Thursday, December 26, 2013

Wild Rice Salad with Chicken (or leftover Turkey)

This is one of those recipes that I found in the newspaper maybe three weeks ago.  Since then, we've made it approximately 26 times, and it's been gobbled down every time.

Obviously, it's intended for the efficient re-use of leftover chicken or turkey--you need about two cups of either.  Since I don't always have chicken laying around the house, I've also included a little coda that shows how to prepare chicken breasts specifically for this recipe.

Don't worry about either the onions or the hot pepper sauce bothering your fussy kids:  the grapes and apples will distract them, and I find that they also generally like the chewy-ishness (yes, that's a real word) of the wild rice.  But then, who doesn't?

Wild Rice Salad with Chicken (or Turkey)

1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 cup uncooked wild rice
3 cups chicken broth (more or less, depending on whether or not you're using a rice steamer)
3 cups water (again, more or less)
2 cups leftover chicken (or 1-1.5 lb. uncooked chicken breast--see note, below)
1 cup seedless grapes, halved
1/4 cup celery
1/4 cup green onion, sliced
1/4 cup walnut pieces
1/4 parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Granny Smith Apple, cut into wedges
1 cup chicken broth

For the dressing:
1/4 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce

  1. Rinse the three rices and mix them together.  If you have a rice steamer, pour them in to the steamer and measure in the appropriate amount of liquid, being sure to use equal parts chicken broth and water.  If you're NOT using a rice steamer, you'll likely need a total of six cups of liquid (or slightly less)--again, using equal parts chicken broth and water.  
  2. Start the rice.  Go read a book or play with your kids or something.  (Obviously, this step can be done ahead of time).  
  3. If you DON'T have any pre-cooked chicken, at this point follow the instructions in my note below.  
  4. Once the rice is done, scrape it into a large bowl to cool.  Stir it on occasion to let the heat out. 
  5. Taste the rice and add a little salt if it needs it. 
  6. In a small sauce pan, heat up the chicken broth.  When it's just starting to boil, drop in your apple wedges.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes until just soft.  Remove apple wedges, get rid of the chicken broth. 
  7. Chop your cooked chicken, the celery, the green onions, and the parsley.  Slice your grapes.  Mix all of this together with the walnut pieces and the salt and pepper.  When the apples have cooled, chop them into thirds and add them as well. 
  8. Mix together the ingredients for the dressing.  
  9. Combine the rice, the chicken mixture, and the dressing.  Add additional seasoning if necessary.  
  10. Serve. 
NOTE:  If you don't have pre-cooked or leftover chicken, do this while the rice is cooking. 
  1. Trim and separate 1-1.5 lbs. chicken breasts, then cut each breast in half again. 
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil and one Tbsp. butter in a small frying pan.  
  3. Brown the chicken very very lightly.  You don't want to form a hard coating.  
  4. Add roughly 1 cup chicken broth.  
  5. Cover.  Bring to boil.  Cook on medium-low for 8-12 minutes.  (You can also throw in the apple wedges at this point, if you'd like.)
  6. Once the chicken is done, chop and continue the recipe until completed.  

Family Ratings

Lucy, who pretty much loves everything:  10
Jamie, who's getting really fussy, but likes the grapes and wild rice:  10
Will, who's 13 and feeling kind of contrary:  8
Ellen, who's a little surprised I'm cooking something so healthy:  10
Paul, who's even more surprised:  10

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Simple Pasta with Nuts and Cheese

I clipped this recipe from the Columbus Dispatch (aka, the Dogpatch) roughly twenty years ago.  It's one of those recipes that I always forget about, but every time I make it I'm just delighted.  And this last time I made it, the kids loved it.  It's so simple, that it's about to become a staple at our house . . . 

Simple Pasta with Nuts and Cheese 

12 oz. rotini
6 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1-2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Boil a pot of water and cook your pasta until al dente. 
  2. When the pasta is close to done, heat the butter in a small pan at medium. 
  3. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
  4. Add the nuts and sauté two minutes, until toasted.  Remove from heat. 
  5. Combine pasta, cheeses, parsley, and nuts in a serving dish.  Toss to coat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  

Family Ratings

Will, who's getting almost easygoing about food:  10
Lucy.  Nuts?!  Cheese?!  You kidding me?!:  10
Jamie, who also likes cheese:  10
Ellen, who can't believe I remembered this recipe after all these years: 10
Paul.  Nuts?!  Cheese?!  You kidding me?!: 10

Monday, October 14, 2013

Root Beer Sloppy Joes

This will come as no surprise to anyone, but as a kid growing up in Wisconsin, I wasn't really what you'd refer to as "normal."  I didn't like hamburgers, I hated McDonald's, Cheetos kind of freaked me out.  I refused to drink my milk and thought sloppy joes were disgusting.

I still hate milk.  Not sure why, other than it tastes very literally like something that just came out of the stomach of a large animal.  I've come around to sloppy joes, though, largely because of this recipe, which came out of the Roanoke Times.  The keys here are:  a) the dried thyme, which gives the whole dish a nice layered taste; and b) the toasted whole grain buns.  And no, I'm not usually one for whole grain buns, either.  But what can I say?  I think this is one of those dishes where you look at the ingredients separately and shake your head--but when you put them all together?  The kids absolutely love it.  

Root Beer Sloppy Joes

1 lb. ground sirloin or high grade Angus chuck
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup root beer
4-6 whole-grain hamburger buns

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Slice the buns in half, lay them face down on the rack, and toast for 4-6 minutes, until just crispy on the insides. 
  2. In a large-nonstick skillet, cook ground sirloin for 4 minutes on medium until the pink is nearly gone.  Drain. 
  3. Add the onion and garlic and cook for another 4 minutes, stirring regularly. 
  4. Add the chili powder, thyme, mustard, salt and pepper.  Stir.  
  5. Stir in ketchup and root beer.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens. 
  6. Serve on the toasted buns.  

Family Ratings

Will, who really is becoming more easy-going as an eater:  10
Lucy, who thinks the root beer makes dinner taste like dessert (even though it really doesn't): 10
Jamie, who's taken to eating twelve snacks between 4:00 and 6:00, and then saying he doesn't like my cooking:  7
Ellen, who kind of rebels against anything that seems even vaguely midwestern:  7
Paul, who's not getting any skinnier:  10

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Lentil Apricot Casserole

A warning:  your kids are going to stare at this and say, "It looks like goat barf."

And another warning:  you're going to agree with them.

So okay:  this recipe doesn't win any awards for presentation.  It looks like hurl.  I can give no stronger recommendation for this dish, though, than the fact that Jamie--Jamie, by far my fussiest eater these days--took seconds of this dish on his own accord.  And then took thirds.

I'm not sure what makes it work.  Obviously, dried apricots are awesome.  And the bulgar wheat gives a nice texture to the dish.  I've never been a friend of lentils--they taste like dirt, if you ask me--but I like them in this dish.  This recipe is actually Ellen's discovery, coming from Michele Urvater's Monday to Friday Cookbook.  This is generally a great book, though a lot of the recipes require a pressure cooker.

Be sure to serve with low-fat yogurt or sour cream.

Lentil Apricot Casserole

1 tablespoon olive oil
1.5 teaspoons curry powder
1 cup bulgar wheat (also known as millet)
1 cup dried lentils
4 cups chicken broth (water will work if you're a vegetarian)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dried apricots, cut in half
Plain low-fat yogurt or sour cream

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  
  2. Heat the oil in a 4-quart ovenproof pan over medium heat. 
  3. Add the curry powder and the bulgar wheat/millet.  Saute about 1 minute.  
  4. Add the lentils and the broth.  Bring to a low boil and season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  5. Cover and bake until the grain and lentils are tender, about 25 minutes.  
  6. Remove from oven (dur!), stir in the apricots, add a 1/2 cup more broth if the dish is starting to seem dry.   
  7. Re-cover and bake for 10 more minutes.  
  8. Adjust seasoning and serve with yogurt/sour cream.  

Family Ratings

Will, who's kind of proud of no longer being the fussiest eater in the family:  9.5
Lucy, who would probably eat this even if it included dirt instead of lentils:  10
Jamie, who's kind of proud of now being the fussiest eater in the family: 10
Ellen, who's been trying to get us to eat less meat for year:  10
Paul, who can actually tolerate the lentils when they're with dried fruit:  9

Friday, February 15, 2013

Greek Lamb Sausages in Tomato Sauce

Okay, I'll be honest:  these are really more meatballs than sausages; I mean, they involve ground meat patted into more or less ball type things--so, meatballs.

But then, as I was writing the title of this post, I thought, "Meatballs.  If I say meatballs, no one will look at this recipe."  And at that moment I understood exactly what Jacqueline Clarke and Joanna Farrow were thinking in A TASTE OF THE MEDITERRANEAN when they decided on the whole "sausages" thing.  

And trust me:  these meatba--er, sausages deserve your attention.  They're stunningly flavorful, but mild enough that the kids will like them too.  They take a bit of time, so I'd recommend them for weekend meals, at least the first few times you try them.  After that, you'll be so addicted you'll make them on a weekday even if it means staying up until midnight to do it.  

Greek Lamb Sausages in Tomato Sauce

1 cup fresh bread crumbs*
2/3 cup milk
1.5 lbs. ground lamb
2 tablespoons grated onion (I know:  weird, right?)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Flour for dusting
1/4 cup olive oil
2.5 cups tomato sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 bay leaves
1 small onion, peeled (but NOT chopped!)
Salt and fresly-ground black pepper to taste

*Be sure to make your own:  basically, toss 2-4 slices of bread in the food processor and pulse until you've got fairly fine crumbs.  

  1. Combine the bread crumbs and the milk. 
  2. Add the lamb, onion, garlic, cumin, parsley, and salt and pepper.  Mix well with your hands. 
  3. Shape the meat mixture into fat little ovals, about two inches long, rolling each one in the flour and setting aside. 
  4. Mix the tomato sauce, sugar and bay leaves in a pan. 
  5. Peel the onion and cut off the ends.  Put the whole onion in the tomato sauce.  Simmer for 20 minutes. 
  6. Heat the oil in a separate frying pan to medium.  
  7. Fry the sausages for about 8 minutes, turning occasionally until browned evenly. 
  8. Remove sausages and place on paper town to drain. 
  9. Add the sausages to the tomato sauce and cook on medium low for about 10 more minutes.  
  10. Serve with a green salad and/or risotto.  

Family Ratings

Lucy, who increasingly likes anything, and the weirder the better:  10
Will, who still resists rating anything as highly as fajitas:  8
Jamie, who can sometimes surprise us by gobbling things down:  9
Ellen, who loves the taste of lamb but feels guilty . . . : 8
Paul, who loves the simplicity of the flavors in this dish:  10

Sunday, January 20, 2013

No Fuss Gooey Chocolate Cake

This cake, done in a slow cooker for 2-3 hours, really doesn't need much introduction:  it's easy (kids can make it), tasty, and so obnoxious that it's somehow really really fun.  Serve with homemade whipped cream (a recipe follows, just in case you've lived in a cave your whole life).  This recipe comes from Fix-it and Forget-it Kids Cookbook.

No Fuss Gooey Chocolate Cake

1 cup dry all-purpose baking mix (i.e., Bisquick)
1 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus 3 extra Tablespoons
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 and 2/3 cups hot water
Cooking spray

  1. Spray the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the baking mix, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder, milk, and vanilla.  
  3. Spoon the batter into your slow cooker and spread out evenly. 
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, mix 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, and the hot water.  
  5. Pour this mix over the batter, but DO NOT STIR.
  6. Cover the slow cooker and cook on High for 2-3 hours. 
  7. After two hours, test the cake by sliding a toothpick into the center and pulling it out again.  If it looks wet, keep cooking.  If it has some dry crumbs on it, it's ready for eating.  
  8. Serve warm with whipped cream (or vanilla ice cream.  Or both.)

Home-made Whipped Cream

  1. Pour a cup of heavy whipping cream into a bowl. 
  2. Add a teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract. 
  3. Add a teaspoon of sugar.
  4. Blend until relatively firm.  Do not over-blend!  This will never get quite as stiff as the crap you buy from a grocery store, which is okay, since you don't want those chemicals in your body.  

Family Ratings: 

Seriously?  You need me to tell you that everyone in our family gave this a 10?  Did you READ the recipe?????

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Pan-Glazed Chicken with Basil

This is an old standard in our family:  it's about as easy as they come and very flavorful.  It comes from Cooking Light's 5 Ingredient, 15 Minute Cookbook.

Pan-Glazed Chicken with Basil

4 boned, skinned chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

  1. Slice the chicken breasts in half, length-wise.  (If they're extra thick, you might want to slice them thickness-wise as well, just to make for more even cooking.)
  2. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. 
  3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet at medium-high. 
  4. Cook chicken for five minutes each side until lightly browned. 
  5. While chicken is cooking, mix together the vinegar, honey, and basil
  6. When chicken is ready, stir in the honey mixture and cook for one additional minute. 
  7. Serve with rice, baby carrots, lime jell-o, and anything else your kids like.  

Family Ratings

Will, who has a habit of picking up a large chunk of meat and eating it off his fork, like the Asians do with chopsticks:  10
Lucy, who could probably already make this herself:  10
Jamie, who actually finishes it before we have to tell him to:  10
Ellen, who comes from the midwest and likes minimalist, fresh flavorings:  10
Paul, who's had this about 600 times in the last 17 years and is mildly sick of it:  9

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Thai Pepper Steak

Yes, I know this is the second Thai recipe I've posted in a row.  I'd had plans to post recipes for gooey chocolate cake and balsamic vinegar chicken (two different dishes, just in case you were worried).  But then I made this for the first time tonight, took one bite, and went, "Well heck!  THAT'S good!"

(Actually, that's not what I said.  I said, "Well %$#@!  THAT'S &^%$ amazing!" but since this is a family oriented blog--unlike my other blog--I thought I'd keep it clean.  Just this once.)

Anyhow, this also comes from Thailand:  The Beautiful Cookbook, which, despite its awkward name, is rapidly becoming one of my favorites.  I messed a bit here with proportions (using less white pepper than they recommended) and cooking order/time (I prefer my red peppers not cooked into a mush), but other than that, this is straight from the book.

Excuse me:  the @#&% book.

The recipe below is for four servings, but this recipe doubles nicely.  It probably halves nicely, too, for that matter.

Thai Pepper Steak

1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon white pepper 

The rest: 
1-2 cups rice (I use jasmine) cooked per instructions
1 lb. tender beef (I use flank steak or flat iron steak)
2 tablespoons oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
1/4 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced green bell pepper
3 Tablespoons fish sauce
1 Tablespoon Maggi Seasoning *
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon sesame oil

* You should be able to get Maggi Seasoning in the foreign foods section of your grocery store; it's in a little yellow and red jar with a yellow cap.  If you can't find it, one site I visited recommended just using bacon bits . . . 

  1. Start your rice, according to directions.  
  2. Mix the marinade ingredients.  It'll be pretty pasty.  Don't worry.  
  3. Slice the beef across the grain very thinly--say, 1/8 of an inch or less.  (An 8-inch French chef knife is best for this.  Just be sure to hide your thumb behind your other fingers).  
  4. Place beef in the marinade and mix.  Set aside for at least 10 minutes.  
  5. Chop the garlic, slice the onions, etc.  
  6. Mix the fish sauce, Maggi Seasoning, sugar, and sesame oil together in a small bowl.  
  7. Heat your wok or a large frying pan until hot.  Coat with the oil.  
  8. Toss in the garlic.  Cook for five seconds. 
  9. Add beef.  Stir fry for 1-2 minutes until still just barely pink.  
  10. Add the onions and stir-fry for 30 seconds. 
  11. Add green and red peppers.  Stir-fry for 30 seconds.  
  12. Add the fish sauce, etc.  Stir-fry for 2 minutes.  
  13. Serve over rice!

Family Ratings

Lucy, who's recovering from the flu and was cautious:  10
Will, who's something of a beef eater, even if he doesn't have one of those weird hats:  10
Jamie, who insisted on eating the meat with none of the sauce:  7
Ellen, who appreciates that her husband cooks for her, even if she's not crazy about beef:  8
Paul.  Seriously?  You have to ask?:  10