian with some technique changes from Smitten Kitchen. These are chewy and soft and really delicious. I ate mine toasted up with cream cheese and tomatoes from my garden. Awesome!

Three Hour Bagels - from the Oregonian and Smitten Kitchen 
Makes 8 medium sized bagels
1 1/4 cups warm water (divided)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons yeast
3 1/2 cups bread flour (more for kneading - I needed about 1 cup extra)
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 egg (for egg wash - beat the egg with 1 teaspoon water)
1 tablespoon baking soda - for boiling
Toppings - I used only kosher salt, but both recipes I used mentioned minced garlic, onion, poppy seeds or sesame seeds as options.

In a small bowl, add 1/2 cup warm water. Add in the sugar and yeast, but don't stir. Let this sit for 5 minutes and then stir to combine.

While the yeast bubbles, in a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast and sugar mixture. Pour in the remaining water and stir to make a shaggy dough. 

On floured surface, knead the dough for 10 minutes. (I kneaded by hand this morning, but have read that 10 minutes by hand is equal to about 6 minutes in a stand mixture with the bread hook engaged.) I used about 1 more cup of flour to get a nice, smooth, satiny ball of dough - not sticky, but not dry.

Lightly coat a large bowl with oil. Add the dough and turn it so that it is coated with oil. Cover the bowl with a damp dish town and let it rise in a warm place. (If it's cool out, I place a dish towel in the microwave and nuke it for 20 seconds and then put my bread bowl in the microwave with the hot towel. Voila!! Warm, moist place!)

Let the dough rise for one hour. When the dough is double it's original size, punch it down and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and cut it into 8 equal wedges.

Roll and shape each wedge into a smooth ball. Poke a hole in the middle and stretch it out until the hole is about 2 inches in diameter. I slung the bagel around my finger like a hula hoop. The dough really wants to bounce back, so I needed to make a nice, big hole.

At this point, preheat the oven to 450 and start a large bowl of water to boil. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and coat it with cooking spray and then sprinkle with corn meal. 

When the water is boiling, add 1 tablespoon of baking soda to the water - it will fizz a lot - and then drop in 4 bagels and boil for 2 minutes. Flip and boil for another 2 minutes.

Place boiled bagels on the baking sheet and brush with the egg wash and top with desired toppings - I only used kosher salt, but it seems anything that sticks to an egg wash would be fair game. 

Bake 10 minutes and then rotate pan 180 degrees and bake until golden brown. My bagels needed a total baking time of 18 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and then EAT!! I sliced and toasted my bagel, spread it with cream cheese and topped it with sliced tomatoes and more salt. Sunday morning heaven!!

My little man LOVED making bagels with me... here is a picture that melts my heart of him waiting for the bagels to bake. (All the pictures with that tiny lump of dough and that "baby bagel" are his very own creations. He was awesome!!)

Things made this time last year...
Thai Basil Meatballs with Mango Coconut Rice

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Sole

Chicken Tequila Fettuccine

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Basic Roasted Chicken Wings

If you’re a fan of us on Facebook, then you know that I (Marie Antoinette) just moved back to Portland.  I’m so excited!  With my baby due in November, it was a great move for my husband and I to make so we can get away from some of the craziness of NYC.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a great experience and the food was FANTASTIC!  But Portland has a lot to offer and I’m ready to explore.  First stop…my new kitchen :)

One of our Facebook fans requested that I share my Basic Roasted Chicken Wings recipe.  This was one of the first dishes I made after moving to Portland because it was a no-hassle dish that requires little effort.  No one wants to deal with cooking complex meals while unpacking.  What I love about these is they are very simple to make, are versatile – you can season them with just about anything, and they are better for you than fried chicken wings.  With this recipe, you’ll get spicy wings with a crispy skin.  Just ask my husband!  When he eats these, he sucks the wing tips because they are so yummy.  I’m gonna try these as a base for buffalo wings next since I normally fry my buffalo wings “naked” (no flour or breading).

Basic Roasted Chicken Wings

chicken wings
seasoning salt
garlic powder
onion powder
ground black pepper
smoked paprika
crushed red pepper
dried parsley
extra-virgin olive oil
cooking spray

(amounts are to your liking)

Heat oven to 425F.   Tuck wing tips behind drummettes (see picture).  This prevents the wing tips from drying out and allows the wings to rest flat on the pan.

Sprinkle chicken generously with all seasonings on each side.  Drizzle olive oil over wings.  Using your hands, rub spice and oil mixture over chicken and into crevices.

Tip: The oil allows for the skin to develop a nice, crispy texture.  Soggy skin is a big no-no in our house.

Place wings on a roasting rack or broiler pan coated in cooking spray.  Cook about 10-15 minutes and then flip chicken to cook on other side.  Chicken is done when skin is brown and crisp.

Feel free to try different spices and let us know what works best for you.  Try anything! We love hearing new ideas!