Cookin Mama

Cookin Mama


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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Chicken-Stuffed Bell Peppers with Black Beans and Corn

Little Sous Chef approves this message....

I have written previously about our affinity for Cuisine at home, so I won't go into too much detail here, but suffice to say, it is a wonderful magazine for anyone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen and trying new recipes.  My husband's amazing Aunt Kathy introduced me to this cook's dream of a subscription about 6 years ago...and I've said a silent thank you to her from my kitchen numerous times since!  One lovely thing about this publication is they do not have a website of recipes.  They do have a website, but the magazine that you've paid for doesn't show up for free online...ergo, making the dollars you spend on it completely worth it!  Did I say I wasn't going to go into too much detail?  Okay, I lied.  But trust me, it is so worth the "investment" of $29 for two years. The other awesome-ness about this is that not one of these recipes has been a "bomb"...they haven't all been super favorites, but I could probably do about 10 blog posts alone of recipes we absolutely love, just from Cuisine at home.

Here is one of the latest new family favorites learned from the July/August 2015 issue.  I share it with my notes, plus I have "their recipe" and "my recipe" because both times I've made this (the second time at the request of my 7 year old mind you), I've strayed a little from their instruction.

Chicken- Stuffed Bell Peppers with Black Beans and Corn
Issue No.112 July/August 2015 Cuisine at home

½ cup quinoa (dry)
1 boneless skinless chicken breast (I use 1 lb ground chicken or ground pork instead)
2 tsp olive oil
2 Tbsp seeded and minced jalapeño
2 Tbsp chopped scallion whites
2 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh or frozen sweet corn
¾ cup shredded pepper Jack cheese, divided (we like our cheese, I use ¾ cup in the recipe, and another ¼ cup as garnish)
½ cup plain Greek yogurt (I use ¾ cup due to the additional ground meat)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp each ground cumin and chili powder
½ tsp coriander, kosher salt, and black pepper – (for both lines of spices, alter as you like, we add more heat if we add more Greek yogurt)
4 red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, stems, ribs, and seeds removed (we had green peppers in our garden, and they were delicious! The first time we made this, we used all colors of peppers)


Preheat oven to 375°

Cook quinoa according to package directions, set aside.

Their recipe:
Cook chicken in oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until completely cooked.  Transfer to a plate to cool, then shred with two forks.

Sauté jalapeño, scallion whites, and garlic in the same skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.  Deglaze skillet with lime juice, scraping up any brown bits.

My recipe:
Cook jalapeño, scallion whites, and garlic in oil 2-3 minutes until fragrant.  Add ground meat, breaking up with spoon and stirring in aromatics as you go.  Completely cook all meat.

Continuing with their recipe + my notes:
Combine beans, corn, ½ cup (3/4 cup if you’re us) cheese, and cilantro in a large bowl.  In a separate smaller bowl, combine yogurt with all spices, salt, and pepper, mix thoroughly.  (they have you add it all together in one bowl, I like to get the spices mixed into the yogurt first).  Mix quinoa and chicken (or pork) into ingredients in large bowl, and then add yogurt mixture.  (side note – the yogurt mixture alone also makes an amazing tortilla chip dip…just saying).  Arrange bell peppers in a 9x13-inch glass baking dish; spoon filling into bell peppers. If you're like me, you'll have way more filling than peppers.  I just bake it the same, either in the pan or in a separate baking dish.  If you only have peppers: add 2 Tbsp. water to bottom of dish to help steam the peppers. For all dishes: cover with foil and bake 30 minutes.  Remove foil; bake another 10-15 minutes.

Garnish bell peppers with remaining ¼ cup cheese and scallion greens.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Family Favorite Smoothies

I promised a friend awhile ago now that I'd post some of our favorite smoothie recipes to the blog.  I had every intention of doing so, and, in my defense, I have had about 10 pictures of smoothies on my phone awaiting said blog post.  Then, today, a new friend asked us to share smoothie recipes...after she and her hubby cooked us a delicious meal.  The least I could do would be to put together a few of our favorite smoothie ingredients!  I should have called this the Mister's and My favorite smoothies.  Our daughter only cares for what we call "The Elvis": frozen banana, peanut butter, honey, and coconut milk.  Our freezer always has a bin of frozen bananas, ready to be thrown into a smoothie recipe.  Speaking of recipes, here they are below, hope you all enjoy them!

My Vitamix, a Mother's Day Present 3 years ago.  It has been used almost every day since.

As you see in the picture above, all of our smoothies are made with a Vitamix blender.  A splurge for sure, but one well worth it.  We use it almost daily, for smoothies, soups, sauces, salad dressings...the list goes on!  We start each smoothie with either a coconut milk or almond milk beverage.  NOT the canned coconut milk (which is an indulgence and makes a really yummy, creamy smoothie!), because it is high in fat, but one of the beverages, unsweetened, such as So Delicious.

My First Green Smoothie

serves 2

This was the first ever green smoothie recipe I tried.  It is by far one of our favorites, and we make it often when clementines are in season.

2 cups coconut milk
2 cups spinach or other greens
1 frozen banana
2-3 clementines, peeled
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
dash or two of cinnamon

Chocolate Cherry Almond

serves 2

2 cups almond milk
1 frozen banana
2 cups frozen cherries
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon almond butter
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

Tropical Mint

serves 2

2 cups spinach
1 cucumber
1 cup frozen grapes
1 cup frozen pineapple
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
Juice of one lime
1/2 cup water

Watermelon Ginger

serves 2

1/2 small watermelon, rind and seeds removed
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled
2 cups baby spinach leaves
2 cups frozen pineapple

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Carrot Soup + Biscuits for Friends

A gift for an ailing friend.

Carrot Soup

I know. I know.  It is July.  It is hot.  Who wants to stand over a stove and make soup?!  Well, me.  A few things led me to this:
  1. Evie and I were going to be hosting three of her friends over a lunchtime.
  2. These three friends, sisters, eat very healthy in their home, I didn't want to serve anything unhealthy!
  3. Evie loves "creamy goodness" soups.  This one qualified.
  4. I was working from home, and therefore able to spend some extra time in the kitchen.
There were a few other factors, such as why on earth carrot soup?!  But, really, I cannot remember exactly why I chose this particular type of soup.  I used a couple of different recipes, but mostly one from Super Natural Cooking that, until today, I hadn't had much success with recipes from that cookbook. I may have to give that book a second try.  Now that the soup recipe was formed in my head, then it was time to turn my attention to biscuits to go with the soup.

Cook Book Treasures

When I have extra time in the kitchen, I like to go through my older cookbook collection and try out an old-school recipe.  I discussed my cookbooks in a post once, but for those of you who missed it, I collect old cookbooks (and new cookbooks, and international cookbooks...).  It started on our honeymoon, when we found a used bookstore.  I found two old home economics textbooks from the 30s that were both hilarious and treasures at the same time.  Since then, I have received others as gifts.  Today's was part of a collection given to me after my Mother's friend Nancy lost her mother a few years ago.

These are special to me for that reason, and for the goodies inside.  My favorite thing in a cookbook is to find signs of use: food stuck to pages, handwritten notations, even doodles.  If you look closely, you can see the dried flour batter bits on this page.  I imagine Dottie touching the page carefully as she checks ingredients while preparing a meal for her family.  The first copyright on this book is 1942, the version I have is 1961.

I used the buttermilk biscuits recipe, in order to use up the buttermilk in the refrigerator from last week's meal plan.  I had the exact amount needed, what are the odds?!  These biscuits turned out great, the kids gobbled them up, crumbled them into the soup, and dipping them, along with apple slices, into the creamy orange soup.  I was happy to have put together a healthy, fun meal for the four little cherubs that spent the morning happily playing with dolls in imaginary home and school settings.


Buttermilk Biscuits

The Modern Family Cookbook ©1961

2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons shortening
3/4 cup buttermilk

Sift flour, measure and resift 3 times with rest of dry ingredients, the 3rd time into mixing bowl.  Cut in shortening with a pastry blender, or rub in with finger tips.  Stir in buttermilk.  When thoroughly mixed, turn onto lightly floured board, knead a dozen times, and roll from 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick.  Cut with floured biscuit cutter and place on a greased baking sheet; brush tops with melted butter.  Bake in a hot oven (450°F) 12 to 15 minutes [mine were done in about 11].  Serve hot, they harden when cooled.

Carrot and Honey Soup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (to make this vegan, use olive or coconut oil in place)
3 ribs celery, preferably three inner-stalks, minced, include leaves.
1 large yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced  
2 lbs carrots, cleaned, peeled, cut into pieces (if you don't have a Vitamix, cut them small and                                                                                       uniformly)
6 cups vegetable stock
Kosher salt and black pepper
2-3 tablespoons raw, unprocessed honey

Start by heating a large stock pot on medium heat, melt butter.  Toss in the minced celery, onion, and garlic.  Sauté until the onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add in the carrots, a couple pinches of salt, and a few turns of pepper.  Sauté for another 5 minutes.  Add in 6 cups vegetable stock.  I share below one of my kitchen tricks: using a sharpie to write the date you've opened a container of stock (should you not have any homemade on hand).  That way, when you find it in the back of the refrigerator later, you don't have to wonder "hey! when did I open this one?!"

Bring soup to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until carrots are tender.  Stir in honey off-heat, then put the soup, in batches, into a blender, taking care not to burn yourself.  Pour blended, creamy soup batches into a large bowl, adding each batch and stirring to distribute evenly.  Test for salt levels, add more kosher salt and more honey as you deem necessary.  Ladle into bowls, serve, enjoy! 

I mean seriously, can you stand the cuteness?  AND, they all loved the meal! 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tomato and Basil Tart

It doesn't get more summery than a tomato and basil tart.  Just a few ingredients, three of them fresh (tomato, lemon, basil).  Unfortunately, I could only harvest basil from our garden, our tomato plant seems to be out to lunch this year.  Cuisine at home suggests, "if you can get them, feel free to use colorful heirloom tomatoes."  I have to admit, they were delicious, I used a raw on one burgers over the weekend, but it cost me $15.30 for five tomatoes!  Definitely not a cost effective way to go about this meal.  Good goat cheese isn't cheap, and puff pastry is not exactly economical either.  Therefore, even with the summery taste, this was kind of a splurge...but what a delicious one!  As an added bonus, it had a lot of steps that the little one could help with.  Any recipe that allows her to work alongside me is a good one in my book.  Unfortunately, the usual benefit of a kiddo making a meal = kiddo enjoying the meal did not hold true.  As she said "I'm not a big fan of tomatoes, Mama."  She contented herself with eating the crust after taking the required "perfect bite" we insist on (a bite that includes all of the flavors meant to be together in a dish).  Not sure if the goat cheese was too much for her, or just the tomato, but the adults in the house loved the meal.  I neglected to get any pictures of the vinaigrette, either the making of or the finished product, but trust was yummy. 

Tomato & Basil Tart with Goat Cheese

courtesy of Cuisine at Home Issue 112 August 2015

Vinaigrette Ingredients
1/2 cup sliced fresh basil
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp each honey and Dijon mustard
kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Tart Ingredients
1 Sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 Tbsp water [I used the whole egg]
4 oz goat cheese, softened
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp mined lemon zest
9 slices red and yellow tomatoes

Torn fresh basil leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Make the vinaigrette:
I placed all ingredients in the Vitamix, their recipe suggests pulsing in a food processor.  The Vitamix did the usual awesome job and produced a smooth dressing.

Make the tart:
Roll puff pasty on a lightly floured surface into a 13-inch square, transfer to prepared baking sheet.  Fold over a 1-inch border on all sides, then score inside edges of border with the tip of a knife.  Top pastry with another sheet of parchment paper, then cover with another baking sheet.  Bake puff pastry until firm and set, 15 minutes.  Remove top baking sheet and parchment paper.  

Dock pastry with a fork, brush edges with egg wash.  Bake puff pastry until puffed and brown, about 10 minutes more; let cool slightly.

Make the filling:
Combine goat cheese, 1/4 cup basil, 1 Tbsp olive oil, and lemon zest; season with salt and pepper.

Spread cheese mixture inside border of puff pastry.  Arrange tomatoes on top of cheese mixture; season with salt and pepper.

Bake tart 10 minutes.  Garnish with basil leaves and serve with vinaigrette.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Lesson learned this week: when asking a teenager what their favorite meal is, because you’d like to make it for them, be prepared for anything!  I asked our family member who was staying with us to help watch Evie this week what she likes to eat.  She mentioned Stromboli, and pasta.  I pushed for a favorite “dish” and the answer was: chicken cordon bleu!  I have never ever made this dish.  I’ve had it at banquets and events and haven’t really cared for it, but, if the wonderful girl who is so loved by my daughter (and us) wants chicken cordon bleu…then she’s getting chicken cordon bleu! I went to Google for this one, because I wanted to try to find something different than the deli ham and mozzarella recipes in my old school Betty Crocker books.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of old school…but I wanted this one to be super special.

Thanks to Tyler Florence, and this recipe, we ended up with a winner of a dish!  It was not as difficult to prepare as I had feared, and with the help of my adorable sous chef, we had it prepared and in the oven in about 25 minutes.  One note from my experience with this though is 20-25 minutes cooking chicken breasts at 350° is NOT enough.  I think I ended up baking it for 30-35 minutes, and my oven is pretty accurate.   The prosciutto and the Gruyere were fabulous together, and the fresh thyme made this the best chicken cordon bleu I've ever tasted.  The chicken was not dry at all, a rare occurrence when using chicken breasts (we prefer chicken thighs in this house).

We don't always cook in our jammies, but when we do...we're super cute

The recipe is posted below, copied from the Food Network site I found it on (link above) with a few edits.  I purchased the prosciutto and Gruyere from the deli counter, they kindly gave me a chunk of cheese rather than slicing it for sandwiches.  I purchased extra cheese and extra prosciutto for the sides I was planning, how I made those is shared below Tyler Florence's recipe.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence, 2008

4 chicken breasts skinless and boneless
4 thin slices prosciutto di Parma
1/2 pound Gruyere, grated
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
Extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Lay a chicken breast between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, gently pound the chicken to 1/4-inch thickness. Remove the top sheet of plastic and lay 1 slice of prosciutto neatly over the top to cover the breast and sprinkle a quarter of the cheese over the prosciutto. Tuck in the sides of the breast and roll up tight like a jellyroll inside the plastic wrap. Squeeze the log gently to seal and twist both ends tight to form a nice log. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Season the flour with salt and pepper. Mix the bread crumbs with thyme, garlic and kosher salt, pepper, and melted butter. The butter will help the crust brown. 

Remove the plastic wrap. Lightly dust the chicken with flour, dip in the egg mixture and gently coat in the bread crumbs. Lightly coat a baking pan with olive oil and carefully transfer the roulades onto it. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until browned and cooked through.

To the recipe I added sautéed Brussels sprouts and cheese sauce. 

Brussels sprouts: The sprouts were sliced thin, and added to a sauté pan that already had minced garlic and shallots with thinly sliced prosciutto crisping up in olive oil.  It was a nice vehicle for the rich chicken breasts and cheese sauce I added. 

Cheese sauce:  sauté garlic and shallots in olive oil.  Add heavy cream (about ½ cup I think) and ¼ cup gruyere.  Throw in a sprig or two of thyme.  Melt cheese.  Pass sauce through strainer to remove solids, and you have a smooth cheese sauce to drizzle over finished dish!