Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Herb Roasted Chicken with Shallots & Garlic

I just wrapped up a big work project that kept me out of the kitchen for a bit. With my deadline behind me, I needed some time to nest.

A roasted chicken always does the trick for a family dinner, but this time I wanted to change things up a little. I turned to my trusty 365 Ways to Cook Chicken cookbook for ideas.

This recipe is tweaked a bit, and I bet it would work with a turkey, too, if you need some Thanksgiving inspiration (hint, hint.)

Don't be put off by the large number of shallots called for in this recipe. They are quite mellow after roasting and they give the chicken such amazing flavor.

Mangia! Mangia!

Herb Roasted Chicken with Shallots & Garlic

5-6 pound whole chicken
Kosher salt and pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup softened butter or 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
10 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus more for decoration
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary, plus more for decoration
6 sprigs of fresh oregano, plus more for decoration
10-12 fresh sage leaves
16 shallots, peeled
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 cup white wine, such as chardonnay

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pat inside and outside of chicken dry with paper towels. Discard. Place chicken in a shallow roasting pan.

Rub half of the softened butter or half of the olive oil between skin and chicken breast, being careful not to pull the skin apart. Stuff some sprigs of the herbs (about 3 on each side of the bird) under the skin.

Season inside cavity with salt and pepper. Pour in lemon juice. Stuff with some of the herbs.

Rub remaining butter or oil on the outside of chicken, covering the entire bird. Season with salt and pepper.

Put pan in oven and roast chicken for 15 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and arrange peeled shallots and unpeeled garlic cloves around chicken. Top with remaining herbs. Pour wine over shallots.

Roast for another 45 minutes or until thigh juices run clear.

Remove chicken from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes.

Carve chicken. Place on platter. Arrange shallots around meat. Gently press garlic out of skins and arrange on the serving platter with the chicken. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Saturday Shout-Out — Prep Freeze Cook

When life gets busy, I often joke that I need a personal assistant — or a wife.

Wouldn't it be nice to have someone do the laundry and cook a few meals when us busy moms get even busier?

I haven't been cooking much lately, but I have been able to put some yummy meals on the table thanks to a local shop called Prep Freeze Cook. This gem of a store lets you purchase pre-made, frozen meals that you can pop in the oven or the crockpot whenever you need them.

When my boys were little and I was working full-time in Cincinnati, I frequented a similar outlet called Dream Dinners.

The beauty of these meal preparation shops is that you can add your own special touch to each entree. And when you find a dish the whole family loves, you've got a new recipe to add to your rotation.

I love the chance to try out new meals that I might not normally make at home. It's a great way to get my brain working on new recipes to test in my own kitchen.

So I thought I'd share a few of the Prep Freeze Cook meals my family likes.

Do you frequent a meal assistant shop or use one of the many online offerings? I'd love to learn about some of your favorites, too.

Mangia! Mangia!

Zuppa Toscana: This Italian soup features sausage and beans for a hearty, flavorful meal. Pair it with some crusty bread and dinner is served.

Taco Casserole: This is almost like a zesty, thick chili. We added shredded cheddar cheese and sliced green onions on top.

Chicken Chili: This white chili is so delicious. All we added was some fresh ground black pepper and cilantro.

Sweet & Sour Meatballs: These tangy meatballs were a big hit with my boys, one of whom choose to stuff them into a hot dog bun instead of eating them over rice.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Slow Cooker Fish Tacos

I love fish tacos and on a recent 80-degree November day (gotta love Fall in Charlotte!) they seemed like an excellent idea for dinner Chez George. I'd bookmarked California-Style Fish Tacos in my America's Test Kitchen Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution and followed it nearly to a T. And what the halibut?! They were gooood!


Slow Cooker Fish Tacos
Based largely upon America's Test Kitchen Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution
Yields 12 tacos

4 limes (1 1/2 sliced 1/4 inch thick, plus 3 tablespoons juice and lime wedges for serving)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobe sauce (just the liquid part)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper
4 (6-ounce) skinless halibut fillets, 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick (can be fresh or frozen; if frozen, thaw ahead of time)
1/2 small head of cabbage, cored and sliced (use slicer setting on food processor) or buy a bag of already slice cabbage. (You want 4 cups.)
6 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
3 scallions, sliced thin
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
2 garlic cloves minced
12 (6-inch) corn or flour tortillas, warmed (I prefer corn.)

Fold sheet of aluminum foil into a large sling that covers the bottom of your slow cooker across the long width of your slow cooker. You want there to be extra foil at the ends to grab when it comes time to remove the fish. Arrange lime slices in single layer on the bottom of the slow cooker. Add water (about 1/2 cup) until it is level with the lime slices.

Microwave 2 teaspoons oil, 2 teaspoons chipotle juice, coriander, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until fragrant, about 30 seconds and let cool slightly. Lightly dab halibut with paper towel to remove excess water, especially if thawed from frozen. Rub one side of each fillet with spice mixture and then place (spiced side up) on top of lime slices. Cook on low for 1 to 2 hours. You will know when the halibut is done, because it flakes when a prodded with a paring knife and the internal temperature registers 140 degrees. (I could tell by just looking and prodding; didn't need to use a meat thermometer.)

While fish is cooking, combine cabbage, 1/4 cup cilantro, scallions, 2 tablespoons lime juice, remaining 1 teaspoon oil  and 1/4 teaspoon salt in bowl. Place in fridge until ready to serve.

And in separate bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream garlic, remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle sauce and remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place in fridge until ready to serve.

Gently lift foil sling from slow cooker and transfer place on cutting board. Lift fish fillets from the limes. Cut each fillet into 3 equal pieces. Spread sauce evenly onto warm tortillas, top with fish and cabbage and serve with lime wedges.

If your crew can't eat 12 tacos at dinner, just know that that this dish holds up for leftovers.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Tasty Thai Noodles

My little lady is 14 months old. She's adorable, hilarious, strong, and full of joie de vivre. Also, she likes to be held. Especially while I'm trying to make dinner.

I've been doing my best to get ready before the dinner time drama begins, and this recipe is a prime candidate for nap-time preparation. You can make the sauce, cook the noodles, prep the chicken, and chop the broccoli earlier in the day or the night before. Then you can stir fry these Tasty Thai Noodles at the last minute while your clingy toddler is distracted by Caillou and the Tupperware drawer.

When it comes to getting hot dinner on the table, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Let's get cooking!

Tasty Thai Noodles
Gently adapted from America's Test Kitchen
Serves: 4

12 ounces chicken breast, sliced crosswise 1/4"
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces rice noodles (I used pad Thai noodles like this.)
About 12 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
1/4 cup oyster sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar (I used red wine vinegar because I was out of rice wine vinegar.)
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1 large head broccoli, cut into 1" pieces
Lime wedges for serving

In a medium bowl, combine chicken, water, and baking soda. Set aside on the counter for about 15 minutes. Rinse with cold water, drain, and pat dry.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drizzle with a couple teaspoons oil and toss until noodles are evenly coated so they don't sit together. Set aside.

Next make the sauce. Whisk together oyster sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, and vinegar. Set aside.

Place your biggest non-stick skillet over high heat and add a couple teaspoons vegetable oil. Add the chicken in a single layer. Allow to cook 2 minutes, until the first side is browned. Flip and cook another 1-2 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in a couple tablespoons of sauce and push the chicken to one side of the skillet.

Add another couple teaspoons of oil to the empty side of the skillet, then add eggs. Use a spatula to gently stir the eggs until they're barely set. Then stir the eggs into the chicken for another minute. Transfer to a bowl and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add another couple teaspoons oil to the now empty skillet. Stir in broccoli and 3 tablespoons sauce. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until sauce is thickened and broccoli is crisp-tender. Add broccoli to the bowl with the chicken.

Yet again, add another couple teaspoons oil to the now empty skillet. Add half of the cooked noodles and 2 tablespoons sauce. Cook for 2 minutes until the noodles start to brown, then stir and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Remove the noodles to the bowl with the chicken. Repeat with another few teaspoons oil, 2 more tablespoons sauce, and remaining noodles.

Once the final batch of noodles is stir fried, stir in chicken, eggs, broccoli, and remaining noodles. Cook for a couple minutes, until everything is heated through. If desired, stir in extra sauce until the noodles are as "saucy" as you'd like. Serve with lime wedges.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Rosemary, Maple & Mustard Pork

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, yet for a long time the only thing I ever combined it with was roasted baby red skin potatoes. Until this summer, when a friend started giving me lots of fresh rosemary from her garden.

The herb goes really well with other vegetables, too, as in Fresh Corn & Rosemary Basil Pesto.

Now that fall has arrived, it seemed fitting to use rosemary to flavor a pork roast for dinner. You probably already have everything else you need to make this marinade and sauce: olive oil, maple syrup and mustard are blended with the rosemary.

To me, this combination of flavors truly tastes like fall.

Mangia! Mangia!

Rosemary, Maple & Mustard Pork
Inspired by this recipe from Eating Well

1 2-3 pound pork roast or pork loin roast
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons spicy brown mustard

Prick pork roast all over with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, rosemary, maple syrup and mustard.

Lightly coat a roasting pan with cooking spray. Place pork roast in pan. Pour about half of the sauce on top of the pork roast. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight.

Set aside the rest of the sauce and keep at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place roasting pan in oven. Cook for about 1 hour, or until pork is no longer pink inside.

Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. If your roast is wrapped in a string net, remove string, then slice pork roast. Top with remaining sauce.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Pork Loin Roast with Apple Gravy

Pork and apples are a perfect pair. I mean, if there's a Brady Bunch episode about something, it must be good. But there are a couple aspects of today's recipe that take "pork chops and applesauce" to the next level.

First we brown the seasoned pork loin roast to create a tasty crust. Then we nestle the pork into sauteed vegetables and apples so all the flavors meld while they cook in a hot oven. Now—here's the key to juicy, tender pork—use your instant thermometer to check the temperature and pull that roast out of the oven when it reaches 135-140 degrees. It will continue to cook while the meat rests. Finally, we create a rich-but-simple apple pan sauce. You'll be going back for seconds. Probably thirds.

Pork Loin Roast with Apple Gravy is the kind of hot dinner that would make Peter Brady proud.

Let's get cooking!

Pork Loin Roast with Apple Gravy
Adapted from The Food Network

2 pounds pork loin roast
Salt and pepper
3/4 teaspoon Fines Herbes*, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 carrots, cut into 1" chunks
3 ribs of celery, sliced 1/2" thick
1 onion, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
2 apples, peeled, cored, and cut 1/2" thick
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup apple juice or cider
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard or grainy mustard
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Season pork generously on all sides with salt and pepper and half of the Fines Herbes. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add pork and cook until browned on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove pork to a plate and set aside.

Add carrots, celery, and onion to now-empty skillet. Season with salt and pepper and remaining Fines Herbes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are beginning to soften, about 8 minutes. Stir in apples.

Move veggies and apples to the side and nestle pork in the center. Place skillet in the oven and cook until pork reaches an internal temperature of 135-140 degrees, about 45-50 minutes. Transfer pork, vegetables, and apples to a plate and tent with foil. Allow pork to rest until it reaches an internal temperature of 145-150 degrees.

Meanwhile, return skillet with cooking juices to high heat. (TIP: Put an oven mitt over the handle of the skillet so you don't accidentally grab the hot handle. I learned this the hard way, and it hurts.) Whisk in vinegar, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate any browned bits, and allow to cook until it's reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Whisk in apple juice and allow to cook until reduced by half again, another 7 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in mustard and butter.

Serve sliced pork with apples, vegetables, and apple gravy.

*Don't have Fines Herbes? I'm a big fan, and this might be a perfect excuse to try something new! But if you don't feel like it or if you've gotta get dinner on the table stat, just skip it or try substituting tarragon or thyme. Honestly, I often sniff around (literally) in my spice cupboard and see what smells good. Make it your own!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Edible Beard Man

A recent Facebook post from my friend Andy showed his daughter stirring scrambled eggs on the stove. It made me think I should start teaching my boys how to do more in the kitchen than use the microwave, but I'm still worried about them burning the house down — or burning themselves!

My youngest, Sam, does love to cook, though. Amy gifted my boys Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes and it's perfect for cooking with kids. Sam has bookmarked quite a few recipes inspired by the characters in Dahl's books.

We took a stab at making Mr. Twit's Beard Food and it was pretty fun — and definitely the kind of thing many boys would enjoy eating. Mr. Twit's most noticeable trait is his very messy beard, which contains leftovers from his meals. Yuck. But who doesn't like playing with their food?

You can change things up anyway you like with this general recipe. Since mashed potatoes form the base, you can let your child craft an edible version or his or her favorite character. I could see my niece Layne forming Elsa's long braid instead of a mashed potato beard, for example.

So, if you're faced with a rainy day or a long afternoon, get into the kitchen with your kiddos and see what they create.

Mangia! Mangia!

Edible Beard Man
Inspired by Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes cookbook

3 large potatoes
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
(Note: Feel free to use instant mashed potatoes instead. Follow package directions.)
3-4 cocktail franks
4 mushrooms
1 hard boiled egg
1 black olive or 2 raisins
1 slice bread
Small bag potato sticks or "fries" (I mean the kind from the potato chip aisle, but you could also use cooked french fries.)
Small bag pretzel sticks
Handful of cornflakes
1/2 shredded cheese
Optional: 1/4 cup peas or carrots, 1/4 baked beans, ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel potatoes and cut into large chunks. Place in medium pot and cover with water. Boil until potatoes are soft. Drain potatoes and return them to the pot. Add butter and milk and mash until everything is combined. Set aside and let cool for a few minutes.

Cover a baking sheet with foil.

Peel the egg and cut it in half.

Using about 1/3 of the mashed potatoes, form a base for the face on the baking sheet. It should resemble the outline of a football. Then use the rest of the mashed potatoes to form a beard that tapers at the end. You can make your beard rounded or pointy.

Position the egg halves within the opening of the face to form the eyes. You can flip the rounded yolk halves and place them upside down on the egg whites to make building eyes. Add a raisin or piece of black olive for the center of the eye.

Separate a mushroom stem from its cap and place between the egg eyes. Use two mushroom caps to make nostrils at the bottom of the mushroom stem.

Use the two remaining mushroom caps to make the ears.

Slice the crust off the bread and place it above the eggs to make eyebrows.

Slice the franks lengthwise but not all the way through. Place them on the mashed potatoes to form a mouth. Using the remaining bread, make teeth by pinching small pieces of bread together and rolling them into a pointy shape. Put the bread teeth between the sliced franks so they stick out at odd angles.

Next, make the hair. Stick the potato sticks or fries into the mashed potatoes above the eyes and ears.

Then, fill in the beard! Use potato sticks, pretzel sticks, cornflakes and whatever else your child likes to eat to make a messy-looking beard. Squirts of ketchup or dollops of baked beans look great.

Sprinkle the beard with cheese. Warm in oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Then watch as your child devours his or her creation.