a quick and easy way to wow a man…with food

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When you have spent several days at a conference filled with teachers and it’s the night before conferences of the parent-teacher variety, you really don’t feel like spending lots of time cooking Sunday dinner. That said, you also don’t want to do a frozen pizza or take-out anything since you have been eating out for three days straight.

What is one to do?

Consult a recipe, of course!!!  For me, there are only a few better ways to unwind than drooling over a cookbook or the newest issue of Cooking Light magazine (these ways include massage, Jamaica, endless episodes of Say Yes To The Dress, or napping).

The most recent edition of CL offered a “quick-and-easy” weeknight chicken dish, which is what I had hunted for since hubs took out some chicken from the freezer earlier in the day.  All I lacked was one ingredient—apple cider—and since Thanksgiving is just a few gobble-gobbles away, we picked some up to have around anyway.

Now, I have made several dishes this fall with cider and cider variants, so I was afraid of overdoing it with the cider.  On the other hand, it is autumn, and I feel like I need to eat up all the leave-changing, brisk-blowing, cider-soaked goodness that I can!

NOTE:  What I loved about the following dish:

1.  super fast–from start to finish was about 20 minutes.

2. the flavors were both sweet and savory, without one particular ingredient overpowering another.

3. the side and the main were meant to be, really.

4.  pretty much had all of the ingredients on hand. I applaud this convenience!

5.  it was a light dish, but not so light that I was still a little hungry.  On the contrary, it was just the perfect amount of food to fill my appetite without making feel the need to put on my I-just-ate-a-big-dinner-pants (that one’s for Webb).

With a meal like this one, there is no need to order take-out:

CIDER-GLAZED CHICKEN with BROWNED BUTTER-PECAN RICE

1–Make brown rice however you usually do, omitting salt and fat. (We used Uncle Ben’s Boil-In-A-Bag brown rice.)

2–While the rice is cooking, melt 1 tsp. butter in a large pan over med-hi heat.   Add 1 lb. of pounded chicken breasts that you have already seasoned with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 3 minutes on each side or until done (mine took about 5 minutes) and remove from pan.

3–Mix up 1 tsp. Dijon mustard (I am sure you could use a honey mustard, or a spicy brown if you like; we like Dijon) and 1/2 cup. apple cider. I also added the lightest dash of cinnamon. Pour into the chickened pan and cook for 2-3 minutes till thickened, scraping up the bits on the pan as you go.

**NOTE:  I followed the CL recipe (minus my addition of cinnamon) and it said to cook until syrupy.  Well, my ‘sauce’ didn’t get really thick or syrupy, but it did thicken up—so the moral of the story is that it will still taste good, so don’t second-guess!**

4–Add chicken back to pan, turn it around and let it swim and glaze over, set aside.

NOW……for the buttered pecan rice:

1—melt 5 tsp. butter in a small saucepan. over med-hi heat. Let it really melt, let it brown; it MUST get brown! After about 2-3 minutes—when it’s brown and smelling awesome—lower the heat to medium and add 1/4 cup chopped pecans to the pan.  Stir nonstop for 1 minute so the nuts toast and don’t burn!

2–pour the mixture over the rice with about 1/4 tsp. salt and stir well.

Farley (he who I feed) walked in and said it smelled like fall in the house, that it smelled like home.  He took one bite, I took one bite,  and before I knew it our Martha Stewart plates were as white as the day we got’em.

hubs, post-meal. quite content and delighted.

 

(You too can wow your husband with this very simple dish).

 

Enjoy!

pantry raid?

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Sundays are always our last chance to be lazy.

Football, napping, napping while the game is on, going for a drive, vegging around the house–all prime Sunday post-morning activities.

So who in their right mind would want to slave over a hot stove on such a deliriously delightful time of ease and respite?

I wanted something delicious and homemade for dinner, but I didn’t want to have to work too hard at it.  I went on a scavenger hunt in my pantry, consulted my self-made cookbooks, and wound up only one item short of glory.  Hubs offered to go to the store to acquire said item, and we were in business, proverbially speaking.

All of the recipes before you can be made and ready within an hour, and most of the items are what one normally might keep around the house.

(Or,  as one of my best friends, Jenny,  said infamously:  you gotta use what you got to get what you want. )

And what you want is something quick, healthy, and yummy that didn’t take much work.

And what could be better than a spicy bean soup and cornbread on a cool autumn night?

(My hubs loves, loves, loves Jiffy bread and he loves, loves, loves beans, so this made him quite happy….then again, there are very few foods he doesn’t eat…!)

**NOTE:  the longer the soup simmers, the better, but you can go ahead and enjoy it after just 1/2 hour of simmah time!**

Have fun doing a pantry-raid for the following:

SPICY TEXAS BLACK BEAN SOUP

1–All good things start with onions, olive oil, and garlic, so do it up right and saute 1 red onion, diced and 5 cloves of garlic in a little bit of olive oil.  I suggest sauteing the onion first, then adding your  garlic midway through so your garlic doesn’t burn.

2–Add to this 5 cans of black beans, undrained. Believe me.  Just go ahead and dump the little ones in.

3–Add 5 T. minced jalapeno peppers, 2 1/2 tsp. chili powder, and 2 1/2 tsp. cider vinegar to the mix.  Stir it up nice and good now.

4–Get your soup to simmer, covered, for at least 30 minutes. Taste and check the seasoning, add a smidge of salt and pepper if you think it needs it, cumin might also be a good one to throw into the mix.

NOTE:  Thirty minutes is the minium amount of time required to acquire such grand and spiced yum yum time.   I, however, let the stockpot sit on the stove for about an hour.

NOTE NOTE:  If you prefer, shall we say, a brothier soup, add a can of chicken stock or a can of veggie stock to the mix halfway through your allotted cooking time.

5– If you have bowls you can warm up in the oven, get’em on in there and get’em out when it’s time to dish up.  Dress it up with whatever you like on your beans:  I used strips of Pepper Jack cheese and sour cream, other ideas are cheddar cheese, monterey jack, tortilla strips, crushed Doritos, crushed Fritos, green onions, etc.  Remember, this is made from your PANTRY RAID!

(fyi, I tried my best to photograph the meal for feeding farley fans, but me and the camera just weren’t working that day; I posted what I could to give you the main idea.)

CORN PUDDING CORN BREAD

1–Get out a large mixing bowl, open up a box of Jiffy bread mix and beat in 2 eggs and 1 stick of melted butter to the mix.

2–Mix in 1 small can of corn and 2 regular cans of creamed corn, along with 1/4 cup milk and  1/2 of an 8 oz. carton of sour cream.

3–Bake this for 1 hour at 350. “Please resist the urge to sneak a peek and pop the oven door open, because it will delay your baking….” says the voice of experience…..(ahem).

The consistency, when poking in a toothpick, should be clearly baked and custardy, not runny or liquidy.  If the latter is your case, then crank up the heat to 375 and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

it was so good.

Not like I’m trying to be vegetarian, but this is a great meatless meal and my husband didn’t complain about the lack of meat in this dish. He loved it, and even I, who am not usually a fan of beans–it’s a texture thing– loved this meal.  It was cozy, warm, fairly quick, totally easy, and mostly delicious.

Now you have my permission to go on a pantry raid and make this meal! Let me know how it goes for you.

 

Enjoy and happy eating!

the salad my brother-in-law will actually eat

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It turns out that very few men in my family eat salads.

My baby brother is incredibly finicky and drowns his salad in dressing and pulls out pieces that look too crunchy—or as he calls them, ‘hard’–and the bowl winds up looking like soup-and-salad.

The older of my two brothers…..well, I’ve never seen him eat a salad before, actually.  And the same goes for my brother-in-law.

Last fall, my hubs (then-boyfriend) and I threw a harvest dinner party at the casa, and I was eager to try out new dishes.  I was most excited about the salad I’m about to share with you this evening, since it incorporated all kinds of flavors that we loved and celebrated the taste of fall.   I was not betting on either of my brothers or my husband’s brother to check it out.

(Had I placed a five-minute-shoulder-rub bet that they boys wouldn’t eat it, I’d be a goner.)

My brothers actually ate it up, and my brother-in-law had, like, three hefty helpings.  Yeah!!!!!!!!

And before you go running away with thoughts of this being a bad-for-you salad, it’s adapted from Cooking Light, so there!

We had plenty of pork tenderloin, pot roast , and  butternut squash risotto from my cooking extravaganzas last week, so I figured a salad would round out a meal of leftovers nicely…..and sadly, there are no leftover remains of this delicious dish.

Try it out for size:

SPINACH SALAD WITH HONEY-BACON DRESSING

1-Chop 1 large apple (or two small apples) and  1 red onion and slice it vertically, enough to make 1/3 cup.

(I neglected to remember this whole 1/3 cup bit, and used my entire red onion in the salad, and it was not overpowering–however, I like onions, so do as you wish.)

2–Cook 4 slices of bacon in a non-stick skillet until it is mmm mmm crispy! Remove from pan and reserve 1 tsp of the bacon drippings in the pan; responsibly get rid of the rest.   Crumble up your bacon and let it hang out for a second.  (You can use turkey bacon if you wish)


3–In a little bowl, whisk up 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1/4 c. rice vinegar,  2 T. honey, 2 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Pour into the bacon pan and stir, bringing to a boil.  Take it off the heat.

4–Combine that chopped onion, that chopped apple, that crumbled bacon,  and 1  10 oz. package of baby spinach and pour your dressing over the top.

So good, you might want to make it a double.

Enjoy and happy eating!

now introducing risotto

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My husband generally refuses to believe that a meal without meat can actually be a meal, unless we’re talking about breakfast…until now.

Introducing:  risotto.

Comfort food came in the form of pot roast the just yesterday—but now it comes in a vegetarian and delicious kind of way.  Moral?  Comfort food on a cold night can mean different things to different people, but I dare you, I simply dare you, not to try a dish of delicious risotto on a November night.

A few years back, when I was living in Richmond, my darling friend Leigh Ann and I supped at a quaint and yummy spot called Millie’s.  That was my first encounter with the vegetable known as butternut squash, and my first encounter with risotto.  And what a sweet meeting it was!

I have dreamt of that risotto since then.

And I have hunted for recipes that might be as good.

And I believe I have finally found the one….

….actually, I have no recollection of how this one wound up in my books, but I have tampered with it enough so that I would call it my own.
Before you can behold the greatness in recipe form, let me share with you:

NOTE–you may go ahead and roast up the butternut squash before, if you are so inclined and desire that flavor, but the squash will cook up perfectly as directed.

NOTE–if you must have meat, might I suggest crisping up some bacon to crumble upon each serving? The salty, crunchiness of bacon will be a nice contrast to the creaminess of the risotto.

NOTE–you, of course, are free to do what you will with this recipe.  I think a good swap for the Parmesan would be goat cheese. Now that I’m thinking about it, I am so trying that next time!

FINAL NOTE:  this can be a hearty and filling main dish, or a great side to a meat dish–my hubs Farley loves it as a main now! yeah! and we’re thinking about making this again next week to go with some short ribs….yay or nay? Let me know!

Now, kind reader, please make the happy acquaintance of my new best friend,

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND PARMESAN RISOTTO

1–Before you do anything else, peel, seed, and chop up a 3 lb. butternut squash into a small dice, about 1/4 inch. This is the largest prep you need to do.  While you’re at it, chop up 2 onions (2 cups) and thinly slice 4 cloves of garlic.


2–In a large enough saucepan/stockpot (I used my 6 quart pot) heat over medium-low heat 2 T. butter and 2 T. olive oil.  Saute these until they are soft, but not golden. **make sure you have a deep enough pot!**

3–Add in the squash and 2 3/4 cups arborio rice and stir for 2-3 minutes.

4–Add in 3/4 cup dry white wine and stir until absorbed….and then have a little sip yourself. I mean, why not? You need something to do while you are stirring up this risotto for the next 30 minutes or so!  (I used Zeal wine, a great and affordable sauvignon blanc, available at Sam’s Club, which hubs and I love and keep by the case at our house.)

5–Now comes the tedious-but-well-worth-it segment of our post…the stock adding.  In 1/2 cup increments,  add chicken stock and stir until it is absorbed.  How will you know if it is absorbed or merely just getting creamier?  Easy!  Lift up your risotto and check the bottom of the pan.   When there isn’t anymore liquid there, and it looks like your risotto is lightly covered in sauce (versus swimming amid sauce), that’s when you go ahead and add another 1/2 cupful of stock.

**Should take about 7 cups of stock**

6–When your rice and squash are creamy and have a little bit of texture to them, you are finished…..almost!

7—Softly stir in 2 cups cheese (freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago are great for flavor) (but you could also use a mix of regular grating cheese –which for me is a Parmesan and Romano blen– and shredded Parmesan, since that’s what I had, or you could try the goat cheese suggestion above!), 1/2 tsp. lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.

So delicious, so creamy.

Like I said, my husband loved it last night and loved it as a main dish, and he is the carnivore of our marriage.

Funnily, I prefer it as a side when eaten day-of….but as I am devouring a healthy-sized bowl of this here whilst writing, I am enjoying it even more the second time around.

Hope you do, too!
Enjoy and happy eating!