Thursday, May 27, 2010

Easy, Guiltless Crab Salad

I can't pass up anything that's got a recipe in it. Cookbooks, magazines, the back of jars, our electric cooperative's magazine, any of it! My husband makes fun of me because whenever I get a new cookbook, I'll sit and read it for several days. A couple of years ago, we were at my Dad and stepmom's (Theresa) house, and she had a new cookbook. It was called The Most Decadent Diet Ever, by Devin Alexander. I looked through it at least a couple of times over the course of that weekend, and she told me to write down the names of the recipes I wanted and she'd make copies for me. Well, I pretty much wrote down all the recipes in the book! So, bless her heart, Theresa bought me my very own copy!
Everything I've tried has been very good, but this crab salad is the thing I've made over and over. It's absolutely delicious, and pretty much guilt-free. It's in a mayonnaise based sauce (I love mayo!), but it's not heavy because it's mixed with nonfat yogurt and nonfat milk. The fresh herbs really stand out, and I wish I'd had more fresh dill. We had this delicious crab salad for dinner last night, because I just couldn't bear to turn on the oven. A word to the wise, though. It tastes better the longer it sits. I made it Tuesday night for our Wednesday supper. But I took it for lunch today, and it was even better! The extra time in the fridge really let the flavors meld.

Herbed Crab Salad
Devin Alexander
1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon light mayonnaise (the olive oil mayo)
2 T fat-free milk
2 T fat-free plain yogurt
1 lb imitation crab meat, coarsley shredded
2 T finely chopped green onion (white and green parts)
2 T finely chopped red onion
2 T finely chopped fresh dill
2 T chopped fresh parsley
Whisk the mayonnaise, milk, and yogurt in a large resealable plastic container until well combined and smooth. Add the crabmeat, green onion, red onion, dill, and parsley. Stir until well combined. Seal the container and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight for optimum flavor.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TWD: Banana Coconut Ice Cream Pie

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie assignment was Banana Coconut Ice Cream Pie, chosen by Spike (of Spike Bakes). And it was perfect timing. This week, we'll experience the first of many hot, humid Kentucky summer days. Ice cream pie was a perfect reward after working in the gardne tonight with David's grandmother.
But I'm not so sure that everyone was quite as excited about this ice cream pie. In fact, I'm sure there was lots of gnashing of teeth among the other TWD participants over this pick. This recipe includes two polarizing ingredients...coconut and banana. Before I joined TWD, I had no idea that people had such strong aversions to those two foods. I love bananas, and I don't mind coconut, so I wasn't too concerned about this week's flavor combo. And I hope that lots of people baked along, because this is one tasty pie!
I think it ranks right up there as one of our most simple (and quick!) recipes. The crust was the most time-consuming part, but it only took about 10 minutes to put together (but there was very little real effort involved: crushing cookies into crumbs, melting butter, and stirring coconut until toasted). From there, you slice bananas, whir some bananas, ice cream, and rum in the food processor, and stick it all in the freezer. Easy peasy!
David, Mama, and I really enjoyed this one. After the first bite, I wasn't sure about it, but then I was hooked. Yum! But the very best part? The crust. I could just eat the crust plain. I have a feeling I'll be using it for other pies in the near future. It's so crunchy and flavorful...not too sweet, and not too coconuty. Just perfect crispy perfection.
If you're looking for the perfect summertime dessert, please visit Spike Bakes for the recipe.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Kale Chips

I remember that when I first started reading food blogs well over a year ago, kale chips were making quite a splash in the blogosphere. It seemed like they were all over the place! People were buying kale by the bushel and roasting it in the oven, then gushing about how wonderful and healthy it was. (Okay, maybe part of that is an exaggeration, but not by much.)
I am not a picky eater by any means, but there are just some things that I haven't been able to like. Tapioca and kale are two of the foods that come to mind immediately. I have tried to like kale, I really have, but I have yet to eat any that I actually liked. Well, until today. I decided to take a leap of faith (I suppose I was feeling particularly adventurous) and make the much-lauded kale chips. There's no recipe's really just roasting the leaves in a tiny smidgen of olive oil, salt, and paremsan cheese.
The roasting dries out the kale leaves just enough that they're pleasantly crunchy, but not fragile and brittle. The olive oil and the time in the oven certainly mellow the bitter taste that I've always hated about kale. They were actually pretty good! I fixed a bunch on a cookie sheet this afternoon and ate the whole thing! It's not a really substantial snack, but it sure satisfies a craving for something salty, savory, and crunchy. Give these a try...if nothing else, it's certainly an adventure in eating!

Kale Chips
1 bunch kale leaves (stripped from the thick stems)
olive oil (not much...a couple of teaspoons)
shredded parmesan
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse kale leaves and spin them in a salad spinner until dry. Spread on a cookie sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle on salt and shredded parmesan. Slide cookie sheet into the hot oven for about 10 - 15 minutes. The kale leaves will shrink noticeably and get a little brown around the edges. When the kale chips look lightly browned, take them out and check on them. If they seem crisp (moreso around the edges than in the middle of the leaves), they're done.
Serve immediately. They'll be okay for a little while, but should be eaten within an hour or so.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Greek Marinated Pork Chops

The first time I had Greek food was in Chicago on a trip with a group from Lindsey Wilson College. I didn't like it. I can't remember what I ordered, but I remember not liking it. And if I recall correctly, nobody in the group really liked their food, either. The one exception was some kind of fried cheese that came to the table still flaming. That stuff was delicious. But something has happened as I've gotten older...I've found that I now enjoy Greek food. I love the flavors now and find that I use them a lot in my cooking. I've even found a fabulous Greek restaurant about two blocks from my office. Anyway, yesterday afternoon I was looking over some blogs for some ideas for dinner this week, and I came across a recipe for pork chops in a Greek marinade. I didn't need to buy anything (except for the pork chops, which were already on the list), so these went on the menu.
Oh my goodness! They were wonderful! They were so flavorful and moist. I absolutely loved the lemon flavor with the oregano and garlic. I usually grill four pork chops for the two of us so that there are leftovers, but we ate all four of these tonight! (They were small, though!) David and I both decided that this recipe will make it to our regular rotation, and that's saying a lot! If you're tired of having ho-hum pork chops, try these! They are delicious!
Greek-Seasoned Grilled Pork Chops with Lemon and Oregano
4 boneless pork chops
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 tsp. dried Greek oregano (I don't know that my oregano was Greek, but it was good!)
2 tsp. minced garlic
fresh ground black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, Greek oregano, garlic, and black pepper. Trim all visible fat from pork chops and place in large Ziplock bag or flat glass dish. Pour marinade over pork chops and marinate in refrigerator for 4-8 hours (I think I marinated mine for more like 11 hours), turning a few times if you're home.
To cook, remove pork chops from refrigerator and wipe off excess marinade. Dry chops with paper towels and let come to room temperature while grill heats up. Grill pork chops and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

TWD: Quick Classic Berry Tart

Dorie's description of this tart is spot-on. However, I'd add one more adjective to the list: forgiving. I did everything wrong when I was making this tart, but it still turned out great! Thank goodness...because it was Mother's Day dessert!
First, I made the crust, but when I dumped the crumbs into the tart pan, I realized I hadn't buttered it. So I dumped them back out, buttered the pan, then dumped them back in. After covering the crust with the buttered foil, I threw it into the oven. Yep...forgot to freeze it beforehand. I decided to go with it and see how it came out. It worked perfectly!
Then, I cooked my pastry cream too long. When I tried to give it a little whisk to loosen it up to pour into the shell the next day (after being refrigerated overnight), it looked like scrambled eggs. It was the consistency of scrambled eggs, too. Chet suggested that I dump it into the KitchenAid for a quick spin with the whisk attachment. We decided I couldn't make it worse than it was, so I turned my mixer on high and let it go for a bit. Still, it seemed like scrambled eggs. So I poured in some more half and half and mixed some more. Then more half and half, then more mixing. Finally, by the grace of God, it came together and looked like perfect pastry cream!
Kroger thinks an awful lot about their berries this time of year, so I just bought a pint of blueberries for the top. My tart doesn't look quite as lush as the one in the book, but it sure was tasty...especially considering all of the disasters I encountered along the way.
If nothing else, I learned this from Dorie's Quick Classic Forgiving Berry Tart: do not bake when in serious emotional distress. Bake a batch of boxed brownies, buy a quart of vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup, and make hot fudge sundaes instead. But if you're not having one of the worst days of your life, PLEASE make Dorie's tart! It's wonderful! (And forgiving.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

TWD: Burnt Sugar Ice Cream

This time last week, I had decided that I wouldn't participate in making Burnt Sugar Ice Cream. The last time I made ice cream, I had to borrow Shirley's ice cream maker. It worked really well, but it required ice and rock salt (but at least it was electric!)...and that was more than I wanted to deal with this time. But I decided at the very last minute to put out a request via Facebook for some kind friend to lend me a countertop ice cream maker. Devona, my friend from church, happily obliged and let me borrow her shiny, stainless steel Cuisinart ice cream maker. Fancy! Sooo, I had no excuse not to participate.
Lots of TWDers were swooning over this ice cream. I couldn't imagine any ice cream being that good...especially any with the word "burnt" in the title. Oh, how I wanted to back out. I'm so intimidated of making caramel. I always chicken out and take it off the heat too quickly and it just doesn't have much flavor. So this week, I was bound and determined to let the caramel get a "deep amber color" like Dorie suggests. It took everything I had not to take the pan off the heat, but I didn't. And when I tasted the custard, I thought, "Hmmm...tastes a little...burnt." I figured I'd ruined it. I even considered dumping the custard down the drain. But I didn't! I let it chill in the fridge overnight and then churned it.
Yum! I wouldn't say that I'm in love with this ice cream like many TWDers are, but it was very tasty. It's definitely a grown-up ice cream...I don't think kiddos would appreciate the complexity of flavors. I can't believe that this delicious ice cream just started with sugar, water, eggs, milk, cream, and vanilla. This is a perfect example that illustrates why baking is sort of like "miracle-making" to me. If you plan to make any ice cream this summer, please give this one a try! Becky, of Project Domestication, picked this winner, and she's got the recipe on her site.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Honey Roasted Chicken

A few years ago, when David and I got married, my grandfather gave us a small chest freezer. It has been one of the best gifts we've ever gotten. I really enjoy stocking my freezer and I feel a little safer knowing it's full of food. But sometimes, I forget about things I put in there. A couple of winters ago, we got a huge ice storm and I was off work for a few days because my workplace had no electricity. I took some of my time off to make an inventory of my freezer and pantry. Keeping it up to date lasted about 3 days. I did do a good job of cleaning it out, and I think I've kept up with it pretty well.
Fast foward quite some time (over a year or so). While in Costco one afternoon, I spotted a really good deal on whole chickens. I don't remember the price, but I know I got two 4 lb. chickens for a steal. We had one for dinner and froze the other one. I forgot about the frozen one and "found" it when we unloaded the chest freezer to move!
Usually, when I have a whole chicken, I do the "beer butt" chicken on the grill. But I recently saw this Honey Roasted Chicken on My Kitchen Cafe and knew that it would be the recipe I'd use for my whole chicken. I think she got the recipe from Cook's Country, so you know it's good! I've recently discovered how much I love to cook with honey, and this seemed simple enough. It certainly isn't a recipe that I could pull off one day after a day at work, but since I'm on staycation this week, I knew the time was right.
This chicken is moist and flavorful, and the crispy sweet skin is just delicious! Please, please be sure that you let your chicken rest before you slice into's well worth the wait. Without the rest, all of the juices will run out, leaving you with dry chicken. Nobody wants that! The recipe also includes a wonderful sauce, which has a lovely flavor thanks to some crushed thyme.

Honey Roasted Chicken
My Kitchen Cafe/Cook's Country
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon paprika (I used smoked)
2 whole chickens (3.5 - 4 lb. each), giblets discarded (I only made one)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup honey
5 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces and chilled
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and make sure the oven rack is in teh middle of the oven. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, and paprika. Pat the chickens dry with paper towels and rub the spice mixture under the skin and over the outside of each chicken. Tuck the wings behind the back and tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
Stir the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water together in a small bowl until no lumps remain; set aside. In a small saucepan, bring the honey and 4 tablespoons of vinegar to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until the mixture is reduced to about 1/2 cup, 8 - 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly whisk the cornstarch mixture into the glaze. Return to a simmer and cook for one minute.
Arrange the chickens, breast side down, on a V-rack set inside a roasting pan. Roast until the chicken are golden, about 35 minutes. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and carefully, with a wad of paper towels, flip the chickens so they are breast side up. Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Pour 1 cup water and the broth into the roasting pan. Return the roasting pan to the oven and roast until the thigh meat registers 165 - 170 degrees, about 35 - 45 minutes. Brush the chickens evenly with a thick layer of the glaze (you'll have some remaining to brush on later) and continue to roast until the glaze is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and brush with the remaining glaze and let it rest for 15 minutes.
While the chicken is resting, pour pan juices and any accumulated chicken juices into a saucepan and skim any fat. Stir in the thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened and reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and remaining vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Carve the chickens and serve, passing the sauce at the table.
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