Friday, September 30, 2011

Cheese and Basil Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Roasted Tomatoes and Potatoes - September 28, 2011

After several weeks of travel (mostly for business but also for pleasure... more on that in another post), it was so nice to be home and back in the kitchen. I far prefer to eat my own cooking than anything in most restaurants and after some disappointing meals that featured tomatoes and another that tried to pass off some al dente fingerling potatoes as "roasted," I was craving something that utilized those ingredients positively. We also had an abundance of basil growing on the patio and some certified corn-free mozzarella in the refrigerator, so this dish seemed perfect.

Not sure exactly where I got the original idea for this simplified technique for stuffed chicken. Basically I take two boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cut a small slit in the thick part, then use my fingers to enlarge it to carefully make a pocket for the stuffing, which was in this case was a mixture of shredded mozzarella, garlic, and chopped basil. Then I stitch them closed with a wooden skewer, plop the breasts in a baking dish, and brush them with a bit of mayonaise and press on the crumb topping (made from fresh white bread, basil, garlic, and a bit of olive oil in the food processor).

To add a tomato flavor, I took about half a pint of cherry tomatoes and cut them in half, tossed them with olive oil and salt and scattered them around the breasts. The whole thing goes in the oven at 375 for about 30 minutes.

Since I always like to make the oven multi-task, I also threw in some red potatoes to roast in another dish.

Tomato Basil Soup and Grilled Cheese - Sept 22, 2011

This is a difficult meal to photograph, but despite the lack of visual appeal above, it hit the spot. After a spell of unseasonably cool and cloudy fall weather here in Minneapolis, I was craving soup. Since, however, we're just barely into fall we still have lots of fresh tomatoes to use up. The ones for this soup happen to be from Nick's cousin, Kirsten, who seems to be a much more talented gardener than either of us. I used an old and trusted recipe from Dinner Club days (which closely approximates this one but for fresh tomatoes and basil) for the soup and whipped up some quick and dirty toasted cheese sandwiches to serve alongside.
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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chicken and Waffles - Sept 19, 2011

The latest Bon Appetit has a spread on soul food and this recipe was included. As a Yankee, this combination always seems a bit strange to me, but Nick doesn't let that get in his way. Perhaps it's due to the formative years he spent in the Mid-Atlantic, just south of the Mason-Dixon line. Nick actually butchered this whole chicken in preparation for this meal. And, when I say 'butchered,' I mean that he cut apart a whole chicken that we had purchased at the co-op, which was already dead and cleaned. I don't want my above statement to mislead anyone into thinking that we did more work than we actually did.

Meanwhile, I mixed up the buttermilk marinade and we soaked the bird for significantly fewer hours than recommended in the recipe. It seemed to turn out okay despite our poor direction following. When we were ready, we fried this up in coconut oil, which made everything that much more decadent, and was our measly attempt at celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I'm certain that pirates would use coconut oil when frying a chicken. (Avast, me hearties, we also mixed up some Dark 'n Stormy's after dinner to complete our Pirate themed celebrations).

Instead of making the sweet potato waffles from scratch as laid out in the magazine, we totally cheated and just used up some Trader Joe's pumpkin pancake and waffle mix for our waffles. I did use buttermilk instead of water to mix up the batter, which made them extra fluffy.

This was fun and tasty, but I think my plate needed some creamed collard greens or something. And, I still think this is a strange combination, which, bless my heart, probably means that I'll never overcome my Northern roots.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hummus Wraps - Sept 13, 2011

A simple and fresh meal is always a great addition to your repertoire. It's hard to get any simpler than this. I made a big batch of hummus in preparation for some house guests Nick and I were hosting this past weekend. I like to have easy snacks to pull out whenever needed for company. Hummus works great for this purpose. Pull out some pretzels, crackers and assorted vegetables for dipping and you have great little spread to serve at an impromptu happy hour. I like to make mine without tahini as I find it to be a bit too rich for me. My hummus is simply cooked garbanzo beans, a few cloves of garlic, fresh lemon juice, and enough olive oil drizzled in while the food processor is on to get it to the consistency that I like, which is quite a bit thicker than your average purchased hummus.  I season the finished product with salt and pepper, and sometimes smoked Spanish paprika.

Since I had it prepared, we decided to use it, along with some romaine lettuce, chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and red peppers to make up some wraps for dinner. It's always a good idea to taste test foods you're planning on serving to guests. As my friend Sarah likes to say, "Quality control is important."
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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Warm Brassica Salad - Sept 12, 2011

As you may have noticed, I have quite a few meals that I am behind on posting. The Sept 12 date is a best guess for this meal, since I have a vague memory of eating this on the couch while watching Antiques Roadshow (that's a little sneak peak into the glamorous lifestyle of Nick and Jess). The chicken is a simple grilled affair. The salad is something that I made up and have forgotten most of the details by now. I know it used up the broccoli and the spigariello from our CSA delivery #10. I also threw in some pine nuts, which I remember because they are visible in the photo. I think I tossed everything with some olive oil and sauteed until the greens were wilted. Other details may or may not involve some lemon juice/zest along with salt and pepper to taste. I do remember that it was good.
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Monday, September 26, 2011

Homemade Celery Salt - Sept 11, 2011

A few CSA deliveries ago, Nick and I got a beautiful bunch of celery, complete with lots of leaves. I had seen a post over on Heidi Swanson's inspirational blog, 101 Cookbooks, months back, which I mentally bookmarked, about making one's own celery salt. The Harmony Valley newsletter reminded me of this particular post. It was time to give it a try.

I diligently followed the directions, washing and drying the celery leaves and roasting them in the oven. I actually ended up roasting them a bit longer than Heidi recommended, as when I first pulled them out of the oven they weren't crispy enough. I'm sure the time varies depending on numerous factors.

I ended up with a little jar of delightful looking celery salt. We used this for Bloody Marys at a brunch we hosted last weekend for some family and friends who were in town. It was a fun experiment and I am looking forward to trying it out in some of the other dishes that Heidi recommends.
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cowboy Breakfast - Sept 11, 2011

I adore leftover Mexican rice because we get to reincarnate it as breakfast. This was incredibly good. In addition to the rice, Nick and I fried up some potatoes using olive oil, salt, pepper, and a dash of smoked Spanish paprika until the edges were all golden and crispy. We topped our starches with a fried egg, grated cheddar and chopped tomatoes. We added our favorite "pepper toast" on the side. I would happily eat this for any meal of the day.
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bean Burritos with all the Fixins' - Sept 10, 2011

Yum. This is hands-down one of our favorite meals around here. Nick and I make burritos quite often, although I don't always go through all the extra effort to make Mexican rice and re-fried beans. We've posted this all before, so I won't go into much detail other than to say we shredded some of our CSA cabbage and cut up one of our tomatoes to accompany everything. What you see on the plate is what's wrapped up inside the foil-wrapped tortilla. It was delicious, and we had leftover rice...
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Friday, September 23, 2011

Jess & Nick's CSA Delivery #11 - Sept 22, 2011

It's already time for another vegetable delivery! Where do the weeks go? This go around we got potatoes; frisee; a varied assortment of tomatoes; green-top carrots; a fun collection of peppers; a tomatillo salsa pack; onions and shallots; broccoli; red romaine lettuce; and garlic. Veggies not pictured include our first winter squash of the season, spaghetti squash!

Thank you Harmony Valley!
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Potato Salad with Smoked Trout - Sept 6, 2011

Here is what Nick and I did with the leftover potato salad from our labor day cookout. It was a big hit, so we didn't have all that much left over, but we supplemented with smoked trout (the original recipe calls for smoked salmon, which we left out for the cookout). Here is the recipe, which is from a ten year old Martha Stewart Living Magazine that I had ripped out.  My modifications include substituting Dijon mustard for the horseradish in addition to the Dijon.
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Crab Cakes - September 12, 2011

Last month Richie brought me some amazing crab cakes from a hidden out-of-the-way place in the Baltimore area. I have been craving them ever since. Unfortunately, since corn is an ingredient in most crab cakes by way of the bread crumbs and mayonnaise I knew that I would probably need to make my own in order to revisit that taste. To my great surprise, these crab cakes were not only tasty but easy!

I referred to a recipe in the Cook's Illustrated New Best Recipe to get me started and then modified for taste and allergies. First, I made sure to use Whole Foods 365 brand breadcrumbs and substituted Vegannaise for the mayonnaise. Then I tweaked the seasonings. Old Bay Seasoning contains celery which I'm still avoiding, so I used Penzey's 4/S Seasoned Salt. I used fresh dill as well as four green onions from the patio garden and added in a bit of a green pepper from our plant that broke off in the hurricane.

Finally, I needed some kind of sauce. I adore tartar sauce, but didn't have corn-free pickles on hand to make it. Instead, I mixed some more Vegannaise with some fresh parsley and thyme - also from the patio garden - and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Voila! Delicious, corn and celery free crab cakes! Definitely a dish I will make again.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Labor Day Sangria - Sept 5, 2011

Nick and I celebrated Labor Day this year at a cookout at our good friends'. We were on board to bring a potato salad and some sangria. This is the sangria:

1 bottle dry white wine
1 bottle sweet white wine (we used a local Minnesota plum honey wine)
1/2 cup blackberry brandy
1/4 cup amaretto
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 sprigs Thai basil
2 dashes of cherry bark vanilla bitters
1 liter club soda for serving

I let everything but the soda macerate overnight to give the flavors all sorts of time to mingle and get to know one another. Right before serving, I mixed in a one liter bottle of club soda. This was a delicious patio pounder served over ice. Our only problem was a malfunctioning Coleman thermos spigot (which we later discovered was due to the lid being on too tightly...had we just unscrewed it the balance would have been restored and the sangria free-flowing). Oh well, that meant lots of leftover sangria for Nick and I to consume at home, which we did.
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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Jess & Nick's CSA Delivery #10 - Sept 8, 2011

Our latest delivery has arrived and some of the highlights are pictured above.  Starting in the top left corner we have some spigariello from the brassica family; cabbage; peppers; cucumbers and zucchini; watermelon; broccoli; lemongrass; and baby romaine lettuce.  Vegetables not pictured include: edamame; petite French green beans; onions; Italian garlic; a French breakfast melon; and a tomato.  I am quite excited about the lemongrass.  It delights me that this northerly climate supports growing this tropical grass.  I'm probably going to use some of it to infuse some simple syrup in combination with ginger root.  The peppers are delightful as well and will probably be used in some grilled kebabs along with the onions and zucchini.  That's all I have planned so far, but I'm sure everything will find it's way into delicious meals.

Thank you, Harmony Valley Farm!
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Labor Day Weekend Brunch - Sept 4, 2011

Long weekends are fabulous for a number of reasons, but especially because they allow for an extra morning to enjoy brunch. Anna's mom made a delicious quiche for us all a few weekends ago when Anna was in town and it was my muse for the quiche pictured above. I made up some pie crust and let it chill while I prepped the remainder of the ingredients. I used vitamin greens, which were in our last CSA delivery, onions, eggs, half and half, and Pecorino-Romano cheese. I looked up a general quiche recipe in one of our cookbooks and roughly based my ratios on it. I must have done something wrong though, because, although delicious, mine lacked the fluffiness of Gloria's. Fluffiness is quite integral to a quiche, in my opinion. Note to self: get Gloria's recipe.

This was our brunch beverage, and it was not lacking in any of the integral categories, which I deem to be fruitiness, tartness, sweetness, and effervescence. I dug out some grapefruit juice that had been in the fridge for awhile and combined it with our omnipresent ginger simple syrup and some charged water. The lime garnish was the perfect finishing touch. In the glass above, I used 1 shot of ginger syrup, 2 shots grapefruit juice, 2-3 ice cubes, and I topped it off with bubble water, although this could just as easily been sparkling wine had we needed a little hair of the dog. It was very reminiscent of this, but a good substitute when fresh grapefruits are not in season.
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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Late Summer Pasta - Sept 2, 2011

Nick and I made this colorful summer pasta last week, using up a bunch of our CSA stash. This dish fell together as I rummaged through the fridge pulling out bags of vegetables. Summer squash, onions, edamame, Thai basil, and tomatoes all found their way into the dinner bowl. I chopped and sauteed the summer squash and onions, then set them aside. I shelled our edamame and blanched them briefly in boiling water, putting them with the squash and onions. Next, I halved the little tomatoes and tossed them with the rest. Finally, I added the pasta, the herbs, and some Pecorino-Romano cheese, along with salt and pepper to taste. It was quite pleasing to the palate, simple and fresh, and very colorful.
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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Pasta with Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce - September 4, 2011

There is good news and bad news on the allergy front. The good news is that I cooked and ate this dish with tomatoes and had no ill effects! I'm also successfully eating potatoes again, which is awesome.

The bad news is that I appear to be truly allergic to corn. I tried reintroducing it the week before last and was quickly in absolute agony. Then this weekend I had a smaller but similar reaction to some commercially processed chicken that was probably cleaned or processed with one of many corn derivative products, so I appear to be fairly sensitive, despite the mild reaction I had on the skin test. As I read more about food allergies, I am learning that this is not uncommon.

So... I'm off corn completely. And feeling so much better finally! It is going to be a big challenge since corn is in so many things these days. It isn't just the obvious stuff either. I have to be suspicious of pretty much anything that is processed or packaged, which is going to make travel a big challenge.

Fortunately, I have some cooking skills and as long as I prepare food from scratch myself, I should be OK! I'm not a religious person or one who believes in a great cosmic plan, but sometimes I do think that perhaps certain things in my past happened to help prepare me for the future. And right now I'm so grateful for the people who helped me learn those cooking skills, including my mother and my Dinner Club friends who gave me the basics and introduced me to so much more that has helped me become self sufficient in the kitchen. Thank you!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Zucchini Fritters with Cucumber Tomato Raita - Aug 2011

These are so good. They are so good that it is worth having your home smell like fried food for the following two days. It's a small price to pay, really, for such deliciousness. That being said, my actual goal for shredding all this zucchini was to make my favorite chocolate zucchini bundt cake. But, I had plenty extra to make these for dinner (which is similar to what happened the last time I made these). I based these on a spinach and onion pakora recipe from the Dinner Club days, but actually made so many modifications I am going to post them here so I can look them up the next time I make these.

2 cups shredded zucchini
2 large onions cut into crescents
juice of one lemon
1 1/2 t salt
pinch cayenne
1 T ground cumin (or to taste)
1 - 1 1/2 C chickpea flour

Mix everything but the flour in a large bowl and let sit for 30 -60 minutes. Mix in the flour. Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a skillet until very hot. Drop in small handfuls of the zucchini mixture and fry, turning once, until crisp and browned. Drain on paper towels. Repeat until all the mix has been used.

For the raita, I simply mixed some bite-sized tomato and cucumber pieces into some plain yogurt and added salt and cumin to taste.
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Sunday, September 04, 2011

Green Meatballs and Pasta - September 4, 2011

(This is not my picture, though my dish looked very similar. I was so excited to eat that I forgot to take a picture first! This picture is from the Serious Eats post by Blake Royer where I found this recipe.)

Our herb garden is going crazy and so this Mark Bittman recipe for "Pasta with Green Meatballs and Herb Sauce" seemed like a perfect way to put some of them to good use and make a tasty simple dish that tasted like summer. I made only a couple changes, mainly to use some dried breadcrumbs rather than the piece of sandwich bread with milk, and I halved the amount of pasta but kept everything else the same. I liked the ratio of sauce to noodles but Richie made a good point that a broader noodle than spaghetti might have been better because the pesto-like herb sauce could stick to it better.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Jaime's CSA Delivery #9 - September 1, 2011

This is the final share of the summer season and I elected not to participate in the fall season, so this will be my last CSA post for now. After these are eaten up, I'm going to start making an extra effort to get to our local farmer's markets on a regular basis... we have one that is a super convenient location (the parking lot of the Kingstowne shopping center, just about a mile from our house) but at an inconvenient time (4-7 on Fridays); and another that is harder to get to (in Old Town Alexandria) but at a better time (Saturday mornings). I'm also investigating buying meat from a local farm because various new health concerns have led me to be even more aware of and conscious of what I put in my body. It is costly, which pains me because I have become very frugal in my middle age, but may just be worth the expense. I'll write more about that later...

This final share contains some things I was excited to see. The peaches are delicious, and since our early season peaches are long finished I'm happy to have more of them in my house. Especially in a manageable quantity! The share also included more free range eggs (yay for cooler weather and happy chickens!) and some really tasty honey crisp apples. Richie likes the green bell peppers, and I never mind seeing basil even though we have a ton of it growing on our deck. The eggplant is a challenge as neither of us like it very much and I'm still having allergy issues with the tomatoes, summer squash, and butternut squash but will try experimenting with them in a little bit.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Grilled Vegetable Panini - Aug 2011

Sandwiches are my lazy summer meal of choice. This one was particularly good. Nick and I received our first peppers of the season from our CSA and decided to toss them with some onions and olive oil, plus a little balsamic vinegar. We took this little mixture and sauteed it until the veggies were just starting to soften and the edges beginning to brown. We piled this onto some whole wheat bread with sunflower seeds and added sliced tomatoes and sharp cheddar cheese (we've done another version of this with homemade hummus too, and it was delicious). Since we don't have a panini press, I simply heated our trusty cast iron grill pan and toasted the sandwiches on it, flipping once and weighting things down with something I had handy. It worked great and I am happy not to feel the need to own yet another kitchen appliance.
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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Chicken Salad with Melon - Aug 2011

This meal is perfect for a day like today (over 90 degrees and high humidity in Minneapolis), although Nick and I actually had this a couple weeks ago already. This was our second chicken salad of the summer and this go around I added lots of fresh celery grown on our Farm. This celery tasted different than the kind you find in all the grocery stores year round. This was celery, amplified by 10! It made it's store bought counterpart seem pale and watered down. That refreshing green flavor was the stand-out in the dish, with the other ingredients (chicken, slivered almonds, onion, dried cranberries, Dijon and mayonnaise) playing wonderful supportive roles. We served the salad cold alongside chilled, sweet melon. It was fantastic. I wish I had more to eat tonight.
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