Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Baby Carrots (pg. 114)

We accidentally bought frozen bone-in split chicken breasts a few weeks ago (instead of just boneless, skinless) so I looked through the cookbook to find a recipe calling for them....and chose this one.  It was really easy, but we will not be making this again.  It was just "ok" - not great, not terrible....just....mediocre.  The worst part was that I was still hungry - no, starving - after we ate!  (yes, I am pregnant but still...)  We ended up going to Sonic about an hour later, LOL.  Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad had I actually remembered to make some bread to go with it, but it just was not very filling.

(the stuff on top is flavored butter - part of this recipe, not from an additional one)

Fettuccini w/Shrimp, Tarragon & Cream (pg.173) and Quick Cheesy Breadsticks (pg.166)

I love shrimp + pasta dishes....and this one was delicious!  This is the first time I've ever cooked with (or even seen) tarragon.  I've heard of it but just never used it.  When I was mincing it, I thought it smelled a little licorice, actually.  I thought maybe my sniffer was deceiving me (b/c I'm pregnant), but have to admit I was a little worried that my pasta was going to taste like licorice (which I hate).  But, as I already said - it was delicious and did not taste like licorice at all!  (sidenote:  I looked up tarragon on Wikipedia of course, and it turns out that I am not does have "an aromatic property reminiscent of anise" which has a licorice-like flavor.  So, I was right - it does smell like licorice!)

I used their suggested method of not cooking the shrimp all the way (initially) as it will finish cooking in a covered bowl while you finish the rest of the dish.  They were perfect!  We will definitely be making this one again.  (and it did take me a bit longer than 30 minutes but that extra time involved prepping the shrimp).

(camera flash washed this picture out - it is way more appetizing than it looks!)

I served this with the quick cheesy breadsticks on page 166.  We did like these but I need to do a few things differently next time I make them.  It calls for one pound of pizza dough, rolled out to 1/2 inch thick.  My husband (who does the grocery shopping - huge blessing!) brought home two cans/rolls of the Pillsbury pizza dough and each one was 11 ounces.  I didn't think we'd need both, so I just used one.  I was lazy and did not re-roll the dough to get the proper thickness of 1/2 inch, so my breadsticks were thin and a bit crunchy (although I cooked them for less time than it said).  Next time, I will make them the proper thickness so they should be more soft and bread-y.  I think I might alter the cheese a little too....maybe add more or a different kind (shredded instead of grated parmesan, maybe?) b/c I did not think they were cheesy enough.  I also think they could use some garlic!  I do have a question for anyone reading there another kind of pizza dough besides the kind that comes in the can/roll (the kind packaged like biscuits)??  Not sure if we used the right kind.

and the two together - it was yummy!

Maque Choux with Chicken and Kielbasa (pg. 80)

I made this a couple weeks ago and thought I'd be the first one to post about it.....and then Darby beat me to it!  :)  We really liked this dish and would make it again.  I have never in my life heard of "maque choux" and as the book says and Darby mentioned, it is a Cajun dish that "few people outside of Lousiana have ever heard of."  My husband is Lousiana born and raised and even he had never heard of this...I guess he isn't very "Cajun" afterall!

The one boo-boo I made was putting too much chicken in it.  How could that be a boo-boo, you might ask....well, it's supposed to be a rich stew...and mine was not "stew-y" at all!  I guesstimated (incorrectly) on the 1 pound of chicken it calls for and I probably actually put closer to 2 lbs, so there was not enough liquid to make it a stew.  I actually added more chicken broth at the end after I'd added the chicken and realized that I'd put too much...and there was still not enough liquid.  BUT, it had a great flavor anyway so we still enjoyed it!  Just make sure you don't over-do the chicken like I did!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Skillet Vermicelli with Chorizo Sausage and Black Beans ~ page 150

I agree with Darby,...this was very delicious. I think the main intriguing thing about this recipe is that it is is not like something I have made before. New taste and texture combos that I don't usually put together...spaghetti and black beans? That just sounds odd together...but trust me it works. I couldn't find chorizo in a link, only made fresh in the deli part of HEB. But I'm glad I found it that way because I think I really liked it and it was cheap. See photo sausage came wrapped in butcher paper and looked like a hunk of ground beef!
I think the name of this dish is all wrong...first of all it is way too long. No recipe should have 8 words in the title! I like the title of the recipe that they got adapted it from..."Sopa Seca" that is just fun to say! I actually googled is a Mexican pasta dish, our new name for it is Mexican spaghetti! It gets right to the point. I will definitely make this again...the kids gobbled it up even though I was a little heavy handed with the minced chipotles! Even though it looks like my pan was too big, when you dump all that pasta in you need the tall sides to stir it all together so that it doesn't all end up on the stove top. I think this might even be a great travel dish, if you had to take dinner to someone who maybe just had a baby or was sick. Loved it! --Carissa

Skillet Tuna Noodle Casserole ~ page 144

I made this while Adam was out of town knowing that he wouldn't be crazy about it....When he was a little lad, his mom made meatloaf and tuna casserole way too often and burned him out, so I never get to make those recipes. I saved him the trauma and made it when it was just us Robertson girls last weekend. I thought it was good. I'd make it again, especially since it was so fast, I think it was more like 20 minutes...although I forgot to buy mushrooms, and that probably saved a bit of time since I left them out. As you can see in the pic below, the 5 year old cleaned her bowl and gave it 2 thumbs up! --Carissa

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spanish Style Chicken and Rice (pg. 111)

This was my second time making this one and my husband and I both love it!  It is so good and so simple.  The only downside to this recipe is that the saffron (we bought threads, not powder) is expensive.  It's been a while since we bought it so I do not remember the exact price, but it was not cheap (I want to say between $10-15 for 1 gram of it).  But, at least "a little (pinch) goes a long way" so you are not having to buy it each time you need it.  I have never used saffron and wondered why it was so pricey.  I read the label on the jar we bought and this is what is says "Threads of Saffron are the gold of spices.  Precious and rare, Saffron comes from a lovely violet crocus.  Only three stigmas, or threads, are hand picked from each flower.  7,500 flowers are needed to produce one pound of Saffron!"  Interesting!  (if you're ever bored, you can find some more interesting tid-bits about it on Wikipedia.  am I a nerd for doing that?  LOL)

Obviously, the first time we made this we used the saffron (that's when we bought it and the only reason we even own saffron). The second time we made it, neither of us could find the saffron so I left it out. Needless to say, since it was not cheap, we were not happy about it's mysterious disappearance.  I thought that I must have accidentally thrown it away but could not fathom why or how I would have done that!  (oddly enough, I just found it today....weeks the spice cabinet where we had both looked!) Anyway, having made it both with and without the saffron, I have to say that the saffron does give it an extra "something" and we definitely preferred it with the saffron! (but, if you don't want to spend the money on the saffron, it still tastes good without it).

(yes, my chicken has already been partially eaten in this photo)

Here's the brand we bought at HEB...

and the little bag inside that contains the "precious" threads!

All American Mini Meatloaves p.234

We really enjoyed these!  I made the regular recipe, and used the saltine crackers (no salt added).  I used 1/2 ground pork and 1/2 ground beef- my HEB doesn't sell a meatloaf mix and veal was too expensive this trip.  Because the sauce has sugar in it, make sure you don't leave them in the oven too long, ours were very crispy on the bottom, but we scraped it off and all three ate the rest!  We'll be making these again :)

Skillet Chicken Pot Pie p. 115

Don't have much to say about this was pretty easy, but it wasn't one of our favorites at all!  Actually, I think I'll take the little bit of extra time to make regular biscuits or Pioneer Woman's easy pie crust and her chicken pot pie recipe that we love!  This had too thick of a sauce, and not much flavor.  I tried the easy biscuits on page 116 and they were rocks! 

Oh well!  We can't enjoy all of the ones we try!

Chili Question

I have seen chipotle chilies in adobo sauce throughout this cookbook, but it is the first time I have run into this ingredient. I got brave and made a recipe using them tonight, but I’m not sure if I’m using the best thing. I used the brand La Costena that I found in the cultural section of the grocery store. Are there better options? Once you open a can how long do they last? What other tips could you offer advice on about this? Thanks for your help ladies!

Skillet Vermicelli with Chorizo Sausage and Black Beans (page 150)

This is officially our new favorite recipe from this cook book. The simplicity factor aside, this recipe was delicious! I did not want to put my fork down (I kept sneaking back into the kitchen once dinner was over! In fact, I’m willing to bet money that I’ll sneak back to the kitchen for another spoonful before I finish writing this post). I don’t think anything needs to change with this recipe; it’s perfect on its own. Cook’s Illustrated really hit the nail on the head with this one. I didn’t add the cheese to the entire pot; instead, I just let people sprinkle what they want on their own plate. I provided sour cream, but nobody used it. **FYI- I just tip-toed into the kitchen for another bite :-) ** This was fantastic and a must-try; I will be returning to page 150 for this recipe many times in the future.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Simple Saute'ed Chicken Breasts ~ page 191

Like I mentioned in the other post, I diced this up and added it to the skillet pasta dish I made. It was really juicy and even had a slight crispness to the crust that was great. I will definitely be making this again and trying out one of those yummy sounded pan sauces! It worked great in the skillet dish cuz it helped the sauce to thicken up even more since it had flour on the outside. Give this recipe a try! --Carissa

Creamy Skillet Penne with Mushrooms and Asparagus ~ page 143

Morgan and I were thinking the same in our cooking....but Morgan's picture looked better I think! I added the simple sauted chicken diced up into mine so Adam thought he was getting a heartier meal. I thought this was good, I'd make it again. It was super easy, mine took a touch longer to make, but I was also sauteing chicken breasts (I'll put those in a separate post)
The only think Adam said was, that it sure had alot of asparagus...I had to get him to clarify if that was a good thing or bad thing...I was under the impression that you could never have too much asparagus. :) He thought differently. So other than that, comment, the family gobbled it up! Lillian the 5 year old especially gobbled it up. I didn't have the exact mushrooms the recipe called for, so I used these...they did just fine. Here is a pic in case some of you aren't familiar with dried mushrooms. --Carissa

Monday, April 18, 2011

Southwestern Mini Meatloaves (pg. 235) and Skillet Mac & Cheese (pg. 145)

So we have tried several different meatloaf recipes over the years, and our favorite is the Pioneer Woman's!  Since we like it so much, we haven't tried any new meatloaf recipes since....BUT, in the spirit of trying new things, we decided to try this "30 minute" version.  I was originally going to just do the "All-American" version, but I just can't see how it could even come close to PW' I decided to try the "Southwestern" variation on page 235 since I knew it would have a different taste.  I think I might make this again, but it will not replace our favorite!  It was pretty good, though....different in a good way....I've never had a southwestern-style meatloaf with green chilis, chipotle chilis, and cilantro.  They warn against using just ground beef b/c it will just taste like hamburgers....but, that's what we always use for meatloaf so I stuck with it.  I would have to disagree with that warning, at least for this southwestern version because the addition of the two kinds of chilis and the cilantro kept it from being boring.  It definitely did not taste like hamburgers!  One issue I did have was flipping the loaves over after the first side had been browned.  I don't think I formed my loaves as "tightly" as I should have because they started falling apart when I tried to flip that was tricky!  Just make sure you form them well and really squish the meat together!

We really liked the mac and cheese...and so did my 20 month old son! (who is picky)  I will definitely make this again.  It was very easy and very tasty.  Not too much to say about it other than that!

The meatloaf doesn't look all that appetizing in this photo, but without all the proper lighting and angles, it is kinda hard to make a chunk of meat topped with ketchup glaze look good! :)

Simple Sauteed Chicken Breasts (pg. 191) with White Wine Sauce (pg. 196)

I've made these several times already, so obviously we like them!  They are exactly what the name says....simple!  I would recommend using thinner chicken breasts.  I used some pretty thick ones the first time I made these and it took longer than it says to cook.  Also, be careful not to over-salt these, especially if you are making the sauce b/c it also has salt in it (I made that mistake once).  I like that these are so versatile and can be served with many different kinds of sides.  I have served them with the creamy skillet penne w/mushrooms and asparagus (pg. 142), and it was a yummy meal.  This particular time, I wanted the simplest meal possible so I just made a Lipton rice packet.  Not exactly gourmet, but we needed a really quick meal!

Creamy Skillet Penne w/Mushrooms & Asparagus (pg. 143)

This was my second time making this pasta dish and we love it!  It's been a few weeks since I made this (I'm behind on my blogging!), but I do believe it took me longer than 30 minutes to make.....both times I made it.  There's just quite a few steps you have to do that makes it take longer (at least for me) - rehydrating the dried porcini mushrooms, trimming and cutting asparagus, and mincing a few other things.  Since this has white wine in it, I think it pairs well with the simple sauteed chicken breasts (pg. 191) w/white wine sauce (pg. 196).

Simple Pan-Seared Pork Chops (page 208) and Worcestershire & Butter Sauce (page 196)

Well the pork chops were exactly like the title suggests: simple. I’m really not sure it gets easier than this. They would probably be delicious on their own, but I added the Worcestershire and butter sauce. In the very last step, when you turn the sauce down to low, I added the pork chops back into the sauce so the flavors could mellow together. I totally forgot to add the parsley and it was fine; I’ll try to remember it next time though. I will say that because the Worcestershire sauce is salty enough on its own, you probably don’t need to add anymore. Because I need variety on the plate, I paired the pork chops with rice pilaf and some fresh green beans. This was a “simple” week night meal that I will certainly make again.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Maque Choux (page 80)

The note said that very few are aware of this dish outside of Louisiana. I think we fall into this category: not only have we never heard of this dish, but we don’t even know how to pronounce it. However, this was another delicious one-pot dinner. I can’t believe how easy it was to make, yet still so flavorful. We absolutely loved this dinner and will certainly make it again. I used Hillshire Farms Polish Turkey Kielbasa and it was fantastic!

Skillet Lasagna (page 137)

This recipe is one that is featured in the photo section of the cookbook. After reading the note, where it boasted that this is a fast, one-pot recipe (the exact reason why I hide from lasagna recipes normally), I had to try it. They were right: it is a very fast recipe.

I used my cast iron skillet and it was practically spilling over, so make sure you use a skillet with a top or, what I used, a splatter screen. I will probably make this again, but I would just add a few more things. It was a little boring for us, so next time I will add some oregano and other Italian seasonings and probably some more red pepper flakes.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Kung Pao-Style Shrimp with Ramen ~ page 151

This was quite yummy! I do believe that it came together in 30 minutes also. My kids loved the noodles and we all fought over the leftovers the next day. The sauce had a great flavor. Our only complaint was that it seemed to need something else chunky....It felt like alot of noodles with some shrimp on top. I do think I'll make this again and when I do I think I'll add asparagus pieces or sugar snap peas or snow peas. It just needed a bit more bulk. Very tasty and easy to make. --Carissa

Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Broccoli ~ page 164

I used this as a side dish. It kinda just tasted like spaghetti with garlic and broccoli which I suppose is all it claimed it would taste like! I think it would be boring without the broccoli which one version had you doing. I'll admit it tasted better the next day and even better the day after. I don't think I'd make it again, but don't let that discourage you from trying it yourself. It didn't taste bad, it just didn't knock my socks off. Don't skimp and do less that the 12 cloves of garlic that it calls for. I left a couple cloves out for the kiddos sake, and I think it needed it. --Carissa

30-Minute Chicken Fricassee with Mushrooms (page 76)

This meal is so good you are going to want to lick your plate- I kid you not! I have no idea why I picked this recipe, but I did, & it was wonderful. Instead of microwaving the chicken I boiled it, & I added a little bit more bacon (because for real, who opens a pack of bacon for only 1 piece?!) Anyways, this is delicious & you’ve got to add this to your to-cook list.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Quick and Crunch Breaded Pork Chops p.237

These were super easy and very yummy!  I made them with the quick roasted potatoes and put tarragon (a sweeter spice) on the potatoes to go with the sugar in the pork chop breading. 

Danny is not a big fan of mayonaisse so I was afraid he'd pick up on it- he really didn't!  He said they were yummy :) 

I didn't use Melba toast, I used Panko bread crumbs (my new favorite breading).

P.S.  I didn't make all of these this week- I was a bit behind blogging :)  Sorry!

Easy Cheese Lasagna p. 179

I was very intrigued by this recipe because we make lasagna pretty often.  I didn't read all the way through that it should really be called Microwave Lasagna :)  Oh well!

I didn't have no bake noodles, and usually don't use them in my recipe, so I tried them out- don't do it!  It took about 40 minutes of microwaving time to cook it enough and it soaked up every last bit of liquid from the sauce.  Use the no bake noodles and it should be fine!

It had great flavor and I'll try it again the correct way- a great alternative to the usual one.

I did have a concern that I haven't asked about though...anyone else a bit concerned about all of this microwave cooking with plastic wrap on top?  I thought I'd heard that that wasn't the best for us- or is it just stryrofoam in the microwave?  Just a thought that bounced in my head....

Quick cheesy breadsticks p. 166

These were super easy and very yummy!  I've made something similar before- I would have eaten them with some warm marinara sauce if I'd had some :)  The pepper on them was a nice touch!

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese p. 145

Well... this one didn't go as well for me as it did some of you!  I tried to do half a recipe and used Thomas the Train Rice Pasta noodles (I had them and Brayden was asking for them)- It absorbed all the liquid very quickly, I added some more, but in the end the noodles still didn't cook as much as I'd have liked them to and we didn't have enough cheese sauce.  We'll try this one again the right way!

Skillet Shepherd's Pie p. 118

Shepherd's Pie is one of my favorite dishes.  I used ground lamb meat (look for it near the hamburger meat and they usually have a section of ground lamb, veal, chicken, etc.)  I used a bag of frozen mixed veggies (what I had in the freezer). 

We all really enjoyed the flavors of this dish.  It was VERY flavorful and I think using the lamb and fresh thyme had a lot to do with it.  I usually use hamburger meat and it's pretty bland. 

I didn't have time to brown the potatoes but we all enjoyed it!

Basic Vinaigrette p. 21

We really enjoyed this dressing.  We eat salad with dinner probably 5 times a week and usually use store bought lite dressings- I was excited to give these a try and see how easy they really are.  I started the ingredients in my mini food processor and that didn't do the trick!  You really should use a blender. 

This was easy to make- I used red wine vinegar and slowly added the EVOO (after Darby's comment about it being too strong)- I probbly only added a 1/2 cup of EVOO. 

Very Yummy!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Curry in a Hurry ~ page 257

I made this with my leftovers from the pork tenderloin a few days before. I know the picture doesn't make it look that looked better in real life. It was good, I don't know if I'd say it was super great. It just isn't very saucy..I like my curry dishes to have alot of sauce for the rice to absorb. The flavor was good, and it certainly was done in 30 minutes. Everyone at the table cleaned their bowls except for the 3 year old...but she doesn't count since she is a picky eater! If I made it again, I would add some coconut milk to it to make it creamy and saucy. Overall though, it was a nice mild dish that was tasty. --Carissa

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Penne with Chicken, Artichokes, Red Peppeer, & Goat Cheese (page 169-170)

This tasted like something you would order at a fancy Italian restaurant, & coming from someone who does not even like artichokes I think this says A LOT! Now you may be asking yourself, “Darby, why on earth would you select a recipe with artichokes in the title if you don’t even like them?” Easy answer: goat cheese! Yes, it was solely the goat cheese that captured my interest. Yum-o! I will admit though, since I don’t like artichokes I have never bought them; in fact, I have never even seen them in the frozen food section, but keep looking they are there. There are a lot of ingredients in this recipe but it’s totally worth it. Some things I think you could cut back on: garlic (the recipe calls for 8 cloves, only do that if you want to have stinky breath for the rest of the year) & goat cheese (as you can see from my picture, it’s pretty creamy; I would cut back to about 4oz.). I used whole wheat penne pasta & will again next time I make this as well. I think I might add some spinach too. You gotta add this one to your list of to-dos; it’s delicious!