Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Chicken and Rice Casserole

Made this for dinner tonight and it was a hit, so I decided to write it down before I forgot what I did.  I have a habit of making things as I go and then not being able to repeat it because I didn't follow any particular recipe. Anyway, this one is simple and straight forward, and real ingredients.  I've been in a bit of a recipe rut lately, so it was good for me to make something that worked well for the family and get back into a cooking mood again.

Chicken and Rice Casserole

2 chicken breasts
2 c brown rice
5 c water
1-2 tsp better than boullion (chicken base, or you can use 2 cans of chicken broth instead of water)
3 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
onion powder
garlic powder
salt and pepper
1 c shredded mozzarella
1/2 c shredded parmesan cheese
breadcrumbs for topping

I used a rice cooker for the rice, so I just put the water and rice and chicken base in the rice cooker and set it to cook.  This takes the longest amount of time, so you want to do this about 35 minutes before you start the other stuff.  Brown rice takes about twice as long as regular rice.  You can use regular rice, I just like to add whole grains to our diet where we can.

Season chicken with garlic and onion powders and salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in skillet and brown chicken on all sides, then place on baking sheet and finish cooking in oven (or in our case, toaster oven).

In the chicken drippings in the same skillet, saute the onions, carrots, and celery until tender.  Set aside in a large bowl until chicken and rice are done cooking.  When the chicken and rice are cooked, mix together veggies, chicken, rice, and cheeses and then pour into a greased baking dish, and then top with more cheese and breadcrumbs.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until topping browns and casserole is hot and bubbly.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Basic Marinara Sauce

I have had a lot of friends asking me for my marinara sauce recipe lately because I've been making oodles of it from our garden tomatoes in order to can them and save them for later in the year.  It's very basic and can be adapted to whatever you want.  It's also very versatile in the way you use it (pasta, pizza, dipping sauce, lasagna, whatever you want).  It's also sort of free form, being that I just kind of wing it based on the amount of tomatoes I have to use at the time (we planted 13 tomato plants this year, our harvest has been crazy huge...I've been bringing in between 3 and 5 pounds a day to use up).  But here is a basic how-to on using fresh tomatoes to make marinara sauce. It's safe for canning, and a great way to use your garden veggies.

Basic Marinara Sauce (based on a 3 pound tomato batch)

1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1/2 head of garlic, minced
1-2 bell peppers, chopped
whatever other veggies you want to include, about a cup of each (mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, celery, etc)
3 lbs tomatoes, tops cut off and quartered (skins left on, and seeds intact)
1-2 small cans of tomato paste
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (my Italian friend says no way, but I don't use wine in my cooking, so this is to substitute for that)
handful of fresh basil, if you have it

In a very large (8-10 quarts), heat olive oil, and then add onions and garlic, and cook until tender.  Add bell peppers and other vegetables and cook until slightly softened.  Add tomatoes and seasonings and balsamic vinegar to the pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce to a simmer, and continue to simmer on medium low heat for several hours.  After about 1-2 hours, add tomato paste (to thicken) use an immersion blender to puree the sauce.  (If you don't have one of those you can puree it in batches in your blender or food processor, I just find the stick blender is convenient to use directly on the stove top.)   Continue to simmer, the secret to this sauce is not the ingredients, it's the low, slow cooking process.   I usually cook it about 10-12 hours before putting it in jars.

If canning, follow the instructions of how to can tomato sauce.  I looked it up online.  You can also freeze this.  We were able to get about 6 quarts canned from one batch of sauce.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Basic Fresh Salsa

As it is summer, and we have a wealth of tomatoes coming from our garden, and at farmers markets everywhere, I've been trying to find ways to make use of them.  Often I will make homemade spaghetti sauce, but lately I've been feeling like salsa--who doesn't like a fresh batch of salsa?! So good, right?  So I've been toying with recipes and methods and finally managed to get a good basic recipe.  Of course you can tweak this if you like more spice or less, or if you want to add pineapple or diced mango or something after....I prefer this one though, it's a lot like what you would find at a Mexican cantina with chips before your meal comes.  Very fresh tasting, and perfect for those snack attacks on hot summer days!  This mixes up best in a food processor, but if you want you can use a blender, just make sure you pulse instead of just blend it or it will be too soupy.

Fresh Salsa (NOT for canning...just for chips, tacos, burritos, whatever)

3-4 cloves fresh garlic
1 onion, peeled and halved
2 sweet bell peppers (I like red, but whatever you prefer), seeded and halved
2-3 jalapeno peppers, tops cut off, seeded/halved, and ribs removed
3 limes
tomatoes.... lots of them.  If you use romas like we did from the garden, they were pretty small, so I used a lot (about 15 or so) plus the big beefsteak ones we got in our Bountiful Basket.  You're aiming for about 4 cups of cut tomatoes.  You'll want to scoop the seeds out to reduce the liquid in the salsa--just use a spoon and scoop out the seeds and keep the flesh. Usually easiest to do if you quarter them first.
1 bunch cilantro
1/2 tsp salt

On a baking sheet, place pepper halves (bell and jalapenos) cut side down, and broil at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes.  Set aside.  In a skillet on the stove, place onion cut side down on dry pan (NO OIL), and char until lightly blackened and outside layers begin to slightly soften.

In food processor, pulse garlic until chopped finely.  Add onion halves until evenly chopped, and then add peppers.  Once everything is fully chopped evenly, add the seeded tomatoes, and the juice of the limes.  Pulse until all of it is evenly chopped and mixed (it will be blended, think restaurant salsa), and then add salt and cilantro last.  If you want, you can chop the cilantro roughly and mix it in by hand if you like it in bigger pieces. I prefer it all incorporated.

Serve on tacos, with chips, in burritos, on top of rice or enchiladas.  Options are endless. My favorite way is with chips as soon as it's done.   Keeps in the fridge about a week, but watch it disappear!! I bet it won't last that long....

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bacon Potato Corn Chowder

So this one was probably a repeat of something I've done before but this time I did it much better, so I am posting it this time so I do it this way again.  ;) It was just the right thickness and the bacon gave the perfect amount of flavor, and it was just really good.  So here we go.  Sorry, no picture this time, I didn't think about it ahead of time.  It's been awhile since I posted on here... Makes a lot, probably enough for 10 or 12, or you can freeze it and use it again later for a night you are too tired to cook.

Bacon Potato Corn Chowder

1 lb thick cut bacon, chopped small
2 onions, diced small
1 head of celery, chopped
5 or 6 carrots, peeled and chopped
3-4 tbsp flour
4 c chicken broth
2 c milk (I used whole, but anything will do)
6-7 medium potatoes, diced
1 bag frozen corn (about 4 cups)
1/2 tsp thyme
pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
black pepper (bacon is usually salty enough, so I didn't add salt)

In a large stock pot, cook the bacon until it starts to brown and the fat is rendered.  Add onion and keep cooking until the onions are tender, then add celery and carrots, and cook for about 5 minutes until the celery is tender and somewhat translucent.   Sprinkle flour in, and stir until it coats the veggies and bacon and continue to cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, then add broth.  Add chopped potatoes and corn, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Lastly, add your milk and herbs or spices.  Stir it all together and simmer for at least half an hour...but if you want just let it simmer all afternoon on low heat, covered, until you are ready to eat.

I served it with sharp cheddar cheese on top, and homemade rolls on the side. It's good enough on it's own of course, but the bread was nice to round out the meal. :)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Carrot Ginger Soup

A couple weeks ago my parents went to spend a week with my grandparents in Arizona.  They hadn't had a vacation by themselves like that for a long time and they had a nice time visiting and taking time off their regular lives.  When they got back I was saying at family dinner that I had about 4-5 bags of carrots in my fridge which we'd accumulated over a couple of weeks from our Bountiful Basket pick up each week. (The basket is different each week but for those two weeks I happened to get about 3 bags of carrots each.)  Dad said to me that Grandma had made a carrot ginger soup recipe while they were visiting and he said it was fantastic.  Grandma served it cold to them one night and Dad said he doesn't usually like cold soups but he really liked this one.   Of course that night, I sent an email to Grandma to get the recipe so I could try something new and use up all of the carrots I had waiting in the fridge.

She sent it to me a couple days later and a few days ago I got the rest of the ingredients I needed and here we are, I made it tonight.  I doubled it, as I thought it might be good for dinner tonight as well as cold tomorrow for lunch possibly. It used 2 bags of carrots, and it was pretty delicious. I hope you like it as much as my family did.  It's a very pretty color and the ginger gives it a nice punch.

Carrot Ginger Soup

3 c chicken or vegetable broth
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 medium onion, chopped
8 carrots, roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
cilantro for garnish, optional

In a large pot, heat olive oil, and add onion and ginger, and saute til onions are tender.  Add vegetable or chicken stock and carrots, and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about 20 minutes until the carrots are soft. Add salt and pepper. Blend in your blender, or with your immersion blender, or in a food processor.  Serve warm, or chill and serve later with sour cream and cilantro.

**This recipe comes from ChowLocally.com originally**

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Blueberry Pie

Okay so I've made pie and posted it on here before, but apparently not blueberry pie. It's very similar to other fruit pies I've done, with just a few tweaks to accentuate the blueberry flavor (as opposed to apple pie with cinnamon, or peach pie with almond flavoring, this one has lemon juice and some white sugar).

I like to use sweet fruit to start with so I don't have to add a lot of sugar, and that way I just add some cornstarch, flour, or tapioca to thicken the fruit juices.  This one is a favorite of my husband, and I enjoy it too.  It's a great fresh summery flavor, and perfect for when blueberries are cheap and in season.

Blueberry Pie

1 recipe 9" basic double crust pie crust (follow link for recipe and tutorial)
5 c blueberries, rinsed and picked over (get rid of the squished ones, make sure there aren't stray stems or flowers on your berries)
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp quick tapioca or cornstarch (or flour, if you don't have the other two...the benefit of cornstarch or tapioca is that they are flavorless)
1/3 c sugar (or other sweetener equivalent)
1/8 tsp salt

Follow the tutorial in the link above to make your crust and then put it in the fridge (or freezer if you are short on time like I was tonight).  You'll want it cold when you roll it out, makes it easier to handle. If you put it in the fridge it will take about an hour or two to chill, if the freezer, about 20 minutes.

Combine blueberries, lemon juice, sugar or sweetener, cornstarch or tapioca, and salt in a medium bowl and stir well. Set aside for 15 minutes.  Set your oven to 425 degrees.

By the time your oven is set, your berries should be ready and it's time to roll out the dough.  The easiest way I've found to do this is to flour a pastry mat or board well, and then place the dough on top, and then dust the top of the disc of dough with a bit more flour, then cover with plastic wrap.  The plastic wrap just keeps your rolling pin from sticking to the dough, and makes it easier to peel your dough off the mat so you can place it in your pie pan.  Roll your dough out into a circle about 9" in diameter, and then place the first crust in the bottom of your pan.  Make sure you press it down a bit so it gets into the edges of the pan.  Fill the bottom crust with your berries, and then repeat the process with the top crust.  You'll want to take the top and bottom crusts and tuck them under around the edges of the pan and crimp the edges to seal everything in, and then cut some slits in the top crust for venting (if you want to be cute about it, you can use a cookie cutter or cut a design.  I'm never fussy about that.)

Bake for 30 minutes at 425, and then reduce temp to 350 and continue to bake for another 20-30 minutes. The first half is to bake the crust, and the second to cook the filling.   Let cool for about 20 minutes at least before serving.  

This one is good at room temp too, but I love it warm with some vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Rainbow Chard Pasta

Lately my husband and I have been ordering Bountiful Baskets every week to make sure we always have a steady supply of produce and we aren't paying an arm and a leg for it.   If you haven't done it before, it's really a great option to save some money and make sure you are getting your fruits and veggies.  $15 for about 30 lbs of produce.  It's half veggies and half fruit, and always good stuff.  They try to get stuff as local as possible, so you know it's not been sitting in a truck forever.

One of the things about Bountiful Baskets is that it's always different.  Every week you go pick it up and you never know what is going to be inside. Sometimes you get stuff you've never seen before, and sometimes it's stuff you've used your whole life.  I like the adventure it brings because it forces me to try new recipes and eat new things. This time we got some Rainbow Swiss Chard, and it was one of those things I have rarely, if ever, used. I didn't really know what I was going to do with it, even though I know there are lots of options, and I was kind of pondering things before I decided to cook with it.

Yesterday Bountiful Baskets had a post on Facebook asking people to share what they made for dinner last night. I happened to find a comment from someone saying that they sauteed it and pureed it and made a pasta sauce with it.  I thought..."hmm...that sounds like an interesting idea I could try out that I could probably get my husband to try out...." and here we are! I promise it turned out really delicious and you will be surprised at how much you'll like it.  Even my 12 month old ate it up.  It was tasty.

Rainbow Chard Pasta (with Chicken and Grape Tomatoes)

2 bunches rainbow or red swiss chard, stems removed and chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp granulated garlic, or 2 cloves chopped garlic
salt and pepper
1/4 c water

1 can evaporated milk
1 can chicken broth
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 c parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

2 chicken breasts
1 clam shell grape tomatoes
1 lb pasta (I used whole wheat penne, but you can use any short cut pasta you like.  I don't recommend spaghetti though)

In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and add onions and garlic.  Saute til they become tender, and then add chopped chard. Continue to saute until it becomes soft and tender and the chard reduces by half its size.  Add salt and pepper, and stir again.  Dump entire contents into your blender. Add the water, and blend until mixture is smooth.  Set aside.

Turn the broiler on in your oven.  Season chicken with granulated garlic and salt and pepper, and broil for 35-40 minutes.   While this is going, bring a pot of water to a boil to cook the pasta.

In a saucepan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and the butter until butter melts, and then add flour.  Whisk until combined and cook for about a minute.  Whisk in chicken broth and then evaporated milk and simmer for 5 minutes, and then add garlic, and poultry seasoning.  Let this simmer for a few minutes and then add the cheese and stir in until completely incorporated into the sauce.  Add the chard puree to the sauce, and stir until completely incorporated.

**this sauce makes a lot, so you may want to use the other half for a different recipe.  I plan to use the second half for something for dinner tomorrow.**

Cook pasta according to pkg directions in the boiling water, and then drain.  Place in a large serving bowl and add grape tomatoes and sauce while still hot.   Cut broiled chicken into bite sized strips and toss with pasta and sauce and tomatoes.  Serve hot with more parmesan cheese on top.