Monday, November 30, 2009

Garlic Cheese Rolls

My Venture into Garlic Cheese Rolls

There is something heavenly about the combination of bread, butter, garlic, and cheese. It's simple but delicious nonetheless. Simple foods often have the biggest appeal. Pizza, one of the world's most popular foods, is, after all, nothing but bread topped with a tomato sauce and cheese.

I adore garlic bread and soft breadsticks. Anything doused in butte
r and garlic is right up my alley. I love the way garlic bread gets all butter-soaked when it bakes in the oven. When I began experimenting with this recipe, I knew that I wanted the rolls to have a strong garlic flavor – something that is often lacking in garlic bread or breadsticks. Sometimes, people bake breadsticks that have been rolled in garlic butter and they're OK but the garlic has a tendency to burn when exposed in the oven. I hate that. I also hate it when people are skimpy on the butter. I don't want to get all "Paula Deen" on y'all but a copious amount of butter is needed with any bread.

I came up with two different methods of preparation for these rolls but couldn't decide which one to post. My mother and sister preferred one method and I preferred the other. So, because I was not in the mood to labor over a decision, I decided to post both methods and let you choose which one is better for you. The ingredients are virtually the same but the difference in preparation produces vastly different end results.

METHOD 1 – My preferred method
In this method, you bak
e the rolls in a pan and, after they're out of the oven, you drizzle on some melted butter infused with garlic and a little parmesan cheese. Here is what you can expect with this method:
1) The bottoms
of the rolls will brown nicely but will not get butter-soaked like in Method #2.
2) This method is better for those who do not like an intense garlic flavor. Not only is the garlic less pungent, you can control how much garlic goes on each roll.
3) Your guests or
family members can control how much butter to add to each roll. This is especially nice for those who are watching their calories or fat intake.
4) I think this method has a better presentation for formal occasions.

METHOD 2 – My mother and sister's preferred method
With this method, you add the garlic, butter, and parmesan cheese to the bottom of the pan and the rolls bake on top of it. When you pull the pan out of the oven, you flip the rolls out and they will have soaked up all of the flavors of the garlic, butter, and parmesan cheese. Here is what you can expect:

1) This method is for t
rue garlic lovers only. The garlic flavor is more intense than in Method #1. 2) After baking, the bottoms of the rolls will have absorbed all of that butter. The bottoms will be thoroughly baked but soaked in butter. Very butterlicious.
3) The parmesan cheese will brown some – especially around the sides of the pan.

4) This method seems less pretentious and is perfectly suited for dinner with family and close friends.

Both methods are delicious so it's hard to choose which one is better. That's why I'm posting instructions for both. The end result is different for each preparation – but they're both really good. These make a PERFECT appetizer or a sinful side at any meal. You can fix them for the guys who come over to watch football or make them for Bridge Night with the ladies. Whatever you do, just fix 'em!

If you make them, be sure to leave a comment and let me know how they turned out – and which preparation you opted for. If you made some using both methods, let me know which method you prefer
red. Enjoy – and happy snarfing!

Printable Recipe for Both Methods of Preparation

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Click on an image to see a larger version

Unbaked rolls that have risen and are ready to put in the oven.

Freshly baked rolls hot out of the oven.

Here is what Method #1 looks like. Garlic and melted butter are drizzled over the top. The rolls are then sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan.

Here is what Method #2 looks like. The rolls bake on top of a mixture of butter, garlic, and parmesan. After baking, the rolls are inverted onto a serving plate.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Garlic Fried Rice

My Venture into Fried Rice

In the late 1980's, I made my very first trip to Asia. I was still in college and was traveling with a group of other Americans on business. Our first stop in Asia was the beautiful city Hong Kong. Even before we landed, the excitement flooded through my body as we flew over this awe-inspiring city. At that time, the old airport was still in operation and I had no idea what I was in for as we landed. The old airport was built amongst high-rise skyscrapers and, as you landed, you could easily see people going about their business in apartments that seemed to be only a matter of meters away from the wingtips of the aircraft. For those of you who complain because you live next to train tracks or a loud highway, try having a 747 flying by your bedroom window every 3 minutes.

There was so much to see and do in Hong Kong. One evening, I hung out with an American lady, Janet, who had been to Hong Kong several times. She wanted to go to the night market in an area called Mong Kok. Before we went shopping, she wanted to grab a bite to eat at one of her favorite eateries that specialized in a kind of fried rice called Yeung Chow Fried Rice (Yang Zhou Chao Fan) – which is a specialty in southern China. This kind of fried rice is made with barbecue pork called char siu (cha shao). Very tasty.

After eating, we walked along a street that had stall after stall of street vendors selling everything from bootleg music to fake watches. It was a sight to behold. Janet stopped at a stall selling women's clothing and she meticulously picked through several outfits. I was amused when the lady working in the stall exclaimed "We got clothes for fat lady! You like?" By American standards, Janet had an ideal figure. However, in comparison to the scrawny Chinese women in Hong Kong, she looked morbidly obese. Janet firmly retorted back, "I'm not FAT. I'm a size EIGHT!" Undeterred, the Chinese woman screeched "Don't worry! We got big size. Big size for fat lady." If she thought Janet was fat, I can't imagine what she thought about ME.

I decided to look at some of the goods being sold at nearby stalls. I came upon a stall selling these very strange-looking objects. They were pink and made out of plastic and were shaped like missiles about 6" high. I picked one up and couldn't figure out why these missiles didn't have any fins to help control their flight. If they weren't toy missiles, I couldn't imagine what they were so I flipped it upside down to see if there was any writing on the base. I'm sure I looked like a curious chimpanzee trying to figure out how to make a call on an iPhone. The old lady working the booth took the missile from my hands and twisted the base. I could hear it vibrating as she handed it back to me. I said, "Oooooh, I see. It's some kind of vibrator." So, I tilted my head to one side and started using the vibrator on my neck and shoulders . I turned and saw Janet starring back at me -- with her mouth gaping open and looking at me like I had two heads. She yelled, "WHAT are you doing?!" As I continued using it on my neck, I said, "This lady is selling these vibrator thingies. I don't know – they're not very strong. They don't seem to be logically designed."

Janet started laughing her head off. In between snorts, she explained what I was holding. I had NOOOO idea. I was just this young, naive kid from Kansas. Trust me, we don't sell these on street corners in Wichita! Upon hearing what it was, I clumsily tried to hand it back to the lady and it slipped out of my hands. I was so scared to touch it, I kept knocking it in the air like I was juggling a red-hot coal briquette. In trying to give it back to the lady, I knocked half of the missiles over on her table. Undeterred, the lady said "50 dollar!" That was 50 Hong Kong dollars, of course. I said, "No. NO!" She countered, "OK, OK. For you, 45 dollar." I grabbed Janet, who was still guffawing, and we left the area as quickly as possible. Of course, she had to share this horribly embarrassing story with the other Americans who were traveling with us so I never lived it down the rest of the trip.

I was so traumitized that it was years before I could eat fried rice again after that. This recipe is nothing like the fried rice I had in Hong Kong but it is good nevertheless. Enjoy – and happy eating!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Garlic Fried Rice
(Printable Version)

6 TBSP butter, divided use
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon juice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
1/2 cup diced ham or cooked chicken
3 eggs, beaten
3 cups cooked rice, chilled
2 TBSP soy sauce or more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
2 scallions, diced

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small glass dish in the microwave. Add the minced garlic and lemon juice to the melted butter and stir to combine. Set aside to allow the flavors to mingle.

This dish comes together so fast that EVERYTHING needs to be chopped, measured, and ready to add. Chop the onions and scallions then measure out the peas/carrots, ham, rice, and soy sauce. Finally, you should beat the eggs in a small bowl.

In a large, non-stick skillet, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft – about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the peas and carrots and cook about 3 minutes then add the diced ham or chicken. Cook 1 minute. Push all of the contents of the skillet to one side to keep them from cooking too much. On the empty side of the skillet, add the beaten eggs. Season with a little salt and pepper and scramble until just set. Integrate the eggs with the veggies and move everything back to the edge of the skillet. Quickly add the garlic mixture to the pan and use a spatula to break it up. Cook it about 1 minute or so (longer if you do not want an intense, in-your-face garlic bite). If you are worried about the strong flavor of garlic, you can add the same amount of garlic but add it with the peas and carrots. This will give the garlic ample time to mellow and sweeten by the time everything is cooked.

Add the cold, cooked rice and mix it in with the other ingredients. Add the soy sauce and stir to combine. Stir it every 30 seconds for about 2 minutes. Add the scallions and stir. Taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper, and/or additional soy sauce, if desired. Stir one last time and transfer everything to a serving bowl.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


My Venture into Comfort Food

I've been making this dish for years but I've never considered it "blog worthy" enough to post. I happened to make it last weekend for my mother and sister because they thought it sounded good. Because I use reduced-fat milk in this recipe, it tends to curdle easily when heated – a common problem when heating milk with lower percentages of milk fat. As such, I assumed that many of you would not like the look of the finished dish – even if you really liked the taste. I, therefore, had never considered posting the recipe.

I was a little worried about making it for my mother, in particular. She loves things flavored with chicken but is not fond of chicken meat itself. She doesn't like biscuits and she tends to prefer dumplings, etc, with LOTS of broth and this dish is not soupy at all. In fact, there's very little liquid remaining after it has cooked because the biscuits absorb most of the soup – making the finished product oh-so-good. For all of the above reasons, I really didn't think this dish would be up her alley. I was surprised. She and my sister both LOVED it! Trust me. They'd tell me if they didn't like it. My mother thought I was over-reacting about the curdling issue since she could barely see what I was talking about. This is no comfort coming from a woman who wears trifocals. I explained that I didn't want to lose people's respect if they cooked it and the milk somewhat curdled after it was heated. She assured me that the curdling issue could not possibly make people respect me any less. You know, I'm beginning to think that was an insult. Guess who's getting a little ex-lax in her brownies this weekend?!

If the curdling bugs you, as it does me, it can be reduced in a number of ways. In this recipe, you could easily use evaporated milk or heavy cream – both of which would curdle much less than fresh milk. I don't know about you but I'm certainly not going to use over 5 cups of heavy cream in this or ANYTHING. My patootie is big enough already!

My mother and sister asked me where I got the name "Chick-n-Caboodle" from. As you know, I'm horrible about naming recipes. After experimenting with this recipe over the years, I came up with the version I'm posting today. When I got it just right, I almost ate the whole kit and caboodle in one sitting! Chick-n-Caboodle is just a play on that expression.

This recipe is great on any cool day. It's always warm and comforting. This is another mom-approved recipe! Enjoy – and happy caboodling!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

(Printable Version)

6 TBSP butter
1 1/2 bunches scallions (white and light green parts), minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
5 1/2 cups reduced-fat milk
2 TBSP (or 6 cubes) chicken-flavored bouillon
Pepper to taste
1 cup cooked chicken, cut into small pieces (I use leftover roasted chicken)
1 TBSP oil
2 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into a small dice
About 1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots (you could use more if desired)
1 16.3 oz can refrigerated biscuit dough (reduced-fat works great)

Preheat oven to 325F.

In a dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the scallions and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until they are soft. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Toss in the flour and cook a couple of minutes, whisking often. Slowly pour in the milk while continuously whisking. Add the bouillon and pepper and stir. Bring the soup to a simmer, whisking every couple of minutes.

While you are cooking the scallions, heat a skillet over medium heat with 1 TBSP oil. Add the potatoes and a little salt and pepper. Cook about 3 minutes then add the peas and carrots. Cook another 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat while you wait for the soup to come to a simmer.

When the soup begins simmering, add the potato mixture, stir, and cover the pot. Allow it to lightly simmer for about 7 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking. Meanwhile, spray a dinner plate with cooking spray. Open the can of biscuits and pinch off 1/2" pieces of dough and arrange them in a single layer on the plate.

After the soup has been simmering for about 7 to 10 minutes, add the chicken and stir. Next, quickly add the pinched-off dough to the pot in an even layer. Stir occasionally while you are adding the dough. Stir one additional time before covering the pot with a heavy lid. Place the pot in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Stir before serving.

Note: Because I normally use low-fat milk in this recipe, it has a tendency to curdle somewhat when it gets hot. This does not affect the flavor but some people may consider it visually unappealing. If you want to reduce the chance of curdling the milk, you can use either evaporated milk or heavy cream instead of reduced-fat milk.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sweet Potato Mousse with Gooey Praline Sauce

My Venture into Sweet Potatoes

'Tis the season for sweet potatoes! A few years ago, my friend and co-worker, Theresa, brought a delicious sweet potato mousse to an office potluck. I fell in love with it and immediately had some ideas on how I'd like to change it. You know me – I love experimenting with recipes!

Theresa got the recipe from her sister, Catherine, who first got the recipe in 1977. Catherine got an incomplete version from her mother-in-law, who was not known for being a great cook, so Catherine had to play with the recipe a lot to get it just right. She has shared the recipe with countless people from around the world. What I particularly like with Catherine's version is that it's not too sweet. You, of course, can make it as sweet as you like but her version allows the wonderful flavor of sweet potatoes to shine through.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are people who really enjoy sweet potatoes on the very sweet side. My version of Catherine's recipe incorporates spices often used in pumpkin pie and a gooey praline sauce with pecans that bake on the bottom of the mousse. I've tried lots of sweet potato recipes that have a praline topping. The problem with a lot of those is that the topping doesn't melt properly and gets crusty – but crusty in a bad way. When you bite into it, you often bite into sugar that, instead of having melted, has crystallized. Not pleasant. Have you ever had cinnamon rolls with a sticky bun topping? That's essentially what I'm doing in my version of the recipe. I put the nuts and gooey sauce on the bottom of the pan, add the mousse on top, and bake it. When you serve it, you should dig all of the way to the bottom with your serving spoon so you can get some of the rich, gooey sauce. When its baking, it smells like sweet potato sticky buns! Very tasty.

So, you have choice of recipes today:
Catherine's Sweet Potato Mousse
Vince's Sweet Potato Mousse with Gooey Praline Sauce

Try one or both! You can't go wrong with either one. Enjoy -- and Happy Thanksgiving!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Sweet Potato Mousse with Gooey Praline Sauce

(Printable Version)

Sweet Potato Mixture
5 lbs medium-sized sweet potatoes (about 6 to 7)
1/4 cup sour cream
5 TBSP honey
1/2 tsp table salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup heavy cream

Praline Sauce
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 TBSP honey
6 TBSP butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup pecans (or more to taste)

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350F. Wash the sweet potatoes and prick them all over with a fork. Wrap each potato individually with aluminum foil. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until the potatoes are very soft. Carefully unwrap the hot potatoes and place them on a cooling rack. Slice lengthwise through each potato and spread them open. If baking the mousse the same day, leave the oven on while you are preparing everything else.

Step 2: While the potatoes are baking, butter the bottom and sides of a 2-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle the bottom of the dish evenly with the pecans.

Step 3: Also while the potatoes are baking, make the praline sauce by combining the brown sugar, honey, butter, and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer then cook for 2 minutes. Pour the warm sauce over the pecans in the bottom of the dish. Make sure the mixture has cooled and solidified (waiting at least 10 minutes) before adding any of the sweet potatoes on top.

Step 4: When the sweet potatoes have cooled enough to handle, remove the skins and put the pulp in a mixing bowl. If needed, use gloves or paper towels to keep from burning your hands. Using a mixer equipped with a whisk attachment, whip the potatoes until smooth (about 2 to 4 minutes at medium speed). Add the sour cream, honey, spices and salt and beat until combined. Next, add the eggs and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Finally, add the heavy cream and whisk to combine. Spoon the sweet potato mousse into the dish with the cooled praline sauce.

Step 5: Bake the mousse until the center has reached an internal temperature of about 155F (about 1 hour and 10 minutes). Serve hot. When serving, make sure to dig all of the way to the bottom to get some of that gooey praline sauce with each spoonful.

Alternate Preparation: On the day before serving, do Steps 1 through 4. However, make sure the potatoes have cooled completely before adding them to the mixer. After completing Step 4, cover and refrigerate overnight.

On the day of serving, remove the dish from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature (45 minutes to an hour). About 20 minutes before baking, start preheating the oven to 350F. Bake the potatoes until they have reached an internal temperature of 155F (about 1 hour and 20 minutes).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

My Venture into Chocolate Cupcakes

I'm not a big fan of chocolate. I also can't stand maraschino cherries and I think store-bought cherry frosting tastes very artificial to me. In fact, I'm going to come out and just say it. I hate EVERYTHING about this recipe. I'd rather eat a cupcake liner and a couple of the cherry stems than this sinfully rich dessert. I guess if you're one of those weirdoes who likes chocolate or maraschino cherries, you'll probably like it. For me -- aaaack!

As you have probably noticed, I don't post a lot of chocolate recipes. Like any cook, I sample the food that I prepare and try to think of ways to improve the taste. I also really enjoy making new recipes. I can't do that with chocolate. When I take a bite of it, I'm overwhelmed with the taste of, well, chocolate. It's so hard for me to get past the taste that I can't think of ways of making it better – other than, of course, eliminating the chocolate. I do make exceptions. My friend Denise, a chocoholic to the bone, encouraged me to try a chocolate-curry confection at a local, gourmet chocolate store. I was very dubious because 1) I don't like chocolate, and 2) chocolate and curry would appear to go as well together as cats and water. On a whim, I bought one and you know what? I loved it! I know it sounds disgusting but it's was really good. I'm SO going to make a recipe with chocolate and curry sometime. If your local chocolatier sells something with chocolate and curry, try it. I bet you'll be amazed by the flavor.

Even though I hate the taste of these cupcakes, I did have fun piping frosting on the top. I never have the patience to do it properly. I had to pipe three of them just to get one that was presentable enough to photograph. If you want to check out someone who does a much better job of piping and has great recipes, check out Betchacanteatjustone. She's really good.

If you don't like chocolate, skip this recipe. If you DO like chocolate and decide to make it, leave a comment with ideas on how to make it better. I'm sure most of you are MUCH better bakers than I am anyway. Enjoy – and happy baking!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes
(Printable Version)

1 18.25 oz dark chocolate cake mix
1/3 cup juice from a jar of maraschino cherries
1 cup water
1/2 cup oil
3 eggs
1 cup halved maraschino cherries
3/ 4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 or 2 containers of cherry-flavored frosting
18 maraschino cherries for the top (preferably with the stems on)

Preheat oven per the instructions on the cake mix (usually 350F). Add 18 paper cupcake liners to cupcake tins. Depending on how full you fill each muffin cup, you may be able to get more cupcakes out of each batch. Set aside.

Do not prepare the cake mix per the package instructions. Instead, measure out 1/3 cup of maraschino cherry juice and add it to a mixing bowl along with the water, oil, and eggs. Whisk to combine.

Cut enough maraschino cherries in half to make one cup (larger cherries should be quartered). Dump the cherries into a small bowl (not the same bowl as the liquids). Add 2 tablespoons of the powdered cake mix to the cherries and use a spoon to evenly coat them. This will help to keep the cherries from sinking to the bottom of the cupcakes while they are baking.

To the liquid ingredients, add the remaining cake mix and whisk to combine. Use a spatula to fold in the mix-coated cherries and mini chocolate chips. Fill each paper liner nearly to the top with the batter (I use an ice cream scoop). Bake per the package instructions (about 20 minutes).

Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and let them to cool completely on a wire rack.

You have two options for frosting the cupcakes. You can add a "normal" amount of frosting to the cupcakes and use only one container of frosting. Alternatively, you can frost them "bakery-style" and pipe a large amount of frosting on top. The bakery-style method will require a second container of frosting. Top each cupcake with a maraschino cherry.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Turkey and Dumplings

My Venture into Dreaded Turkey Leftovers
You may have seen the recipe I posted last week for Slow-Roasted Turkey Breast with Gravy. Like many people after roasting a turkey, I was stuck with the dreaded turkey leftovers. I've done everything with leftover turkey except put it in my breakfast cereal and make ice cream out of it. Luckily, my mother is always craving turkey so she helped to eat all of the leftovers.

My mother makes WONDERFUL chicken and dumplings. If my mother allows me to, I'll post her recipe sometime. It makes a KILLER meal and you'll want to sob the entire time you're eating because it is sooo good. I think it would be really nice of my mother to make me some chicken and dumplings sometime. Hint, hint. Anyway, this recipe is a spinoff of my mother's. I was very happy with the way it turned out and will definitely be making this again sometime in the near future. Oh, and by the way, this recipe is mom-approved. She, thankfully, ate most of the leftovers so I wouldn't have to add to those dumplings that have been growing on my thighs and backside over the years. This recipe makes a well-seasoned soup that the dumplings bathe in while cooking. It's a one-pot meal that uses some leftover turkey and turkey broth (or turkey gravy) and is a real cinch to throw together in only about 30 minutes. After eating this, you'll be wanting to roast another turkey just to have the leftovers!

This dish is comfort food at its finest. Simple, easy, and delicious. Leftovers don't have to be a four-letter word anymore. Enjoy – and happy eating!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Turkey and Dumplings
(Printable Version)

Gravy Base
1 1/2 TBSP butter
1 bunch scallions (white and light green parts), finely chopped
1/ 2 cup frozen mixed peas and carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups leftover turkey, cut into bite-size pieces
4 cups turkey broth or leftover turkey gravy
Chicken broth as needed
Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp table salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter

Measure out 4 cups of turkey broth or leftover turkey gravy. If using gravy instead of stock, it needs to be quite thin. If the gravy was on the thick side even when it was hot last night at dinner, thin it down with a little chicken stock. If you do not have enough turkey broth or leftover turkey gravy, measure what you have and add some chicken broth until you have approximately 4 total cups of liquid. When I made it last time, I had to add nearly 1 cup of chicken broth because I only had 3 cups of leftover turkey gravy. It tasted just fine.

In a 10" skillet with straight sides, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the scallions, peas, and carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Add the turkey then the turkey broth/gravy/chicken broth and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste. Don't under season the broth. Once the dumplings are added, the flavors will be muted so season the broth a little more robustly than you normally would.

While you are waiting for the broth to come to a simmer, make the dumplings by whisking together the flour, baking powder, and salt. When the broth mixture comes to a simmer and you have adjusted the seasonings, add the milk and melted butter to the flour mixture and use a spoon to stir everything together until it is just combined. Don't over mix or you'll toughen the dumplings.

I use two soup spoons to add the dumpling dough to the broth. I scoop up some of the dough with one spoon and push it off into the broth with the other. Continue adding dough as quickly as you can – leaving a little room between dumplings, if possible. It'll be a tight squeeze to get all of the dough into the broth but it'll fit. IMMEDIATELY cover the dumplings with a tight fitting lid and cook for 20 minutes. Whatever you do, DON'T PEEK while they're cooking. The dumplings should lightly simmer while cooking. I normally reduce the heat to someplace between medium low and medium after the first 5 minutes of cooking so the liquid does not simmer too aggressively.

After 20 minutes, take the skillet off the heat and serve piping hot. This is an EXCELLENT way to use up Thanksgiving leftovers. Delicious and easy!

TIP: This recipe has a high ratio of dumplings to broth – which means that it is not particularly soupy when fully cooked. If you like a lot of soup with your dumplings, use the same amount of gravy base but halve the dumpling recipe.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Klingon Chicken

My Venture into Klingon Space

Anybody who knows me knows three things about me: 1) I love to eat, 2) I love developing new recipes, and 3) I love Star Trek. I'm not insane about my love for Star Trek. Yes, I've gone to a few conventions but rarely dressed up as Spock. Yes, I've seen every episode…multiple times…and every movie…multiple times….and own all of the DVDs – but I'm not one of those nerdy guys who can quote lines from all of the episodes. My love for Star Trek is complex but well grounded. This leads me to my story about Klingon Chicken.

A few years ago, I went to Vegas JUST to see the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton. The Star Trek Experience is now closed so don't go rushing off to Vegas cuz' that starship has already done sailed – and I'm still really bitter about that. Anyway, when I was there, I ate lunch at Quark's – the café inside the Star Trek Experience. While eating my bowl of Qagh (the best Qagh outside of the Klingon Empire, I might add) and taking sips of Romulan ale, I overheard two guys talking at the table next to mine. At first, I thought they were international visitors because they were speaking another language. Their strange-sounding language was very guttural. In fact, it was so guttural, at first I thought they were trying to cough up fur balls or something. After a couple minutes of listening to their angered grunts, clicks, and throat-clearing hocking, I realized they were speaking…Klingon. Yes. Klingon. A completely made-up language for a television show. Oh, I can see their resumes now. Under the "Special Skills" section, they could write "Fluent in Klingon" and then just wait for the job offers to come flying in. I mean, what are they planning to do with this particular skill set? Work in Customer Service for a company that has an automated telephone system that tells callers to Press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish, and 3 for KLINGON?! Geez. I mean, how many Klingons do they think live on this planet when everybody knows their home world is, like, light years away from Federation space? I couldn't help but sneak a peek at them from time to time as they animatedly chatted with each other. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed they were sharing a plate of chicken strips with an orangish coating. I wasn't sure what it was but it looked pretty darn good.

Anyway, after I finished eating, I went and stood in the line for my particular show time. I could barely contain myself because I had read so many rave reviews about the Star Trek Experience. Even though I was in public, I tried to subtly floss my teeth because that Qagh was just stuck everywhere and it was driving me nuts. As I was flossing, I heard the unmistakable guttural sounds of a high-pitched voice speaking Klingon from somewhere back in line. I thought, "Oh, geez. Is everybody in this line a freak except me?" I turned and it was those two guys who were seated next to me in the café. Great. I was about to share my Star Trek Experience with two guys speaking Klingon, a woman with three teeth, and a guy who kept angrily smacking his fake tricorder because the batteries had run down. ...and I was worried about flossing my teeth in public.

A guide then lead us inside and I was so excited about being able to experience the show with clean teeth. We walked through the corridors of the Enterprise D and then got onto a turbolift to go to another deck. Suddenly and without warning, the Enterprise came under attack and the only thing I could think of was, "Oh, PLEASE let me fire the phasers!" They wouldn't let me. Stupid jerks.

Anyway, since the Enterprise was under attack, we were ushered into a shuttle craft to escape the fake battle. The special effects were AMAZING. The shuttle craft must have been sitting on hydraulics that allowed it to pivot up and down, left and right. The large windshield in front was displaying what we would have really been seeing had we been in space with enemy ships firing at us. Everything was perfectly choreographed because, each time the shuttle craft was hit by a photon torpedo, you would hear the detonation and ship would violently rock back and forth. Cool stuff.

I was starting to get motion sickness from all of the movement aboard the shuttle craft. I noticed that one of the guys I sat next to at lunch was beginning to look a little green and he had his hand covering his mouth. I no sooner had thought "Oh, that guy looks like he's going to b…" and then he did. All over the place. I'll spare you the details but, rest assured, it was disgusting. It looked like he emptied the inner recesses of his soul all over the back of the toothless woman's seat. Curses!!! That stupid Klingon RUINED my Star Trek Experience!

So what does this have to do with my Klingon Chicken? You might have seen my recent post for Nacho Cheesy Chili. I had some Doritos leftover from that. I also had some Ranch Dip Mix that had been sitting in my pantry screaming to be used and some chicken breasts in my freezer that I wanted to use up. What on earth could I do with all of this food? I smell a new recipe!!! So, after fooling around with the ingredients, I came up with this concoction. After it came out of the oven, I thought "Hey! This looks just like the chicken those Klingon guys were eating when I was Las Vegas a few years ago." And that's how Klingon Chicken came to be.

This chicken is really good and painfully easy to make. Enjoy – and qaPLAH!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Klingon Chicken
(Printable Version)

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 tsp Ranch Dip Mix from a 1 oz packet
Pepper to taste
3 egg whites, beaten

1 cup finely crushed nacho-flavored tortillas chips (such as Doritos)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (grated finely)
1 1/2 tsp Ranch Dip Mix
Pepper to taste

Oil or cooking spray
Prepared Ranch Dressing (Regular or Spicy)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Use paper towels to pat the chicken breasts dry. They must be very dry in order for the coating to adhere properly. Sprinkle each chicken breast evenly with one teaspoon of ranch dip mix (1/2 teaspoon on each side) and a little pepper. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.

Lightly beat the egg whites and set aside. In order to make 1 cup of finely crushed Doritos, grab a small handful of Doritos and lightly crush them in your hand so that they lay properly in a measuring cup. Repeat. You will need 3 cups of roughly crushed Doritos. Add the 3 cups of roughly crushed Doritos to a resealable bag and use a rolling pin to finely crush them. When you're done, you'll have about 1 cup of finely crushed tortilla chips. Add the crushed chips to a flat container that has sides. Add the parmesan cheese, some pepper, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of Ranch Dip Mix. Use your hands to mix the coating ingredients together. Use any leftover dip mix for another purpose.

Dip a chicken breast in the egg whites and then into the crushed chip mixture and press to firmly coat the chicken breast. Place the coated chicken breast onto a sheet pan spritzed with a little oil. Repeat with the other chicken breasts. Lightly spray the tops of the chicken breasts with oil or cooking spray. Bake 28 to 30 minutes or until the juices run clear. Serve with some prepared Ranch Dressing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Slow-Roasted Turkey Breast with Gravy

My Venture into Juicy Turkey

I'm not a huge fan of roasted turkey breast. It dries out easily and can be really bland sometimes. I, however, really like this recipe because the turkey breast stays nice and moist since it is cooked in a tightly covered pot. If you like crispy skin on your turkey, this recipe is not for you. When cooked, the skin will NOT be crisp. In fact, this recipe is perfect for anyone who plans to de-bone and de-skin the meat before serving.

Turkey, in general, is not my favorite protein. I think it has a foul odor when baking (no pun intended!) and can be a little bland and unexciting. For roasted turkey, I prefer dark meat but eat it rarely since it is more fattening than the white. All that said, I do like to use ground turkey in many dishes. I also love sliced turkey breast from the deli.

You will notice I did not add any fresh herbs to the turkey breast. I, personally, do not like to cover up the taste of poultry with a lot of herbs. I also don't like the herbal taste it gives to the drippings. Personal preference. You, certainly, could use whatever herbs you want. If you plan to use herbs, I highly recommend fresh thyme because I think it goes great with turkey or chicken.

If I'm not that fond of turkey breast, why did I make it? Well, that's easy. It was on sale (buy one, get one free). Saving money on food always makes it taste better. So, I bought two, baked one, and gave the other one to my mother. She LOVES turkey and I think she has an entire flock of turkeys in her freezer. I also thought it would be good to post a turkey recipe now in case you're looking for things to make for Thanksgiving. This recipe is a great (and SIMPLE!) way to prepare turkey for any small gathering. To complete the meal, make some mashed potatoes and bake some dinner rolls and people will shower you with money. This is comfort food at its finest. Enjoy – and happy roasting!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Slow-Roasted Turkey Breast with Gravy
(Printable Version)

1-8 to 9 lb Bone-In Turkey Breast
Salt to taste
1 1/2 TBSP vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

Turkey Gravy
3 TBSP butter
3 TBSP flour
4 cups turkey drippings and broth
Chicken broth (if needed)
Salt and pepper to taste

Adjust your oven rack to the lowest position. Preheat oven to 250F.

Rinse and dry the turkey breast. Even when I purchase a brined turkey breast, I still like to lightly salt the turkey breast under the skin. You, of course, do not have to. If the turkey breast that you purchase has NOT been brined or koshered, liberally salt the breast under the skin.

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat with the oil. When hot, add the turkey, breast-side down. Add the onion around the edges of the bird. Add the garlic on top of the onions. Cook several minutes or until the skin has browned. Flip the bird over so that the breast is facing upward. Stir the onions and garlic. Cook a couple minutes longer. If you have a probe thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the breast – making sure the probe is not sticking up in the air in a way that would impede your covering the turkey breast with a lid. Cover the pot with aluminum foil and top with a tight-fitting lid. Crimp the foil around the seam of the pot to ensure steam does not escape. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160F – roughly 2 1/2 hours.

When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and flip the bird over so that the breast is submerged in the accumulated juices. Cover and let rest 15 minutes. During this time, the internal temperature will increase to at least 170F.

Remove the turkey from the pot and place it on a large platter. Keep it tented so it stays warm. Strain the liquid and solids from the pot into a large bowl. Use the back of a ladle to make sure you smash the onion/garlic to extract all of the juices. Discard the vegetable solids. Skim some or most of the fat that settles on top of the broth and discard any unwanted fat. Measure how much turkey broth you have. If you do not have at least 4 cups, add some chicken stock to come up to a total of 4 cups of liquid. If you like particularly thin gravy, you can add an extra 1/4 to 1/2 cups of turkey/chicken broth. If you like thicker gravy, reduce the liquid by 1/4 to 1/2 cup.

To make the gravy, heat a saucepan over medium heat with three tablespoons of butter. After the butter has melted, add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook the butter/flour mixture for about 5 minutes or until it is brown in color. Add the turkey broth and whisk to make sure there are no lumps. Bring to a boil then simmer about 5 minutes. Too thin? Simmer another few minutes or until the gravy is your desired thickness. Too thick? Add more turkey broth, chicken broth, or even water. When the gravy is your desired level of thickness, taste it and add some salt and pepper, if needed. You'll probably need at least some salt.

Serve the turkey breast and gravy with some mashed potatoes.
Related Posts with Thumbnails