Spring-Time Food

As the days of the year pass by, it continually gets warmer and the pollen count increases. It’s miserable to be honest. Even though I am not that greatly affected by allergies, I am surrounded by people that are, and I feel for them-it has to be miserable. BUT the weather is as gorgeous as it has ever been, the sun shines, the birds sing (except that’s not so cool at 5:30 on Saturday and Sunday mornings when I greatly need sleep), the back-yard fires burn, the grills grill, and the students stir with the hopes of persuading teachers into holding class outside.

But all of these things cannot compare to the spring food that happens. Whether it’s strawberry cupcakes or caprese chicken, even the food is light and springy.

Let me tell you about this caprese chicken, though. It’s great. That’s all.IMG_7306

Just kidding, not that it’s not great, but that is not all I’ll tell you about it. The recipe comes from Iowa Girl Eats. Have I told you that I greatly enjoy her blog? I really do.

I pretty much did everything that she did, but I didn’t do it in the same order, so my chicken looks a bit different. To start, you’ll need as many chicken breasts as you have mouths to feed (unless you have a guest that has two mouths, then you should ask them how many helpings they want, ’cause who knows how many stomachs they have?!?). Make sure these are defrosted, then pound them out so that they are nice and flat.

While this is happening have your kitchen buddy wilt down some spinach with some olive oil and minced garlic. Once it’s wilted, let it cool until you need it.

So the chicken is nice and flat, the spinach is wilted, and magically the mozzarella and tomatoes are sliced. Make sure everything is in close reach, because your hands may get messy. To start, place some of the spinach mixture on one side of the chicken, then lay a piece of basil on top of it. Then a couple of tomato slices, and a couple of moz slices right on top of that. Fold the chicken over and stick a toothpick or two in it to secure the chicken.IMG_7298 Salt and pepper them a little and pop ’em in the oven at 350 until the chicken is cooked.IMG_7304

We ate it with roasted broccoli, just like Kristen did in her post. The whole thing was wonderful. I love how light and springy it was. I don’t know what I’ll do in the summer when I want to make it but don’t really want to turn the oven on. Hmm. Oh well, I’ll make it work.


Spice it Up

To be honest, I haven’t always been a fan of defrosting a chicken breasts, seasoning it and serving it with something else half-assed, and calling it dinner. Even if I cut the chicken into pieces and throw it into the rice it seems that more effort has been put into planning the meal and it tastes better. I know that’s not really the case, and I should learn how to deal with the chicken breasts, but I’m grumpy and I don’t want to change my ways.

However, last week we hit a rut and kind of had to figure out dinner on the fly. My mom recommended we do some chicken and mashed potatoes with a vegetable. And we did. But the mashed potatoes were the special ones (and made the whole vegetable issue a nonissue) and the chicken was nice and spicy.

I did a little searching and found this mix of spices (including: paprika, dried minced onion, dried minced garlic, cayenne pepper, dried oregano, dried basil, and white pepper) that I thought would fit our flavor preferences and got to gathering the stuff. It was only two of us, so I tried to cut things in half, but that was hard, so we just had extra seasoned chicken.

I started by mixing the spices together and realized that we didn’t have dried minced garlic, so I substituted a little garlic powder in. Here is where I wanted to change things up, but felt to lazy, so I didn’t. I could have chopped up a couple of tablespoons of onion and minced garlic and thrown it in to give it a fresh kick.

Also, instead of doing it as a dry rub, I mixed the canola oil right in with the seasonings and poured it over the chicken before it went into the pan.IMG_6916 The rest is simple, you cook the chicken until it is done, not turning it too much, but enough to make sure both sides are evenly cooked.

The cool thing about this is that it has lots of paprika, so once you cook it turns into a blackened coating.IMG_6920 But you can also mix the seasonings (without the oil) onto a batter for chicken strips to spice things up a bit.

I honestly think that this is a good go-to idea for dinner, it’s quick and easy, and we always have these things on hand. Plus it’s a good alternative to the boring chicken breasts that I hate so much.

Enchilada Lasagna

I have been in a slump lately because of it being dark fo much during the day. I’ve had this massive obsession with comfort food, though.

To me, comfort food is what’s normal or what we eat repeatedly  not just food that others think seems comforting. The food that reminds me of spending time as a child with my mother in the kitchen, like rolling enchiladas or making meatloaf. I’ve grown up now though, and I will be the one to start cooking dinner (I don’t cook on my own all of the time, but I can if I need to).

I like the red enchiladas that we make, we actually did some the weekend after Thanksgiving with leftover turkey, but I like to take something that I’m used to and change it up a bit. I found this recipe while drooling in front of my computer screen a while back and so I decided to save it and pull it out when it got a little colder.

Contents of the sauce, minus the sour cream (you can see it in the background).

That colder day came on a Wednesday a few weeks ago. Actually that day was pretty much devoted to cooking, I made some carbonara and a batch of chocolate chip cookies and then made this dish. After a day of cooking and washing dishes I really didn’t want to have to clean that much more, so I was pretty happy with the simplicity of the construction and minimal clean up (Pro tip: use bowls and a pan that can be thrown into the dish washer so that you don’t have to stick your hands in hot water and dry them out).

The big idea of this dish is layering, that’s what the word lasagna means. Other than that, the focus is on creamy cheesy goodness. The chicken and corn tortilla flavor are nice, but the layers and cheese are just fun.

Mixing the sauce that you use is the hardest part, because you have cold sour cream and room temperature condensed soup. Once you get over the fact that you will probably make a mess around the bowl, despite the mess things are fine.

Now you start construction, make sure you get a good amount of the sauce down before you try to put any tortillas down, otherwise the tortillas are going to stick to the bottom and you’ll have a hard time trying to serve it up. The next thing that’s a little tricky is that you will have to cut the tortillas to fit the pan, they are round and the pan is rectangular, half and quarter them (cut them, not house them) so you can get a good coverage each layer. If you do end up overlapping them make sure you spread a little bit of the sauce between them so that they don’t get tough or awkward.

It has to cover the entire bottom, I’m not kidding you.

The tortillas need to cover the entire thing, but its okay o have a few small gaps, just be sure to change the pattern each layer.

Then it’s pretty simple, you spread the sauce on top of the tortillas and put down a layer of the chicken (if you don’t like that you could shred it and mix it into the sauce to eliminate the somewhat awkward sprinkling of the chunks).

Awkward chicken chunks. These were almost too large.

And you add a good handful of cheese.

Then you lay down some more tortillas and start again. You should have three layers with meat, then you do the final laying of tortillas and top with the res  of the sauce and the rest of the cheese, it should almost cover the entire dish.

Lots of cheese.

Then it goes into the oven for a while at 450, until the cheese is bubbly and get a little brown.

You have to let it rest once you pull it out though, otherwise it wont set up and slice cleanly. We dug in really quickly and it got a little sloppy. That’s okay, but I took a pretty picture a little later once it set up.

The sloppiness was totally cool, this dish really isn’t meant to be all that pretty once it’s been cut, there really isn’t much color contrast, it just tastes good.

This makes awesome leftovers, too! I was able to even take a piece with me to school in a thermos and have it at lunch time, and it was still really good. We also froze the rest, but we haven’t gotten it back out yet so I can’t say how good it is just quite yet.

This is something that I would surely do again, it’s perfect for when it starts to get colder outside. I’m also insanely pleased with how well it works as left overs. You should defiantly give it a shot.

It was a Grey Sort of Day

There are days where the weather is so stereotypically fall-like, you have no option but to make some sort of soup for dinner. Tuesday was one of these days, it was grey, windy, and was crisp. Everybody was in some sort of bad mood “because of the weather,” and it would have been the perfect day to sleep in all day.

Chili is wonderful on a day like that, but we had red chili just over a week ago, and so it wasn’t time to do that again. We needed something delicious and warm to eat, along the lines of chili, so we made a white chili. Except we didn’t have everything that we would need to complete it, so we made some adaptations.  It wasn’t as good as normal, but it was still tasty.

We found this recipe a few years ago when I was really wanting to try a white chili, but didn’t know of any good ones. My mom and I went to the Food Network website and started looking around. There was one that had a lot of onion and garlic, it seemed like it would be a good fit, because who doesn’t love onion and garlic?

Tuesday, though, we didn’t have fresh onion. It was a horrible realization, because we were set on having white chili and we knew it wasn’t going to be the same. We didn’t skip the onion, though. That would have been insane. We used dehydrated minced onion, so it still had the flavor, but obviously it fell a little short. The recipe also calls for shallots and roasted garlic (actually it has you roast it), but for the sake of time and resources, in the past we just added extra onion and garlic instead.

Also, we skip the spinach, it’s really not that important to the recipe. We have adapted this to our own tastes, and while we find spinach fine, it just seems to be a distraction to the chili.

When you make the chili, watch the temperatures that you use, you cook all of this stuff in the same pot except for the chicken, so you may need to back the heat off if you are changing pace.

You start out with the onion and garlic sauteing in the pan in some olive oil, make sure it’s not too much, it can mess things up later in the cooking process. You can not let this get too hot, it will cook the rest of the way once everything boils, but if you burn it now, there’s no going back. Then you make a roux with some flour, this is why we had to be careful about the oil, it needs to be very floury, almost seeming too dry. You deglaze the pan with some wine or chicken stock next, so it’s okay that it’s a little dry.

The rest of the chili is pretty straight forward, stock, chilies, seasoning, simmer for a while (no really, let this baby bubble away for a little while, you’ll thank me), add the cream and the rest of the seasoning, and serve.

Look at those bubbles.

When you decide to eat the chili, wait another minute before you put that spoon in your face. It’s hot. I’ve burned my mouth many a time because I was so excited to eat it. It’s worth the burn, but within the last two weeks before All State Auditions it might not be. I normally serve it with a soft cheese, like muenster (I had some left over from the sandwich I made Friday night) or jack.

This chili is beyond yummy, I obviously have had this before, so the is no question on whether I will be making it again or not. It will probably a little while before I can make it, but I definitely will do it soon. It’s a lot better with fresh onion and shallots, as well as when you through some more garlic in there.

It works really well when it’s reheated, the flavors have a little more time to meld together. It’s awesome even if you take it in a thermos to school for lunch. I promise, I do this so much. Probably because I love this chili so much.

I’m Glad I’m not a Vampire

Because garlic. Oh my goodness, I would be a very sad vampire, you know, cause they can’t eat garlic, it kills them or something. At least it repels their boyfriend/girlfriend and family members, but that happens to the best of us. Also, I’m glad I’m not a cat, again because of the garlic thing. They have issues with garlic and onion (along with the leeks and the rest of the family). I do my best to avoid letting the cats around the kitchen when I cook with garlic because I fling everything around and make a mess, and Freyja thinks she needs to taste everything that’s on the floor.

Today was definitely no exception to my desire to stay human and not allergic to garlic. I made a garlic chicken pizza.

I started by roasting some garlic in the oven. I cut the tops off the tops of the bulb, rubbed some olive oil all over it, wrapped them in tin foil and threw them into the oven for half and hour at 400 degrees. The house smelled glorious for a while, its was wonderful. They came out and the bulbs were really soft, and the outer cloves had a nice caramelization going on. If you do it right (probably even if you don’t), the garlic will mash very easily and you can spread it like peanut butter.

Bulb of garlic before the roasting.

I’ll work from the crust up, then I guess. So I used the normal pizza crust for this crazy pizza, it just sort of made sense to keep one thing the same in case it all fell apart. After the crust went in for a few minutes for the initial baking, the roasted garlic went directly onto the crust.

Then comes the awesomeness that is alfredo. Well a really simple, unseasoned alfredo. It’s a parmesan cream sauce basically. I make this on a pretty regular basis, it’s really quick and easy. Normally I add some garlic at the beginning , but since the pizza already had a layer, I wasn’t that sure that I should add any more.

On top of the alfredo, I put down some fresh mozzarella  I sliced it thin myself, rather than buying the stuff that was pre-sliced, it comes too thick. It’s hard to cut your own, but it’s worth it to make sure that it turns out at the desired thickness.

On top of the cheese, there was a layer of sliced, definitely not diced, roma tomatoes.We grew our own over the summer, but we didn’t have any ripe ones, so we had to go with store bought. Again, watch the thickness of the tomatoes, you don’t want this pizza turning into a leaning tower (you know, of pizza).

The chicken is going to finish it off. The chicken was cooked then diced, then covered in pesto from a jar, then put onto the pizza. The pesto had some garlic, so it kept with the garlic chicken theme.

The pizza before the baking.

We cooked this one on the pizza stone, but we didn’t heat the stone before it went onto it, so it was cooked well, but not like a cracker. I really liked using the stone, but it isn’t a must if you’d like to recreate it.

The pizza fresh out of the oven.

It turned out way too yummy to handle, so it might be a while before I make it again. I can honestly say that there is nothing that I feel like needs any sort of redemption  I’m a little proud of myself.