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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Shepherds Pie with Stout Beer !

I watch a LOT of Food Network TV. And, many times I have heard of them adding Guinness to shepherds pie, to increase its "heartiness" (as if it needs to be more hearty).

So we have this beer, a very expensive, very fine beer that we enjoyed when we bought it. But, having attempted to cellar-age this beer, it is not to fine anymore. Sorry, Goose Island, but your 2008 Bourbon County Stout tasted much better in this recipe than it did to drink! So, here is the recipe. Any good stout beer will do; however, I don't actually recommend Guinness here. In the past, we have cooked with Guinness and found the taste turned bitter when cooked.

Shepherds Pie With Stout Beer

For potato topping:
In a pot, start with:
4 large potatoes, diced (I like the peels on, but you may peel if you like)
Cover with water and about a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until fork tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, in a large saute pan, saute:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced fine

When onion becomes translucent, add:
1 pound ground beef or venison
2 teaspoons Montreal steak seasoning

Cook until meat browns. Add 3/4 cup stout beer and 1/2 cup beef stock. Cook down until liquid is almost evaporated. Put mixture in a large, deep dish pie pan. Top with 1/2 cup of frozen peas or mixed vegetables.

Potatoes should be done at this point, so drain water from them, and place them back in the pan. Add 1/4 cup of butter and 1/4 cup milk, salt and pepper to taste, and mash until fairly smooth. Spread on top of the pie, sprinkle with paprika and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fast and Easy Chicken Marsala, or "Something with Chicken"

When we get ready to leave in the morning, Ray usually asks, "So, what are we having for dinner?" And some nights it is a work in progress, I think about it during the day, and don't really decide until I get home. I took some chicken out in the morning, so all I really knew when we left the house was "Something with chicken."

Last night I didn't decide until I stopped at the store on the way home! We needed some bread, and coffee creamer. As I walked through the store, I noticed prosciutto on sale for $2.49 ! REALLY ? And then some nice Baby Bella mushrooms, so these two things made me think of chicken marsala, which is a really easy dish to make.

Marsala is one of those things I almost always have, because I like tiramisu. But I almost never think of this dish, and it isnt' very hard to make, as you will see ! Ray had never had it, and has declared this a "keeper".

Fast and Easy Chicken Marsala

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenders
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablesoon salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablepoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 ounces prosciutto, sliced thinly (or bacon will also work)
1 cup baby bella mushrooms thinly sliced
1/2 cup beef stock
1/2 cup marsala wine
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper (to taste)
1/4 cup heavy cream

In large saute pan, heat olive oil and butter together. Combine flour, salt, pepper and oregano and dredge chicken tenders. Gently fry in the oil and butter mixture just until golden, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan. Add garlic and prosciutto and fry until prosciutto is crispy. Add mushrooms, beef stock, marsala, and oregano, and cook until mushrooms start to become soft. Add chicken back to pan, and simmer for about 10 minutes, until sauce has reduced. Remove chicken from pan, and turn heat to high, reducing remaining sauce until is is almost evaporated. Finish with cream, salt and pepper. Place chicken on a plate, and pour sauce over the top. You may serve over rice or noodles if you like.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Blue Cheese Stuffed Venison Chops with Creamy Peas

Every year about this time, we try to clean out the freezer, in preparation for hunting season. We are doing so in earnest this year, because we also want to move the deep freeze outside, well, into the deep freeze !

We have a cut of meat that Ray calls a "chop" which is really a very small, thick cut steak. Generally, if we are grilling them, I would need to butterfly them to get them to cook through. But it was a bit chilly to grill, and too dark by the time I get home and get dinner going, so I needed another solution. I marinated these, and then stuffed them with a very nice blue cheese we get from Wisconsin, that is actually a blend of blue and monterey jack cheeses. It is not quite as strong as some blue cheese, and accents the flavor of the venison well.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Venison Chops

For the marinade:

2 tablespoons worchestershire sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Montreal steak season
1/4 cup water

Marinate chops 4 hours or overnight

Just before you are ready to start, preheat oven to 425*. Make a small pocket in each of the chops, and stuff with about 1 tablespoon of blue cheese. Close the opening and secure with a toothpick. Place on a flat pan, with an edge, and drizzle with olive oil. I sprinkled with smoked salt, but regular salt will work also, and cracked black pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, then let rest for 5 minutes. Remove the toothpicks and serve.

I didn't plan ahead for a side dish, so I had to improvise. We had frozen peas, and I had some left over cream cheese. So, I drained off most of the water, and I melted the cream cheese into the cooked peas. Then, I stirred in 1/2 teaspoon ofdill weed and 1/4 teaspoon of celery salt, and salt and pepper.

This reminded me of a meal we had not too long ago at a pretty fancy steak house here in town. In this particular restaurant, you had to order your steak, and side dishes were each separate. I think my meal was at least as good as what we had there, and it didn't cost us $200!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry-"Lisa" Masala

I like to try to invent a new dish out of what we have on hand, and I have to admit I was a bit stumped about what to do with chicken and sweet potatoes. But, you have to use the power of Google ! Much as people have found their way to my blog, I find inspiration on other blogs as well. I saw several recipes for curry, so I thought I could try one.

Ray wanted to call the recipe "Lisa Masala". He always wants to do the "punny" names for things. But you also want to be able to google the names, so both are here.

For years I wouldn't eat Indian food, because my idea of curry was the yellow indian spice my mom used in a mayonnaise based dip she served at parties. Let me just say, that is NOT curry. Curry actually means sauce, so a curry can mean any sort of sauce, but generally means a certain flavor profile we come to think of when we eat Indian food. So, I read a few recipes, used what we had on hand, and made this really simple, yummy dish. I am going to modify this recipe, based on what I learned after last night's meal. We will keep this in the permanent recipe file! It was great, and made a massive pile of food...YAY leftovers !

Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
2 small sweet potatoes, diced into small cubes
1 large onion, diced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes with green chilis
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup water

Saute chicken in a very large pan, until just cooked through. Add sweet potatoes and onions, and cook until sweet potatoes start to turn soft. Add butter, and melt, then lemon juice and add all of the spices and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes. Add yogurt and water, reduce to a simmer, and simmer for about 10 minutes until cooked through. Serve over buttered basmati rice.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Is It Healthy If You Eat The Whole Pan ?

I have been very much into comfort food lately, with fall starting to settle in. And, as we know, comfort food tends to be rich, carb loaded and heavy.

So one of my favorite recipes is for a shrimp and cheesy grits casserole, that actually has its origins from a "light" cooking website. The problem is, when I make it, we eat the entire pan. I am pretty sure that was not the correct portion size when the recipe was created, but it just tastes so DARN good !

Shrimp and Cheesy Grits Casserole

2 cups milk (2% if you are going healthy)
3/4 cup chicken broth (fat free if you want to make it lighter)
1 cup quick cooking grits
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
3 ounces cream cheese (light if you want)
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped scallions
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 large egg whites (or 1 large egg)
1 pound peeled, deveined raw medium shrimp, coarsely chopped
Non-stick spray
Hot Pepper Sauce

Preheat oven to 375*. Combine milk and broth in saucepan, bring to a boil. Gradually add grits and salt, and stir constantly with a whisk. Cook 5 minutes, or until thick, and remove from heat. Stir in Parmesan, butter, and cream cheese. Then, stir in parsley and next 4 ingredients. Spread mixture in an 11x7 pan sprayed with non-stick. Bake for 25 minutes or until set, and golden brown on top. Serve with hot pepper sauce, if desired.

Serving size is actually 1/6 of the recipe, if you use the light options, it is 341 calories a serving. So, when we eat the entire pan for dinner, figure it out.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Does This Really Count as Chili ?

So we were having a chili cook-off at work, and for those of you who know me, you know I take these very, very seriously.

I have learned from entering previous cook-offs that when the crowd chooses the winner, you do have to cook to please the masses. In other words, the Minnesota palate does not always like the same flavor profile I do. Blazing hot chili doesn't always win the prize !

With that in mind, I decided to take a leap of faith (a bit of a pun since I work for a religious company), and try white chicken chili. I read probably a hundred different versions of this recipe before I finally determined how to approach this. And, I have to say, I was not happy with the outcome, at first. So, I added, and tasted, and added, and tasted.

What I finally had to tell myself, is that this isn't really chili. It is actually soup. Once I got out of my head that it wasn't spicy enough to be chili, it started taking on the qualities and complex flavors of a really good soup. So, keep that in mind if you decide to try this. I am quite pleased with the flavor, but don't expect it to be spicy, it will appeal to a less adventurous palate!

White Chicken (Not Quite Chili) Soup
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Fajita seasoning (or salt, pepper, garlic powder and cumin)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 small jalapenos, diced finely**more if you want this spicier
3 cloved, garlic minced
4 cups chicken broth
2 small cans diced green chilis
2 cans cannellini beans
2 cans white corn
1 can cream of chicken soup (optional)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspooon coriander
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/2 cup tequila
1/4 cup honey
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup sour cream

Season chicken breasts generously with fajita seasoning, and salt. Grill until cooked. Cool, cut into cubes and set aside.

In a large soup pot, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add chicken stock, chicken, and all the canned ingredients. Add spices and let simmer for 1-2 hours. Add additional spiced as needed. Add tequila and honey, salt and pepper about 1/2 hour before serving. Simmer. Just before you are ready to serve, stir in the sour cream.

Oh, and I did win the Chili Cook-off !

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Grilled Tuna Tacos with Jicama Slaw

First let me admit to being a little technology challenged. I took some beautiful photos of this process, so you could see the slaw, the tuna steaks and the finished product, trying to make my blog a bit fancier, but I can't figure out how to get the pictures off my fancy phone. Hopefully I will get those posted soon !

There aren't many good grilling days left here in Minnesota, so we have to take advantage of them when we can !

We love fish tacos, they are so simple, fresh and delicious. And we really love tuna steaks, but the fresh ahi tuna is very expensive, and a rare treat. We found we can get the frozen ahi tuna steaks cheaper, but we wouldn't want to use them for ceviche or any rare preparations. They are, however, perfect for tuna tacos !

And a spicy jicama slaw is a perfect accompaniment to these. You can use traditional taco toppings if you like, but this is a way to "glam up" your every day meal.

Grilled Tuna Tacos with Jicama Slaw
For the slaw:

1 small jicama (sometimes easier said than done!, julienned
1/2 large red pepper, diced
1/2 medium onion, sliced very thin
1 jalapeno, diced finely
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons cider vinegar * I used my homemade cilantro, garlic and peppercorn vinegar here, but plain will also work
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons agave nectar or honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 4-5 ounce ahi tuna steaks
Fajita seasoning (or, salt, pepper, garlic powder and cumin)
Fresh lemon

Sour cream
Goat cheese or shredded cheddar
Small flour tortillas

Mix together the vegetables for the slaw. Then, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper, and pour over vegetables. Set aside.

Rub tuna steaks with fajita seasoning and salt. Grill over a very hot grill just 3-4 minutes per side. These will cook very quickly. Remove from grill, and slice in small pieces. Assemble tacos with the toppings you like!

Now maybe my new hubby will figure out how to upload pictures :).