Saturday, February 18, 2012

Recipe #9 - Chicken Avocado Melt

This recipe we just had tonight! It's really good, and pretty easy to make. I love avocados, and quite honestly, I thought they were what made the dish so good. Even Rusty ate the avocados!! :)

*4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
*2/3 cup cornstarch
*2 tsp ground cumin
*2 tsp garlic powder
*2 tsp salt
*1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
*1 egg
*2 tblsp water
*1/2 cup cornmeal
*1/4 cup vegetable oil
*1 medium avocado, thinly sliced
*shredded cheese

Pound chicken breasts to 1/4 inch thickness, set aside on a large plate. Combine the cornstarch, cumin, garlic powder, salt and cayenne pepper in a shallow bowl. In another bowl, combine the egg and water and beat. Dip the chicken first in the egg, then into the cornstarch mixture, and back onto the plate. Coat with cornmeal.

**Note: If you don't have a skillet large enough for all of the chicken at once, you can do this next step in two batches.** In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, until it's golden brown on both sides - about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Place the chicken into a greased 9x13 baking dish. Top each piece of chicken with the sliced avocado. Bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes, or until juices run clear. Sprinkle with cheese, and serve.

The original recipe (from The Best of Country Cooking 1998) calls for half of the amounts shown above for the cornstarch, cumin, garlic powder, salt and cayenne pepper. I ran out of the coating mixture and wasn't able to coat my chicken as much as I would've liked to. I'm OK with throwing out a little extra, just to make sure I have plenty to use. If you find this to be too much for your preference, these ingredients can be cut in half.

I loved how tender the chicken was. The coating wasn't crispy, like I thought it might be. I'm not sure why I expected it to be that way. My favorite bites were those topped with avocado. I thought just the chicken needed a little more flavor, but I'm hoping that having the extra coating (by doubling that part of the recipe next time) will help out.

Overall, this recipe was really good and will get made again in this house! :)


Recipe #8 - Baked Potato Soup

Please forgive me - I'm catching up on posting the recent recipes I've tried. :)

Last weekend when we were planning our dinners, we wanted something nice and warm, since the week was predicted to be cold and rainy. Since Rusty is pretty picky, it's hard to find a good soup recipe that he'll actually eat, versus just picking at. I found a Baked Potato Soup recipe in The Best of Country Cooking 1999 that I thought I'd give a try!!

*2 medium potatoes, baked and cooled
*1 can (14.5 oz) of chicken broth
*2 tblsp of sour cream
*1/8 tsp of pepper
*any baked potato toppings you prefer

Peel potatoes and cut them into small 1/2 inch cubes. Place half of the cubes, along with the chicken broth, into a blender or food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into the sauce pan, along with the remaining potato cubes and sour cream. Cook over low heat until thoroughly heated. Garnish the soup as you desire with baked potato toppings.

My first recommendation is that you shouldn't plan to have leftovers... they don't reheat well. Second, I'd use more spices. It was good, but kind of bland. I've tried another potato soup recipe a long time ago that I prefer over this one, but I have no idea where I got it, or if I still have it. :) I served the soup with small Hawaiian rolls. Their sweetness was a great companion for the flavor of the soup.


Recipe #7 - Mexican Beef Stir Fry

I'm not a huge fan of cooking beef at home (other than roasts and hamburger meat) only because I find that it's hard for it to be perfect, and it matters to me how it comes out. I'd rather not cook "ok" beef - I'd rather do without and leave it up to the professionals to get it right. Maybe I just need to keep working on it... :)

This recipe was good, and easy, but won't be at the front of the line when I'm ready to start repeating some of these new recipes I've found this year. It's been about 10 days since I actually tried this recipe, and I can't remember for sure exactly what kind of beef I used. I'm thinking I might not have used the best variety, only because of the outcome. More to come on that later, though.

*1 pound of beef flank steak
*2 tblsp of vegetable oil
*1 tsp ground cumin
*1 tsp garlic salt
*1 tsp dried oregano leaves
*1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
*1 medium onion, chopped
*1 to 2 jalapenos, seeded and cut into slivers

Cut flank steak diagonally across the grain into 1/8 inch thick slices. Combine the oil, cumin, salt and oregano in a small bowl. Put 1 tablespoon of the mixture into a frying pan over medium-high heat, until hot. Add the vegetables and stir fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until tender crisp. Remove from pan. Pour remaining oil mixture into frying pan, and stir fry the beef (half at a time) for 1 to 2 minutes. Once all of the meat is cooked, add vegetables back to pan and heat thoroughly.

I used some flank steak (I think...) that was pre-sliced. I wonder if it made it less tender, because it was quite chewy (in my opinion). If it wasn't that, then I over cooked it. 1 to 2 minutes to cook the beef didn't seem like very long, and it was still way too red for my preference. It's very possible that I could have overcooked it, but we'll know for sure next time once I buy the meat specifically stated in the recipe.

I served the stir fry over tortillas, to give it a fajita twist. The flavor of the veggies and meat were wonderful! I just didn't appreciate the chewiness. As a side, I added some pinto beans that simmered with fresh jalapeno pepper chopped up in them. Meh... Note to self - I don't think I let them simmer long enough...

By the way, this recipe came from Great American Favorite Brand Name Cookbook, Collector's Edition. I haven't tried too many things from this book yet - it's a massive cookbook and is a little overwhelming!! :)


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Recipe #6 - Skillet Bow Tie Lasagna

YUMMY!! Rusty and I really like lasagna. It just makes so much and takes quite a bit of effort. I think it'll be a pretty big battle to see if my traditional lasagna recipe holds up versus this one. This recipe was so easy to make! I was also left with just enough for a small leftover portion, rather than 2/3 of an entire lasagna! (This is yet another recipe I got out of The Best of Country Cooking 2001.)

*1 lb of ground beef or turkey
*1 small onion, chopped
*1 garlic clove, minced
*1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
*1.5 cups water
*1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
*1 tblsp dried parsley flakes
*2 tsp dried oregano
*1 tsp salt
*2.5 cups uncooked bow tie pasta
*3/4 cup small curd cottage cheese
*1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, cook the beef or turkey, onion and garlic until meat is no longer pink. Drain. Add the tomatoes, water, tomato paste, parsley, oregano and salt. Mix well. Stir in pasta and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover for 18-20 minutes, or until pasta is tender, stirring once about half way through. Mix the cheeses together in a separate bowl and set aside. Once the pasta is tender, stir once more. Drop cheese mixture on top of pasta/meat mixture by the spoonful - do not stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

My variations:
I did not use an onion - Rusty and I don't prefer them. :) On the diced tomatoes, I actually used the food processor to grind them up. Our preference is for a smoother sauce (rather than chunky).

What I'll change next time:
I think I'll use a little more pasta than it calls for... probably 2.75 to 3 cups. It was VERY meaty/saucy and I would've liked the pasta to stand out just a little bit more. I'll also use just a slightly less amount of water, since I grind up the diced tomatoes.

Overall, I was VERY impressed with this recipe, and I'll definitely be making it again!!


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Recipe #5 - Pecan Chicken with Seasoned Potatoes

This one is a two-fer!! The chicken was ok - Rusty LOVED it! Plus, it was really easy. I LOVED the potatoes - they were my favorite part! Several years ago, my mom cleaned out a lot of her cookbooks and I ended up with them... This one is from the Best of Country Cooking, 2001. (I will add - one thing that kind of stinks about going through cookbooks that are 10+ years old is that they don't have a lot of our current day mentalities of "light" or healthy. I've had a pretty hard time of using old fashion cookbooks yet still finding a nice meal that isn't an overload on the calories.)

The Main Course - Pecan Chicken
*1/3 c finely chopped pecans
*1/3 c dry bread crumbs
*1/2 tsp dried thyme
*1/2 tsp paprika
*1/2 tsp salt
*4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
*3 tblsp dijon mustard

Combine the pecans, bread crumbs, thyme, paprika and salt in a bowl. Coat chicken with mustard, then dip into pecan mixture. Place the coated chicken pieces in a greased baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 30-40 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink.

I wasn't sure how I would feel about the mustard flavor, but to be honest, it wasn't very strong. It gave it almost a sweet taste once it was done. The pecan mixture didn't stick very well to the chicken (not sure if I should've used more mustard??). After I coated the chickens and placed them in the baking dish, I dumped what was left of the pecan mixture on top of the chickens, just to give them a little thicker top coat.

Seasoned Potatoes
First of all, this recipe is only for 2 people. If you're cooking for more, you'll definitely need to increase the size. Second, I've NEVER used canned potatoes to cook with before, and I completely felt like I was cheating by using them. I will use them again though - they were so good!!

*1 tblsp butter
*1 can (15 oz) small whole potatoes, drained
*1/4 tsp of any seasonings/spices you prefer

In a skillet, melt the butter of medium heat. Add the potatoes and sprinkle the seasonings over potatoes. I used just a little bit of garlic powder along with all purpose seasoning salt. Cook and stir for 15-18 minutes over low-medium heat until the potatoes are golden brown and soft. **Note - if the potatoes start to pop at all, lower the heat.**

Enjoy! TTFN