Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pulled Buffalo Chicken

Every now and then I get a hankering for chicken wings. The problem is that the wings you get at the bar are fried then tossed in buttery hot sauce goodness. My stomach can't really handle all that deep fried goodness but I still want that buffalo chicken flavor. So next best thing is pulled buffalo chicken. 



Another plus of this recipe is that it's super easy - 1 bottle of Frank's Red Hot Sauce, 1 packet of Ranch dip mix (or 3 Tbs of homemade ranch dip mix), and 4 chicken breasts. Put all in the crock pot and cook on low for 7-8 hours. Once the chicken is cooked, pull out of crock pot and let cool slightly. Then shred with 2 forks. Put shredded meat back into the crock pot and coat with cooked hot sauce. Then enjoy! You could put it on a bun for a yummy sandwich or I'm planning to incorporate it into a lunch salad with ranch dressing, celery, carrots and lettuce. I've also used this chicken as a base for a buffalo chicken dip. Since the hot sauce gets cooked, it's not quite so spicy. Yum yum yum!!


Saturday, June 21, 2014

White Bean Dip

After a few months of very high credit card bills (I put all my expenses on my Southwest card for points, but that also makes for 1 big bill at the end of the month), I've decided to try to find alternate sources of protein. Thus beans - and what's cheaper than canned beans? Dried beans. They taste better too.

There is a method for dry beans. They do need to be soaked, and I never think far enough in advance to soak them overnight. So quick soak it is. I have found that you can pour boiling water over rinsed and sorted beans and let them soak until the water is back to room temperature, a few hours or so. Drain soaked beans then put into a pot and cover with lots of water. As a side note, I have started cooking beans and grains like you cook pasta - with lots of boiling water then drain. So I boil the beans with chicken bouillon until tender. What you want to do with the beans determines how much you cook them - about 30 min if you were to put them whole in a salad, about 45 min if you were going to make a dip. Now this is boiling, not simmering. All types and batches of beans are different. In general, larger beans will take longer to cook. I have been using small great northern beans, so that is how long I would cook these type. I would say, test at 30 min, and if they need more time, they need more time. Cooking beans is not a fast process, but it's low maintenance, so you can put a pot on and go do other things - like laundry or watch TV or whatever.

Dip:
1 c white beans, cooked (measurement was made of dry beans)
reserved bean cooking liquid
pepper
Italian Seasoning
olive oil
red wine vinegar
cotjia cheese (Mexican crumbled cheese, like feta)

Place all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth.  Less is more here when it comes to liquid - start with a tablespoon or 2 of the oil, vinegar and bean liquid. If the mix looks dry, add more bean liquid (it depends on what you cook your beans in, I use chicken bouillon to cook my beans, so too much and the dip would be too salty). The cheese was something I added in on a whim, I had just a touch of it left that needed to be used, so if you don't have any, you can omit it. I also made the dip while the beans were still warm - this made the dip come together easier. Oh and I used quite a lot of the Italian Seasoning. Yum!


There are other ways to use this dip other than on top of crackers. A while back, I came across a recipe for hummus crusted chicken and thought the dip would be great on top of fish - yeah, this is how I think.


Before the oven. 450 degrees for 15-20 min, or until the fish is flaky.


And after. I was right - it was good on fish. This is a white fish called Swai, similar to tilapia, that I found at Aldi. Each filet comes individually frozen - great for 1 portion at a time!

Peach Frozen Yogurt

If you have been looking around Pinterest recently, I'm sure you have come across this recipe for Peach Frozen Yogurt. It seemed easy enough and you could keep the ingredients handy so you can make it at any time.

16 oz bag frozen peaches
3 T agave
1 container plain yogurt (I had greek yogurt)
1 T lemon juice


Place all ingredients into food processor. Mix until well combined and smooth.


This took longer than the advertised 5 minutes and there were a few times that I thought it would not come together, but it did. I had the one bowl then put the rest in the freezer. Once frozen solid, it wasn't as good as when it was fresh, so I would recommend that it's eaten the same day that it is made. I've seen the recipes that use frozen bananas as a substitute ice cream base, but I'm not a big fan of bananas, so this recipe appealed to me. It was very peachy and a nice sweet treat. I'll be keeping the ingredients on hand for the future!

Ahi Tuna Nicoise Salad

Have you seen Jamie Oliver's 15 min meals on CBS on Saturday mornings? It's a great show - how can you not like Jamie Oliver? His concept is interesting - he claims you can make a healthy meal for 4 in only 15 min. The show makes it look easy enough. In practice though, it's not quite that easy. I was drawn to this recipe because you make a basil sauce and use it a few ways - as a marinade, a salad dressing and topping for the cooked fish. It was pretty fast, all in all.

For the sauces:
1 bunch basil
6 anchovy filets
1 lemon
4 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
1 t whole grain mustard
1 t honey

For the salad:
1 bag Mixed green and yellow beans (the kind you steam in)
12 black olives, pits removed
3 ripe mixed color tomatoes
1 head of romaine lettuce
1 oz feta cheese
1 lemon

For the tuna:
2 - 6oz ahi tuna steaks (very fresh, sushi grade)


1. Cook beans in microwave according to package directions.
2. Make sauce base: put basil, anchovy, juice of lemon, oil and a splash of water into blender and blend until smooth. Pour about 40% in a bowl and set aside. Use 10% as a marinade for the fish - rub into fish with salt and pepper. With remaining half of sauce, add vinegar, mustard and honey, blend again. Mix with beans, olives and tomatoes.
3. Put tuna in heated pan (or griddle pan), cooking 2 min on each side. Chop lettuce, add dressed veggies. Top with sliced tuna, top tuna with reserved basil sauce and crumbled feta.


He has a whole cook book of recipes for 15 min meals. What's not included in the time is heating of the pans or boiling of water. His trick is that you use an electric kettle to boil water and if your pan is hot and you add boiling water, then it keeps boiling. Smart idea. Some of the things that I have noticed while watching this show is that it really doesn't feel like every day food to me. Take this recipe for this salad as an example - to get the fish, I had to go to the upscale market (for me, it's Wegmans) and I only bought 1 tuna steak because of the expense. The method may be simple and quick, but I'm not so sure of the affordability. Company fare, more like. Delicious, to be sure.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pizza Waffle

I know it's been a while since my last post - sorry. Life has gotten busy and it will not slow down anytime soon. I'm starting to study for my boards, to be taken at the end of September, so all my free time is going to that. It doesn't mean I'm not still cooking and taking pictures...I just don't have the time to post about it. Well I will try to keep up, since I still really enjoy blogging....so bear with my absence for a while. To make up for my silence, here is a method that I just couldn't resist when I first saw it....waffles made using puff pastry!!! This idea came from a series of posts a few weeks back on Serious Eats (www.seriouseats.com/2014/05/crispy-flaky-pepperoni-pizza-puff-pastry-waffle-awesome.html). The recipe that really caught my eye was the Pizza Waffle.


First start out with a thawed sheet of puff pastry. It comes in a pack of 2 sheets that are frozen. I took the sheet out of the freezer and put it in the fridge while I was at work. There are some seams that need to be mushed together but that's it. Put your fav pizza topping on the puff pastry- just try to not overload it. 


Now roll up your pizza into a log and pinch together the ends. 


In the middle of this picture, you can see that the roll becomes a spiral. Looks pretty big, right? Now this whole thing goes in your preheated Belgian waffle iron. The guys at Setious Eats had a round waffle iron, mine is a lovely, seasoned hand-me-down from my grandma that is square and it still worked. You need to press down on the iron to make sure the spiral cooks evenly. Cook your waffle until it is very dark - you need to make sure that it is cooked through and it's pretty thick. There is a temp suggested in the recipe but I made the waffles at a friend's house and we didn't have my trusty thermopen - they still were quite delicious!!! 


Be warned! They are very filling. We made 2 for the two of us and we were stuffed after a half! The puff pastry gets nice and crunchy. What a treat (because you should be eating all that butter very often!!!!). Check out their other recipes using this method - sweet and savory. Yum!!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Donut Muffins

Some recipes you come across and you have to make them at the first opportunity. This was one of those. I came across this recipe for Raspberry Jam-Filled Doughnut Muffins via Betty Crocker. They looked awesome and easy - two things for a great recipe.


Jam-Filled Donut Muffins

Muffins

  • 2 c AP flour
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3/4 c plain greek yogurt
  • 1/4 c agave nectar
  • 2 T melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1/4 c fruit preserves
Icing
  • 1/4 c fruit preserves
  • 1 c powdered sugar
  1. heat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly spray 12 regular size muffin cups with cooking spray
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix yogurt, agave nectar, butter, eggs and vanilla with a whisk. Add dry mix to wet mix and stir until combined. Spoon batter evenly among cups, filling about 2/3 full.
  3. Using a butter knife, swirl 1/2 t preserves into each muffin
  4. Bake 9-10 min or until donuts spring back when touched and are golden on bottom. Cool in pan about 4 min
  5. Heat preserves in saucepan on stove until bubbly. Add powdered sugar until smooth. Quickly spoon over cooling donuts. 
I used strawberry jam that we had made in the fall. These were super delicious. All the more deadly since they were soooo easy to make. I used 1 container of greek yogurt (on the 6 oz size) and found that I had to add a touch of water to make the batter come together. This was a very stiff batter for me but came out wonderfully!!! 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

'Cupcakes' for Portion Control

After a few indulgent weeks, I need to get back to the diet (and let's be totally honest, I haven't really been on the diet since January). My biggest problem has always been portion control. I've always thought the trend of using cupcake pans was a fun one - so today, I cooked for the week (and then some) using muffin pans.

I found a neat blog called Emily Bites - which has a tagline of "lightened up comfort food". She has a whole section dedicated to these portion controlled bites. Today I made Hawaiian BBQ Cupcakes, Enchilada Cupcakes and Lasagna Cupcakes. The last recipe is from Hungry Girl - another great website for low calorie dishes.


The filling for the BBQ cupcakes. I was feeling adventurous and made my own BBQ sauce. The cupcake recipe suggested a spicier sauce, so I added a chipotle pepper since I didn't have smoked paprika.


All the cupcakes have 2 layers of the wonton wrappers.


Before the oven - these are the enchilada and Hawaiian BBQ cupcakes.


After the oven - I did the full 20 minutes.


Hawaiian BBQ cupcakes - hard to tell the difference by look between the two...you can see the pineapple in this one, so it's Hawaiian.


Enchilada cupcake.


This is a series of pictures for the lasagna cupcakes - these were more involved than the chicken cupcakes. Ricotta, spinach and egg.


Ground turkey, mushroom, onion, crushed tomatoes.


Cheese, of course.


After the oven.

Some thoughts - the chicken cupcakes were not as moist as the lasagna cupcakes - which made them easier to get out of the pan. Plus they were very simple to put together, especially if you had chicken already cooked. That would make it an easy weeknight meal - particularly since it only takes 15-20 min for them to cook. Add a salad and you have a rounded meal.

Now, to figure out what to do with all that BBQ sauce, and a half can of enchilada sauce, and green chiles. That's one of the down sides to all this portion control, you only need a little of this or that. If I do, I'll let you know!