Sunday, February 23, 2014

Baked Salmon & Coconut Rice with Creamy Coconut-Ginger Sauce

Long recipe names drive me batty. So here I am, posting one.

I thought about trimming it down but couldn't decide what part could be cut and still convey what the recipe tasted like. So here it is! A title almost as long as the ingredient list.

Thankfully, it's worth the obnoxiously long title. The salmon, rice, and sauce are all packed with flavor and work perfectly together. Steam some broccoli to serve alongside and you've got a filling, healthy, and tasty weeknight meal.

Don't be intimidated by the ingredient list; most of the items are kitchen staples! If you don't already have chili paste on hand, you can usually find it in the international foods aisle at your grocery store. 

Baked Salmon & Coconut Rice with Creamy Coconut-Ginger Sauce
For the salmon:
4 (6 ounce) skinless salmon fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chilled butter, cut into 4 pieces
salt and fresh ground pepper

For the rice:
2 cups basmati rice
1 tablespoon butter
1 (14 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup water
1 (3 inch) cinnamon stick

For the sauce:
1 (14 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons chili paste
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3 teaspoons lime juice
2 teaspoons fish sauce
3 teaspoons packed light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 375.

Rinse the rice in a sieve under cold running water for 2-3 minutes; drain well. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until it becomes opaque, about 3 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, water, cinnamon, and pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Place the salmon in the pan and drizzle olive oil over top. Top each fillet with a piece of the butter and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork.

While the rice and salmon are cooking, make the sauce. In a small saucepan, mix all the ingredients together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce has thickened slightly. Keep warm.

When the rice finishes, remove it from the heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick and fluff the rice with a fork.

Serve the salmon over the rice with sauce drizzled over top.

Source: adapted from Recipe Girl and Branny Boils Over

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Cheesy Shrimp and Grits Casserole

Raise your hand if you love shrimp and grits!

I remember the first time I tried it; I was in Charleston for a work conference and decided I wasn't leaving that city until I had some. It wasn't a dish my mom made growing up, and wasn't something easily found on menus where I lived, but I knew I could get a great representative of it there.

One bite later, I was hooked.

Shrimp and grits are creamy, cheesy, and oftentimes a tad spicy. It's like a big bowl of comforting goodness!

This casserole is, in my opinion, even better than a traditional shrimp and grits. It has all the flavors you love but in an easier form - perfect for a family meal or even as a side dish! To say we loved it would be a complete understatement.

Cheesy Shrimp & Grits Casserole
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup regular grits
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound raw medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 green onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
salt and pepper

Lightly grease a 2 quart baking dish and set aside.

Bring the chicken broth and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Once boiling, stir in grits. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Once finished, stir in 3/4 cup Cheddar cheese and all of the pepperjack. 

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the raw shrimp, green onions, and garlic. Saute 4-5 minutes or until onions are tender and shrimp is opaque and cooked through. 

Add the shrimp mixture to the pot of grits and cheese and mix well. Stir in the diced tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup Cheddar cheese over top. 

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, or until hot and bubbly on top. 

Source: adapted from Southern Living

Monday, February 17, 2014

Cilantro-Lime Shrimp Pasta

There are two kinds of people in the world - those that love cilantro and those that don't. Interestingly, there is good reason for that! Some people taste a soapy flavor when tasting cilantro, or even smell an extremely unpleasant odor. Funny how taste buds differ a lot!

Cilantro is one of my favorite herbs to use but when someone says they don't like it, I assume their taste buds are telling them something completely different than mine.

If you like cilantro, you probably like it used alongside lime - it's a winning combination. This dish uses a cilantro based pesto that you combine with pasta and quick cooking shrimp to create a flavorful, inexpensive, and quick weeknight meal. Since we're big cilantro fans, this is a favorite at our house!

The crumbled cheese is like the icing on top so please don't skip it. You could use a crumbled queso fresco (I actually found some at Aldi recently), Cotija, or even feta! The added salty bite makes a big impact to such a simple dish.

Cilantro-Lime Shrimp Pasta
1 and 1/4 cup (packed) fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup chopped green onions
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 jalapeno, seeded
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound linguine
1 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons tequila
1/4 crumbled Cotija, feta, or queso fresco cheese, for serving
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for serving

In your food processor, blend together the cilantro leaves, green onions, lime juice, garlic, and jalapeno until a coarse puree forms. With the machine running, drizzle in 1/2 cup oil. Season generously with salt.

Cook linguine according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until almost opaque in center, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add tequila. Return skillet to heat and stir until the sauce is syrupy, about 30 seconds. Add the cilantro-lime pesto and stir to coat. Remove from heat.

Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Top each serving with cheese and chopped cilantro.

Source: Bon Appetit

Friday, February 14, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Happy Valentine's Day! Do you have any big plans?

Snowpocalypse 2014 sorta changed our plans (and everyone else's around here, too!) so we'll be punting for dinner tonight. Here's hoping the roads are safe enough to venture out some - or we'll be eating leftovers!

While stuck inside, I did whip up some tasty treats including these chocolate chip cookie bars. Made with cake mix and pudding mix, they are ready to bake in 5 minutes and just take 1 bowl! That's my kind of baking :)

We already know that pudding mix = fantastic cookies and the same is the case here. These are soft, vanilla-y, and incredibly moist. Because they are bars, you can just pour the whole bowl of batter into a 9x13 pan and bake! No rolling dough, rotating baking sheets, messing with cooling racks, cookie cutters, etc. Just good cookies - in bar form!

Throw in whatever you have on hand - chocolate chips, Reeses pieces, M&Ms, crushed up candy bars, sprinkles, etc. Be creative! 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
1 box yellow cake mix
1 (3.4 ounce) box instant vanilla pudding mix
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1.5 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a 9x13 baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the cake mix, pudding mix, water, oil, and eggs. Fold in the chocolate chips until well blended.

Spread the dough in the pan evenly and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the edges are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let sit a few minutes before cutting - they firm up a bit while they cool.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

(Super Simple) Bison & Bean Chili

I know the midwest is so tired of all the snow but here in Charlotte, we got a gorgeous blanket of the white stuff and are smitten! This Texan has never seen this much snow before so it's quite exciting. We have at least 6 inches on the yard right now with more expected.

Needless to say, we're house bound and just about all productivity as come to a near stop in my world. Unfortunately my husband works from home so he gets no snow day :(

Chili is good any cold day but it's especially comforting after a day of playing in the snow. This chili is ridiculously simple and really delicious. It's actually Jason's favorite chili I've ever made! The recipe is from my friend, Dionna, who brought it to us after I had surgery a few years ago and we immediately asked for the recipe. We refer to is as "Dionna's Chili" in our house!

I love the leanness of ground bison but you could easily swap it out with ground beef. This is a great chili to serve over cornbread and top with chow chow!

{Super Simple} Bison & Bean Chili
1 lb ground bison (or beef)
2 (14.5 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
1 package mild chili seasoning
3 heaping teaspoons of brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 (14.5 ounce) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed 

In a dutch oven medium high heat, brown the ground bison until cooked through. Drain off any excess fat. 

To the pot, stir in the the tomatoes, chili seasoning, brown sugar, salt, and beans. Let cook about 10 minutes. Turn the heat to low and let simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Source: my friend Dionna

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chicken Saltimbocca

Have you ever had chicken saltimbocca? If you haven't, you're in for a treat!

This traditional Italian dish is super simple but tastes complicated. A thin cutlet is dredged with flour, topped with sage and prosciutto, and quickly sauteed. Then you whip up a simple pan sauce to drizzle over top. The result promises to be a family favorite! Bonus? The entire dish can be made in 15 minutes!

And, hello! It has crispy prosciutto - need I say more?

This chicken works great with just about any side dish your family likes making it the perfect addition to your chicken dish rotations!

Utilize your deli counter! I stop by and just ask for 4 thin slices instead of spending a small fortune on a bigger package. 

Chicken Saltimbocca
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
4 thin slices prosciutto
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
1 cup white wine
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons cold butter
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
salt and pepper

Pound the chicken down to 1/4 inch thickness and cut each breast in half, giving you 4 pieces of chicken.

In a shallow dish, mix together the flour and a good amount of salt and pepper. Pat the chicken pieces dry and dredge each piece in the flour mixture, shaking off excess. 

On one side of each floured chicken cutlet, sprinkle chopped sage. Press pieces of prosciutto over top of the sage, covering the entire side of the chicken cutlet, cutting or tearing the prosciutto if needed. 

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the garlic and let cook until fragrant, about 15-20 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and discard.

Add the cutlets to the pan, prosciutto side down, and cook until golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from pan and keep warm.

If there is excess fat in the pan, pour it off. Stir in the wine, scraping up the browned bits, and simmer until it's reduced to 6-7 tablespoons. Stir in the lemon juice. 

Turn the heat to low and whisk in the butter. Remove from heat, stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Spoon sauce over cutlets before serving. 

Source: Elly Says Opa

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Chicken Fried Steak Tacos with Queso Cream Gravy

Charlotte is slowly gaining more acceptable Tex Mex restaurants, much to our relief. But for awhile, the only decent one was Paco's Tacos and Tequila. It's owned by a local restaurant guru (Frank Scibelli) who also has a few other fantastic restaurants which means it's not exactly home-grown Tex Mex... but beggars can't be choosers!

To be fair, they do Tex Mex quite well and have a wide variety of unique Texas inspired dishes on the menu. One of those is a chicken fried steak taco that they serve with a "cheese gravy." Just the fact that they call it chicken fried steak (and not "country fried sirloin" like lots of places around here) proves that Frank knows Texas quite well. Which means he gets a gold star. The dish is so good that I just had to attempt a home version!

Tender slices of chicken fried steak are loaded into a warm flour tortilla, topped with shredded lettuce, and smothered in a queso cream gravy concoction. The gravy sounds strange but if you're a fan of cream gravy, and a fan of queso, I think you'll love the combination. The cheese in the background adds a unique flavor and kicks it up a bit thanks to the pepper jack! And you'll be tempted to shovel it in with a spoon.

Or maybe that's just me?

Remember that cream gravy is not a science; the amount of flour and milk needed depends greatly on how much grease is in your pan, how hot your pan is, how you hold your head... Okay, not that last one but definitely the first two! If you're never made it before, don't be intimidated - it's super fast and super easy! If you're made it before, this is a super simple variation. You're essentially making a big pan of traditional cream gravy, thinning it out a bit more than normal, and adding shredded cheese to it.

I'm a simple taco girl and love just the cool crisp of lettuce alongside the meat and cheese gravy but feel free to load on the toppings if you are so inclined!

Chicken Fried Steak Tacos with Queso Cream Gravy
1 pound cubed steak (it's already been tenderized)
1 egg
~2-3 cups milk
~2 cups flour
1/4 lb white American cheese, shredded (see note below)
1/4 lb pepper jack cheese, shredded (see note below)
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying

For serving:
Flour tortillas (or corn)
Shredded lettuce
Any other desired toppings 

Slice the cubed steak into thin pieces about 1 inch wide, similar to a chicken finger. Salt and pepper the slices and set aside.

In a shallow dish, lightly beat together the egg and 1 cup milk. In a second shallow dish, mix together 1 cup flour and plenty of salt and pepper. Dip each steak piece into the egg mixture followed by the flour mixture. Gently shake off any excess flour and dip it back into the egg and back into the flour. You want a double coat. Set each breaded piece on a plate until you've coated them all.

In a large heavy skillet (cast iron is perfect!) over medium heat, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Test it's readiness by dropping a pinch of flour in the oil to see if it sizzles. Once it's ready, add the prepared steak pieces and fry until all the sides are golden brown. This will only take 1-2 minutes a side. As each piece finishes, transfer it to a baking sheet that you keep in your oven on "keep warm."

Once all the steaks are cooked, you'll make the queso gravy. 

Your pan should have a nice amount of grease left behind (and lots of browned bits!). Turn the heat down to medium-low and sprinkle a few tablespoons of flour over top of the grease. Whisk until it's fully combined. If it's still liquidy, add another few tablespoons of flour. Keep whisking until it becomes a golden brown paste, adding more flour if needed. Make sure it is golden brown before proceeding.

While whisking, add 3/4 cup milk. Let cook for a minute. If it's thick, add another 1/2 cup milk and whisk well. Add more milk and whisk well until you get to your preferred gravy consistency. You want it a bit thinner than normal because you'll be adding cheese to it. Start sprinkling in the shredded cheese while you whisk. As you add the cheese, feel free to add more milk to thin it out if need be. Once all the cheese has been added, salt and pepper it well and let it cook for another 10 minutes, whisking often, until it's nice and smooth. Taste to make sure it's adequately seasoned.

Top a warm tortilla with a few pieces of the reserved chicken fried steak, hot queso gravy, and whatever toppings you prefer.

Note: it's cheaper to just buy the cheese pieces at your deli counter and shred it at home. Don't use pre-shredded; the powder they coat the cheese with will not result in a smooth gravy. 

Source: inspired by Paco's Tacos and Tequila

Friday, February 7, 2014

Green Chile-Goat Cheese Smashed Potatoes

As a kid, meatloaf made a regular appearance on our menu and mashed potatoes were always served with it. To this day, I love a big forkful of meatloaf and potatoes together - it's the ultimate meat and potatoes meal! So of course when I made the Tex Mex Meatloaf I shared a couple of days ago, I had to do something more special than "just" mashed potatoes!

These potatoes are so easy - and a great upgrade from your basic mashed potatoes. And because you're just a goat cheese log and canned green chiles, it's hardly more work than the traditional kind.

While they were perfect alongside the Tex Mex Meatloaf, they'd also work with a variety of other dishes that you want to punch up with more flavor. Like, when you're serving a basic roast chicken!

Green Chile-Goat Cheese Smashed Potatoes
1.5 pounds red potatoes, cut into 3 inch pieces
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons heavy cream 
4 ounce log of goat cheese
1/2 of a 4.5 ounce can of chopped green chiles
salt and pepper

Put your chopped potatoes and a pinch of salt in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the potatoes by 4 inches, put the lid on, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and let cook for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, check to see if a fork goes through them easily. If so, remove from the heat and drain. (if not, give it another minute or two)

Return the drained potatoes to your hot pot and add the butter. Using a hand potato masher or wooden spoon, mash up the potatoes - you're not going for a smooth consistency, just chunky and smashed. Add the cream and continue mashing if need be. Once it's the consistency you prefer, gently fold in the goat cheese and green chiles until completely incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm.

Source: Cowgirl Chef by Ellise Pierce

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tex Mex Meatloaf

Oh, meatloaf, you're so visually unappealing yet so tasty. It's one of my favorite meals to eat but I'd never dare serve it to company! Which is really silly because a good meatloaf recipe should be shown off - it's not easy to create one that's flavorful and moist. How many of us have choked down a super dry meatloaf before?

I love my mom's meatloaf (don't we all?) but I also love trying other versions. Meatloaf is almost like a burger - the possibilities are endless! I've shared recipes for both an All-American version and a Cajun version - it time for a Tex Mex version!

I know it's tempting to just do 2 pounds of beef but the mix of pork and beef helps keep the meat flavorful and moist. It's worth the combination! Since I removed the ribs and seeds from the jalapenos, we didn't find this spicy but instead more like a cross between chili and tacos. As always, spice is easily adjusted to your preference.

Meatloaf, in my opinion, should always be served with mashed potatoes. And I have the perfect mashed potato recipe to go with this meatloaf coming on Friday!

Tex Mex Meatloaf
1 pound ground beef (15%)
1 pound ground pork 
1/2 cup quick oatmeal
1 carrot, grated
1 egg
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 jalapenos, finely chopped (remove the ribs/seeds to tone down the heat)
1.5 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely minced (note: 1 pepper - not 1 can!)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well with your hands. Shape the mixture into a loaf and place it in a loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until internal temperature reads 160 degrees F.

Remove from oven and cover loosely with foil for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Source: slightly adapted from Cowgirl Chef by Ellise Pierce

Monday, February 3, 2014

Chocolate Covered Cherry Dip

You know those boxes of dark chocolate covered cherries you can find around Valentine's Day and Christmas? The ones that ooze out thick cherry syrup when you bite into them?

I dream about those.

And since I have absolutely no self control, and Jason doesn't like them, I never buy them. But if someone wants to buy me a box, it would be gracious of me to accept them without argument... :)

This dip is not as rich as those dark chocolate covered cherries but just as delicious. And, since it makes so much that you absolutely have to share with others, there is built in portion control. It's like a win-win!

The tangy cream cheese pairs so well with the sweet sugar and cherry juice. Mix in some chopped cherries and chocolate chips and you have a dip worth dreaming about. And it makes such a lovely shade of pink! My inner 6 year old still fawns over all things pink.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Dip
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
10 ounce jar maraschino cherries
1.5 cups powdered sugar
1 cup chocolate chips, chopped

Drain the juice from the cherries and reserve. Roughly chop the cherries and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until well combined. Beat in the reserved cherry juice and then slowly add the powdered sugar.

Stir in the chopped cherries and chocolate chips.

Serve with graham crackers. Keep refrigerated.

Source: adapted from Shugary Sweets & Inside BruCrew

Saturday, February 1, 2014

French Onion Chicken

Two days ago I gave you the recipe for the EASIEST caramelized onions ever so of course now I have to give you a delicious way to use all those onions!

I mentioned in my last post how much I thought I hated onions until I got my first taste of a caramelized onion - and unfortunately that also included french onion soup! I don't think I even tasted the stuff until well into adulthood. Such a shame!

French onion soup is rich, savory, and decadent. Now imagine taking all the goodness of a french onion soup and adding braised chicken to it.

It's unbelievably good.

We LOVED this meal! Like, probably in our top 10 of the last year (and that's saying a lot!). Thanks to my new crockpot caramelized onion trick, this meal is super easy even for a weeknight but will taste like you ordered it at a high end restaurant. Definitely a good one for company, too, as it makes enough for a crowd! Just add salad and bread and you have the perfect dinner for guests.

I typically turn my nose up to chicken thighs but since this is braised and baked, thigh meat is the better choice. The breast would have a real tendency to dry out. And bonus, thighs are cheaper!

French Onion Chicken
4-5 onions, caramelized (you can do it on the stove but the crockpot is easier!)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 cups beef broth, divided
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs thyme, leaves only
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 325.

In a heavy bottomed dutch oven, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, saute the garlic for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Remove and set aside.

Increase the heat to medium-high and drizzle a bit more oil to the pot. Pat the chicken dry and lightly salt and pepper on both sides. Add the thighs and brown for around 3 minute on each side or until they are golden brown (not cooked through). Remove and set aside.

Add 1 cup of the beef broth to the pot and stir, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom. Whisk in the balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and remaining 1 cup beef broth. Simmer for about 5 minutes, letting it reduce some.

Add the caramelized onions to the pot, making sure they are spread evenly along the bottom. On top of the onions, layer the browned chicken thighs. The chicken should be mostly submersed; it'll look like soup but I promise it works!

Put the lid on and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and heat the broiler. Take off the lid and sprinkle the shredded cheese over top. Broil for 3-4 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Best served in a shallow bowl with a big piece of bread to sop up the sauce!

Source: adapted from The Kitchn

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