26 November 2012

November Secret Recipe Club: Herb Seasoning



The holidays are upon us (can someone please tell time to SLOW DOWN!), the days are getting shorter, and I'm in the mood for a quick meal when I get home from work at dark:thirty. The first evening after the time change Bender and I resorted to ordering pizza just so we could get home and stay there. Though we are no longer living in Germany, we still acted that way during the summer and did the grocery shopping one day at a time. November has taught us that those days are over and we are trying to plan in advance and do the shopping less often. It's only Sunday night and I've shopped through Thursday! (Please ignore the fact that I will be eating out Tuesday and Thursday.)

While searching for recipes to reduce the effort I need to spend in the kitchen during the holiday season, I came across a fabulous Herb Seasoning recipe on my Secret Recipe Club assignment for the month of November. Chocolate and Chilies is chock full of recipes I can't wait to get my hands on when I'm not quite so depressed about how short the days are (read: February when I finally start noticing the days getting longer). In the meantime, I'll stick to quick, easy, and flavorful. And what better way to quickly add flavor than an herb seasoning? You know I love spice rubs, and this herb seasoning will be the perfect counterpoint to the thick, heavy seasonings filled with chili powders. A nice palate cleanser, indeed!

If you don't go all wonky when the time changes and the days are super short (or even if you do!), head on over and check out the fabulously fun Chocolate and Chilies! The 15 Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta is on the calendar for Friday night when Bender's out.


Herb Seasoning
adapted from Chocolate and Chilies, originally from Get Cracking!!

2 tablespoons dried oregano
4 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
3/4 teaspoons (or to taste) crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine herbs and spices in a clean, dry, airtight jar. Shake away, my friend!

THOUGHTS:
Oh dear, I'm completely out of garlic powder and oregano now. Guess I'll be adding those to my shopping list! But that let that distract you from the herb seasoning. It's great with chicken, and I'll be trying it on pork chops tomorrow night! I'm also seriously thinking about adding it to a pasta with white sauce just to change that up a bit. I thought about adding salt, but held back because I enjoy salting my meat before adding other seasonings so I can control the added salt more easily. I did add some heat with the crushed red pepper flakes, and I think the author of a blog named Chocolate and Chilies can't be too disappointed with that addition!

VERDICT:
Yippee-a-change-from-the-same-old-spice-rub: 2 votes!


29 October 2012

October Secret Recipe Club: Roasted Broccoli

Hello October! Yesterday marked six years of marriage for Bender and me. We spent a lovely weekend in Chattanooga, catching all the big sights like Ruby Falls, Rock City, and the Tennessee Aquarium. If you're a big fan of turtles and jellyfish, you must see the Tennessee Aquarium: they have tons of both!


Ruby Falls, Chattanooga, TN


Have you seen Rock City? (Lookout Mountain, GA)

We returned home during the late afternoon and I set about making dinner. On the drive back I found the absolute perfect recipe to make from my assigned blog for Secret Recipe Club. We called our friend Goose to come join us, which automatically meant I would be serving Baconated Cheesy Chicken. Goose will eat a whopping two vegetables: broccoli and green beans. When I saw Roasted Broccoli on I Am a Honey Bee, I knew it was meant to be.

I Am a Honey Bee is a great site, full of recipes, crafts, restaurant, and city reviews. If you are looking for a restaurant in the Boston area, be sure to check out Nicole's reviews!

But back to that yummy, crunchy, spicy, Roasted Broccoli.

Raw broccoli on a bacon-greasy pan.


Roasted Broccoli
minimally adapted from I Am a Honey Bee

3 small broccoli crowns, cut into florets
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp red chile flakes (to taste)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp bacon grease

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Toss together ingredients in a large bowl. Spread evenly on a baking sheet.
3. Bake for 15 minutes or until florets are browned and still retain a bite. Serve immediately.

THOUGHTS:
I've have roasted broccoli before, but this was the first time I felt like I nailed it. Yippee! For the bacon grease, I used leftover fat (and the pan so I got some crunchy brown bits too) from the bacon for the Baconated Cheesy Chicken. I roasted it alongside the chicken, for a low fuss, delicious, nutritious, side dish.

Nicole serves her roasted broccoli with fresh lemon juice. My gang tonight was not big on lemon, so I gave everyone the option to squeeze their own juice. No one took me up on it.

VERDICT:
Make-again: 3 votes

(Goose wanted me to let you know that he gives the dish 4.5 Geese out of a possible 5)

Nom nom nom.



24 September 2012

September Secret Recipe Club: Classic Foolproof Fudge


September is almost over. While I'm embracing fall completely, I'm going to the beach this weekend. Yep. That's right. I'm heading to the beach on Friday. Everyone else has made their summer vacations, but mine will start (and end) this weekend at the beach. It's why the recipe I chose for my Secret Recipe Club post fits perfectly this week!

I was assigned the blog Life and Kitchen, hosted by the fabulous Lindsay. Her blog is definitely for her fans, but it's mostly focused as a resource for her daughter when she grows older. Like a journal through the kitchen. Very fun.

Lindsay posted fudge earlier this month to say goodbye to summer, the beach, and vacation. I'm posting it to say hello. Though this recipe is ridiculously simple, I found myself playing the fool in this Classic Foolproof Fudge. That's right. I overcooked the chocolate. I used baking powder instead of baking soda. I used Kosher salt instead of table salt. And ya know what. It was still awesome. I managed to pull out about half of the baking powder and replace it with baking soda and the big flakes of salt actually improved the fudge and made it more of a salted chocolate. Awesome. So yes, this fudge is indeed, foolproof. 



Classic Foolproof Fudge
barely adapted from Lindsay at Life and Kitchen, originally from Cooks Illustrated

14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate (chopped fine)*
16 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Mix the chocolate with baking soda and salt. Add the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Melt the mixture in bowl over boiling water (or in double-boiler) until mostly melted. Stir frequently so as not to burn it. Take it off the heat and keep stirring until smooth. Pour into a greased baking pan and cool in the fridge for 2+ hours.

THOUGHTS:
*Okay, I need to tell you a story. A ganache story. The first time I made ganache I swore I'd never every make it again. I made ganache as an icing for Tabitha's birthday cake and painstakingly shaved every bit of chocolate. It took me two hours! Two hours! As I was complaining to her two days later (I couldn't complain about it the same day I served it to her!), she asked me why I used a knife instead of just throwing the chocolate into my food processor. I made up some excuse, probably saying I didn't want to dull the blades of my food processor. But honestly, it hadn't crossed my mind to use my mini food processor. The reason it took me so long is that I took the phrase "chopped finely" very seriously and made my chocolate pieces uber tiny. About a year later I had my mind blown when I watched a cooking show and saw someone actually make ganache. I don't remember who the host was, but their "chopped finely" in no way resembled my "chopped finely." Their pieces were way larger than the big Ghiradelli chocolate chips. Since then I have learned that chocolate will melt fairly easily, even if you don't get the pieces perfectly tiny. The moral of my story? Aim for chocolate chip size, but don't fret if your pieces are a little larger. 

As far as the recipe goes: Um, yes, please. I'll take more of that. Oh, and others too, yeah, they'll eat it!

VERDICT: 
Two-thumbs-up: 6 votes!


27 August 2012

August Secret Recipe Club: Bacon Chicken Alfredo Pasta

Bacon, cheese, tomatoes, pasta, and chicken. Did I mention the cheese sauce?


Hello August. Or should I say goodbye? You've come and go so quickly. Is it really the fourth Monday? It's a good thing I remember it was time to make my Secret Recipe Club pick last night!

I was tickled when I got my assignment this month! I was assigned Fantastical Sharing ofRecipes and she had me last month! Too fun! I perused her sight and was immediately drawn to her Bacon Chicken Alfredo Pasta. It doesn't hurt that I always put bacon in my alfredo! I did enjoy that she had a different take and make it into a cheddar and parmesan sauce instead of just a parmesan sauce! I added a twist and replaced the parmesan with asiago. Feel free to use your favorite tomato as well. My cherry tomato plant is between batches at the moment, and yesterday morning I found this guy. Grr. It's going to be a bit longer before I have new tomatoes.




This recipe looks complicated from its long ingredient list, but don't be discouraged. It's easy to make and delicious!

Bacon Chicken Alfredo Pasta

Ingredients:
2 chicken bone-in chicken breasts, baked at 400ºF for 45 minutes or until done (or leftover rotisserie chicken)
1 cup diced ham
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 slices of your favorite bacon
1 tomato of your choice
1 crown of broccoli
8 ounces pasta of your choosing (elbow macaroni works well)
Shaved or grated parmesan cheese, for passing

Sauce:
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken broth (I make mine with water and chicken bouillon)
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
1 cup grated asiago cheese
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon salt

Directions:
From a cold skillet over medium heat, fry bacon until crispy (or your desired done-ness), place on paper towels to drain and set aside. Remove all but one teaspoon of bacon grease from the skillet and add diced ham. Sprinkle a tablespoon of brown sugar on top of the ham, and toss until the ham is golden and the brown sugar has caramelized. Remove ham from skillet and set aside. Add broccoli and saute quickly until brown on the edges. Chop or shred the chicken and chop the tomato. Set aside.

Over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add 2 tablespoons flour, salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder and whisk together with the butter until bubbly. Continue whisking, and slowly add the milk, cream, and the chicken broth. Whisk constantly to prevent lumps. Continue whisking until the sauce has thickened. Turn heat to low, and add the grated cheddar and Parmesan cheese, one handful at a time, stirring constantly. Make sure the cheese is melted before your next addition. Once melted and mixed thorougly, turn your heat to the lowest temperature and cover. Prepare your pasta until al dente. Drain well.

Plate the pasta, and serve the sauce over the top. Crumble your bacon on top of the sauce, and also top with ham, broccoli, tomatoes and grated parmesan cheese.


You can choose to serve it all in one dish or as a pasta with customizable toppings. 


THOUGHTS:
My word I have a lot of dirty dishes! Next time I'll combine it all into one dish (minus the tomatoes) and serve it all mixed up to prevent the use of so many bowls! In the meantime, it was easy and delicious! The sugared ham was a nice foil to the broccoli and cheese. The tomatoes brightened things up and kept the dish from being too heavy. Overall, it was great!

I have a lot of leftovers, and I'm still debating what to do with them. I've combined everything into one dish (except the tomatoes of course) and am contemplating eating them cold for lunch tomorrow (yes, I like mac and cheese cold). OR I could put it in a baking dish, crumble more bacon on top with a bit more cheese and bake it for forty-five minutes at 350. One pot mac and cheese! Many thanks to Fantastical Sharing of Recipes for sharing this outstanding dish!

VERDICT:
Not-bad-and-very-filling: 1 vote*
Hey-that's-pretty-good: 1 vote


*Bender's vote changed the next day. Now it's more along the lines of Man-this-is-awesome-it's terrific-you-should-always-serve-it-all-mixed-up-after-the-sauce-has-thickened!

Yummy cheesy goodness!


30 July 2012

July Secret Recipe Club: Baked Caprese Salad



Baked Caprese Salad
You'd think I wouldn't be surprised when the fourth Monday of the month rolls around these days. I should be accustomed to how fast months go by. But I'm not. And I got caught off guard. Again. But never fear! This delightful Baked Caprese Salad came together in no time flat and totally hit the spot!


Ain't nothin' better than a juicy tomato. 
This month's Secret Recipe Club assignment the fun blog The Adventures of an Epic Baker. She's got tons of great recipes and I found myself drawn to all of her cheesy, tomatoey dishes: Asparagus, Cherry Tomatoes in a White Wine Goat Cheese Sauce; Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil Couscous; Caprese-Esque Pasta. I had a four hour drive home from a wedding shower today (totally worth it to see so much of my family!) and wanted a fast and easy dinner. I really wanted the pasta, but alas, no wine can be purchased on Sunday, and I didn't think in advance.


So I perused The Adventures of an Epic Baker one last time and picked out the Baked Caprese Salad. I make something similar that I fondly call Cheesy Bread. But this recipe elevates Cheesy Bread to the next level. Yum. Of note, the grocery store was out of basil. And well, I haven't started my herb garden yet. Oops. I picked up parsley instead and loved the grassy, fresh taste. Would basil have been better? Of course!


After reading the author's comments, I made several small tweaks. Enjoy!


Tomatoes on toast? Yes, please!




Baked Caprese Salad
lightly adapted from The Adventures of an Epic Baker


Ingredients:
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
5 thick slices Italian bread
1 ½ teaspoons olive oil
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Directions:


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Brush olive oil on bread on one side in an even layer. Bake for 5 minutes or until lightly toasted. 
  3. Remove from oven and turn the oven to broil. 
  4. Layer lightly salted chopped tomatoes and torn mozzarella pieces on the bread pieces, piling your ingredients to the height of your liking. Lightly salt and pepper the cheese.
  5. Return to the oven until the cheese is melted (your oven is on broil, start checking after one minute!). If you prefer your cheese bubbly and brown, go for it! Sprinkle liberally with herb of your choice and serve. 




THOUGHTS:
There is something about tomatoes and mozzarella that just makes my belly happy.


VERDICT:
It's-delicious-but-I-should-have-added-garlic: 1 vote!


Cheesy, tomatoey goodness!



25 June 2012

Baked Peanut Butter Oatmeal: June Secret Recipe Club



Baked Peanut Butter Oatmeal in an all edges brownie pan



It's time for Group D's Secret Recipe Club June reveal! I have to admit I was quite intimidated this month! I was assigned the woman who just became SRC's head honcho! Yikes. But it's all good. I love April's style of cooking: “While you wont find any gourmet recipes here, you WILL find yummy, down-home cooking, that is easy to prepare and taste great.” Now that's a cooking philosophy I can get behind.

I scoured the Recipe page of Angel's Homestead looking for something I could make from pantry ingredients. It was so hot today that I couldn't bare the thought of getting out of the house and driving to the grocery store for extra ingredients. I'm also on a quest to find more breakfast stuff that I might actually be willing to eat. I kind of abhor cereal. My friends think I'm a freak, but I just can't stand soggy cereal. I can definitely go for a crunchy granola with Greek yogurt and blueberries, but a girl can only eat that so many mornings. And the option at work is an egg and cheese biscuit. I admit, I go for that way too many days out of the work week. So, I decided to try out one of April's baked oatmeals.

I had to make a few changes because I only had steel cut oats in the house. My changes were made purely to accommodate the extra liquid and extra cooking time required for the steel cut oats.



The all edge pan was not a brilliant stroke of genius, but I've had
it for six months and decided it was high time to use it!


Baked Peanut Butter Oatmeal
adapted from Angel's Homestead, originally from Tidy Mom

Ingredients:
¾ cup steel cut oats
¼ cup brown sugar (can use more if you like it sweeter)
2 ½ cups milk (pick your favorite)
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
½ cup peanut butter

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8x8 pan with cooking spray.
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and stir well. Pour into pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until set.

THOUGHTS:
I actually used 3 cups of milk instead of 2 ½, but found the liquid to be a bit too much. I hadn't thought about accounting for the liquid of the egg when I decided how much milk to use. Tastewise though, I thought the oatmeal was spot on. I enjoyed the texture of the oats (I'm a steel-cut-newbie). As long as I thought of the oatmeal as oatmeal instead of a cookie, I found that I quite enjoyed it. Bender was expecting dessert when he tried it, so he thought it was a fail. But I disagree!

VERDICT:
A-great-alternative-to-instant-oatmeal: 1 vote!
Eww: 1 vote

Breakfast is served!


28 May 2012

Secret Recipe Club May 2012: Fanned Potatoes

Fanned Potatoes with Sirloin Roast and Brussels Sprouts


Hello last Monday of the month! It's a holiday, I'm on vacation, and I'm enjoying my time away. But don't worry, before I left for vacation I whipped up my recipe for Secret Recipe Club!

I drooled over my assigned blog this month, Lynsey Lou's. She's got a great selection of sides, pastas, and desserts. Frankly, I could keep going about the deliciousness, but I want to introduce you to these fabulous fanned potatoes I chose.



Be very careful slicing those potatoes, most likely you'll go completely through
the  potato a few times. Don't sweat the small stuff. 


adapted from Lynsey Lou
1 russet potato
1 onion, thinly sliced
butter
salt
pepper
garlic (if fresh, minced, otherwise powder)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  2. Thinly slice the potato, not quite all the way through so that the potato is able to fan out.
  3. Cover the potato with pats of butter (1-2 tablespoons), and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic to taste. Drape over onions if desired.
  4. Roast the potato until cooked through, about 1 hour.
  5. Enjoy!

THOUGHTS:
I love potatoes, and these didn't disappoint. These potatoes are easy, inexpensive, and have a lovely mouthfeel. They are crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. The only thing that would make these better would be more fat, preferably in the forms of bacon and cheese. But if you are going for a low fat healthy version, feel free to just use butter.

VERDICT:
Not-too-bad: 1 vote!
The-possibility-for-stuffing-these-potatoes-are-endless: 1 vote!

I'm all over the one skillet cooking.

30 April 2012

Secret Recipe Club: Goat Cheese Marinara



Goat Cheese with Roasted Tomatoes

Can you believe another month has come and gone? I can't. A lot has changed in the last month. I now have a full time job and am headed towards a permanent position. And we are looking for a house. We've been going to open houses every weekend since we moved to Nashville and now have an agent. So yes, things are moving along.

In the chaos, my cooking has fallen by the wayside. The first week out with agent, I cooked twice. While that is not a small amount for some people, I normally cook 7-9 times per week. So twice was just nuts to me. In the meantime, we've been exploring the restaurants in the area where we are house hunting. Because of course we aren't house hunting where we live currently. That would make WAY too much sense. What can I say, we crave a bit more urban of a lifestyle than where we are now.

Oh, but this all leads us back to Secret Recipe Club! Woot! I love participating in this club every month. And I adore that I was able to pick a recipe that fits with my current out-of-the-kitchen lifestyle. So Tasty, So Yummy has so many choices that I didn't know where to start. So I looked at it when I got my assignment and then didn't look at it again until the Saturday morning before our post date. I didn't have to scroll very far into her new stuff before I started drooling. You see, she posted a dish that I've had on my list to make for TWO YEARS! Two years, I tell you! And I came thisclose to making it. Alas, my weekend plans changed and Anthony Bourdain's Roti de Porc au Lait has yet to happen.

But don't fret, I still adored what I made! As I thumbed through her labels, I found one that sang to me: goat cheese! You see, I had already planned to make my Risotto Primavera. I never use the full 4 ounce log of goat cheese in my risotto and was looking for a way to use the leftovers. I had every intention of serving this Goat Cheese Marinara with toast, but the more I looked at it, the more it looked like the perfect risotto topping. And thus, that's how it was served. Oh, and the reason I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned as recommended by So Tasty, So Yummy? I knew I'd be the only one eating it and wanted to scale down without wasting the rest of a can. I'll be using the can when I make this for a crowd. Do check out the original recipe!

Fresh tomatoes with salt, pepper, and sugar

adapted from So Tasty,So Yummy
serves 2

Ingredients:
1 tomato, diced
¼ tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 ½ ounces goat cheese

Directions:
Preheat toaster oven to 400ºF. Toss diced tomato with sugar and spices. Place in small ramekin and bake 15 minutes or until tomatoes are juicy and soft. Add goat cheese to top of the tomato mixture and return dish to toaster oven. Bake another 15 minutes or until goat cheese is browned on top.

Serve with toasted slices of French bread or as a topper to your favorite Risotto Primavera.

THOUGHTS:
Oh so easy to make and oh so delicious. The acidity of the tomatoes played off the goat cheese beautifully. And added to the risotto? Magnifico!

VERDICT:
Yummy-as-a-dip-or-a-risotto-topping: 1 vote!
I-don't-feel-like-trying-something-new-tonight: 1 vote

Goat cheese marinara turned risotto topping

26 March 2012

Secret Recipe Club: Homemade Fajita Seasoning



I used to love making those layered sand thingys!
It's Secret Recipe Club time! Believe it or not, I have four dishes ready to go on the blog, but have failed in the writing-it-up stage. I seem to have writer's block. Or at least, that's what I'm calling my I'm-too-busy-obsessing-over-house-hunting-to-focus-on-anything-else brain. :) But alas, Secret Recipe Club beckoned and I temporarily came out of my house obsession to make some scrumptious food!

Secret Recipe Club comes around once a month on my blog, but you can check out Secret Recipe Club creations 4 Mondays a month! Are you a blogger interested in joining in the fun? Sign up here!

I have to admit I was quite intimidated when I saw the blog I was assigned: Anne Jisca's Healthy Pursuits! This woman is pretty amazing. She grinds her own flours and her normal kitchen stock is incredible. One day I'll be like her! I drooled over Anne's breads (spelt biscuits, Hearty Harvest Bread, Rye Bread, Spelt Bread), and came thisclose to making her granola bars. I'll definitely have to try out her recipe when I finally decide I'm ready to make granola bars!

So what did I go for? A recipe where I had everything in the pantry! Woot! I love it when that happens! I was also able to tie it into a Double Take with Tabitha. I love multi-tasking recipes! Almost as much as I love spice rubs! So yes, I picked a spice rub-ish. We'll call this one a spice mix :)


All Shook Up!

Homemade Fajita Seasoning

2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp cayenne
¼ tsp red pepper flakes

Combine ingredients in an air-tight container. Two heaping tablespoons is equivalent to one packet.

THOUGHTS:
I modified my fajita seasoning because I was using the crock pot and cooking the chicken directly in chicken broth, so I did not need chicken bouillon. Also, I left out the cornstarch because I wasn't sure how it would hold up in the crock pot. If someone else knows, do let me in on your secrets!

In the future, I would stick to Anne's use of the fajita seasoning rather than going for shredded chicken in the crock pot. Check out her original post for the recipe and directions! Also, I think the mix would make an excellent rub on grilled chicken for tacos. The fajita seasoning has a nice balance of flavors. If you like heat on your fajitas, feel free to double the cayenne and/or red pepper flakes.



VERDICT:
The-fajita-seasoning-is-a-hit: 2 votes!

Pulled Chicken Tacos with Queso Blanco, Tomatoes, Lettuce, and Salsa

25 March 2012

Double Take: Crock Pot Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer
Welcome to the fourth week of the month! (-ish. I know, I'm late with my post again. Oh wait, I'm an entire month late! Erm, so yeah, welcome to the fourth week of the month!) That's Crock Pot week in Double Take world! This week we bring you one of my favorite Indian dishes: Palak Paneer (spinach with cheese). One of my coworkers in Germany was from the Kashmir region of India, and she filled me in on the difference between saag paneer and palak paneer. In Kashmir, saag refers to the greens of kohlrabi whereas palak refers to spinach. That really surprised me. I'd always thought they were both spinach. You learn something new every day!

This particular version of palak paneer taught me that I definitely have a favorite style of palak paneer. Some palak paneer dishes are creamy whereas others are all spinach. Guess which one I like. Of course, the creamy one. So. I won't be making this recipe again, but I'm really glad I tried it. I also took the opportunity to teach you how to make paneer. Yum. It's always better than buying it from the store! At least the stores I've shopped at. Have you purchased awesome premade paneer before? If so, let me know where to find it!

I used a Crock Pot liner to help reduce the mess.
Don't use the liner if you plan to use an immersion blender. 


Saag Paneer: Curried Spinach with Fresh Cheese
adapted from The Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singla

Ingredients:
Homemade Cheese!
2 pounds fresh spinach, washed well (avoid using baby spinach)
2 large yellow or red onions, roughly chopped
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes (if no sugar added tomatoes, add 1 tablespoon sugar)
1 (4-inch) piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
20 cloves (one whole head) garlic, peeled
3-4 serrano peppers, ribs and seeds removed
4 tablespoons ground cumin
1 heaping tablespoon red chili powder
1 heaping tablespoon garam masala (an Indian spice blend available at most grocery stores, or any speciality market)
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
Pan-fried cubed paneer from ½ gallon of milk, recipe to follow
2 heaping tablespoons fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
Salt to taste, up to 1 tablespoon

Directions:

  1. Place 1/2 the washed spinach into the bowl of a 5 quart slow-cooker. You don't need to dry the spinach, or even remove the stems. They get blended in the end. Top with the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT FOR SALT: onions, tomatoes, ginger, peeled garlic, chilies, and spices. Put the rest of the spinach on top. The bowl will be brimming with spinach. Squish it down and put the cover on. It will cook down quickly.
  2. Cook on high for 3 hours (or low for 4-5). Stir once or twice if you're around to get any spinach sticking on the sides from drying out too badly.
  3. Blend until smooth with an immersion blender, or transfer to a blender and puree. Make sure the curry is smooth and well blended. Return the puree to the slow-cooker.
  4. Taste the curry and add salt to taste if needed. Continue to cook on low for another 2 hours. The dish might look done, but the extra cooking allows the flavors to fully develop.
  5. After cooking, add about 12 ounces of cubed fresh or fried paneer to the curry. Add the fenugreek leaves. Turn the slow cooker off, then replace the lid and let sit for about 10 minutes to gently heat the cheese.
  6. Serve with rice, roti, or naan. (Preferably naan, if you're me)
  7. The recipe yields about 10 cups so you will have leftovers for lunch the next day.



Your Crock Pot will be very very full.

THOUGHTS:
Not my favorite way to make saag paneer. I have a recipe (unfortunately I haven't shared it with you yet) that uses one pan and frozen spinach. It takes 30 minutes. I'll be keeping that one on hand and might possibly lose this one. Without a stick blender, this recipes makes a complete mess out of your kitchen. No fun.

However, if you eat the leftovers for breakfast with a glass of V8, you've already had 4 servings of veggies in one meal! Power breakfast!

Oh, I did find garam masala at my local grocery store, but you can find it cheaper at World Market :)

VERDICT:
I'll-stick-with-my-other-recipe: 1 vote!


Cheese and spinach with basmati rice.

27 February 2012

Secret Recipe Club: Ewwy Cashewy Chocolate Bark


Ewwy, cashewy, bacon bark

Secret Recipe Club is back, baby!

Don't worry, I'm not posting late for Secret Recipe Club, I just switch groups from B to D. Group B posted the same week as Daring Cooks and I found myself unable to complete both. When the opportunity presented itself, I opted to leave group B and try out D. And I'm very pleased with that decision. Want to join in the Secret Recipe Club fun where we cook, bake, blog and share? Head on over to the Secret Recipe Club!

18 February 2012

Announcement!

Special Cooking Challenge for my Thirtieth Year!

I've had a post brewing in the back of my mind for over six months now, but I haven't actually sat down to write it. And it should have gone up January 27th. Oops. I stumbled across a fun idea on some other blogs (and it's been long enough that I have no idea which blogs). A challenge if you will. Pick 30 items to make during your 30th year. Not just any old recipe, but things that I've never made before because they've always slightly intimidated me. I'm now three weeks into my thirtieth year and it's time to make my intentions public if I have any hopes of completing the challenge. Incidentally, I picked a item off my list that meshed with my ingredient of the month for February. Below is my tentative list. It is definitely subject to change :) Six months ago, this list was at around 33, but I've made several of them items on the list since then. 

Thirty Intimidating Recipes in my Thirtieth Year
  1. French Onion Soup 
  2. Jam 
  3. Sticky Toffee Pudding 
  4. Barbecue Pulled Pork (including the Barbecue Sauce) 
  5. Pretzels 
  6. Crackers 
  7. Gelato 
  8. Challah 
  9. Savory Souffle 
  10. Layered Cake 
  11. Pita Bread 
  12. Salsa 
  13. Poblano Rellenos 
  14. Ricotta 
  15. Authentic Enchiladas (with flour tortillas) 
  16. Creamy Salad Dressing 
  17. Fried Okra 
  18. Mole 
  19. Mayonnaise or Aioli 
  20. Vanilla Extract 
  21. Pickles (Cucumber and Okra) 
  22. Kimchi 
  23. Rhubarb 
  24. Fudge 
  25. Pork Fried Rice 
  26. Pots de Creme 
  27. Pho 
  28. Beer Tasting Dinner 
  29. Cheese 
  30. Brisket 

Is there a item you think I'm missing? What's on your bucket list to make?  

I'll be creating a special page on the blog to link to my 30 in 30 recipes so you can see them all in one place throughout the year! 

17 February 2012

Double Take: Meyer Lemon Aioli

Pan con Aioli/ Brot mit Aioli/ Bread with Aioli

When Tabitha suggested Meyer lemons as the Ingredient of the Month for February, I was excited. I've never worked with Meyer Lemons before and was thrilled to get the excuse. I had no idea what I wanted to do with them, so I set about looking up recipes. I looked and looked and even found a great article in the LA Times with 100 different Meyer Lemon recipes. I took note of several completely ignored my list. Today was the day to post our blogs. I'd acquired the Meyer lemons two weeks ago from Trader Joe's (I haven't seen them at Publix), so they were on hand. I just needed to find a quick recipe. And when I was shopping for beverages today at Publix I got a brilliant idea. Pizza dough was BOGO, and I went from there.

10 February 2012

Double Take: Crispy, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Crispy, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies served on a cake plate
Welcome to week two of the month: Featured Blogger week! For today's post, Tabitha and I not only picked a blogger, but a theme: COOKIES. (Make sure you read that word with a Cookie Monster accent) I adore cookies, but I tend to stick pretty faithfully to two recipes.
  1. Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies
  2. Reese's Peanut Butter Chip Chocolate Cookies
They are both good cookies, though as we learned earlier, they don't always translate well with non-American ingredients. I have definitely become a fan of chilling my cookie dough and did so for this recipe as well.

05 February 2012

Double Take: Black Bread

Black Bread

Welcome to the first week of the month! From here on out (at least for the foreseeable future) it will be known as Bread and Cheese Week for our Double Takes! For our first installment of Bread and Cheese Week, we are bringing you Black Bread! Aka Pumpernickel! Wow. That's a lot of exclamation points. Please forgive my excitement.

02 February 2012

Double Take: Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs

Barbecue Ribs, Golden Macaroni and Cheese, and Broccoli

There is something ridiculously satisfying about ribs. And I love to cook them. In Winston-Salem, I learned to grill ribs. In Germany, I learned to oven cook ribs. In Nashville, I've learned my favorite way to make ribs: a slow cooker/broiler combo.

I had issues with flare-ups on the grill, leading to the ribs cooking unevenly. When you cook them in the oven, the temperature is controlled, there are no flare-ups, but you also lack the crispy crunch on the outside of the ribs. Who doesn't like a little char?

You don't really need a cleaver to cut these, but it's fun anyway!
By combining the slow cooker method with a trip under the broiler, these ribs turn out perfect every time! And as long as you like your barbecue sauce, you are good to go! I'm working on finding the right barbecue sauce for our tastes. For this experiment, I used Jack Daniels Original barbecue sauce. Do you have a favorite?

These ribs are delicious served up with Golden Macaroni and Cheese and a green vegetable of choice. I recommend fried okra or green beans. Or collard greens. Or all of the above. Mhmm, green vegetables.


Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs
adapted from Mmm is for Mommy and America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution
serves 2

Ingredients:
Vegetable oil spray 
1½ Tbsp sweet paprika (Hungarian)
1 tbsp light brown sugar, lightly packed 
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper 
1 tsp salt 
1 tsp pepper
2 lbs pork (baby) back ribs - leave the membrane on the ribs to help hold them together
1 cup barbecue sauce (your favorite)

Directions:

  1. Spray the inside of the crock pot with the vegetable oil spray. 
  2. In a small bowl, mix together paprika, brown sugar, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Rub this mixture all over both sides of your ribs well. Arrange ribs in the slow cooker by standing them up against the wall of the stoneware pot, thicker side down and meaty side against the pot. 
  3. Pour barbecue sauce over the ribs, cover and cook for 6-8 hours on low (I did 6 hours and they were perfect).
Six to Eight Hours Later:
  1. Very carefully (as they are incredibly tender) remove the ribs to a baking pan which you have lined with foil and put a rack on, bone side up. Set to the side. 
  2. Skim any fat that has risen to the top and strain all of the remaining juices from the slow cooker through a mesh strainer into a small saucepan. Bring to boil and allow to simmer and reduce by about a third, approximately 15 minutes. 
  3. Put your oven's broiler on to heat up and make sure that there is an oven rack about 10 inches below the broiler element. When the broiler is preheated, brush the ribs with sauce and broil for 3 minutes. Take them out and very carefully flip them over, brush with sauce and broil again, meat side up, for approximately 6 minutes, taking them out every two minutes to baste with more sauce. Serve any remaining sauce on the side with the ribs. 
Yep, that's all the liquid you need.
THOUGHTS:
I had to change up the times a bit because my broiler was extra hot. If your ribs are not getting super charred in two minutes, feel free to up the time to three minutes between batches of sauce. The broiling step really does elevate the ribs. I tried them before broiling so I could let you know if all the extra work is worth it. It is. Indeed, it is. The caramelization of the sauce just gives it that extra umph. They were boring without it. 

VERDICT:
These-are-really-good: 1 vote!
I-like-the-method-but-I'll-keep-looking-for-the-perfect-BBQ-sauce: 1 vote! 

Just a gentle nudge is all it took to pull out the bone. 
To see Tabitha's take on Slow Cooker Ribs, head on over to Double the Garlic
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