Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Indian food? No? Okay, well I do. A lot. I came across this (originally crockpot) recipe on Pinterest and thought using a crockpot for this dish would be a great time saver.

However, this is one of those crockpot meals that - in my opinion - is really not a great time saver. There is prep you have to do prior so I decided that if I was going to all that trouble, I'd just slow cook the sauce on the stove. If you're interested in the crockpot method, here is the original recipe.

This is a great first dish if you're not familar with Indian food. And it contains no curry powder, which I know a lot of people don't care for. It's creamy and tomatoey.

I found the Tikka Masala paste at the local Indian market. My store used to have a good amount of Indian products but have slimmed down some - you may find it at your regular grocery store in the ethnic aisle. The other spices are found very inexpensively at your local Indian market or someplace like World Market.

We had this with basmati rice and naan bread.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken Tikka:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
1/4-1 tsp cayenne (to your tastes)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (we used 1 pound, plenty for 4 servings)

Cube the chicken and toss it into a gallon size ziplock. Add all of the marinade ingredients to the bag and mix around. Place in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

1 can 28 oz. diced tomatoes
1 can 5.5 oz tomato paste
2 inches fresh ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp tikka paste
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried coriander
1 cup cream
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Turn your oven to broil. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a rack over top. Take the chicken out of the marinade and place on the baking rack. Place under the broiler about 6-10 inches from the heating element and broil for about 10 minutes. You don't have to worry about cooking the meat all the way through, you are just looking for a nice browned color.

While the chicken is broiling, in a stockpot over medium-high heat, add about a tsp or two of oil. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes to soften. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a few more minutes until the mixture is nice and fragrant. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, garam masala, tikka paste, cumin, chili powder and coriander. Stir together. When the chicken is done broiling, add them straight to the stockpot into the masala (sauce).

*I actually let my sauce simmer for a good 30 minutes before even broiling the chicken, then let it simmer another 30 minutes with the chicken to try and give it a good rich slow cooked taste.

Taste the sauce and salt as needed. When ready to serve, stir in the cream and fresh cilantro.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cheesy Potato Casserole

I hesitate to even use the word "casserole" because I think so many tie it to the icky cream soup based recipes that are often a mainstay of family gatherings and potlucks. The original recipe called this "cheesy au gratin potatoes" but I always think of au gratin potatoes as thinly sliced potatoes... Some may even refer to it as "funeral potatoes."

Whatever you choose to call it, this is the cheesy potato dish that you want to bring to your next potluck meal. Or serve at Thanksgiving. Or make to go along with baked chicken simply because you're craving it - not that I would know anyone who would do that...

This is super easy and, as mentioned before, includes absolutely no cream soup. I cringed a little at the thought of topping a dish with cornflakes but just went with it and am so glad I did! It really needs that crunch on top and that was by far my favorite part.

We both loved it. It makes a huge amount (full 9x13 pan), which is total overkill for a family of two, but it would be perfect for a large family or gathering.

Cheesy Potato Casserole
3 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (8 ounces)
26-ounce bag frozen shredded hash browns
1/2 cup light sour cream

3 cups cornflakes, lightly crushed
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until the onion is softened and translucent,a bout 5-6 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute. Combine the chicken broth and milk in a liquid measure and slowly whisk in the mixture. Add the salt, pepper and thyme. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Take the pot off the heat and stir in the cheese until smooth. Mix in the frozen hash browns, lifting and folding the mixture until well combined. Finally, stir in the sour cream.

In a medium bowl, toss the lightly crushed cornflakes with the butter until evenly combined. Scoop out the potato mixture into a 9x13-inch baking dish and top with the buttered cornflakes. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, until hot and bubbly around the edges. Let the potatoes rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tortellini Spinach Bake in Creamy Lemon Sauce

Okay, okay, so the picture isn't great but the dish is delicious. I found this recipe through Pinterest and it's from the website, Our Best Bites.

This wasn't hard, nor expensive, but it did take more time than a typical weeknight meal and used 3 dishes to cook. However, it made a lot so it pays off in leftovers for us. This kid friendly dish would also be great to take to someone with a new baby or illness/injury.

Tortellini Spinach Bake in Creamy Lemon Sauce
12 oz cheese and spinach dry tortellini
4 strips bacon
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 Tbs flour
2 C milk
¾ tsp kosher salt
⅛ tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp dry basil
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1 medium lemon
2 C loosely packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
¾ C grated mozzarella cheese, divided
¾ C grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Add tortellini and cook according to package instructions.

Place bacon in a medium sized skillet on the stove-top at medium-high heat. Cook until crisp. Remove bacon from pan with slotted spoon and set on paper towels to drain. Reserve two tablespoons bacon drippings in pan and discard the rest. Add garlic to pan and cook until fragrant and tender, about 1 minute. Add flour to pan and stir with a whisk for about 1 minute. Slowly add milk and continue to stir with whisk until smooth. Add salt, pepper, basil, and red pepper flakes and bring sauce to a simmer.

While sauce is heating, zest the lemon then cut lemon in half and juice it. Add 2 teaspoons zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice to sauce.

Continue to stir until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Drain tortellini and place back in stock pot. Put all but 1 tablespoon of the cooked bacon in the stock pot with the pasta. Add spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Add sauce and gently stir to combine. Place pasta mixture in a 9x13 baking dish and top with remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella, 1/4 cup parmesan, and 1 tablespoon crumbled bacon.

Cover pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until cheese on top is melted and pasta is bubbly throughout. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Roasted Cherry Brownies

The sun is going down sooner already, which is quite unfair seeing it's still 100+ everyday here! I'm back to struggling to get decent pictures with the fading sun so I apologize for the weird lighting...

I saw this recipe originally posted on one of my favorite blogs, Annie's Eats. Dark chocolate covered cherries are so delicious so I knew cherries inside chocolate brownies would be a win-win combo.

I've never roasted cherries before but will again! They were so tasty that I could have eaten the entire baking sheet and left them completely out of the brownies (and I will be roasting some to top a big bowl of ice cream sometime soon!)

You could always incorporate the cherries into your favorite brownie recipe but I liked hers. They were easy to whip up late one night (when I typically get the baking bug!). I sliced and pitted the cherries while we watched episodes of Mad Men (anyone a fan? We're almost done with Season 1) but other than that, it doesn't take much longer than a box mix.

Roasted Cherry Brownies
2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1¼ cups plus 2 tbsp. sugar, divided
5 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into quarters
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 450˚ F. Combine the cherries and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a roasting pan and toss well to combine. Roast the cherries for 10 minutes, or until they begin to release their juices. Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350˚ F.

Line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with foil. Lightly spray the foil with cooking spray. *Note: I used a 13x9 and it worked okay, just cooked faster

In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, remaining sugar, vanilla and salt; whisk until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the warm chocolate mixture until incorporated. Then stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until just combined. Gently fold in the roasted cherries. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread with a spatula to make an even layer. Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, about 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Remove the brownies from the pan using the foil and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares as desired. Store in an air-tight container.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Glazed Donut Muffins

I love donuts (who doesn't?) but try to not stop in at the donut store very often as no one can eat just one! When I saw these pinned on Pinterest, they sounded intriguing (a donut that's a muffin? a muffin that's a donut? what-what?) but also easy and using basic pantry staples. The great reviews on the original recipe (Sweet Pea's Kitchen) made it a no brainer.

The flavor is not a typical glazed donut but instead a cake donut - it's dense but moist, with flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg throughout. The muffin itself is not overly sweet which is why the glaze is so important. I dipped mine 2 or maybe 3 times, letting it dry for a few minutes in between each. Your house will smell amazing as these bake!

Glazed Donut Muffins
For the donut:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk

For the glaze:
3 tablespoons butter; melted
1 cup confectioners’ sugar; sifted
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons hot water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with muffin liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat together butter, vegetable oil, and sugars till smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time. With the mixer on low speed, add the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and vanilla until just combined. Stir the flour into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined.

Spoon batter into cups, filling the cups, and smooth the tops. Bake until the muffin tops are a pale golden and springy to the touch, 15 to 17 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time. Cool for 5 minutes then transfer to wire rack and cool 10 minutes before glazing.

To make the glaze, in a medium bowl mix together the melted butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and water. Whisk until smooth.

When muffins have cooled slightly, dip the muffin crown into the glaze and allow the glaze to harden. Once hardened, dip a second time and allow to harden.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin

This is my twist on a popular crockpot recipe seen often on Pinterest. My original plan was to throw it in the crockpot until I remembered how tasty that other grilled pork recipe was that I recently made. A grill seems so much more summery than a crockpot, you know?

This is a super simple meal, crockpot or grill method. With the grill, you serve it sliced while a crockpot method would leave it shredded. See the original recipe above if you'd like to try it in the crockpot.

The pork is delicious with the slightly sticky sweet glaze over top and the flavor of the sage underneath. We had it with roasted green chile cheese grits and zucchini/squash foil packets.

Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin
1 (2 pound) boneless pork loin
1 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Rub tenderloin with ground sage, salt, pepper, and garlic. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Combine ingredients for the glaze in small sauce pan. Heat and stir until mixture thickens.

Heat your grill to medium-high. Grill the pork, brushing often with the prepared glaze, until the thickest part of the pork reads 145 degrees. Serve with remaining glaze on the side.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

DIY Coasters (Not Cooking Related)

This is another Pinterest inspired project - though I suppose it could be food related, seeing that my cold beverages will soon be resting on one!

I decided to do 6 coasters. I stopped at Home Depot and picked up plain white tiles in the flooring department - they are 16 cents a piece so it was about a buck total (cheapest Home Depot trip EVER!).

Then I stopped at Hobby Lobby and picked up two sheets of scrapbook paper. One that would actually match our living room and one that I just love because I'm obsessed with birds.

I traced the size of the tile, plus trimmed it a little on the edges so it would adhere well to the tile. I brushed Modge Podge across the tile, pressed the paper on the tile, then brushed more Modge Podge across it again.

When I finished, some of them looked a little wrinkly

But they straightened out as they dried.

The next day, I sprayed them with clear spraypaint a few times just to ensure they were drink resistent. Once they dry, just stick felt pads to the bottom of each so they don't scratch your furniture (you can buy a whole package at Hobby Lobby for 99 cents).

Quick, cheap, and easy project for something that we needed in our living room!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Beer and Molasses Steak (BBQ) Sauce

As seen on grilled chicken skewers :)

This sauce was part of a recipe for grilled NY Strip steaks from the Neelys. I made it, intending to just serve it with the steak, but it made so much, and was so delicious, that I later used it on chicken as well. This BBQ sauce is super simple and uses items you probably already have on had - no need to buy a bottled kind instead! This particular recipe is a thick, bold, tangy, and sweet sauce all in one. You can adjust the heat as you prefer - I used less than half the suggested cayenne and it still had a kick to it (though I'm pretty sensitive to spice).

Just throw it all in and let it simmer for awhile - your house will smell amazing and it'll thicken up really nicely. You could always double the batch and freeze some of it for later use!

Beer and Molasses Steak (BBQ) Sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup lager-style beer
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon paprika

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and garlic and saute for 3 minutes, until softened. Add the rest of the ingredients; bring to a boil, then simmer until sauce is reduced to 2 cups, about 30 minutes (I simmered mine much longer to get a thicker sauce).

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mongolian Beef

Excuse the sad picture quality - we ate this meal long after the summer sun went down and food just isn't as appetizing when not photographed in natural light. But don't let that stop you from trying this dish! It's absolutely delicious and was a huge hit at our house. I was wishing I had doubled it just so we'd have leftovers.

I found the recipe through Pinterest and it's originally from Pink Bites. It tastes very similar to a restaurant quality Mongolian Beef dish. The meat is very tender and the sauce is salty and sweet, all at the same time. Plus, it cooks so darn fast it's perfect for a weeknight meal!

This is really enough for just two hungry people.

Mongolian Beef
1 lb of flank steak, thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 cup of cornstarch
3 teaspoons of canola or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon of grated ginger (about 1/2 inch piece)
1 tablespoon of chopped garlic (about 2 -3 large cloves)
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of soy sauce (I use low sodium)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
3 large green onions, thinly sliced

Pat the steak slices dry and mix them with the corn starch. Place them in a strainer and shake off excess corn starch.

Heat half of the oil in a large wok at medium-high and add the garlic and ginger. Immediately add the soy sauce, water, brown sugar and pepper flakes. Cook the sauce for about 2 minutes and transfer to a bowl. Don't worry if the sauce doesn't look thick enough at this point. The corn starch in the beef will thicken it up later.

Turn the heat up and add the remaining oil to the wok. Add the beef and cook, stirring until it is all browned. Pour the sauce back into the wok and let it cook along with the meat. I let it simmer some to thicken and then even sprinkled a bit more cornstarch into the sauce to aid in thickening it up some. Or, you can leave it thinner.

Serve with hot rice and top with the green onions.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Melted Crayon Canvas (not cooking related)

Excuse my stray from recipes to bring my art inspired from Pinterest. I'm one of those people who has a creative artsy person buried deep inside that hasn't been able to get out yet. In other words, my creative attempts usually stink but I enjoy attempting them.

I saw this and thought it might be a canvas painting even I could succeed it. But I didn't want to invest too much in it, just in case.

I bought a large canvas at Hobby Lobby with my 40% off coupon. It was regularly $14.99 so I paid about about $9 for it.

Then I went to Target, where crayons are on sale for back to school, and paid 40 cents a box. I bought 6, just in case (I used 4.5 boxes, after removing brown, gray, white, and black).

I couldn't find hot glue or super glue in my house but I did find wood glue in the garage. Figured what the heck! That worked great.

The ones I saw on Pinterest didn't have the colors all jumbled up but I like my colors jumbled.

It's about 105 here so I thought I'd sit it outside and by the time I got home from church, it'd be done. Wrong!

I kept moving it into the sun and nothing was happening.

When Jason decided it was time to mow the lawn, I threw in the towel (it had been outside for 10 hours by now...) and used a blowdryer. Perfecto! Course the wax was pretty hot already but it melted almost immediately with the blowdryer.

This was so much fun that I may have to buy more canvases just so I can melt more crayons...

It will soon be hung in our all-canvas wall gallery, alongside paintings done by real artists, because I loooooove it.

Rosemary Simple Syrup

The syrup is a basic simple syrup (a must for sweetening iced beverages!) that you just add fresh rosemary to. It's very good; I really loved the rosemary flavor in the coffee.

Rosemary Simple Syrup
3-5 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 ½ cup sugar
1 cup water

Bring sugar and water to a light boil, stirring constantly, until sugar is completely dissolved. Add rosemary and allow water to still slightly boil for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low for another 10 minutes, continuing to stir frequently.

Turn off heat and allow rosemary to sit in mixture for another 15-30 minutes. The more you let it sit, the more potent the flavor will be.

Place in mason jar and keep in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Source: The Novice Chef

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lemon Cream Cheese Bars

I am seriously addicted to Pinterest, even though I swore I had no need in my life for it and resisted joining for several weeks. Instead, I decided I do need it - it inspires me everytime I login. And who doesn't need a little extra inspiration in their life? However, I refuse to be one who just pins cool things and never does anything with them. While I hope to attempt some home decor and fashion related items I have pinned, I'm most comfortable with anything cooking related. So, I've already been using it as a source of new recipes and techniques to try. And that's where I found this recipe!

(if you want an invite to Pinterest, let me know! If you're already on, follow me!).

The recipe, while found on Pinterest, is originally from Jason is a huge lemon fan and who doesn't like cream cheese? It looked summery, light, and easy to make. I had my doubts about it even up until I pulled the pan from the oven to cool. Since I am not a natural baker, I am still learning my way around baking techniques. The bottom layer is crumbly and dry when you press it into the (ungreased!) pan. I just knew it would stick and burn to the bottom and taste like dry cake mix. Then, you mix this liquidy batter to pour on top that's supposed to bake until firm. It was practically liquid when I put it in the oven - not even thick like a brownie batter. However, I rolled with it and sure enough, after letting the pan cool, it was actually a decently looking baked good!

My mom came over about the time I iced them and I, holding my breath, cut into it. We shared a bite and both deemed them delicious. They are not overly lemon nor tart but they are creamy, light, and delicious. And she explained that the liquid soaked into the dry mix on the bottom to help it bake and cause it to not stick to the pan. Which I should have known but just didn't think too much about...

Give them a try!

Lemon Cream Cheese Bars
1 box lemon cake mix
1/3 cup butter or margarine - softened
3 eggs
8 ounces cream cheese - softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 lemon - grated
2 tablespoons lemon juice or 1/2 fresh squeezed lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a mixing bowl, blend dry cake mix, butter, and 1 egg. Press into a 9 x 13 pan, ungreased.

Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Gradually blend in the powdered sugar.

Stir in lemon peel and lemon juice until smooth. Remove 1/2 cup of this mixture and refrigerate it for later use.

Beat the remaining 2 eggs, add the vanilla, and then beat this mixture into the remaining cream cheese mixture until well blended. Spread over the cake mixture.

Bake at 350° until set, approximately 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool completely.

Spread the reserved cream cheese mixture onto the bars. Refrigerate until firm; then cut into squares and serve.

See Aimee Cook

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