Posts Tagged ‘easy’

Maple Chipotle Chicken

I was inspired by Nancy on her blog A Recipe A Day when she made her drumettes using a sticky honey-soy sauce glaze.  It reminded me of something my family made, or a friend’s family, back home.  How could I reminisce and not bake up some chicken?

Maple Chipotle Chicken

All measurements are very approximate, I suggest glugs and pinches as you see fit.

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, to coat the pan
  • 3-4 Tbsp honey
  • 3-4 Tbsp Maple Syrup (the real stuff!)
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp chipotle spice powder, alternatively use the sauce from a can of Goya chipotle adobo peppers
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • about 8 – 10 drumsticks, more if using wings and drumettes

Mix the sauce in a baking dish large enough to fit the chicken pieces in a single layer.  Add the chicken (I removed the skin first) and turn to coat.  Bake at 375ºF for 45-65 minutes, turning every 15 to 20 minutes so the glaze sticks to the meat.  Serve with hot rice and a fresh salad.

Funny tidbit for you.  Want to know the top 5 search terms that land on my blog?

  1. Claire Robinson
  2. poutine
  3. dinner rolls
  4. mexican casserole
  5. pluckers spicy ranch wings recipe

Yes, I hold the secrets of the universe because I met Claire and can make poutine!

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I was outside enjoying a day of unseasonably warm weather with the kids.  Little Sister spied her other costume for Halloween hanging in the closet.  She pointed and twinkled on her toes, giving me the “Mama, I want!” command.  It wasn’t long before she pulled her Hello Kitty rain boots on and tromped out the back door in to the sunlight and cool grass.  Well, our yard is mostly weeds right now, but it’s a beautiful emerald green and a break from the drought stricken brown turf.

I’ve had a used food processor on Kitchen Toy Island for almost a year.  It has been sitting there wondering when it would be of service.  The recipe for Fairy Cakes in Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat instructs you to use a processor to make baking that much easier.  She notes that these cupcakes are what she whips up in a hurry for parties for her children.  We were not having a party but Little Sister’s outfit reminded me of the Fairy Cakes. You can make this recipe even if you haven’t gone to a fancy pastry school.

Fairy Cakes

Adapted from How to Eat by Nigella Lawson

Makes 10-12 regular cupcakes, or 24 mini cupcakes

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup soft butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • (optional) food coloring, I used rose petal for the mini fairy cakes

Pre-heat the oven to 400ºF for regular size cupcakes, 350ºF for mini cupcakes.

Add everything but the milk to a food processor and pulse until combined.  Add the milk and pulse until it is smooth.  Evenly distribute the batter to the tins.  You can use paper liners or butter the tins.

Bake the regular size for 15 minutes or the mini size for 12-15 minutes at the specified temperatures.  A toothpick should come out clean either way.

Vanilla Fairy Cake with Chocolate Frosting

I baked the regular size cakes a bit too long and they were dry, I kept a better watch on the minis.  Next time I will add some yogurt or sour cream, or cinnamon apple sauce for more moisture.

Remove the cakes to a cooling rack as soon as they come out of the oven.  Wait for the cakes to cool completely before frosting them.  Feel free to perform quality assurance tests while they cool.

Mini Pink Fairy Cakes with Chocolate Frosting

Refridgerationless Frosting

I found this via search and modified it

Makes 2 cups of frosting, plenty for 2 dozen regular cupcakes, or 4 dozen mini cupcakes.

  • 1 cup shortening (Crisco)
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy creamer (Coffee Mate)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 16 oz confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 cup water (or coffee if using cocoa)
  • (optional) 2 Tbsp Dutch cocoa powder

Start with a little water (or coffee) at first and add up to 1/2 cup until you reach the consistency you desire.   Blend in a food processor or with a handheld mixer until fluffy.  Instead of cocoa you could add food coloring for matching frosting to the cake color.

The great thing about this frosting it that you won’t have to worry about keeping those frosted fairy cakes in the fridge while you wait for party guests to arrive.  I kept the cakes in an air-tight container for two days and the frosting didn’t change in taste or texture.  Mind you, using Crisco as a base does not give you the best “mouth feeling” or flavor, I suggest cutting it with butter or find a way to flavor the frosting (imitation butter, almond extract, Jell-O?)  I used cocoa and coffee since they were available at the time.  I was tempted to try adding strawberry Jell-O powder to the mix, that would give it flavor and color!

More experiments needed.  If any of you reading this have a better, more natural, way to make this sort of frosting please tell me in the comments below!

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Stuffed Eggplant

By the time I pull out the eggplant the sun is well situated below the sunset position on the hidden horizon.  There are two smudges of clouds above the houses blocking our view of the edge of the Earth.

Here is what I rummaged around the kitchen to find for this late dinner:

  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1/2 cup cooked sausage
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup diced red pepper
  • 1 diced tomato
  • about 1 tsp dried rubbed sage
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated Parmesan cheese *
  • shredded jack cheese *

Pre-heat oven to 400ºF.  Place the whole eggplant in a casserole dish with 1/4 inch of water and roast for 10 minutes on each side.

Split the eggplant in half lengthwise and discard the water.  Scoop or cut out the flesh leaving some as a shell for the filling.  Dice the eggplant flesh and sauté with olive oil and sea salt.

Cook the onion until soft then add the red pepper for a minute.  Add the sausage, sage, tomato and Parmesan.  Turn off the heat and stir until the cheese is incorporated.  Mix with the rice.  Stuff the eggplant shells and top with the shredded cheese.

Return casserole to the oven until the cheese bubbles and the whole dish is hot.

* Note for Gluten-Free folks:  read labels of pre-shredded cheeses, they may contain a declumping additive that contains wheat gluten.  Usually blocks of cheese contain no gluten, it’s best to grate or shred your own cheese.

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Are you a college student or recently moved out on your own and find yourself in the fast food trap?  Making a meal for yourself and maybe a friend or two can be easy and tasty, and gosh darn it – good for you!  Cooking does not require fancy equipment, expensive ingredients, nor cook books.  You’ve been eating since you were born, silly, use the flavours you like so far and run with them.

I’ve always craved sweet over savoury.  When I moved away for school I started with sweet potatoes, chicken with pineapple or oranges, and grilled cheese sandwiches (Mom taught us how to make them when I was little so I could at least manage to work a stove and one pan).  Simple, yes.  Easy, of course.  Exciting?  Not so much.  Since breaking out on my own and away from the bland monotony of meals on the farm, I wanted to try something new every chance I got.  This strategy is good for expanding the palette but not so good for honing a recipe to its peak of culinary mastery.  Now I’m not trying to turn you into one of those chefs on TV, but everyone should have a stash of reliable and quick dishes in their noggin.  Or in a small coil bound notebook they’ve had since grade 9.

Maybe you’ve been around the kitchen a few times already.  And lately you have no inclination to cook?  Well get in your kitchen, or take over a friends’ for an evening and make something for yourselves!

Here are five easy ways to get cooking tonight.

1. Cheap Eats!

Ground Turkey with Gravy and Mashed Potatoes

Fry (on medium heat) a pound of ground turkey in a little oil in a large frying pan (at least 10″ in diameter) or use a wide bottomed pot.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper as it cooks.  Stir gently.

Peel 3 potatoes (Russet – the dark brown-skinned ones, be sure to buy firm potatoes).  Cut the potatoes into large chunks that are about the same size.  Put them into a pot of cold water and turn up the heat.  Lower the heat to medium-high when it begins to boil.  Do not put a lid on the pot or it will boil over.  Let the potatoes cook while you watch the turkey in the other pan.

Mix 1 packet of gravy mix (like McCormick’s Turkey Gravy) with half a coffee mug of water (about 2/3 cup if you want to measure it).  Have a can of cream of chicken or mushroom soup ready to deploy (open the can).

When the pink hue of the turkey meat is gone it’s time to add the sauce.  Pour the can of cream of whatever soup in the pan with the meat, follow with the gravy/water mixture from the coffee mug.  Stir to dissolve the soup into the water.  When this bubbles turn down the heat to low.  Now check your potatoes.

Potatoes are mashable when they can be stabbed with a fork and they fall off the tines easily.  Turn off the heat.  Pour off the water and add a splash of milk and some butter.  Add salt now if you forgot to salt the water for boiling the taters.  Mash using whatever you have available: fork, ricer, big spoon. Although the process goes faster if you have a masher.

Serve as pictured above.  (You are half way to a Sheppard’s Pie btw!)

Cost: about $6  ($1.50 per serving)

2. Soup

Beef Soup

Soups are very forgiving.  They can have just a handful of ingredients or a wide variety when you are trying to use up veggies hanging out in the fridge.  My thought on soup is this: all you need is a good base.

I make my chicken stock from bones and scraps of veggies that I collect in the freezer until there is enough to fill a stock pot to boil up at stock.  But you could buy a box, can or powder to create the soup base.  Try looking in the international foods isle at your grocery store, you can find some interesting stuff to use as your base.  Even a pack of Ramen Noodles can get you started on a tight budget buy adding some meat and/or veggies to the water for the noodles.

Try any of these recipes:

Texas Beef Soup

Dill Pickle Soup

MrsWheelBarrow’s Mushroom Soup

Cream of Poblano and Turkey Stew

Caldo de Res

3. Baked Salmon with Garlic

Salmon Baked with Garlic

If you like fish and you can afford to buy a pound or two at the market, go for this recipe.

Cover a baking sheet with foil.  Place a salmon fillet on the foil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and freshly smashed garlic.  Bake at 350ºF for 20-25 minutes.  Serve with rice or pasta and a salad.

4. Roast Chicken Breasts with Root Vegetables

Chicken Breasts and Root Vegetables

Cut some potatoes (white or red) into wedges and layer them into a casserole dish or some sort of oven-proof pan with sides.  Season with salt, pepper, and maybe an Italian herb blend?  Add baby carrots or peeled adult carrots.  Lay chicken breasts that still have the bone attached on the potatoes and carrots.  Rub the skin with oil or butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Ready, Set, Roast!

Roast in the oven for 30 minutes at 425ºF. Cover with foil and return to a 375ºF oven for another 20 – 30 minutes.  (Always check the temperature of your chicken at the thickest part, it should read at least 180ºF)

Full recipe is here.

5. Something Sweet to End the Meal

What about dessert?

I can hear your thoughts: I can’t bake!  Nonsense!  Try a crisp.

Take some sliced fruit (apple, apricot, peaches, blueberries, or rhubarb if you are luck enough to live where it grows like weeds) or buy a can of pie filling then top it with a crumbly lumpy mixture from my recipe here.

It’s perfect with its imperfections.

Rhubarb Cookie Crisp

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Big Brother is officially a student and is off and running in his first week of Kindergarten.  That means there really is a bedtime now, no two ways about it.  I feel rushed and Big Brother is still learning how to tell time, he is trying at least.  There is a way to be on time for dinner though, get out your crock-pot!  If yours is anything like mine, it was housed in the bottom of a cupboard and is missing its lid.

Apologize to your topless crock-pot and fit it with another lid.  Tin foil and a large kitchen towel may be substituted if needed.

Before you go to sleep tonight, fill up the crock-pot.  Option 1) Cover and refrigerate until morning, then put it on LOW whilst you work, or 2) Turn the crock-pot on LOW now so you can turn it off before it burns dinner, then refrigerate just before leaving for work.

I’m going with option 2.

Carne Guisada (before)

A certain someone likes mushrooms, so those are the extra special ingredient which would not normally appear in a traditional Carne Guisada.  Be your own chef, right?  Well that’s what I intend to do…

Midnitechef’s Carne Guisada (via Crock-pot)

  • 1 pkg Carne Guisada seasoned beef (approx. 1.5 lbs)
  • 1/2 onion, large dice
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, large dice
  • 1 roasted Poblano pepper, seeded peeled and diced
  • 1 15oz canned tomato + 2 cans water
  • 1 cup sliced baby Portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 baby carrots, sliced crosswise

Combine everything but the beef in the pot, mix to distribute.  Add the beef and stir slightly, add more water to just cover.  Set the crock-pot to LOW and cook for 6-8 hours.

Serve with rice, tortillas, avocado, lime wedges, and a tall glass of <insert your favorite beverage here>!

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Looking for a super simple appetizer that will impress your guests?  This one answers the call.

All you will need are four ingredients:

  • smoked salmon
  • cream cheese (light or whipped can be used)
  • capers
  • bread

The bread can be any type, grain, or size you like.  Pictured above is my home-made focaccia split open and cut to size.  You can do the same with a loaf of dark multigrain bread, slice then divide each slice into thirds or quarters.  Go fancy and trim the crusts.  Toast the bread briefly under the broiler to give it structure.

The rest is a breeze.  Put the cream cheese on the toasted bread, lay a piece of salmon or two on top, then garnish with capers.  Done.

These smoked salmon bites are great for afternoon entertaining or as part of a tapas table with cocktails in the evening.

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Pizza Pinwheels

I saw an article in a parenting magazine about pizza rolls.  The idea is quite simple, but mine didn’t turn out all that great.  I had to put it back in the oven to get the dough to cook through.  Maybe if tomato paste was used instead of pasta sauce the dough would have cooked evenly.

Take a square pizza dough (refrigerated stuff is OK) and spread tomato sauce, cheese and whatever else you like.  I thinly sliced cooked italian sausage and shredded leftover chicken and put this in one layer.  Roll up and cut like cinnamon buns.  Bake for 30 minutes at 400ºF.

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Sweet potato hash with a slowly roasted piece of pork shoulder, dry marinated with garlic, allspice, sage and thyme.  Winner Winner Pork for Dinner!

One of these days I will try more recipes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I hardly know where to start though!  The marinade sèche for the pork is based upon Julia’s, I just don’t measure each herb and salt and go by the look and feel of it.  God gave me hands, why not use them?  For now, this recipe is tabbed with a sticky since I don’t want to dog-ear this beautiful hardcover culinary bible.

Marinade Sèche for about 2 lbs of pork

  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed is even better
  • salt
  • thyme
  • sage
  • allspice, go easy with this stuff
  • freshly cracked black pepper, a few turns

Mix the marinade in a small bowl, it will become a little pasty due to the fresh garlic.  Rub the marinade on all sides and in all crevices of the pork.  The piece of pork can be tenderloin, shoulder (boneless), or even chops for the grill.  Cover the meat in a glass dish or place in a plastic bag within a container to prevent spills, place in the refrigerator anywhere from and hour or two up to 24 hours.  Turn the meat if it’s left for longer than one hour.

Julia instructs you to scrape off the marinade before cooking the pork.  I leave it on, if you don’t want to eat the stuff, you can scrape it off on your plate.  I especially leave it on when the meat has only had a couple of hours to marinade, and it’s going to roast in the oven.  If these were chops heading to the grill, then yes by all means scrape off the bits of garlic and fresh herbs (if used) so they won’t burn. Burnt garlic is not a good thing.

I use a small casserole dish with a lid to marinade then roast the pork in, saves me a step and washing an extra dish.  Drizzle a little olive oil over the meat.  Pop the pork into a 325ºF oven and roast, covered, for about 45 – 55 minutes.  Do follow temperature guides for degrees of doneness which are safe to consume, this is only a suggested roasting time.

I really would like a kitchen scale.

That was a random thought, but a good one!

Now for the hash part of “pork and hash”.  This is something I’ve made before and I keep coming back to, it’s such a comforting and easy dish to prepare and I usually have enough of the key players to pull it off.  Those key ingredients being bacon, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.  I’ve even used canned tomatoes in a pinch.

I had some fresh Roma tomatoes and two sweet potatoes left behind in the fridge, perfect.  Seeing how bacon should never run out at my house, I also had a fresh package waiting for me to open.  Happy Happy 🙂

The Gist of the Hash

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into a large dice, equal size counts here
  • 3 – 4 rashers, large slices crosswise
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, quartered lengthwise (optional: seeded)
  • 1/2 of a big yellow onion, rough chop, they will shrink down
  • sea salt and pepper

Start the pan with some water and the potato, drizzle over some olive oil and cover.  Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to sort of steam the potatoes until they are cooked but really firm.  Just a tad before al denté.  Take the potatoes out.

Cook the bacon pieces until crispy.  Sauté the onion in the bacon fat, add a little olive oil if needed.  Add salt and pepper.

Add the tomatoes to the onions when they are soft and start to caramelize.  Add the cooked potato and bacon, cover and turn down the heat to low to let the tomatoes release juices and potatoes finish off.  Adjust seasoning if needed.

The hash comes together quite easily once you have a rhythm to it.  This has been stored in my brain for easy recollection, any excuse to eat more bacon with my veggies 🙂

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The first time I made dinner for my husband when we began dating, I made salmon.  It was a gamble, for sure.  I had no clue what he might like, or hate, but I wanted to impress his taste buds.  I was so nervous to present him with the first meal I had ever prepared for him, however the nerves melted away when he lit up at the table.  What I learned was that he loves fishing, and I could not have picked a better suited dish than a perfectly cooked piece of salmon.

  •   salmon fillets
  •   Dijon mustard, a good tbsp
  •   maple syrup or honey, 1 tbsp
  •   BBQ sauce, enough to coat the fish
  •   garlic a clove or two, minced
  •   Mrs. Dash (regular flavor)
  •   parsley or cilantro – dry
  •   Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tsp

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.

Wash and pat the fish dry.  Cover baking sheet with foil.  Spray or lightly rub veggie oil on the foil, just enough to let the fish slide.  Place the fillet skin side down on to the greased pan or foil.

In a cup mix together the BBQ sauce, mustard, honey/syrup, Worcestershire, garlic.  Spread on the fish, sprinkle Mrs. Dash and parsley on top.

Bake the fish for 20-25 minutes.  It should be flaking but still juicy when done.  You can make a bit extra sauce to put on half way through baking.

Delicious when served with roasted asparagus and rice!  This edition was a trout fillet with basmati rice and romaine salad.

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Since finding cassoulet in my copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking I’ve been trying to devise similar recipes which would lessen the time and cost of preparing such a cozy dish.

This rendition was the result of less than 10$ of ingredients and a couple of hours of stewing in the oven. Us working folk normally don’t have an abundance of time to devote to cooking, but stretching what you have in the pantry at this time of the month (and year) is inevitable and necessary. Weekends are the typical days where my craft can be let loose in the afternoon to bring a leisurely made meal to the family table by supper time. This dish could equally be made in a crock pot, on low while you’re away at work or running errands. I trusted a slow oven for this hearty and thrifty meal.

The measurements are not exact, for you can use more or less depending on what you have.  Go easy with the herbes de Provence, or it will taste like you mistakenly added your flower bed to the stew.

  • 2 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 8 chicken thighs, skin and visible fat removed
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 can white beans (Northern Beans or Navy Beans), rinsed
  • pinch or two of herbes de Provence (see note above)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (you can omit if gluten is a problem!)
  • 2 – 3 cups chicken stock, homemade preferably, or low sodium purchased
  • salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF.

In a Dutch oven or equivalent roasting pan, render the bacon.  Slowly fry the bacon to release the fat and remove any crisp pieces as you go.  Use the bacon fat to brown the chicken thighs on each side, you don’t have to worry about cooking the chicken at this point, that will happen in the oven.  What you want is a bit of color on the chicken to add flavour!

Remove the chicken as it browns, split the chicken in two batches if the pan will be too crowded.  Crowds make for sweaty birds, not browned caramelized ones.

Once the chicken is out, check the pan for fat levels, add a few dots of olive oil if the pan looks dry.  Immediately toss in the onion and carrot, tossing them around to coat with the oil or bacon fat.   Sauté until the onions start to look tanned, as if they just came back from a sandy beach off the coast of nobodycares. 

Add salt and pepper, the herbs, (flour) and the garlic.  Stir until the garlic and herbs become fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Then add the stock and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Add the beans and crispy bacon pieces.  Nestle the chicken thighs into the pot, the liquid should come half way up the meat.

Cover the pot and place in the oven.  Turn down the oven to 300ºF and leave it alone.  After 2 hours you will enjoy a rich broth with dark chicken meat falling off the bones! 

Serve alone, with cooked pearled barley (yum, this was what I made), with rice, or a slice of fresh bread (also what I had with the stew!).

This stew disappeared before I had a chance to do my photo shoot.  You’ll have to imagine this one 🙂

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