Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spaghetti and Chicken Meatballs

I wanted some comfort food this week. Can't get any better than spaghetti and meatballs can it? noooooooope :P

I've never really attempted to make own sauce for spaghetti but have always felt that jarred sauce was VERY inadequate. I always add spices and veggies and a gazillion other things to canned sauce to make it taste more up to my standards. So I wondered what would happen if I started with canned tomatoes as a base? Maybe it would taste even better than my jazzed up jar sauce because it could be all my own!

 Sorry about the picture I forgot to take one before I started cooking so the cans are already opened!
I got the fire roasted tomatoes because I love the smokey flavor they have. I just dumped in 4 cans, and 2 small cans of tomato paste. About 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, half a tube of herb paste (cause it's all I had), and salt and pepper. I put this on the stove at about noon, brought it to a boil then turned it down to low and let it simmer for a few hours. I checked it and gave it a stir at around 2pm. I also tasted it and decided that it needed more flavor so I added about 1 TBSP dried thyme, 1 TBSP dried oregano, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and some more salt and pepper. It's amazing how much the flavor had changed just from simmering for 2 hours! after my addition of the few extra seasonings it was already tasting great.

You also might be wondering why I added Worcestershire sauce to my tomatoes. Well my mom tried it first just on a whim one day when we felt our sauce needed an indefinable "something" and it really added something amazing. The way it interacted with the tomato flavor was great. I also learned it is an ingredient in a bloody Mary and heard from Alton Brown on the show Good eats that combining tomato and Worcestershire sauce creates umami (your fifth basic taste from the Japanese word meaning pleasant savoriness). Basically it makes it YUMMY! :P

I ground my own chicken from a bag of defrosted frozen chicken breasts. For more info on how I did that check out the chicken burgers I made a few weeks ago. To the ground chicken I added 1 egg and 2 egg whites, about 1 cup of bread crumbs, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, 2 tsp dried thyme and oregano, then mixed them up and formed balls. Put them on cookie sheets and baked them at 350 for about 15 minutes.

Then I used an immersion blender on my sauce. I wanted to leave it with some texture but not as chunky as the canned tomatoes. Then I added in my meatballs, put the lid back on the pot and let that continue to simmer till dinner time.

I made whole wheat noodles because hey, they're healthy and they taste good.

Our veggie was fresh brussel sprouts. Basically I just peeled off the outer couple of leafs till it looked nice and clean. Cut off the bottom and then quarter them. Then I put them in the pan with about 1 cup of water with the lid on and brought to a boil, let them simmer for a few minutes and then took the lid off to let the water evaporate. After the pan was dry I added 1 tsp of butter (you only need a little bit to add flavor and help the salt ect stick) 1 tsp of garlic powder, and salt and pepper.

This meal was great. It was warm, comforting, filling, savory goodness! And my homemade sauce was WAY better than any can sauce has ever been so this is the new way I'll be doing it for sure :)

What I would do differently next time: I think I might not bake the meatballs because they were a little bit dry. I think I would put them into the sauce in batches to cook. I have a feeling this would make them more tender and help the tomato flavor get soaked up into them even more. Other than that, this meal was great!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Honey sesame glazed salmon and green beans

We bought salmon fillets. I did not have a plan for them other than knowing that they would eventually end up in our tummies. So when I decided to cook them I started looking at recipes online and I saw one that was honey glazed salmon made with honey and soy sauce. It got my mind spinning because that sounded like a good start but not quite enough for me. I was also out of soy sauce because I used it all when I made chicken and vegetable fried rice last week. I decided to do an Asian themed honey glaze for my salmon so I went on a hunt in my fridge and cupboards and this is what I came up with.

I started with about 1/4 cup each of the honey and Lawry's sesame ginger sauce. to that I added the juice of half a lime, 1 TBSP of whole grain mustard, 2 tsp hoisin sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil (awesome flavor, do not skip this step!), 1/2-1 tsp of chili garlic paste (add more or less or even none depending on how much spice you like in your food), and 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce. I just mixed all of this together to form my glaze.

I covered the salmon in a light coating of the glaze and let it marinate for about 20 minutes while I was getting my other side dishes ready.

I bought some beautiful green beans at my favorite farmers market so they were the perfect veggie to go with this meal. I just snapped off both ends and washed them and then put them in my pan with about 1 cup of water. I brought it to a boil and left the lid off so the water could evaporate. When all the water was gone I added 1 tsp of butter, 1 tsp of garlic powder, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Then I sauteed them a few more minutes and they were ready to go.

My other side dish was this herb and butter rice a roni. I only added 1 tsp of butter instead of the 2 TBSP they called for and it was still just fine. It was a good neutral but still savory flavor to go with the fish.

I put the fish on my George Foremen grill for about 3 1/2 minutes and it was done in a snap. Then I plated everything and drizzled another couple TBSP of the glaze over the fish. To finish it off I gave it a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds.

This was one of those meals that is soooooo good it almost curls your toes ;) The glaze I made for the fish was out of this world. It turned out almost like a sweet and sour sauce but with so much more depth of flavor than your average sweet and sour. The green beans were totally yummy (my husband LOVED them). This absolutely made me HAPPY!

My dear son Griffin (1 year old) wanted nothing to do with the fish or green beans :( but ate the rice. We need to work on getting him a more refined palate! ;)

What I would do differently next time: NOTHING, it was perfect!

Chicken salad and baked onion rings

I went to a baby shower 2 Sundays ago where they served chicken salad with grapes and walnuts and it was such an interesting mixture with the savory chicken the sweet grapes and the crunchy walnuts, so I had to try it. This is where the second chicken I roasted Monday ended up :)

First I cut up all the leftover chicken into small pieces.

Next I mixed up the sauce. I combined 1 cup mayo, the juice of half a lemon, salt and pepper to taste (about a tsp of each), 1 TBSP of Worcestershire sauce, 2 TBSP whole grain mustard, 1 tsp of garlic powder. I mixed all the ingredients together is a separate bowl first and then added to the chicken.

Next I cut my grapes into 4ths. You can also cut them in half if you like bigger chunks. I mixed in the grapes and walnut peices I bought from my local grocery store and it was ready to go.

I was also craving onion rings and just knew there had to be a way to make them low fat, so I looked it up and found a wonderful looking recipe here. The onions were breaded with baked potato chips, how could that not be good? I tweaked her recipe just a tiny bit but basically did the same thing. I also wanted onion ring sauce and found a recipe I liked here so that was added to the menu as well. First thing I did was crush my potato chips into crumbs. I used my magic bullet, but a food processor would work well too. I got the Parmesan and Tuscan herb because the extra flavor couldn't hurt could it?

Then cut my onions into 1/2 inch rounds and threw them into a ziplock bag with enough flour to coat them. Next I dipped them into a mixture of 1 cup low fat butter milk, 2 TBSP flour, salt and pepper. And lastly covered them with the potato chip crumbs.


Then I put them in the oven at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. They came out SOOOOOO great. Even better than I thought. Totally satisfied my craving and I will absolutely make them again. Great on their own but paired with the sauce they were to die for! Honestly just as good as regular onion rings and I would even say better for the lack of greasiness.

I made the onion ring sauce with (I honestly didn't measure but this is the recipe I used as a template) I definitely added more horseradish sauce to mine than they did and I also added about 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika to add some smokiness.

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons ketchup
2 tablespoons cream-style horseradish
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
Dash ground black pepper
a few dashes of sriracha

This sauce was AWESOME sooooooo sooooo good! I loved it :)

A very satisfying meal! The chicken salad was beautiful and creamy with a nice kick from the lemon and mustard. It was balanced very nicely with the sweetness from the grapes and the walnut crunch was just the added texture it needed. The onion rings were divine and the onion ring sauce was so good I could've eaten it plain!

What I would do differently next time: For the amount of chicken I had I would've made a double batch of sauce. It tasted perfect right after I made it but because I made it about 3 hours before dinner, by the time we ate the chicken had absorbed most of the dressing and it wasn't quite as saucy as I would've liked it to be. I would also have made more onion rings sauce I ran out of sauce before onion rings!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chicken Panini

I often watch Diners Drive-ins and Dives with my husband on Friday nights. It is kind of our tradition. It routinely gives me ideas of what to try in the kitchen, and always forces (yes I said force because he has no choice in the matter) my husband's tummy to growl :) He willingly watches with me because he also loves food and definitely loves it when I'm inspired to cook yummy things for him.

Last Friday we saw one of the restaurants make a roasted chicken panini with LOTS of fresh veggies and a roasted garlic sauce. So I knew that I had to try it. I wrote down the ingredients and figured it was worth a try. Although I did not love the sauce (others I shared my food with did) I LOVED the panini!

The first thing I did was pop two chickens breast down into my roasting pan, covered them with salt, pepper and garlic powder and then into the oven with the lid on at 400 degrees for 2 hours. Next I got the garlic ready to be roasted I just cut the top of of a head of garlic so that each clove is exposed and then drizzled with a little bit of oil. I used a tiny bit of melted butter but olive oil would work too. Then I wrapped in tinfoil and popped it into the oven on top of the roasting pan with the chicken. I left mine in for about 40 minutes until it was a golden brown caramel color like you see above.

Next I threw together the ingredients to go into the sauce.
1 head of roasted garlic
one whole egg
a few drops of hot sauce (for me sriracha)
1 TBSP of lemon juice
2 TBSP ketchup
a splash of peperocini juice

I just buzzed them in my magic bullet until smooth. Although it definitely was interesting, the sauce was too strong of a flavor for me, my husband thought it was too spicy and my mom and sister loved it so try at your own risk ;)

I roasted two chickens because I was planning another type of chicken sandwich for later in the week and why not kill two birds with one stone ;) I took them out of the roaster, and picked off all of the meat. They made a good amount of broth during cooking so I strained it and put into a zip lock freezer bag because why waste something so wonderful!

Cut up toppings.

Assembled the yummyiness on some fresh whole wheat bread with a slice of Swiss cheese. I used a vinaigrette on mine since I wasn't a fan of the roasted garlic sauce and it was very good with the chicken and all the fresh veggies. 

Then I SQUISHED my sandwich in George foreman grill and then enjoy the toasty goodness!

FYI The George Foreman grill is one of my all time FAVORITE kitchen appliances :)

What I would do differently next time: Skip the sauce and just use whatever salad dressing I have in my fridge or come up with something new to try next time.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chicken and Vegetable Fried Rice

I LOVE Chinese food and have always wanted to learn how to make it. Fried rice is one of my favorites but when I've tried making it in the past it was always mediocre. I tried using one of those packets you can buy with seasonings from the store but it just wasn't very good either and not at all like the rice I could get at my local Chinese food restaurant. So a few days ago I spent a good hour looking at recipes for fried rice online and learning how it is typically done and so after taking my newly acquired knowledge and adding a twist of my own I came up with a recipe to try. You can't make fried rice with no fat so beware that although I would still say this recipe is fairly healthy it does have a bit of fat.

First thing you have to do is cook your rice. Just regular white long grain rice is what you'll need. The key is to use dry/almost stale rice so that the finished product will not be clumpy and will fry better. Most of the recipes said that you should make the rice 1-3 days ahead of time and leave in your fridge in a container. I didn't remember to cook my rice quite as far ahead of time as I would have liked but I think my speed dry method worked great too. I cooked my rice this morning around 11am, then when the rice was done I left the pot on the cool side of the stove with no lid. Every 30-45 minutes whenever I remembered I would go into the kitchen and give it a quick stir. Letting it be exposed to the air like this until I cooked at 5:30 this evening seemed to work great! Since all the recipes said that cold rice works better I also popped it in the fridge to get chilly around 4:30.

Next I cut up 2 chicken breasts and added 2 TBSP of soy sauce and some pepper and then cooked on Med/low heat until cooked through. Then took out of pan and set aside.

Then I cooked the veggies I had cut up to go into the rice. 1/2 an onion, 1 green pepper, one yellow pepper, 3 stalks of celery, and a few baby carrots. I cooked these on med/high heat until cooked but still crunchy. then set aside as well. I also scrambled one egg + one egg white and set aside too.

I mixed about 1 cup of soy sauce with 1 tsp of hoisin sauce. This is the secret ingredient! I got it from my local Asian market and it really adds a depth of flavor you will not get from just plain soy sauce.

The pan needs to be quite hot at this point. I had mine on 8 out of 10. I added 1 TBSP butter and 2 TBSP of sesame oil to the pan and let melt/get hot before adding the cold rice. Don't skip the sesame oil it has a very distinctive flavor that is WONDERFUL! Once you dump your cold rice into the pan take your spatula and break up any clumps. Then dump on your soy sauce/hoisin mixture and let the rice just fry for a few minutes before disturbing. Then every two minutes or so put your spatula under the rice and flip so the fried side is up and then mix around so that different grains of rice can get fried. I did this for about 15 minutes.

Then I added a few handfuls of fresh bean sprouts and mixed them in to cook for a few minutes.

The last step is to add everything back in and stir it up. Then you get to eat this warm, salty, deliciousness. My favorite part was when I got a piece of crunchy golden brown fried rice and the yellow peppers were so sweet I LOVED those in here too. It was an absolutely yummy (definitely not mediocre) and satisfying meal!!!!