Thursday, May 27, 2010

Crock Pot Chicken Mole

Mole is really good stuff. My mom and I used to like getting it at a local Mexican restaurant near our house until they closed up shop.
Fast forward several years without mole. I have seen recipes for it in books, chefs make it on Food Network, but never got around to making it myself because the ingredient list looked daunting. Not to mention spicy.
My momma would be proud!
Now to the Williams-Sonoma cookbooks we recieved as wedding presents. Two of them have recipes for slow cooker mole. The thing is, the recipes couldn't be more different. One has dried chiles, and the other just spices. One chicken and the other turkey.
I decided to make the recipe without the dried chiles. I didn't want to spend the extra money on them, and the store didn't have the kind I needed anyways. Only one problem, the recipe called for a couple of turkey breasts. I guess it isn't really a problem since I don't have any problem with changing out ingredients for recipes on the first shot. I had 6 more chicken thighs that I didn't use after making the Chicken Tagine.
The spices look like a lot. Believe me, they look like a lot. I measured them all out in the measuring spoon I used to measure the almonds (you'll see) and it seems like a lot. Especially the chili powder. But it really isn't. The cinnamon and cumin balance out the chili powder really nicely. I wouldn't even say that the dish was "spicy". Although next time I would really like to try it with the dried chiles!

Chicken Mole
adapted from Williams-Sonoma

6 chicken thighs, bone-in/skinless
1/4 c. flour for dredging
olive oil
2 small/medium) yellow onions, chopped
1/2 c. slivered almonds (these are different from plain old almonds, they have been blanched)
1 tbl. chili powder (trust me on this one!)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes, drained (I like the low sodium kind)
1 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate (I had semi-sweet bakers chocolate and it worked just fine! You could also sub chocolate chips, I'm sure)
1 tsp. dried oregano
salt and pepper
1 14oz can chicken broth (again, I prefer the low sodium kind)
Cooked rice (optional)

First things first, I like to dredge the chicken in flour and brown it on both sides before adding it to the slow cooker. It's completely optional, but I would like to think it brings another depth of flavor and texture to the party. So, if you want, dredge the chicken in flour and then brown both sides in a skillet over medium/med-high heat and then stick them in the crock pot.
Now, onto making the oh-so-tasty sauce. In a frying pan or saucepan, or whatever you want, put about 3 tbl of olive oil and heat it up over med-high heat. Once the oil has warmed up, add the onion and the almonds. Stir it around and saute until the almonds have browned. Don't let it sit there untouched or the almonds will burn quickly! This step adds a nice toasty-ness to the almonds!
Once the almonds have browned and the onion started to turn translucent, add in your chili powder, cinnamon and cumin. Stir it around until it's nice and fragrant. Now add your diced tomatoes, chocolate, oregano, some salt & pepper and about half of the chicken broth. Stir everything around until the chocolate has melted completely.
In a food processor or blender add your mixture (a little bit at a time, as the mixture is very hot and we don't want to redecorate the walls!) and blend until it's all nice and smooth. This is the part that I really enjoyed having an immersion blender for. It's a beautiful thing, really. Once everything is blended and back in the pan, stir in the rest of the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Stir it all around and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. Remember, the sauce won't thicken up much in the slow cooker since the lid is on and no steam can escape.
Add the oh-so-tasty sauce to the slow cooker and move the chicken around a bit so that every bit of it is covered. Cover the slow cooker and turn it on low. This will take about 2 hours to cook. (Maybe longer if you didn't brown your chicken?)
Take the chicken out after the 2 hours and shred it all up. Stir it back into the sauce and serve over cooked rice.
Note: This recipe makes a bunch of mole. It can feed 4, with leftovers. What to do with those leftovers? Roll up some mole in flour tortillas and cover with monterey jack cheese and bake in the oven until the cheese has melted and everything has heated through. (375 degrees for 20 min or 350 for about 30)

I liked up this tasty dish at:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chocolate Yummies

I have been on a search for a recipe that incorporated the three basic s'mores flavors for a couple weeks when I discovered this recipe at the Kellogg's Rice Krispie's site.

The recipe is super duper quick and easy to make, and very fun to eat. I really like the fact that there are all three distinct flavors I was looking for- the graham cracker, the marshmallows and chocolate.

The only change I made to the recipe was halving the peanut butter in it since I was looking for more of a s'mores type of thing. But you could put all of it in there if you are a peanut butter person. Peanut butter and chocolate go really well together!

Chocolate Yummies
adapted from Kellogg's Rice Krispies

Graham crackers- I find that one of the packages in the box is about enough
2 1/2c. mini marshmallows (yes, they have to be the small kind)
1 pkg (2 c.) chocolate chips
2/3 c. light corn syrup
3 tbl. butter
1/4- 1/2 c. peanut butter (I used the smooth kind, but you can use whatever you have)
3 c. Rice Krispies

Coat the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and line the bottom with graham crackers. Break them up into smaller pieces to fit in and cover the entire bottom.
Sprinkle the marshmallows over the graham crackers in an even layer. Microwave the entire thing for one minute or until the marshmallows have puffed up. (You could stick it under the broiler for more of the toasted taste!)
In a micromave safe mixing bowl, add the chocolate chips, corn syrup and butter. Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes, stirring the mixture every 30 seconds.
Mix in the peanut butter thoroughly, then stir in the Krispies until everything is well blended. Spread the mixture (carefully) over the marshmallows and refrigerate for at least an hour until the whole thing has firmed up.
Now you can cut it up into tasty little bars! Enjoy!

This recipe has been linked up at:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Homemade Pita Bread

I was first introduced to pita bread by my friend Dave when he introduced me to how wonderful hummus is. I later spotted a recipe over on Delightful Country Cookin' for Homemade Pita Bread. The recipe looked very simple- having only 6 ingredients!
Who doesn't like fresh baked bread?
I mean really?
That's right. Everyone loves fresh baked bread.
And this recipe couldn't be easier! Plus! It goes with just about anything!!!
You can tear it up and enjoy it with your favorite hummus....

Or you can stuff it with Chicken Tagine
Or you can cover it with pizza sauce, some cheese and your favorite toppings and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes and have a mini pizza.
Or stuff it with those pizza ingredients and bake and have a calzone!
The possibilities are endless!!
Homemade Pita Bread
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 tbl. sugar
4 c. all purpose flour
2 tbl. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
Dissolve your yeast and sugar in only 1 cup of the warm water. Allow the yeast to bubble up for a few minutes.
Put the last three ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the yeast mixture to the bowl and knead with a dough hook for about 10 minutes. The dough will probably be a bit dry, so add some more of that water, 1 tbl at a time until a nice sticky-to-the-touch dough forms.
Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled. This part can take anywhere from 1 hour to 2 hours- so be patient!
Once the dough has risen, shape it into 10 even sized balls and roll each ball into a 6-7 inch circle. Let the cirlces rest for 10-15 minutes while you preheat your oven.
Preheat the oven with a cookie sheet inside at 500 degrees. Be careful if you usually use nonstick cookie sheets, as some of them aren't designed to handle that high of a temperature!
Take the cookie sheet out of the oven and put some parchment on it to prevent sticking, then 2 or 3 dough circles or whatever fits. Bake for 3 to 6 minutes or until the circles have puffed up and turned golden. Let cool on a rack or towel. Don't stack them immediately or they can turn soggy because they are still hot and will just steam.

I have linked up this recipe at:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chicken Tagine

Let me start this off by saying how much I enjoy Williams-Sonoma cookbooks. After receiving my first at my bridal shower, I put some on my wedding registry and we received most of them! Awesome!
Also, how awesome are slow cookers? I mean really. Put all the ingredients inside, turn on, and dinner is ready later. It's wonderful.
I made this Chicken Tagine for my parents once when they came over soon after the wedding. Hubby found it to be a bit too lemon-y, so I cut back a little this time and I think it was better.
With a few more tweaks, like the addition of onion and bell pepper because I had them in the fridge and NEEDED to use them soon, the recipe came out great.
I served the whole thing with homemade pita bread (will be my next post), roasted red bell pepper hummus (didn't come out right, unfortunately) and some couscous. Yummy!

Chicken Tagine
(recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Slow Cooker)

1/4 c. flour
salt & pepper
6-8 chicken thighs, bone in & skin removed (the original recipe has the skins on, but they end up all soggy after slow cooking for a couple hours)
olive oil
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 can chicken broth (I prefer low sodium)
1/2 c. chopped parsley (optional, but it brings nice color to the party)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
2 14oz cans of diced tomatoes, drained
1 onion, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced (mine were about 3/8 inch wide pieces)
1 lemon, cut into 8ths
1 15oz can garbanzo beans, drained
cooked couscous (optional)
pita bread (optional)

First step is to sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, then dredge them in the flour. By doing the salt and pepper first, it ensures even coverage. This recipe makes a lot of sauce, so you can keep it at 6 thighs, or go all the way up to 8.
Heat up a skillet over medium/medium-high with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Brown both sides of the thighs, going a few at a time so the pan doesn't get crowded. We just want some nice color, not to cook them all the way through. Once they are browned, place them in the slow cooker.
Now we make the sauce. Add the rest of the flour you used to dredge (might need to add a little more if you are cooking more thighs) to the warm skillet along with the cumin and cayenne. Stir it around until the flour and spices are fragrant and absorbed into the remaining oil. Add the can of chicken broth to the skillet and bring to a boil. Make sure to stir it around to get up all of those tasty browned bits left in the pan!
Add the broth mixture to the slow cooker along with the parsley, garlic, tomatoes, onion and bell pepper. Swish it all around a bit to get it in between those thighs.
Tuck a few pieces of lemon around in the slow cooker between thighs. If you have a really juicy lemon, add less. If you like the nice tang than citrus brings, add more. I had juicy lemons and added 3 pieces.
Cook on high heat for 1 1/2 hours (or low for 4). Stir in the garbanzos and cook for an additional hour.
Serve over a bed of couscous(top photo). Or, you can take the chicken out, shred it up and mix it with some of those tomatoes and garbanzos and some couscous and stuff it in a pita. talk about TASTY! (photo in middle of page)

This delicious dish is linked up at:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Easy Bean Dip

Okay, so this picture DOES NOT do the dip justice in the least. But boy is it sooooo good!
The hubby and I had some leftover chips and cannellini beans from our taco night. Not having any more tortillas or meat for tacos, I saw fit to make a bean dip. I hadn't had bean dip in yeaaarrrsssss.
Taking some inspiration from Stephanie O'Dea and her use of the CrockPot Mini Dipper- I knew I wanted to make a warm bean dip. Yummy.
This recipe is really more of a parts list that can be changed around to suit your tastes.

I used up the rest of my cooked cannellini beans (about a cans worth) and added in a can of low sodium black's what I had in my cabinet other than garbanzo beans, which I thought would be weird. Definitely not going for the hummus flavor here. Not yet.

So to my 2 cans worth of beans I added an 8oz can of tomato sauce. Heated the whole darn thing up in a small saucepan and added some various seasonings. In my case, garlic powder, cumin and pepper. Just a little at first because you can alwasy add, but cannot take away!
Blend all that goodness up in a food processor, blender, or in my case- the immersion blender! What a fun tool! Taste for seasonings and serve.
I put my dip in the little dipper to keep it warm- but this stuff is great right out of the fridge.

Easy Bean Dip

2 cans worth of beans (black, white, whatever you like!), drained (I prefer low sodium)
1 8oz. can of tomato sauce (I prefer low sodium)
seasonings! cumin and some lime juice would be great.
                   some chili powder for kick
                   garlic and lime juice
                   italian seasoning
                   you're only limited by what's in the cabinet!

Combine everything in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook just long enough to warm everything up. Then blend it all until smooth, or chunky, or whatever you like. Check the seasonings and add more if desired!

I linked my dip up to these awesome parties:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Banana Fudgesicles

What's better than a nice cool treat on a warm afternoon? What frozen confection brings you back to childhood?  And what's a tasty way to use up some very ripe bananas when you're tired of banana bread?
I'll tell you. It's banana fudgesicles. :)
Last summer I began my search for popsicle molds. I didn't find them, but luckily the hubby and I recieved a pack of 6 as a wedding present. Yay!
Now that the weather is warming up, I knew it was time to break out the popsicle molds and make something tasty. What is tastier than chocolate? Not a lot. What goes great with chocolate that I happen to have a few of? Bananas!
The banana makes it healthy, right? ;)
I found these fudgesicles to be so nice and refreshing on a warm day! The chocolate is just strong enough that it compliments the banana perfectly, and I am so glad I didn't have to make more banana bread!
My recipe makes 6 popsicles. Each hold about a half cup of popsicle goodness. You can use small dixie cups with posicle sticks, or even double it up to make a bunch. Yum.

Banana Fudgesicles

2 tbl. cornstarch
sprinkle of salt
1 1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
heaping 1/2 c. chocolate chips
1 very ripe banana, mashed up good.

Mix together the first five ingredients in a saucepan. Once combined, bring to a boil over medium heat and stir for one minute, or until the mixture has thickened up. Congratulations, you just made a really quick and easy pudding.
Turn off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips until they have melted completely. Then mix in the maches banana.
Like a good gravy, this stuff will thicken up fast as it cools down. You can put piece of plastic wrap over it, touching the surface to prevent a skin from forming and stick it in the fridge if you don't want to make the fudgesicles right away. Otherwise, fill up your molds or dixie cups with the pudding. Stick the tops on the molds, or put plastic wrap over dixie cups and stick a popsicle stick through the plastic wrap. The plastic helps to hold the stick upright.
Freeze for at least four hours and enjoy!
Note: If the fudgesicles don't come out of their molds easily, run a little warm water around the outside and they should pop right out.

I linked this recipe up at:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pork Chop Piccata

I like to follow along with Pioneer Woman's blog, and have my own account over at Tasty Kitchen. One day, Ree submitted a delicious chicken piccata recipe (here). I made it and the hubby and I both really enjoyed it. Recently, however, I had found myself wanting that tasty piccata sauce. Short on chicken, I decided to use some boneless pork chops. Hey, pork is the other white meat, right? So I followed along with the recipe for the most part, changing a couple things here and there to suit our tastes. And voila!
It was delicious! VERY delicious. I made the recipe with only 2 chops, but still made the full amount of sauce, that way I could have it over pasta for lunch the next day!

Pork Chop Piccata
(adapted from Pioneer Woman's Chicken Piccata)

4 boneless pork chops (1/2-3/4inch thick)
1/4 c. flour
salt & pepper
4 tbl. butter 
4 tbl. olive oil
3/4 c. white wine (I like using those cute 4 packs of wine that equal up to a full bottle- use 1 sm. bottle here)
1 can chicken broth
Juice from 1 lemon (I'm used to big and juicy lemons, you may need to use 2 to get more juice)
3/4 c. heavy cream
slurry of 2 tbl. cornstarch and 1/4 c. water (optional)
cooked spaghetti

Sprinkle the chops with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour.
Heat up a skillet over medium heat along with half of the butter and half of the oil. Cook two of the chops, until browned and cooked all the way through. Then put the rest of the butter and oil in the pan and cook the remaining chops. Set aside someplace to keep warm.
Pour into the skillet the wine, chicken broth and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until it has reduced by half, scraping up all of the tasty browned bits on the bottom. Season with some salt and pepper.
Reduce the heat to low and add in the cream. Cook and stir until the sauce has thickened up a bit.
At this point, if you want the sauce to be more like a gravy, add in the slurry and watch it thicken up!
Taste the sauce and add more lemon juice if you want more tang, more cream if you want less tang.
Serve sauce over the chops and some spaghetti!

This recipe is linked up at:

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Fresh Strawberry Cake

Happy Mother's Day!!!

I get emails from various recipe websites (bettycrocker, recipezaar, etc) with different season inspired recipes. Recently, on of my Recipezaar emails was advertising a very delicious sounding fresh strawberry cake.
Not having fresh strawberries, but rather strawberries that were fresh last summer and frozen quickly via the use of dry ice (thank you Alton Brown), I thought it appropriate to use those.
The only things I changed to the original recipe were the glaze and a some of the methods. It turned out absolutely delicious. My hubby loved the texture of the cake- all thanks to the use of cake flour instead of all purpose. (But if you need to, you can substitute 1 cup less 2 tbl all purpouse + 2 tbl cornstarch for eash 1 cup of cake flour. The texture really does make it worth it to go get a small box of cake flour at the store, though!)
The fresh glaze on top was just sweet enough to accent the cake. Another great thing about glaze is that you don't have to try and make a perfect frosting job. Glaze looks GOOD when it dribbles down the side of the cake. :)

Fresh Strawberry Cake

2 1/4 c. cake flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. fresh (or frozen!) strawberries, thawed and mashed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder.
In another bowl, cream together the butter and eggs. Then add in the vanilla. Blend. Then blend in the eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated.
Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture in batches, alternating with the mashed strawberries.
Beat it all for 2 minutes.
Pour the batter into two greased and floured 8- or 9-inch round cake pans. (you could use a 9x13, but the bake time will vary)
Bake for 25-30 minutes (I used 9-inch pans, and 25 minutes was just perfect)
Turn out the cakes onto cooling racks.
Start making the glaze.

Strawberry Glaze
1 c. mashed strawberries
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 tbl. melted unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract.

Mix together all of the ingredients. (Note: If you used frozen berries, and they are still cold, warm them up a bit before adding the butter or it will just firm up up again.
Put the first layer of your cake (still warm) on your serving platter. Poke holes in it with a toothpick or skewer. Drizzle some glaze on top and using a spatula, move it around to make sure the cake sucks it all up into those holes.
Put the top layer over the bottom, and do the same thing. You can save the extra glaze to serve with individual pieces, or wait until the glaze has sucked up into the top layer and add more- repeating until it's all gone.
Wait until cake has cooled completely to eat. Enjoy!

This delicious cake is linked up with:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Wow, two posts in one day. If you haven't already, check out my recipe for Flour Tortillas.
I like watching Food Network, and occasionally when I see a recipe that strikes me, I save it with plans to try it sometime.
This is the case with this salsa. I was watching Tyler's Ultimate and he was making chicken enchiladas with a roasted tomatillo salsa. It looked tasty. And when putting together my Cinco de Mayo dinner menu, I thought about trying it. Problem is that the weather is getting warmer in these parts and I didn't want to heat up the whole house baking off some enchiladas. Not today anyways. So I settled on just using his roasted tomatillo salsa recipe to go along with my Flour Tortillas and a few other things to make some tasty chicken tacos later. Yum.
I changed the recipe up a little to suit the tastes of me and my husband. After all, we are the ones that plan to eat it.
First thing to do is roast about a pound of husked and washed tomatillos, a jalapeno (instead of 2), one white onion in quarters and a garlic clove (instead of 4, only because I don't have much left). Pour some olive oil over the veggies and move them around a bit to cover. It really helps them to roast better.
Roast everything in a 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Times like these I really like my toaster oven. It does the work without heating up the whole house. And I must say that the kitchen smelled wonderful while those veggies were roasting!
Once everything is roasted, toss it all in a food processor with some parsley (instead of cilantro- we just don't like that stuff), cumin, salt and lime juice. Pulse until its salsa consistency- however it is you like it.

This salsa is really good! I was eating it with a spoon. Some more garlic could be nice, but I don't think I would change a thing with it!
The notes of lime go really well with chicken.....or even some tortilla chips! I'm sure it would be great in Tyler's Ultimate Chicken Enchiladas.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
(adapted from Tyler Florence)

1 pound of tomatillos, husked and washed
1 jalapeno
1 white onion, quartered
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp. cumin
1 tbs. lime juice
1/3 - 1/2 c. parsley
a sprinkle of salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Put the first four ingredients on a baking sheet and drizzle some olive oil over them. Move them around to get everything coated.
Stick the pan in the oven and roast the veggies for 12-15 minutes. The tomatillos will start to split open when they're done.
Stick the veggies into a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients and pulse until it's the consistency of salsa- however it is you like it!

This recipe has been linked to

Chevy's Flour Tortillas

After going to Chevy's a little while back with my hubby, I re-realized how much I like their tortillas. I am a flour tortilla gal, and Chevy's has some great ones. I was impressed to find they posted the recipe on their site: "Famous Flour Tortillas"
I decided to make them at home, and they were both easy and super tasty. Now the recipe is a staple and we will (probably) never go back to the store bought kind.
The recipe is written using a mixer, but for something as quick and easy as this, I just use my hand and a wooden spoon.
Mix together 3 cups of flour with 1/2 tsp of baking powder and a little salt. Then, add 1/4 c of vegetable shortening and cut it in (I just used my hands) until you can hardly tell it's there anymore. Then add 1 1/2 c. of warm water (from the tap is fine) and mix it all together. You can keep using your hands, but I found the dough was loose enough to use a spoon.
Wrap up the dough in plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter for 20 minutes to rest. This is a good time to clean up. :)

After 20 minutes have passed, divide the dough into 8 portions and form into balls.
You can roll out each ball into tortillas all at once, then cook them all. Or, if you want your tortillas faster, like me, you roll one-cook it, roll another while the first is cooking-then cook on and so forth.

Heat a cast iron griddle to medium heat and coat with veggie spray to use. Place a tortilla on it. It will cook fast, so keep an eye on it.When it starts to puff up, it's about ready to flip.
Check the bottom side for doneless to your liking, flip, and when done put on a plate covered with a towel.
I like to keep mine in the microwave covered. It seems to keep them warm for a little while longer.

Yum! These are part of my Cinco de Mayo dinner tonight! Make some tacos or burritos of your own with these tortillas and some Roasted Tomatillo Salsa!

Chevy's Flour Tortillas
(adapted from Chevy's)

3 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
dash of salt
1/4 c. vegetable shortening
1 1/4 c. warm tap water

Mix together the first three ingredients.
Cut the shortening into the flour mixture until you can hardly see it anymore.
Mix in the warm water with a spoon until everything comes together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let sit on the counter for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, divide the dough into 8 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll them out into tortillas.
Heat a cast iron pan or griddle to medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Cook tortillas one at a time, checking when they begin to really puff up. Flip and cook on the other side. Shouldn't take more than a couple minutes total.
Keep cooked tortillas warm on a plate covered with a clean dish towel.

This recipe is linked up at

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper and Mushroom Risotto

Last night was my first attempt at making risotto. I must say, that I have been wanting to make it since a friend came over and made a super tasty carrot risotto one night.
Anyways, after buying a pound of arborio rice, just enough to try it out, I immediately set out in search of the perfect risotto recipe. Something that would be flavorful and creamy.
I introduce you to: the original recipe.
I did stray....quite a bit...from the original. Partially because I didn't have all of the ingredients. Partially because I wanted to make sure some other flavors played a part. And partially because I seem to ALWAYS change up a recipe- even on the first time around. :)
So the journey begins with all of the prep work. I adore having everything I need sitting out, waiting it's turn. I also am a big fan of cleaning as I go. I really value all of my coutner space, and for some reason it's easier for me to work when it's all nice and cleaned up.
First, get all of the liquid that you will be adding to the rice ready. This includes half of a 12 oz. jar of roasted red peppers. (The original recipe called for all of it- but I didn't want the flavor to be too strong, and I also wanted to use the other half for something else later.)
Put the red bell and some of the liquid from the jar in the food processor and give it a blitz until it is all chopped up. You want to see pieces of the pepper, but not get a huge bite. Add that to a medium sized pot.
Also into the pot goes a can of chicken broth plus about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of water.
Next step in the food prep is to dice one onion. Put that in a large pan and let it wait for you.
Back to the food processor. Chop up a carrot and a half and put that in the processor along with 2 cloves of garlic. Blitz it until it's all nice and fine. Not mush. Just fine. Then add that to the onion in the pan. The carrots add a nice sweetness to the dish. Something that I realized when my friend made his carrot risotto, and part of what won me over with this recipe.
Now add a couple handfuls of chopped mushrooms. White button mushrooms would be good. I happened to have baby bellas. Next, pour in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and cook on medium low/low for 20-30 minutes until the onions turn translucent and begin to caramelize. Stir it around occasionally so it doesn't stick or develop hot spots. This is called sweating. You may need to add a couple tbl of water at some point if the mixture dries out too fast on you. We don't want to burn the veggies on high heat, just get all of those lovely flavors to emerge on a lower setting. Yum.
Once they have all caramelized a bit, turn that pot with your stock and red pepper onto medium. We don't want to boil it, just get it nice and hot. I didn't even bring mine to a simmer, just kept it hot. Once it was hot, I turned the stove down a bit so it wouldn't boil.
Okay, here is where the real fun begins. Add 4 tbl of butter to your veggies. Once it has all melted, add 1 1/2 cup sof arborio rice. No, not regular long grain white rice. Arborio. There just isn't any substituting for this starchy grain.
Stir the rice around (still on that med low/low heat) for a minute or two until each grain is coated in buttery goodness. Now you can begin adding in that tasty broth one cup at a time.
Once a cup (I used a ladle that I think is just under a cup) has been added, stir it all around until the liquid has been absorbed. The stirring is supposed to help release the starch from the rice, thus creating a creamy texture.
And repeat. Keep going, adding a cup of your broth and stirring until it is all soaked up by the rice. About half way thru the pan of broth, start tasting your rice right BEFORE adding more liquid to see if it's done.
What's done? The rice should have a bit of a bite. Al dente. It should not be crunchy.
I ended up using all of my liquid up, but you may need more, you may need less. There is really no telling until you try.
Here is where you can add in some seasonings if you wish. Pepper is always a favorite. Lots of people like grated parmesan on their risotto (which adds a salty flavor, also). I stuck with pepper and some salt. I don't like parmesan. Don't hate.

The recipe was a total success. My wrist was getting tired of the stirring by the end, but of was it worth it. This recipe makes a great side dish, and makes a lot. The beauty of it is that I have leftovers! Yay!

Roasted Red Pepper and Mushroom Risotto

2 tbl. olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 handfuls of slices mushrooms (white button, baby bellas, whatever you like)
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 carrots, chopped into 1 inch pieces
4 tbl unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. arborio rice
1/2 of a 12oz jar of roasted red peppers
1 14oz can chicken stock (I prefer low sodium)
2 1/2 - 3 c. water
salt, pepper, parmesan

First, puree the roasted red pepper in some of its juices until it's in small pieces. Pour into a medium sized pot and add the chicken stock and water.
Rinse out the food processor and add the carrot and garlic. Blitz until its chopped up fine. Put carrot mixture into a large frying pan. Add onion and mushrooms to the pan along with the olive oil.
Cook the veggies on med low/low heat for 20-30 minutes until the onions turn translucent and begin to caramelize. Don't try to rush it, you'll burn those small pieces of carrot and garlic! Add some water if it begins to dry out before it's caramelized.
Torwards the end of the caramelizing, turn the heat on under the pot of stock to medium. Get the liquid nice and hot, but not to a boil. A simmer would be fine. Turn down the heat as necessary to keep from boiling.
Once the veggies are caramelized, add the butter and let it melt. Once melted, add the rice and stir around for a minute or two until each grain is coated in the buttery mixture.
Now begin adding the hot stock mixture to the rice mixture one cup at a time. Make sure to keep stirring the rice and veggies around to help that arborio rice release starch. Do not add more liquid until all of the previous liquid has been absorbed.
About half way through the broth, start testing the rice for proper texture right before you would add more liquid. The rice should be al dente, but not crunchy.
Add in desired seasonings. Pepper is great, and a lot of people like parmesan.

This recipe is linked up with:
With the "Anything Goes" theme, my recipe has been added to May's Side Dish Showdown

Monday, May 3, 2010

Meringue Cookies

My mom gave me this amazing cookbook last Christmas. It has become one of my favorites, my all around go to book. It is the Taste of Home Cookbook. I love how organized it is with all of the different tabs, I like the sheet protectors (they must have known how messy I can get while cooking), I likehow they have multiple variations for some pretty classic recipes- but for some reason, I really like that they have seperate sections for "quick breads" and "yeast breads". But not only that, desserts are broken up into "desserts", "cakes", "cookies and bars", "pies and tarts", and "candies". Ask my hubby, I really like organization.
As Alton Brown says, "Organization will set you free".
Anyways, After making creme brulee (more on that later), I had some extra egg whites, and my hubby suggested I should make meringue cookies with them. What a good idea! First, to find a recipe. And who was there for me? The Taste of Home Cooking Cookbook. Sigh. It's really awesome, isn't it.
The recipe looks pretty much exactly like meringue for a lemon meringue pie- one of my favorite pies to make, so I figured that it should be a pretty easy task.
Let egg whites sit out for 30 minutes to come more to room temperature.
Beat the egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar until soft peaks form in a metal or glass bowl. It is important you don't use plastic because plastic easily scratches and these scratches hold things like fat which don't allow egg whites to stiffen up when beaten.
Then, slowly add in sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. (check this page out on beating egg whites)
Here is where I started to stray from the recipe before me. My book had 2 cookie recipes, both with 1/4 cup of sugar per egg white- the meringues at this point were pretty much the same in both recipes. However, one recipe says to bake teaspoon sized cookies at 250 degrees for 40-45 minutes, then let sit in the oven for 1 and 1/2 hours after you turn it off. The other recipe says to bake at 250 degrees for 30-35 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.
You can guess which route I took. I baked them for 35 minutes and put them on cooling racks. They were super tasty. Very light, with a hint of vanilla. Later that evening, I put them in a zip top bag, and the next morning they were a bit more soft than before. I think the combination of being piled together, and any moisture in the air didn't work out for them. I put them all back on a cooling rack, and soon they were just fine again.
I think next time I'll follow the other recipe. Bake for 40-45 minutes, turn of fthe oven and let them sit in it for another hour and a half. It really ensures that they dry out and don't end up sticky or mushy.

Meringue Cookies

3 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 c. sugar

Preheat oven to 250 degrees
Set out egg whites in a bowl for about 30 minutes before using so they can come to room temperature.
Beat the egg whites, vanilla, cream of tartar and salt on medium speed until soft peaks form.
Turn the speed up to high and gradually add the sugar, about a tablespoon at a time. Beat until all of the sugar is dissolved and you have lovely stiff peaks.
Drop the meringue by rounded teaspoons about an inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Turn off the oven and leave those meringues in there with the door closed for another hour and a half.
Take out your meringues and let them cool on wire cooling racks.

This recipe is linked to Mouthwatering Monday!