Friday, January 27, 2012

Michelle's Popcorn Cauliflower

When I was on Facebook recently, I saw the most lovely looking cauliflower dish made by Michelle Frank. Michelle is like me. She loves to cook. She loves to share her recipes with others. And more than anything, she loves really good healthy food. She’s a marathon runner and a busy working mom of two young girls. If she can make the time to cook wonderful meals for her family, than no one has any excuses. Well, I don’t mean to sound like such a hard a$$, but, you get my drift.
Now, the photo of her popcorn cauliflower dish was what drew me in. Cauliflower is wonderful for you but can be oh so boring. This didn’t look boring at all. In fact it looked just darn right delicious. The shocker was that it WAS absolutely delicious. I have never seen my husband get so excited about cauliflower and even go back for a second helping. He said, “This is a keeper!”  and “I can’t believe I’m going back for seconds of cauliflower!”. 
And, I do want to mention how easy it is to prepare this side dish. It takes two seconds to mix a few spices together, cut up some cauliflower, mix it together and toss it in the oven. Fast, delicious, healthy....what more could you want?
1 head cauliflower, cut head into medium sized florets, discard stems;
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
4 tablespoons olive oil
1. Preheat Oven to 450
2. Line a jelly roll pan or baking sheet with parchment paper (DO NOT try to just spray aluminum foil with Pam or the like). 
3. In a large bowl, combine all of the above ingredients except the cauliflower and shake vigorously until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cauliflower florets to evenly coat.
3. Place in a single layer on the prepared sheet.
4. Roast uncovered for 30 to 35 minutes, until the largest pieces can be pierced with a fork.
Michelle’s notes: I roast this for a lot longer than 30 to 35 minutes because we like it really browned. You can see the difference between the picture in the recipe book in the picture and what mine looks like when it's roasted for a longer period of time. I also set a timer for 20 minutes when it first goes in, and then I move it around every so often so that it roasts (eh, burns) evenly. 
Also, as a major side note, don't ever make just one serving at a time. If you only make 1 head there will not be any left by the time your family is ready to sit down and eat because you will have eaten all yourself to the point of scraping every last burned morsel off the tray.
If you have Pampered Chef Stoneware, this does wonderfully on a very seasoned tray, but if not DO NOT forget the parchment paper!

Michelle and her family after finishing the Atlanta Marathon 2011

Monday, January 23, 2012

Michele's Crock-Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

The other day while on Facebook, I saw the most wonderful looking soup made by Michele Hartwig, an awesome ultra runner. I noticed that she not only used her crock-pot, which I haven’t used in years, but she also used a whole chicken. I’ve made a quick stove top version of chicken noodle soup using chicken breasts on the rib and store bought stock, but never completely homemade stock. 
I was a little nervous pulling out the crock-pot. In fact, I had to get Marty to reach up high, way in the back of the cabinet, to pull it out. I wasn’t sure it even still worked. I figured that if it didn’t work, I could run out to Bed Bath & Beyond or somewhere like that and buy a new one really quick. I got lucky and it seemed to work but it just wasn’t getting very hot. I understand it’s a “slow” cooker but even still, it just didn’t seem to be getting as warm as it should- even on the high setting.
After a little over four hours, I pulled the chicken out, strained the stock, cut up the chicken and continued to keep it on high. My next concern was to get the egg noodles cooked soon enough- it was almost time to eat! 
Another problem was that the stock just wasn’t flavorful and rich enough. No matter how much salt I added, it still didn’t have enough richness. The cause may very well be the crock-pot not getting hot enough. So I had to add some ingredients to give the stock some more richness.
If your crock-pot is working well, unlike mine, feel free to omit the carton of chicken stock. It was actually a little painful to add the store bought stock. I really didn’t want to do this. But, the truth is: THIS WAS THE BEST CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP I HAVE EVER HAD!
Okay, here is the recipe:
1 whole chicken (I used a free range organic chicken)
7-10 garlic cloves
bunch of fresh thyme
5 carrots, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
generous amount of salt
freshly ground pepper
1 carton of organic chicken broth
1/2 cup of regular cream
1 tablespoon of flour
a dash of hot sauce
1 bag of dried egg noodles (Michele uses noodles made with free range eggs)
1 handful of chopped flat leaf parsley or to taste
Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Stuff the cavity with garlic and thyme and place in the crock-pot. Add carrots, celery, onion and salt and pepper to the pot. Add water to the pot so that it's the chicken and veggies by at least an inch or two. Keep on high for 4 hours. You don’t need to check it unless you are obsessive-compulsive like me! 
After 4 hours, remove the chicken from the crock-pot, let slightly cool, and debone. Then, cut into bite size pieces. Remove contents from the crock-pot and use a strainer to separate the liquid. Pour liquid back into the pot. Add back the chicken. 
Michele adds more sliced carrots (not the original carrots from the stock) but I forgot to do this. 
Even with added salt and some hot sauce, I still couldn’t get enough flavor in the stock so I added a carton of chicken stock. I also added flour and regular cream to make it a little creamy. Feel free to omit this, depending on how you prefer your chicken noodle soup.
Michele says to add the noodles to the stock pot and let cook for 12 to 15 minutes. Again, because of the time, a crock-pot not getting warm enough, and adding room temperature store bought stock, I ended up throwing everything in a large pot and bringing it all to a boil on the stove. Then, I turned it on low for about 5 minutes until the noodles were cooked and added the chopped parsley.
So, a crock-pot chicken soup that was supposed to be easy, ended up being a lot of work including another pot to wash. But, I must say that after all, the soup was absolutely delicious. I guess it’s time to shop for a new crock-pot because I’m determined to make the next recipe EASY and delicious. Thank you Michele for the recipe!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chicken Andouille Sausage and Peppers- Quick and Yummy

I love making sausage and peppers. It’s a great 30 minute meal that doesn’t create a lot of pots and pans to clean. All it takes is a little bit of slicing and watching the pot. Most of my ingredients came from Costco. I get the yellow, orange, and red peppers, sausage, and onions from Costco and freeze the sausage to have on hand when I need a quick dish on a busy night. The smoked paprika is a very nice addition. If you have never had smoked paprika (as opposed to sweet paprika), I highly recommend that you add it to you repertoire of flavors. 
One package of chicken andouille sausage (about 10 links, cut in half and sliced lengthwise) (You can use any sausage that you prefer but I do recommend chicken sausage because it’s healthier than pork sausage)
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, sliced
1 sweet onion, slilced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp of smoked paprika
1 pinch of red pepper flakes (to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 8 oz can of tomato paste
1 can of diced tomatoes with the juice
a good handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
In a large nonstick skillet (if you are not using nonstick, add a 1tsp of olive oil. Chicken sausage tends to not have as much fat as pork sausage so it may initially burn), fry the sausage on medium to high heat. Turn sausages over after about 3 to 4 minutes or when sausage is browned but not burned. Once browned on both sides, remove the sausage and place on a plate. 
To the same skillet, lower the heat to low, and add the onions, peppers, and garlic. Be careful not to burn the garlic (I usually add this after a few minutes of adding the onions and peppers). After about 5 minutes, add the paprika and red pepper flakes. Saute for another 5 minutes until the onions and peppers are soft. Add back the sausage to the skillet. Then add tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and parsley. Mix together and let simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
Serve on a bowl of pasta, rice,  quinoa, or make it a sub sandwich. I decided to serve it with sliced Rosemary Olive Oil loaf. (Add olive oil and dried basil, and mozarella on top, and broil in the oven for 5 minutes). 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Omega 3 Dark Chocolate Brownies

Was in the mood for something chocolate which really isn't different than any other day and decided to make some "healthy" brownies using a mix, which I bought at Publix for buy one get one free, recently. I was experimenting so I hope I have the measurements accurately.  Because I added oats and flax seed, I had to add a little more of the liquid ingredients. The reason I called them Omega 3 Brownies is because they have both walnuts and ground flax seed in them which are both great sources of Omega 3.

1 egg
3/4 cup of pumpkin puree
1 tbs of vegetable oil
1/3 cup of water
a cup of chopped walnuts (or to taste)
1/4 cup of ground flax seeds (I buy mine at Costco and store them in the freezer)
3/4 cup of quick oats
GHIRARDELLI Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix.
powdered sugar

Pre-heat oven to 325

Mix egg, pumpkin puree, oil, and water together. Then add walnuts, flax seeds, quick oats, and brownie mix. Mix well.

I used a brownie pan lined with parchment paper. I sprayed the parchment paper with vegetable oil. That way I didn't have to worry about washing another pan and it was easier to transfer to a cutting board while on the parchment paper for pretty cutting.

Pour mixture in brownie pan to bake for about 40 minutes. Check on them by inserting a toothpick to make sure they are done. It could take 45 minutes depending on your oven.

Sprinkle powdered sugar through a sieve for a little added sweetness and to make them look oh so pretty. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Chicken and Dumplings

 The day after New Years was about putting Christmas away for us. I don't know about you but when I put Christmas away, I start thinking about purging and a little home redecorating. Once the Christmas decorations are gone, I can see my home in a whole different light. 

I will admit that I can be a pack rat. In fact, I have to go to great effort to keep things organized and make myself throw away or give away things that I don't use anymore. I had a large collection of food magazines and some Ultra Running magazines that I needed to dispose of, even though it was a painful chore. Of course, I made sure I only threw away the Ultra Running magazines that did not have my name in them!

While tossing out the Martha Stewart's "Everyday Food" magazines, I noticed the cover of one, then another, until I found myself completely enthralled in them. I came across a Chicken and Dumpling recipe that was a little different than my friend Whitney's recipe, so I decided to give it a try for dinner.  I made just a few minor changes and it turned out pretty tasty.

2 tbs of butter
1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
one medium onion cut into 1-inch pieces
5 medium carrots, cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 cup all purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 carton of reduced sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts on the rib, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 tbs chopped fresh dill or 3/4 tsp dried dill weed
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs milk (I used skim)

In a Dutch oven (5-6qt with a tight fitting lid), heat butter and olive oil over medium. Add onion, carrots, and thyme. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of flour and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly; season with salt and pepper. Nestle chicken in pot; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make dumplings: In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 3/4 cup flour, dill, baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt. With a fork, gradually stir in 1/2 cup of milk to form a moist and soft batter. It should be just a little thicker than pancake batter and should easily drop from the tip of the spoon. (Add additional 2 tbs milk if too thick.) Set aside.

Stir peas into pot. Drop batter in simmering liquid in 10 heaping spoonfuls, keeping them spaced apart (dumplings will swell as they cook). Cover, and simmer until chicken is tender and dumplings are firm, 20 minutes, Serve. 
Dumplings add to the soup

20 minutes later