Southern Peach Chicken

September 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

So after a forced vacation from blogging, I’m excited to dive in again and distract myself from life stresses through one of my favorite past times: cooking.  Since my last post, I’ve made A TON of delicious things; and hope to get further amped up for the fall season.  At some point, I’ll have to make some of my favorites like the crock-pot pulled pork, crispy panko chicken with cherry sauce, double chocolate cake, greek yogurt cheesecake, and honey-mustard salmon to share…but for now, I’m going to play a little catch-up.   In order to do so, I need to back up a few months to early summer in SC.  Peach season was in full throttle, and I was inspired to make Southern Peach Chicken (an adapted recipe from the food network).  So, if you’re craving a little savory sweetness, this is a great dish to throw together for dinner.

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Salt

Pepper

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 Tablespoon of brown sugar

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

¼ cup of orange juice

3 Tablespoons chicken broth

2 cloves minced garlic

2 ripe peaches, preferably from your local farmer’s market

2 Tablespoons of toasted walnuts

 

Directions

1.  Put olive oil in a skillet on medium-high heat.  Liberally season chicken with salt and pepper.  Place chicken in the skillet and cook until browned on both sides (approx. 3 minutes).

2. In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and orange juice.

3. When chicken is sufficiently browned, remove from skillet and set aside.

4. If needed, add a little olive oil to the pan.  Turn down the heat a little, and add garlic to pan, stirring to prevent burning.  Add orange juice mixture, chicken broth, and peaches to skillet.  Turn up heat and cook for several minutes, uncovered, so that the sauce thickens.

5. Add the browned chicken to the pan; turn down the heat to medium-high, and cover.

6. Roughly chop walnuts and toast in a toaster oven or on the top rack of your oven.  (Monitor closely.)

7. When the chicken is cooked through (approx. 6 minutes), place on plate, liberally top with peach sauce, and sprinkle toasted walnuts on top.

Lemon Limoncello Cupcakes

June 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

Due to a horrible twist of fate, while I was making a delicious meal of southern peach chicken (upcoming post) I accidentally flung my camera off the counter and hit the wood floor, and now there is a “lens error”, and I have to ship it to Nikon for repairs.  Ergo the lack of posts this week.  Luckily, thanks to a few friends of mine, I was able to take pictures of a couple of the cooking episodes that marked my weekend.  The first being these absolutely fantastic Limoncello cupcakes; taken from a recipe by Michelle, the Brown-Eyed Baker.  Inspired by the homemade limoncello that I made a couple weeks ago, it seemed like the perfect solution to satisfy my cupcake craving.  (Craving would be a bit of an understatement; everyday this past week, when my blood sugar would plummet around 4 ‘o clock, I would stalk Cupcake‘s flavors of the day.)  Thank goodness a very lovely lady shares my same love of baked goodness; we turned out some spectacular cupcakes.  I was actually so excited for the event that I went out and bought cake decorating tips!   It was a huge success.  Each step was carefully and thoroughly taste-tested; I will definitely be making these again.  They were tangy with the right amount of sweetness, and the cake was the way a cupcake should be – light and fluffy, but with some gravity.

Since we followed Michelle’s recipe exactly, click the Brown-Eyed baker link above for her well-organized directions and extraordinary pictures.  Don’t forget, to save you that trip to the grocery, you can make your own buttermilk.  (For every 1 cup of milk, add 1 Tablespoon of vinegar and let sit for several minutes).  Happy baking!

Grilled Chicken with Basil Purée

June 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s summer; time to heat up the grill!  Here is an easy chicken recipe that didn’t require a trip to the store, thanks to our flourishing basil plants.  Feel free to multiply the number of chicken breast.  You will have extra sauce with this recipe, but it goes well on sandwiches (while it lasts).

Plan Ahead: this recipe requires a marinating time!

Ingredients:

1/3 cup plus 2 Tbs good olive oil

3 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoons celery seeds

3/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves

1 large clove garlic

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

 

Directions:

1. Whisk olive oil, 2 Tbs lemon juice, celery seeds, salt, and black pepper in a bowl to create an emulsion.  Put (thawed) chicken in a heavy-duty plastic bag, and pour marinade over chicken.  Massage marinade into chicken.  Make sure there is little or no air in the bag.  If you can, flip every ½ hour.

2. Refrigerate the marinated chicken for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

3. If you plan on using a grill to cook the chicken (which I recommend), turn it on so it has time to get hot. If you plan on using a grill pan, preheat over medium-high heat.

4. In a blender or a food processor, combine the basil, garlic, lemon zest, and remaining lemon juice until smooth.   Gradually add the remainder of the olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper (according to preference).

Before the olive oil was added...

5.  Grill chicken until cooked through (5-7 minutes per side).  Transfer chicken to plates and drizzle with basil sauce to serve.

This summery chicken went well with a cold pasta salad.

Whole-Wheat Bread

June 13, 2011 § 1 Comment

My mom started it; she baked bread for the entirety of my life.  I thought it was normal to have preservative-free, fresh, delicious bread and bread products in the fridge and scattered around our counters.  I’ll admit, when I was in grade school with hunks of brown bread smeared with Teddie’s All-Natural peanut butter and homemade strawberry jam (“what is THAT?”), I would have traded my recess time for my classmate’s Wonderbread with Jiff and Smuckers jelly.  I would trade my firstborn for my mom’s thick, satisfying hunk of a PB&J sandwich now.  (Okay, a little extreme, but you get the gist.)  College food was an experience I was not ready for.  What was all this white, fluffy bread that required me to eat 1/2 a loaf of to feel full?  Needless to say, when I moved off campus to an apartment, my exploration into learning the art of baking bread commenced.  This happens to be one of the best that I’ve found so far; it’s not too dense and has the right flavor.  The texture comes from the time you spend on it, but I was particularly happy with this batch.  It’s easy, and fits in well on a weekend day when you have projects around the house or short errands to run.

Ingredients (Makes 1 loaf or 7 rolls):

1 packet of dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)

*3/4 cup of tepid buttermilk (90 degrees F – using a finger test is fine, warm in microwave)

**1/8 cup maple syrup

1/8 cup vegetable or canola oil

1 tsp salt

2 ½ + cups of wheat flour (You will have to use your own discretion on this; it depends on how your dough forms.  I recommend King Arthur Flour.  It’s more expensive than generic brands, but it tastes a lot better.)

*Since I never have buttermilk, I make my own.  Take ¾ cup of regular milk, add 1 T of white or apple cider vinegar, and wait about 5 minutes.  Presto!

**You can use honey or light molasses in the place of maple syrup

Directions:

1. In a measuring cup, sprinkle the yeast and brown sugar over the water; stir to dissolve.  Let it stand until it’s foamy (approx. 10 minutes).  This is actually called “proofing”.  Proofing is a technique that’s used to make sure your yeast is active.  In the past, yeast has not always been as consistent, and a baker could end up with a flat, unattractive loaf.

2. In a mixer (or bowl), combine buttermilk, maple syrup, oil, salt, and 1 cup of whole wheat flour.  Beat lightly until creamy.  If you are lucky enough to have a mixer, use the paddle attachment.

3. Beat/stir in yeast mixture and another cup of flour.  (Mixer-owners: switch to the bread hook.

4. Knead (on low speed or with a spoon) while you slowly incorporate more flour.  When it’s ready to knead on a board, it should form a ball around the bread hook or be smooth but slightly sticky to the touch.

5. Lightly flour a surface and your hands.  Take the dough and fold and squish it repeatedly.  (Here are some helpful illustrations: http://www.wikihow.com/Knead-Dough.)

6. Lightly oil a deep bowl, place dough ball in and roll once (to evenly coat the surface of the dough).  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a clean dish towel.  Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1-1 ½ hours.  Punch the dough down with lightly oiled knuckles.

7. Lightly grease a bread pan or a baking sheet.  Divide dough for rolls (roll in palms and place on sheet) or press dough into bread pan.

8. Cover lightly in plastic wrap and the clean dish towel.  Let rise again, for 30 minutes – 1 hour (depending on climate, if it’s hotter and more humid, it should take less time).  The loaf should rise about 1 Inch above the pan.  The rolls should been well rounded and larger.

Pre-heat the over to 350 degrees F. Bake until golden brown (35-40 minutes for loaves; 16-20 minutes for rolls).  Remove from oven and move to cooling racks.


Spicy Garlic Shrimp and Tomato Pasta

June 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

This light, spicy, straight-forward recipe most likely originated in Southern Italy around Naples.  Southern Italy is known for slightly more complex flavors than other regions, such as Bologna, which revolves around butter, parmigiano, and meat.  I wanted a dish with an olive oil-based sauce so I could “feature” the tomatoes that finally ripened on our tomato plants.  The only change I may make next time is a little of white wine to enhance the flavors a bit, but it definitely was not lacking without it, made apparent by the lack of leftovers for lunch the next day.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 pound spaghetti

1/2 pound shelled and de-veined shrimp

4 tomatoes (to remove the seeds and excess water) OR 1/2 pint grape tomatoes

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon minced rosemary

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

Dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Add 1 T of olive oil to a small skillet and toss in the bread crumbs over medium heat, stir to make sure they down burn, and remove when golden brown (2-3 min).  Set the breadcrumbs aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, boil salted water and cook the pasta al dente.  Drain the water, and reserve ½ a cup of the cooking water.  (This is important, when you add this reserved water to your saute the starches will help form the sauce.)

3. While your pasta is cooking, add remaining olive oil to a deep skillet on medium-high heat.  Add shrimp, garlic, rosemary, crushed red pepper, reserved cooking water, and tomatoes.  For the tomatoes, when you cut them, squeeze them to remove as much of the watery pulp as possible.  (This weakens your sauce.)

4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add the pasta.  Lightly toss the mix, and when the shrimp are done and the sauce is slightly thickened, transfer to bowls and sprinkle breadcrumbs on top to serve.

Note: This dish paired well with a strawberry spinach salad.

Stuffed French Toast

June 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

I. Love. Breakfast.  Pancakes, cinnamon rolls, french toast…all the sweet, delicious options.  On weekends when I was little, my mom would prepare her infamous pancakes and french toast for me and my friends.  (I still have no idea how she does her pancakes, time after time again I’ve tried using her “recipe” without the results I strive for.)  We’d pile them high with unusual assortments of toppings…peanut butter, syrup, yogurt, jam, whipped cream…you name it.  At first, my friends (*cough* Andrea, Kari, and Shan ;)) were hesitant to be so adventurous, but after a couple bites, they’d understand.   From what I hear, they’re only spreading the joy of multiple toppings.  Don’t get me wrong, eggs are fine, but ever since I ran across a recipe for stuffed french toast, which puts a whole lot of wonderful INSIDE the bread, it has been on my hit list.

This morning I was especially inspired, and so ventured out for eggs, challah bread, light cream, and strawberries, determined to succeed in my endeavor.  Boy, did I ever.  This french toast was fantastic – sweet, fluffy, and flavorful.  Not to mention, relatively healthy; compared to other stuffed french toast recipes, which use cream cheese for the filling, I used a mixture of ricotta, sour cream, fresh fruit, and jam.


Ingredients:

A loaf of Challah bread (French or Italian bread works, too)

2-3 eggs

3/4- 1 cup light cream

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

water

4 T butter

For the Filling:

Diced, fresh strawberries (as many as you feel like, I used 6 large strawberries)

2 T sugar

2 T of apricot preserve (I used Polaner fruit preserve, but any jam works)

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

2 T sour cream

Directions:

1.  Dice the strawberries, remember you’ll be squishing it into bread.  The smaller the pieces, the more you’ll be able to pack in.)  Macerate the strawberries (i.e. sprinkle the sugar over the top and briefly stir, this brings the juices out) and set aside.

2. Slice the bread into 1 1/2 to 2 inch slices.  Then cut a deep slit across the top that goes about 1/2 an inch from the bottom of the slice.  Set aside.

3.  To make the filling: Mix together the ricotta cheese, sour cream, and jam until evenly combined.  Add the diced strawberries, and mix well.  *Note: the amount of filling depends on the amount of slices you make.  I over-estimated and ended up putting some on the side of each plate.  I also ate about a 6th of it before it made it into the toast, so use your judgement.

4.  Separate the top of the slices and spoon the mixture into the cut in the top of the bread.  Shove the mixture firmly into the bread, be careful of tearing.  Use about 5 T filling per slice, or as much will comfortably fit.

5.  In a shallow pan, crack the eggs and mix.  Add light cream, cinnamon, vanilla, and a little water to thin the batter.  Place the stuffed slices into the mixture.  Soak each slice for about 2 minutes (or longer) on both sides.

6. Heat a skillet on medium.  Melt 1 T of butter.  Add the toast to the skillet and flip when golden brown (about 3 minutes per side, depending on the heat of your pan).

7. Serve with sliced strawberries, syrup, and leftover filling.  If you want, sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top, and a dollop of whipped cream.

Lemoncello

June 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Inspired by my trip to Italy, I wanted to try to make Lemoncello, a citrus-based liquor that is now considered their national drink.  It originated in Sorento (southern Italy – think Amalfi coast and Gulf of Naples) and is used as an after-dinner digestive.  Since only the peel is used, it develops a powerful, zesty flavor.  Most recipes for lemoncello that I’ve found are for large batches and use variable amounts of the staple ingredients.  The zesting of the lemons is the most crucial step in this recipe; you must do your best to only get the zest, or the yellow part of the peel, to avoid making the drink too bitter.  Zesting is the step that takes the longest, make sure you don’t have to rush off somewhere or have a long to-do list.   After the initial lemon prep, this recipe is smooth sailing.  The recipe that you’ll find below is a melding of several sources, according to my personal preferences.  I’ve decreased the amount of syrup by default; I was originally going to use 1 and 3/4 cups of water (about 414 mL) with my 1 and 1/4 cups of sugar, but due to lack of foresight (a wine bottle only holds 750 mL), I used less.  According to several sources, less water is actually more true to original lemoncello.  If you have pure grain alcohol, use this instead of vodka.

Shop in Vernazza

Ingredients:

5 lemons

375 mL of vodka (cheap is okay, it will taste better if you can upgrade)

375 mL water

One heaping cup of sugar

Tools:

a peeler

a clean wine bottle

Directions:

1. Zest the lemons – again, make sure to only get the zest, avoid the white pith.

2. Place the lemon peels in a pitcher, add lemon zest, and cover well with saran wrap.  Steep at room temperature for 4 days.  The vodka should slowly take on its distinctive, rich yellow color.

3. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan on medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved (less than 5 min).  Cool completely, and combine sugar mixture and steeped vodka and put in the tightly sealed wine bottle.

4. Let the lemoncello stand at room temperature overnight.

5. Pour lemoncello over a strainer (to remove the zest) and put in fridge to chill.

***Enjoy for up to a month!

I'll have to re-label the bottle, but I thought the yellow cap was appropriate. 🙂