Friday, March 29, 2013

Cleaning out the Pantry: Chicken Spaghetti

Growing up many a meal was concocted with a variety of canned goods, packages of pasta and other pantry staple.  Tuna noodle casseroles.  Chili.  A huge assortment of casseroles.  They were quick.  Usually uber salty.  And damn tasty.

Since then, I've steered away from a lot of canned goods.  Broth is homemade.  The last four months most of the tomatoes I used were canned myself.  Yogurt, sour cream and creme friache spiked with herbs and sauteed onions have replaced  cream of something soups.  Even beans are usually of the dry variety instead of dished out of cans.  Pasta...well, I'm not quite ambitious enough to make my own pasta most days.

But on the rare occurrence, I will dive into the pantry to dig out something full of nostalgia and comfort.  This dinner is a quick and dirty treat.

adapted from the Boomer Brief

serves 6-8

The Ingredients:
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 oz angel hair pasta
1 - 10 oz can cream of chicken soup
8 oz sour cream
1 - 10 oz can diced tomatoes w/ chilies
1 cup shredded cheese

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 350

Boil the pasta as per package directions, drain and set aside

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, fry the chicken in a little oil until cooked through and well browned on each side, about 7 minutes per side.  Remove from pan and set aside until cool enough to handle.  Once cooled, cut into bite-sized chunks.

Combine the chicken, pasta, soup, sour cream and tomatoes in a 2 qt baking dish.  Cover and bake thirty minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.  Remove foil.  Sprinkle with cheese and return to oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and is beginning to brown.

Serve hot.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cheesy Baked Broccoli Bites

Have you ever glanced through a magazine or a blog and tagged a recipe for later, only to not find the recipe again.  And yet the picture of the dish continues to haunt you.  On one particularly sleeplessness night, do you toss and turn, pondering upon that dish.  And suddenly...inspiration hits.  You may have lost the recipe, but that image guides you.  You burst into the kitchen prepared to create.

 This dish was sort of like that.  I came across the original post and filed it in the back of my mind.  I never actually read the recipe, though the step by step photo collage stayed crystal clear in my mind.  The successful filling for the previous broccoli stuffed tilapia brought this filed recipe back to mind.  Even without digging it up, I was certain I could come up with some facsimile of it.

And indeed I did.  After the fact, I did find the recipe.  What was different?  Surprisingly not much!  I used half the bread crumbs and slightly less cheese.   I also baked the bites a tad longer at a lower temperature.  And added srirachi and onion for a bit of bite.  Funny how just a quick glance can be enough to impart enough information! 

Inspired by Stacey Snacks

yields about 20 bites

The Ingredients:
2 1/2  cups frozen broccoli, thawed
1 green onion, finely chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 cup shredded Cheddar or Co-Jack cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
squirt of Srirachi
salt and pepper to taste

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 350

Coarsely chop the broccoli and drain, removing as much liquid as possible.  In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients and mix well.  If too thick, add a little milk.  If too thin, add more bread crumbs.

Roll the broccoli mixture into 1-inch balls and space evenly on an oiled baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Broccoli Stuffed Tilapia

 Here fishy, fishy, fishy...

Yup.  Still on a seafood kick.  Fish this time.  Though I still daydream about those scallops....

This dish came together much more easily than I first anticipated.   I opted for tilapia mostly for economy, but sole, flounder or orange roughy would work equally as well.  Don't like fish?  Use the filling with chicken instead.

adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

serves 4

The Ingredients:
4 - 4 oz tilapia fillets
1 cup frozen broccoli, thawed
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1 green onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dill
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
8 oz cream cheese, divided
2 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp dry white wine

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 350

Rinse the fillets and pat dry.  Place between two layers of parchment paper and lightly pound to an even thickness, about 3/8-inch. 

Coarsely chop the broccoli and combine with the egg, bread crumbs, onion, garlic, dill, Parmesan  and half of the cream cheese.

 Spoon one quarter of the filling mixture onto the end of each fillet. 

Roll up the fillet, securing with a toothpick if necessary.  Repeat with the remaining fillets.  Arrange the rolls in a baking dish. 

Bake, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily

Meanwhile, combine the remaining cream cheese and milk in a small saucepan set over medium heat.   Heat and whisk until smooth.  Stir in the white wine. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve sauce over stuffed fillets.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pork Carnitas

Sometimes the mood strikes for something in particular.  I find in those moments, the best course is to heed those moods.  On the first day of spring, when the snow still lingers and temperatures continue to dip, this hearty dish provides hope...

adapted from My Kitchen Escapades

serves 3-4

The Ingredients:
2 pounds boneless pork butt
1 small onion, quartered
1 orange
1 lime
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 300

Trim the fat off of the pork roast and cut into 2" chunks. Half and juice the orange, reserving the peels.  Juice and zest the lime.  Combine the pork, juices, zest, orange peel, onion, spices and water in a 1-quart Dutch oven.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cover and transfer the Dutch oven to the oven.  Cook until the meat starts to fall about, about 2 hours.

Remove the Dutch oven from the oven,  Spoon the pork into a separate bowl.  Discard the peel and onions, reserving the juices.  Heat the mixture on the stove top to a rolling boil.  Cook the mixture until reduced by about half, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the broiler.

Meanwhile, using two forks, pull the meat apart into bit-sized chunks, but do not shred.  Add the pork into the juices and stir to coat.  Spread the pork and juices in a single layer onto a rimmed baking.  Transfer the pan back into the oven and broil until the meat begins to brown, about 5 minutes.  Using a large spatula, flip the meat, and broil for an additional 3-5 minutes.

Serve hot with tortillas, avocado, onion and cilantro

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Stout Bread


On a day inundated with Guinness cupcakes and corned beef, I opted to offer you something a little different.  Dry Irish stouts make a mighty appearance on St Patrick's day.  So in honor of this dark malty beverage, I baked up bread that shared that same deep, roasty flavor.  The key is in the addition of dark dry malt extract.  The darker the better. 

 This brewing ingredient lends a darker color and the roasted, malted flavor usually associated with this dark beer style.  The original recipe called for wheat bran to add a little extra body.  Instead, I substituted some spent grain from our last batch of beer,  adding even more malted complexity in addition to a wonderful whole grain texture.

Adapted from Brother Juniper's Bread Book by Peter Reinhart

Yields three 1 1/2 pound loaves or about 36 rolls

The Ingredients:
9 cups bread flour

1/2 cup spent grain
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup cooked brown rice, completely cooled
1 cup dark roasted dry malt extract
3 Tbsp dry active yeast
4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups warm water

The Process:
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Add the buttermilk about 1 1/2 cups of water, stirring until combined.  Turn the mess out onto a well floured work surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10-12 minutes, adding additional water as needed.

To use a stand mixer, transfer about half of the dough to the mixing bowl and knead with a dough hook for about 5 minutes.  Combine the two dough balls, and knead by hand a minute or two to combine.

Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly greased bowl.  Cover and allow to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours.

Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a clean work surface.  For loaves, divide  the dough into thirds, gentle fold into a loaf shape and place in 9 x 4 x 3 inch pan.  For rolls, divide dough into 36 balls.  Gently rolls into balls and place in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, spacing them about 1- inch apart.  Approximately 12 rolls will fit per dish.  Brush with an egg wash.  Loosely cover aan allow to proof until double in size, about 1 hour

Preheat the oven to 350.

Bake the rolls for 10-15 minutes and loaves for 45 minutes or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Allow loaves to rest at least thiry minutes before slicing.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lemon Parmesan Orzo with Seared Scallops

Sometimes a shitty weekend comes your way.  Sometimes you need something fancy to help even out the universe.  This dinner was the answer to just such a weekend.

adapted from prevention rd

serves 4

The Ingredients:
for the pasta:
2 Tbsp butter
9 oz orzo pasta
3 cups vegetable stock
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 cup shredded Paremsan
1/2  tsp salt

for the scallops:
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
12 large scallops
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp lemon juice

The Process:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the orzo and toast until lihglty browned and fregrant, 5-7 minutes.  Add the vegetable stock.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, rinse the scallops and pat dry.  Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet set over high heat.  Sprinkle the scallops with salt and pepper. Add the scallops to the hot pan, making sure they are not touching each other. Sear the scallops for 2-3 minutes, drizzle with half of the 1 Tbsp of lemon juice.  Flip the scallops and sear the other side for an additional 2-3 minutes.  The scallops should be well browned on each side, mostly opaque, while still being translucent in the center.
Stir the Parmesan, salt and lemon juice into the orzo.   Stir the pasta until the Parmsesan has melted.  Spoon onto warm plates.  
Settle scallops onto pasta.  Garnish with parsley and lemon.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Orange Chicken with Broccoli

Some nights call for a quick and simple dinner absolutely bursting with flavor.  Okay, perhaps most nights call for this.  While I adore intense, complex and leisurely recipes on occasion, I just do not have the time for them.  This recipe is ridiculously simple to make and easily adaptable to whatever protein or veggies happen to be in your fridge. 

I think this may have become my go-to stir sauce...

adapted from kitchen explorers at

serves 4

The Ingredients:
for the sauce
juice and zest of 1 large orange (about 1/2 cup juice)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp honey
small knob of ginger, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

for the stir fry
1 lb chicken, diced
2 Tbsp corn starch
1-2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 onion, sliced
1 broccoli crown, florets and stem
2-3 carrots, sliced diagonally
1 rib of celery, sliced diagonally

The Process:
In a small bowl whisk together all of the ingredients for the sauce.  Set aside.

Toss the chicken in the corn starch.  Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat.  Add the chicken and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.  Add the onion and stir fry for 2-3 minutes more, or until the chicken has browned and the onion is just beginning to soften.

Add the vegetables and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.  Add half of the sauce and toss until evenly coated.  Allow to cook a minute or two, until the sauce begins to thicken.  Add the remaining sauce.  Cook until the sauce has thickened and heated through.

Serve with brown rice.

Friday, March 8, 2013

For the Dogs: Barley's Biscuits

Ross and I finally had time to brew another batch of beer.  Between his internship, classes and time at a local brewery and my never-ending work schedule, we have had the darnedest time trying to find a few hours to make this happen.  And what a tasty brew we have this time...a cococnut brown ale!  The coconut lost all of its flavor to the wort, so sadly I will not be concocting anything like I had with the pumpkin from our last brew. 

However, we did have some spent grain.  We still brew most of our beers with malt extract. Despite the encouragement from friends and fellow brewers, we haven't made the jump to all-grain brewing yet.  But slowly we are working in partial mashes.  One of the perks?  Spent grain.

This modified extract recipe included about a pound of specialty grains.  Once the grain is steeped there doesn't seem to be much use for it other than the trash or the compost. Or, if you are a brewery...cattle feed or mushroom farms.  However, after our last partial mash experience I walked into the kitchen to discover the previously trashed grains strewn all over the floor, and staining our pup's muzzle.  Apparently Barley loves the barley.

I didn't need to do much of a search to discover a dog biscuit recipe using spent grains.  Keep an eye out for the remaining malted barley to make another appearance...

Our spent grain included:
1/4 lb English Chocolate Malt*
1/4 lb Belgian Special B
1/4 lb Belgian biscuit
1/4 lb Breiss Special Roast

*chocolate in name only, does not actually contain cocoa

PLEASE NOTE   Do not use any grain to which hops have been added.  Hops are toxic to many breeds.  For this reason it is highly recommended not to feed your dog beer.

adapted from a recipe in Brew Your Own Magazine

yields about 100 small treats or 40-50 medium treats

The Ingredients:
4 cups spent grain
2 cups flour
1 cup cashew butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten

The Process:
Combine all of the ingredients into a uniform paste and press into an even layer on a cookie sheet.  Scour into treat-sized shapes.Scour deeply, this will make the biscuit easier break apart later. 

Alternatively, roll the dough out about 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick and cut out biscuits using a cookie cutter.  Re-roll dough as necessary.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. If you pressed the dough into one sheet, remove from oven and break up into individual treats. Rearrange treats in a single layer on two baking sheets and bake at 225 for 3-4 hours or until completely dry.

Store in an air tight container.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Creamy Pesto Shells with Peas and Cherry Tomatoes

At times the winter seems never ending.  The cold seeps into every nook and cranny.  Grey skyline blends with the grungy white horizon in a seamless canvas of nothing.  Spring will come.  It will...the days are already lengthening.

But at times I can feel that strong Midwestern resolve and hopefulness weaken.  Times such as that call for carbs and comfort.  And something bright and green.

Rooting through my freezer trying to come up with something quick and easy that wasn't ramen or spaghetti with tomato sauce, I stumbled across a few quart-sized bags of green bliss. Arugula pesto whirled up in those sweltering dry days of summer when the leafy bitterness was coming out of my ears.  Bite and bright and perfect for tonight...

pesto recipe courtesy of Driftless Organics
the rest is my own devising

serves 4

The Ingredients:
for the sauce
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 cup chopped arugula, lightly packed
1/4 cup slivered, blanched almonds, toasted
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
4 Tbsp cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste

for the pasta
1 lb small or medium shells
2 cup peas, thawed if previously frozen
1 pt cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

The Process:
Combine the garlic, arugula, almonds, and Parmesan in a food processor and pulse into a coarse paste. Add oil in a thin stream while the processor is going.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Boil the pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

Add the butter and milk to a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat.  Once the butter has melted, add the freshly made pesto and stir until well blended.  Cut in the cream cheese, a little at a time and stir until melted and well combined. 

Transfer the strained pasta to a serving bowl.  Add peas and tomatoes.  Drizzle with the creamy pesto and toss until well coated.  Serve hot.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Hawaiian Rum Punch

Inspired by Hawaii.  I should probably be clear on that...this is certainly no authentic island drink.  Though in the tourist traps and tropical resorts anything served in a coconut or pineapple may qualify.

"One part sour, two parts sweet, three parts strong, four parts weak"

I'm not sure who is originally credited with this saying, though I first heard it from Bobby Flay.  I used this as the basis for our tropical punch.  That and a quick perusal of the drink menu at our very own Tiki bar on the banks of the Mississippi, Psycho Suzi's

Rum and pineapple were key.  I wanted to evoke something akin to POG.  Passion fruit, Orange Guava....not the game.  Though the two are related.

 The rest was trail and error until I discovered something tasty. 

POG, the juice, is exceptionally hard to find in Minnesota.  A lot of pineapple/orange/apple, Pineapple/banana/orange, even passion fruit/orange/apple mixes were on hand when I hunted, but guava remained elusive.  Surprisingly a bushel of the fruit was at our local grocery, but the price and time consuming process of juicing gave me pause.  In the end, flavored rums came to the rescue.  Passion fruit rum I found in a heartbeat.  Guava, again, I could not locate, though supposedly Cruzan makes one.

After tinkering around with different ratios...adding more lime, trying less grenidine, swapping in a few different fruit juices...I ended up pretty much right back with the recipe I based it off of.  The only major difference is I used flavored rums instead of Jamacian white and light rums.  I suppose whrn you have a good thing, it needed be tinkered with.

The end result is a sweet cocktail that is dangerously easy to drink.  The lime cuts through the fruit with just enough tartness.  The grenadine adds a berry like sweetness, but it still lacks that strawberry fragrance that the guava would have lent.  But in the end, I'm very content with the result.

And judging by the empty punch bowl and happy guests, I suspect everyone else was as well.

Recipe inspired by Bobby Flay

yields twelve 6 oz servings

The Ingredients:
1 cup lime juice
1 1/2 cups grenadine
1 cup coconut rum
2 cups Passion fruit Rum
2 cups pineapple juice
2 cups orange juice

Pineapple, cherries and orchids for garnish

The Process:
Combine the juices and rum in a 2 qt pitcher or punch bowl.  Chill at least one hour.

To serve, ladle over ice and garnish with pineapple wedge, cherry and orchid blossom.