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Archive for March 2010

Pesto Chicken Sandwiches

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What a beautiful Sunday it was. A kickball Victory to start the morning, initial inspiration to make something fantastic, a trek to the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market, did taxes for 2009, and sat in the sunshine for most of the afternoon (80° and sunny!).  The initial inspiration for this came from the realization that I still had basil left over from the Chicken Parm Burgers, what else can I make with fresh basil? Why Pesto of course!!

Not all varieties of Artichokes have thorns!

But first, let’s start with an age old artichoke appetizer. Did you know globe artichokes are known to have been cultivated at Naples around the middle of the 9th century? They make a great vehicle for butter or fresh farmer’s market hummus too. When cooking, steam them for 35 minutes or until the outside leaves are easily pulled off (like almost falling off). They’re kinda trick to eat, but you scrape the inside off with your teeth and don’t eat the actual leaf.

Appetizer’s are great and all, but you’re really just interested in the main course aren’t you! Pesto’s really easy to make and there are 10 gazillion recipes out there how to make it, but basically you but some good stuff into a blender and blend it until it’s an oily paste that smells and tastes delicious. It’s like a party in your mouth.

To make the sandwiches, we (ESC & I) started by making the pesto because it’s not time sensitive and can be made well beforehand. It also gives you plenty of time to enjoy the fresh artichoke appetizer. I pan fried two chicken breasts in a pan doused with lemon juice, rosemary and my iii-taliian-o espices (gesturing fervently with hands). Cut the mini-baguette in half, butterfly each side and toast it to make a receptacle for awesomeness. Spread the pesto on one side of the bread, topped with the sliced bell pepper then the chicken breast. Add a couple good sized parmesan shavings on top and another dollop of pesto. For best results, cook chicken until done and then toast so when serving the toast is still warm.

This picture perfect party is about to be in my mouth.

Served on the plate shown with steamed green beans and the rest of the bell pepper (raw). This is a meal that most definitely does not require a fork. Could even be a great picnic lunch! Will definitely make again in the near future it was tasty and super easy. Not including the artichoke, total time was ~15 minutes as you can make the pesto at the same time as the chicken is cooking and bread is toasting.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup pesto (see directions below)
2 Chicken Breasts
1 Mini Baguette
1 Yellow Bell Pepper
Shaved Parmesan

Pesto (makes ~1 cup pesto):
1 cup packed fresh Basil leaves
1/6 cup chopped walnuts
2 Garlic Cloves mashed
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Parmesan

Serves 2; ~$3.00/plate; Very healthy meal. Maybe some carbs in the Bread & Cie baguette?

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Written by Brent

March 28, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Posted in Chicken

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Carne Asada Tacos

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Tacos Tacos Tacos!  These tacos turned out mighty fine.  I’ve never made a carne asada before, and figured it was about time I should try!

The beef should marinate for at least 2 hours in the fridge to get the tasty flavors infused into the meat (Four hours would probably be best).  Combine all of the marinade in a gallon freezer bag or a large tupperware container. Cut the beef into small dice-sized chunks and add to the marinade, mixing well.

Artsy Side View

When it’s about dinner time, start chopping the lettuce, tomatoes, shredding the cheese and heating the tortillas.  Add a small amount of oil to a large cast iron skillet. Spoon beef into skillet, reserving as much marinade as possible (the stuff will smoke in the pan and has icky beef juices). Cook the beef for 7-10 minutes, or until starting to blacken.  If there is too much marinade in pan, the beef will boil and wont actually turn that glorious blackened color you see on a piping hot plate of fajitas at your local casual dining restaurant chain. Assemble & devour tacos ASAP before roommates/siblings/spouses inquire why it smells so awesomely delicious in the kitchen.

I used Lemon Juice instead of the traditional Lime Juice and I didn’t notice any substantial difference.  Executive Sous Chef muses that the tacos need some guacamole or sautéed onion to mix up the flavors and consistency. I agree, guac or even just sliced avacados would be an excellent addition to the tacos.

We have a bottle of spiced rum that we’re not really sure what to do with, so we made up a drink:  1 shot Spiced rum, 1/3rd OJ, 1/3rd Cranberry Juice, slather some mystery popsicle over ice. It was quite delicious… I had to find out that rum and OJ doesn’t go well together, luckily Sous Chef was there to save the day with her critical thinking skills!


Ingredients:
1.5lbs Marinated Beef (skirt or flank steak)
15-20 White Corn Tortillas (teeny-tiny ones)
1 cup grated cheese (mozzarella & cheddar)
1 cup chopped head lettuce
2 Roma tomatoes, diced pico style
1/2 can Refried Black Beans

Marinade:
4 Garlic Cloves, diced
1/2 cup Olive Oil
Handful of Cilantro, diced
1/3 cup Fresh Basil, diced
2 tbsp White Vinegar
~1/2 cup Lime or Lemon juice
1 tsp sugar

Makes ~ 8-10 4″ tacos. Total Cost: ~3$/plate (The beef was on ridiculous super sale). Healthy? Not really, lots of cheese & oil and not too many healthy veggies, but add a good side salad or something and that should be good enough.

Written by Brent

March 25, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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Chicken Parmesan Burger Wrapped in Chard Leaf

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After a nice warm sunny weekend, I felt the desire to make a burger like something but wanted to keep it healthy. So I pondered about what kind of burger and decided on a chicken-ish one (hoping it wouldn’t heavy like a beef burger) and eventually found a recipe that sounded both delicious and in burger form!  I ran it by my newly promoted Executive Sous Chef to vet the idea. Success! Now the only thing left is the planning. And Eating.

Unwrapped & topped with basil

After reading through it the first time, I decided I didn’t want to use the French bread thinking it was calling it just to use as buns… however I later found out this was not 100% the case. The bread is used to thicken the burgers and make them noticeably less gooey/slimy and give them more volume to be burger-like.  Start by toasting the bread to a medium set of burntness.  Add the toast, parmesan & half the minced basil to a food processor and blend well; set aside. Add raw ground chicken, olive oil, 1/2 cup marinara, salt & other half of minced basil to a large bowl.  Best get yo’self ready for some gooey dirty hands! Mix/blend/mush the breadcrumb/parmesan mixture with the bowl of chicken goop. There should be enough to make four good size patties.  Note:  the patties don’t reduce or shrink when cooking, so you shape them however you want (thick/thin/stars/hotdogstyle/etc).  I made them on the thicker side thinking they would be easier to flip and handle while cooking, but they were pretty sturdy once one side was sufficiently cooked. Sous chef topped the burgers with a slice of tomato and mozzarella and a spoonful or two of the remaining marinara. Then wrapped the whole thing in an oversized chard leaf!

It ended up being a pretty tasty meal, but it could’ve used more spices and not burn your tongue off kind. Maybe some cinnamon or cumin or something to give the burger a stronger flavor. It wasn’t bland, just didn’t have a lot of flavor to stand out above the marinara.

Sous Chef quotes: “was more reminiscent of a falafel meal, more marinara sauce maybe to dunk it into”
My quotes: “What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

Ingredients:
3 slices sandwich bread (toasted), whatever’s on hand
1/3 c Grated Parmesan
3 tbsp minced basil + extra leaves to top burgers
3/4 c marinara
16oz Ground Chicken
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Pinch of Salt
4oz Mozzarella, thinly sliced
4 Large Chard Leafs (to use instead of buns)

Makes 4 patties in 20 minutes.  ~ 3$/plate (more if you do more fancy sides of course).  Definitely a healthy meal with some protein!

Written by Brent

March 24, 2010 at 12:25 am

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Brent’s Homemade Homestyle Chili

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I’ve made chili a couple times, each with slightly different ingredients, but now that I have a handy-dandy blog to keep track of what ingredients I put in it, I can tweak it with some reliable knowledge of what I’ve already tried!  This is a ridiculously inexpensive meal that is great for lunches and cold days. It actually wasn’t that hot even with the three peppers and other spices.  Next time I think I should get one of those dried mexican chili peppers next time and see how that changes things in the spice department.

Closeup of chili, it'll eat your face with goodness.

I started by pan cooking the sausage still in the casings (I wanted the sausage to be the larger chunkier bits in the chili, and the ground chuck to be the littler meat bits). It took ~20 minutes to cook all the way through, turning every 5 or so.  During which time we can get the crock pot ready with everything else: drain & wash all beans, add tomato paste, sauce, half of the chopped onion, green onions, and assorted peppers.  When the sausage is done, cut them into chunks and brown the remaining meat and sauté the other half of the chopped onion. Add both meats to the pot. Add water and mix everything around.  Add all spices and mix again.  Top with cheese.  Cover and cook on High for 3 hours or Medium for 5-6 hours, stirring every 45-60 minutes to prevent burning.

It ended up being a 3.5/10 on my spicy-ness meter. Eat it with cornbread muffins and a glass of milk and you wont even notice the spice. In the past, I’ve added Cajun Spice (cayenne pepper & paprika apparently) to give a nice burning in the back of the throat taste, but it’s never been higher than a 6.

I really need a larger crockpot. And to remember to take pictures before devouring the bowlful. And to remember that chili needs garnishes when taking pictures of it, otherwise it just looks like a giant bowl of poo. Or Cornbread muffins for eyes and a submerged ladle for a giant awkward nose.

Chili monster says "EEEAAAATTTT MEEEEEE!!!!"

Ingredients:

3/4 lb ground chuck – browned
3/4 lb Spicy Italian Sausage – cooked then chopped
1 can Black Beans
1 can White Kidney Beans
1 can Pinto Beans
1 16oz can Tomato Sauce
1 6oz can Tomato Paste
1/2 lg yellow onion chopped
3-4 green onions
1 Jalapeño Pepper
1 Serrano Pepper
1 Red Jalapeño Pepper
2 cups water
3 tbsp Chile Powder
1 tbsp Ground Pepper
1 tbsp Ground Cumin
3 tbsp Italian Style Herbs (A mix of Oregano, Thyme, Marjoram, Rosemary)
1/4 lb Cheddar Cheese, grated

Serves 7-8 depending on bowl size, high in protein, fiber and calories.  Low in vitamins & other healthy things. ~$3 per bowl.

Written by Brent

March 12, 2010 at 11:15 am

Posted in Chili, Main Course

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White Wine Beurre Blanc over Alaskan Halibut

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When asked what he would put on fish, my roommate Matt responded with “Beurre Blanc”.  Having no idea what this actually was, I clearly had to do some research! This video doesn’t give proportions, but shows how to make the sauce. Many of the recipes for Beurre Blanc call for different things, but all it really comes down to is butter, wine & vinegar. It is said to be a great base sauce for many dishes and can be adapted to other things and the flavor changed very dramatically by using different spices, so expect more Beurre sauces! This time, I used a Hogue Riesling which makes the sauce sweet to the taste with a bit of a tang from the vinegar, tossed in some rosemary and called it a good start.  It turned out fantastically over the pan cooked halibut!  On the side we have sweet potato fries (baked) and mixed green veggies.

Beurre Blanc Halibut with Sweet Potato Fries

Beurre Blanc Halibut with Sweet Potato Fries

This dish really took no time at all to cook, there was hardly any prep time and everything can be done at once.  Start with prepping the sweet potato fries and tossing them in the oven, they’ll need to bake for 15-20 minutes with a couple turnings/shakings to get things baked evenly.  Once they’re in there, start heating the oil to cook the fish in, and if your fish needs any preparing or seasoning prior to cooking, do it now!  Start cooking the fishies in a large skillet over medium low heat, turning after 4-5 minutes on each side.  Just after putting the fish in the pan, start the Beurre Blanc sauce: combine the chopped shallots, vinegar & white wine in a sauce pan stirring occasionally to allow everything to mix & cook.  Once it starts to thicken (~5 minutes), add the heavy cream and butter until all incorporated.  Boil for a minute then set aside to keep warm while the fish finishes.  The fries took the longest out of everything, so if you start them while munching on some cheese & crackers and pondering what this weird vinegary wine butter sauce will taste like, you’ll know that with enough butter and wine, everything will taste phenomenal.

Ingredients:
1/2 stick butter
chopped shallots
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1lb Alaskan Halibut

Serves 3-4 with a healthy amount of fat from butter (low carbs though!). ~ $9 per plate. Enjoy!

Written by Brent

March 9, 2010 at 12:32 am

Posted in Fish, Potato, Side Dish