Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hash Browns from Scratch

I tend to make most of my baked goods from scratch. It's weird because people always seem impressed by this, but I think it's nearly as easy, usually less expensive, and much, much tastier to make things from scratch than to make them from a boxed mix. However, I usually use frozen shredded or chopped potatoes for hash browns. Not so today! I got out the mandoline and shredded a few potatoes.

My mandoline was a gift from Darren's stepfather. He got one for me and one for Darren's mom. I LOVE it and use it often (THANKS!), while Darren's mom is not a fan of hers. Any one out there got an opinion on a mandoline? My mandoline has a permanent diagonal blade and a rotating part that switches among thick slices, thin slices, large julienne, and small julienne. I used the small julienne setting for these hash browns.
The internet tells me that the secret to crispy hash browns is dry potatoes. Different sites suggest different methods, so I am going to go with my instincts and a combination of how my mom makes homemade french fries.

Prepare a bowl with cool water and a generous pinch of salt. Julienne the potatoes and put the slivers in the water to soak for 10-15 minutes.
Drain the potatoes through a fine colander, shaking out as much water as possible. Place the potato shreds on a kitchen towel (I am using my spinach towel), and fold/wrap/bundle them inside. Wring or press out as much water as possible.
Fold the towel a different way, and wring out some more water. Now you're ready to cook those hashbrowns.
Preheat the griddle to medium heat and coat it with a thin layer of oil. Just use a large skillet, if you don't have a griddle.
Add the potatoes in a layer. I tried making little bunches like they do at Waffle House, but I failed miserably.
Cook the potatoes for 4-5 minutes until beginning to brown and then flip. Season with salt, pepper, and desired spices. I used salt, pepper, paprika, and crushed red pepper. Repeat this process 3-5 times until the potato shreds and all done and a fair amount are nicely browned.
If desired, sprinkle cheese on top and allow to melt.
Serve alone or with sausage, eggs, and biscuits. Yum yum, gimme some!
If you try these hash browns, leave a comment and let us know how they turn out.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


I have attempted to go back to older posts and add a link to a printable copy of the recipe. If you come across one and there doesn't appear to be a link to a printable recipe, please leave a comment and let me know. Happy cooking!

Crescent Chicken Pockets

Do you remember in my last post that I made a double batch of chicken? Here's why! Last night, Darren and I made crescent chicken pockets. They are a combination of some recipe I found in a cookbook of my mother's that I can't remember, and a sandwich that I used to get at a place called Quinton's in Columbia, Missouri. The original recipe for chicken crescent roll-ups was kind of bland, so I fixed it!

You will need:
1-1.5 lb. chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
2 bell peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cans crescent rolls (without seams, if you can find them)
8 oz. block of cream cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
red pepper, paprika, and cayenne, to taste
1/2 c. grated cheese (optional)
2-3 T. oil

I chop everything first, because that's how I roll. I place the chicken in a gallon ziplock bag with 1-2 tablespoons of oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper (Remember I cheated and did this with 2.5 pounds of chicken for the last recipe, and I saved half of it for this recipe). It seemed a little weird to me when I started doing this, but coating the meat (whatever meat I'm grilling, sauteing, or skillet-browning) lightly with oil keeps the meat from sticking and somehow locks in the delicious meat juices that keep it tender. Adding the salt and pepper at this point helps the spices stick to the meat.
Cook the vegetables in about one tablespoon of oil over medium heat. I usually start the onions and let those cook a few minutes before adding the peppers.
Once the onion are starting to get a little clear (3-5 minutes), I add in the bell peppers and stir or toss it all around (Action shot!).
Allow the peppers to cook for another 3-5 minutes, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and then add the chicken. I let the vegetables cook a bit longer on this one, because I precooked the chicken. Anyway, once the vegetables were almost to the desired tenderness, I added the chicken and let it heat through. To speed this process a bit, I used a lid to cook and steam.
And by lid, I mean a second skillet inverted over the first one. =)
Once the chicken was heated through, I reduced the heat to low and added a block of cream cheese to the pan. I also turned on the oven to preheat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Stir to melt the cream cheese and evenly coat the chicken and vegetables.
Then add spices to your taste. I don't measure, but I know that I want my cream cheese to have a nice, orange cast to it.
Once the cream cheese is melted and spiced, and all of the chicken and veggie pieces are nicely coated, it's time to fill the pockets. Open the crescent sheets and cut each sheet into 3 or 4 rectangles depending on your preference. Put them on a baking sheet and fill each with a heaping spoonful of filling. You can add a sprinkle of grated cheese, if desired, although I skipped this step tonight.
Press the edges to seal, and poke a few holes in the top of each pocket so the steam can vent. Place them in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown, and eat up!
I'm trying something new with this post. If you'd like to print this recipe, try this google document. If you print it, please leave a comment and let us know how it works!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Peanut Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables

I got the original recipe for this dish from Eating Well. I have altered it over the time I've been making it, and while my version is a little less healthy, it is much tastier.

You will need:
1 - 1.5 lb. chicken
1-2 T. oil
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 lb. vegetables (I used carrots, mushrooms, and zucchini.)
1 c. natural peanut butter
4 T. low sodium soy sauce
1 T. Sriracha chile-garlic sauce
1/2 t. ground ginger
1 lb. pasta

In a gallon ziplock bag, mix the oil, salt, and pepper. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and put them in the bag. I actually used 2.5 lb. of chicken, and I'll be saving half for tomorrow's dinner.

Clean and chop all of the vegetables into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
Mix the peanut butter, soy sauce, chile-garlic sauce, and ginger.

Start the water for the pasta. Cook the chicken over medium heat until cooked through and some pieces begin to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions and drain, reserving ~2 cups of the pasta water.

Cook the vegetables over medium heat.
While the vegetables are cooking, mix the peanut sauce with the pasta, adding pasta water until the pasta is coated and the sauce is creamy.

Mix in the vegetables, once they have cooked to desired tenderness.
Dinner is served!

Ricotta Pasta

I made this last night for dinner. It is a super fast meal that tastes good. It is actually based on the filling of a recipe for stuffed shells with alfredo sauce. I can't find the original right now, but maybe one day I will make it again and post it. Until then, here is my weekday short cut.

You will need:
1 lb. pasta
15 oz. container of ricotta (I use low fat, but part-skim or whole milk will work, too).
10 oz. box or 12 oz. bag of frozen spinach
crushed red pepper
parmesan cheese

Thaw the spinach and ring out as much water as possible using a kitchen towel. I use one I don't like that has some ugly chickens on it.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. I used a half box of bowties and a half box of penne.
Drain the pasta and mix with the container of ricotta.
In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter.
Add some red pepper, and stir constantly until the fragrance comes out.
Add the spinach and heat through. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.
Mix the spinach into the pasta-ricotta mixture. Sprinkle a little parmesan on top, and it's time for dinner!
Want a printable recipe?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas

Lib and I have a really interesting story. I'm part Asian and from the southwest, she's from the south, but we met in the northeast. As a result, we have a pretty eclectic set of recipes (though most involve bacon). This one started as a much different beast in a Rachael Ray cookbook that I got for Christmas a few years ago. I unwrapped it shortly after telling the gifters that I'm not a fan of Rachael Ray. Oops!

At any rate, it has evolved over the years for a couple of reasons. Mainly, I wanted it to be less trouble and more delicious. I think we've achieved both of those goals. 30 Minute Meals my butt.

Like a lot of our recipes, this one is approximate, because we don't really measure. As usual, add or subtract amounts of the ingredients to your taste.

1/2 of a rotisserie chicken, pulled apart
2-3 dollops of sour cream (roughly 2/3 cup)
1 16 oz. jar of green sauce
1 lb of pepper jack cheese
12 corn tortillas

First off, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. To make the filling, combine the chicken with the sour cream, half of the green sauce, and half of the cheese. With two forks, stir/shred the chicken and make sure it is sufficiently coated with delicious dairy goop.

That's just the cheese that didn't go into the filling.

Coat a 9x13 pan with cooking spray, then start rolling the filling up in the tortillas! It helps to have room temperature tortillas, as cold ones tend to crack. I like to place them with the seam down so they don't unroll.

You'll want to pack them pretty closely together in order to fit all twelve into the pan.

Lib asked me why I don't just make two rows of six. It was something I just always did, and I had forgotten why until just now. I made these for a potluck one time, where the vertical enchiladas had chicken and the horizontal ones were straight cheese for the vegetarians in the group. Sorry vegans, you get no dairy-free enchiladas from me.

After they are arranged in the pan, pour the rest of the green sauce on top.

Spread it as evenly as you can. Any piece of tortilla that doesn't get soaked with sauce may end up hard and chewy after it comes out of the oven.

Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.

Oh yeah, that's the stuff.

Put it in the oven for twenty minutes, then take it out and serve it. As you can see at the top of this post, we served ours with guacamole, but I wouldn't be against serving with refried beans, more sour cream, bacon, or nothing at all.

Get yourself a copy of the recipe!