Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Summer Corn Chowder

My boys are loving all of the fresh corn on the cob I've been serving up lately, but I was ready for a change. And since we had more corn and potatoes than I knew what to do with, chowder seemed like just the thing.

This is summer comfort food all the way. The creamy soup is sweet and smoky, thanks to some bacon. It makes for a hearty lunch or pair with a green salad — and dinner is served.

Mangia! Mangia!

Summer Corn Chowder
Inspired by this recipe from Kroger

2 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels
5 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups chicken stock, plus more for thinning out chowder as needed
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced and diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Optional: your favorite hot sauce, shredded cheddar cheese

Using a sharp knife, stand corn cob in a shallow bowl or plate and slice off the corn kernels. After kernels are removed, scrape the cobs with the knife to squeeze out any remaining corn juice. Set aside.

In a Dutch oven or large pot, fry bacon until crisp over low heat. Remove bacon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Add the onion to the hot bacon grease and cook about 5 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic and potatoes and cook another 2 minutes. Add chicken stock. Increase heat and bring to a simmer. Cover pot, lower heat to maintain the simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes.

Add corn and milk and continue to cook with the pot covered, for about 10 more minutes, or until you can easily insert a knife into the potatoes.

Turn off heat. Use an immersion blender to roughly puree the soup to make it thick and chunky. (If you don't have an immersion blender, transfer about half of the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return pureed corn and potato mixture to pot.)

Stir in Greek yogurt and salt and pepper to taste.

If the chowder is too thick, stir in more chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time, until your reach a consistency to your liking.

Dish up into serving bowls and top with bacon, red pepper and green onions. A dash of hot sauce and a sprinkle of shredded cheese is also nice.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Crockpot Sweet Chili Chicken

Do you ever have a week when it feels like everything is hitting the fan?

Yeah. I'm having one of those weeks. Work is crazy. The kids are sick. The husband is stressed about a super duper important test he has to take for his job. And the house is in a total state of disarray. I've gotta get my act together. Or a cleaning lady.

With everything on my plate, I didn't have the mental capacity to get creative with dinner. So I stalked Pinterest for a simple meal with serious leftover potential. Thanks to Sweet Peas and Saffron for saving the day with this tasty slow cooker meal featuring the chicken breast that happened to be on sale this week. Boom. Crockpot Sweet Chili Chicken for the win.

A few minutes of work on Sunday afternoon, and we were eating hot dinner all week long. And this is a dump-and-stir kind of slow cooker meal, too. Easy, delicious, healthy—just what I needed on a crazy week. Now about that cleaning lady...

Let's get cooking!

Crockpot Sweet Chili Chicken
From Sweet Peas and Saffron

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup sweet chili sauce
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (for me this was 3 huge breasts)
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Salt and pepper

For serving:
Cooked rice
Lime wedges (I think the lime really makes this meal special!)
Chopped fresh cilantro
Chopped peanuts

In a small bowl mix together chicken broth, chili sauce, and soy sauce. Place chicken in slow cooker. Pour chili sauce mixture over chicken and turn to coat. Cook for about 3 hours on low, until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees and you can shred the chicken pretty easily with a fork.

Remove chicken to a plate and use two forks to shred chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place back in slow cooker to keep it warm while you prep the sauce.

Pour cooking liquid into a small saucepan. Whisk together 1/4 cup water and cornstarch, then whisk into cooking liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce begins to thicken, about 4-5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and stir to coat.

Serve chicken over cooked rice. Top it with a squeeze of lime and chopped cilantro and peanuts.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Grilled Eggplant with Chimichurri Sauce

Just like Amy, I am a huge fan of eggplant. And this summer, my weekly farmer's market basket has been filled with the cutest baby eggplants. The best thing about this is that it forces me to find new ways to prepare familiar vegetables.

Over the years my eggplant repertoire has grown from eggplant parmesan and simple grilled eggplant  to include Baba Ghannouj, Grilled Eggplant Salad (one of my all-time faves), and Eggplant and Green Pea Curry.

I recently discovered how delicious this purple-skinned veggie can be when oven roasted with other vegetables in a ratatouille or in Amy's Oven-Roasted Kohlrabi Medley.

This week I was craving eggplant from the grill, but wanted to spice it up a bit. We had cilantro, limes and fresh parsley on hand, so a chimichurri sauce was on the menu. The tangy dressing and the smoky eggplant are a match made in heaven.

Mangia! Mangia!

Grilled Eggplant with Chimichurri Sauce
1 large eggplant or 2-3 small ones
Olive oil for brushing or use olive oil cooking spray
Salt & pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice from 1 lime

Slice eggplants lengthwise into 1/4 inch slabs. Spray with cooking spray or brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.

Mix parsley, cilantro, garlic, vinegar, olive oil and lime juice together in a bowl. Set aside.

Heat outdoor grill to medium-high or warm your grill pan on the stove top on medium-high heat. Turn heat down to medium and place eggplant on grill. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until grill marks form. Flip eggplant over and cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until eggplant is soft.

Remove from grill and place on serving platter. Pour chimichurri sauce over eggplant and enjoy.

**Note: If you have the time, you can puree the chimichurri in a blender for a smoother dressing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Jamie's Pressure Cooker Fried Chicken

Today marks the start of another school year in my neck of the woods. With a 5th grader and a 2nd grader in the house, life just keeps getting busier.

All the more reason to seek out quick ways to get dinner on the table. Enter fellow mom Jamie and her penchant for healthy dinners made in the pressure cooker. If we both happened to be at the pool together with our kids this summer, we'd sit and talk recipes. Jamie has a knack for creating new recipes, too.

Since I'm still just dabbling with my pressure cooker, I asked Jamie to let me know the next time she came up with something yummy. Soon after our conversation, I got this message: "I just made fried chicken legs (my family's fave) in the power pressure cooker! Amazing and less mess!"

Jamie speaks the truth!

This fried chicken recipe comes together faster than the Oven Fried Chicken I made earlier this summer and I think it tastes even better.

Pressure cookers with a browning function are the key for this meal. The quick cooking process keeps the meat moist and flavorful while maintaining the crispy fried coating.

I served up fried chicken legs and fried boneless skinless chicken thighs from my pressure cooker and they were simply wonderful.

Mangia! Mangia!

Jamie's Pressure Cooker Fried Chicken

4 to 8 chicken legs or 6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or some of both
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/4 to 1/3 cup flour
2-3 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1-2 teaspoons seasoned salt (I used a salt rub because that's what I had on hand)
1 teaspoon ground pepper
Oil (olive, avocado, coconut)
**A note on the spices: You can easily eyeball the amounts you use here. Just go with whatever seems right to you.

Rinse and dry chicken pieces with paper towels. Mix egg and mild in a medium bowl.

Mix flour and seasonings in a large bowl or large ziplock plastic bag.

I completed the following steps with 2 pieces of chicken at a time:
  • Dip chicken into egg/milk mixture to coat.
  • Transfer chicken to seasoned flour mixture and gently toss to ensure entire piece of chicken gets coated in the flour.
  • Transfer chicken to a plate. 
Add 1 to 2 inches of oil to your pressure cooker. Hit the brown button. Once heated, add chicken and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes per side.

Here's how the chicken legs look after browning.
If all pieces of chicken do not fit in a single layer on the bottom of your pressure cooker, work in batches.

Return all browned chicken pieces to pressure cooker and lock on the lid. Pressure cook on the high setting for 15 or 20 minutes.

Let out the steam and remove lid.

Drain chicken on a plate lined with paper towels and let cool about 5 minutes. Enjoy warm or cold. So yummy!

And the best part? No oil splattered all over my stove top. The pressure cooker insert did a great job of controlling and retaining any splattering.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Slow Cooker Thai Curry Eggplant

A couple weeks ago, I posted this Facebook status update: "I made Thai curry eggplant for dinner. The whole family hates me."

Yeah, it was not a hit with the fam, but I liked it. Unlike the eggplant-hating husband and children, I crave a lighter meal now and then. And the leftovers made for some nice solo lunches and dinners for moi.

I just would cut the eggplant in smaller pieces next time — America's Test Kitchen Health Slow Cooker Revolution advised 1-inch pieces — so they cook down a bit more and are more bite-sized. I'd recommend half-inch hunks.

Several of my eggplant-loving friends responded to my Facebook status asking that I post the recipe. Friends, this one's for you.


Slow Cooker Thai Curry Eggplant
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution

2 pounds eggplant, cut inot half-inch pieces
4 shallots, minced
3 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
1 tablespoon honey
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons fish sauce — and more for seasoning, if desired
2 tablespoons instant tapioca
1/4 teaspoon salt —and extra salt (and pepper) to taste
1 pound snow peas, strings removed and cut in half
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, ad cut into 2-inch-long matchsticks
1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice — and more for seasoning, if desired
Jasmine rice for serving

Adjust oven rack (if necessary) to be 6 inches from the broiler element and heat broiler. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with oil spray.

Toss eggplant, shallots, green curry paste and honey in large bowl. Spread eggplant mixture evenly on cookie sheet and broil until softened and beginning to brown — about 12 minutes — rotating the baking sheet halfway through.

Transfer eggplant mixture to slow cooker. Add in broth, fish sauce, tapioca and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook until fragrant and eggplant is softened -- about 4 hours.

Microwave snow peas, bell pepper and a tablespoon of water in a covered bowl, stirring occasionally, until tender but yet a little crisp. This will take 4 to 6 minutes. Drain vegetables and stir into curry.

Microwave coconut milk until hot — about 2 minutes. Stir into curry and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in cilantro and lime juice. Season as desired with salt, pepper, and extra fish sauce and lime juice. Serve over jasmine rice.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sweet Buttermilk Cornbread

When we were in college, my pals and I would converge on the restaurant Famous Dave's for barbecue. Ribs weren't really my thing, but the cornbread muffins? Oh, good gracious. I could (and did) eat my weight in Famous Dave's cornbread muffins. (And I wondered why I gained the freshman fifteen.)

Those cornbread muffins were sweet and tender. It was pretty much an excuse to eat dessert for dinner. (Not that I've ever needed an excuse.) A little lot of honey drizzled on top took them to stratospheric levels of deliciousness.

Recently I found a carton of buttermilk languishing in the fridge, and a stroke of genius came over me. I could make my own cornbread just like Famous Dave!! I could eat dessert for dinner! My son was up for a baking project, and the two of us whipped up Sweet Buttermilk Cornbread in no time.

Now, I don't own a successful restaurant chain or anything, but I actually like this cornbread better than Famous Dave's. (Sorry, Dave.) It's not quite as sugary and has more corn flavor and texture than the muffins I enjoyed in college. Sweet Buttermilk Cornbread is the perfect side for your next barbecue.

Let's get cooking!

P.S. Amy has a delicious Southern Cornbread recipe. If you're looking for legit cornbread from a legit southerner, check it out. True southern cornbread ain't sweet like this one, but I ain't southern. Amy, hope you're not hanging your head in shame when you read this!

Sweet Buttermilk Cornbread
Adapted from All Recipes

4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8" square baking dish and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Stir in eggs until combined, then stir in buttermilk and baking soda.

In a separate bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, and salt. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until combined. (Don't overmix.)

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Serve warm with butter and honey if you want to guild the lily.

My little chef got hungry when we were taking pictures for the blog. Can't blame him!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Katrina's Gazpacho

A few weeks ago my boys and I took a trip to New York to visit family and friends. It's been a few years since I was last in my old stomping grounds and it was nice to see how some things have changed – or not.

We took a trip into Queens to see two of my friends from high school and their families. Anne and Katrina are the kinds of friends I know I'll have for life. We spent our formative teen years together. Even if many months go by between visits, we easily pick up where we left off whenever we do see each other.

My boys were super excited to see how people live in the city. They couldn't imagine living in an apartment. They were pleasantly surprised by Katrina's Jackson Heights home, complete with a large outdoor courtyard that provided plenty of room to play — you guessed it — baseball.

Katrina went all out and made a delicious lunch, including this amazing gazpacho. People, this is one of the best things I've eaten. The cold soup is more like summer in a drink and it is just perfect for a hot day.

Lucky for me, one of my boys didn't want his serving so of course I couldn't let it go to waste! Katrina kindly shared her recipe. She started with this New York Times version and tweaked it to her liking. I made it as soon as we were back in Peoria. I was going to bring it to a gathering of girlfriends, but the husband and I slurped it down ourselves instead.

I think the key to making this recipe work is good tomatoes, preferably homegrown or locally farm grown. It's perfect for a midday meal, dinner or a snack.

Katrina's version was less pulpy than mine. I think this is because she used a small mesh strainer to painstakingly remove all of the solids from the soup. I used a larger non-mesh strainer. It definitely removed a lot of the solids, but some still made it into the final product.  If you have a mesh strainer or cheese cloth, I recommend one of those methods.

Mangia! Mangia!

Katrina's Gazpacho

2 pounds of  ripe red tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
1 cucumber (about 8 inches long) peeled and cut into chunks 
1 small yellow or white onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 or 2 garlic cloves
1 long, light green pepper, cored, seeded and cut into large pieces (Adjust your choice based on your preferred spice level: Try an Anaheim or cubanelle. I used a Hungarian wax pepper.)
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons salt
1/8 to 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Add tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic and pepper to a blender or food processor (you may need to work in batches.) Blend at high speed until very smooth, between 2 and 5 minutes. Stop blending and scrape down the sides as needed.

Add vinegar and salt and continue to blend. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil. The mixture should become an orange or pink color. It should transform into a smooth texture like a salad dressing. If the mixture is watery, add more oil until it achieves a creamy consistency.

Strain mixture into a large bowl to remove solids. Use a rubber spatula to push the liquid through. Discard solids. 

Pour gazpacho into a large pitcher (glass is preferred) and cover top with plastic wrap. Chill overnight (or for at least 6 hours.) Pour into cups or bowls and drizzle with olive oil before serving.

Gazpacho is great for sharing with friends.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Avocado-Crab Salad

This summer has been sweltering in Charlotte. After days and weeks on end of 90-plus degree days and what feels like 90-plus percent humidity, I have new found appreciation for meals that don't require the oven. Allow me to introduce you to my new favorite beat-the-heat, no-oven-required dinner: avocado-crab salad.

Even the hubby, who typically doesn't like avocado any other way than guacamole, likes this a lot. Here's what he said to me the second time I made this, "Amy, are you sitting down? I want you to know that I'm now open to eating avocado more ways." Success!


Avocado-Crab Salad
Serves 4 or serves 2 for dinner and 2 for lunch the next day

2-4 teaspoons red onion, finely chopped
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
4 grape or cherry tomatoes, dices
4-6 slices of red pepper, finely diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
8 ounces lump crab meat, drained and gently pulled apart (or you can take your kitchen scissor like I do and roughly cut up the meat)
2 medium Hass avocado (about 5 ounces each), cut in half and pitted
2 butter leaves or handful of spring mix salad (optional)

In medium bowl, mix together all ingredients, except crab, avocado and lettuce. Add crab and gently toss.

Fill each avocado with crab salad and serve atop lettuce, if desired.

Eat leftovers within two days.

Additionally, I think a little bit of finely chopped celery would go well in this salad. Also, if you don't have red onion on hand, I would sub with green onion if you have that.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Easy Summer Recipe Round-Up

Cooking has been rough lately. I just haven't been feeling creative. Do you ever feel that way or is it just me? In order to inspire myself (yep, this is a totally selfish post), I'm going through the HDHH archives to find my favorite summer meals. 

Now let's get cooking!

Tomato + Goat Cheese Sandwich. The kids and I usually hit up the Bellevue Farmer's Market on Thursdays, and I get a Pineapple Tomato or two. They are yellow and super sweet. This sandwich will be perfect to change things up from my usual Tomato + Mozzarella situation. 

Summer Salad with Berry Vinaigrette. I'd better make this one before berry season ends! Berry time is fleeting, people. Sigh.

Corn, Tomato, and Edamame Salad. I threw this salad together last weekend, and it was just lovely. A change of pace from your usual side dish. 

Healthier Fried Rice. Because it's bathing suit season, and I still want to have an extra large bowl of ice cream after dinner.

Sausage and Mint Stuffed Tomatoes. Do you notice the tomato theme here? Can I come up with a way to eat them every day of the week?

Smokey, Coffee-Rubbed London Broil. Andrea cooks her London Broil in the oven, and I usually do, too. But since the husband loves to grill, think I could get him to cook this one for me on the ol' Weber? 

How to Microwave Corn on the Cob. This means fewer dishes. Yes, please!

Blueberry Zucchini Bread. I love a good quick bread. It makes waking up so much easier when you know you've got a loaf waiting for you. I think I have some baking in my future.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Amy's Pimento Cheese

I have loved and craved pimento cheese, a Southern staple, since I was pregnant with Lucy, who is 9 1/2. Fortunately, in Charlotte it's not hard to find good pimento cheese in restaurants and grocery stores, not to mention at get-togethers with friends. I just can't believe it took me this long to make my own.

On crackers or pita chips, plain or in a sandwich, I really love pimento cheese. My girls like to take pimento cheese in their school lunches. Bless their little Southern hearts. If you have never had a grilled pimento cheese sandwich ... well, get on that.

You might also consider making pimento cheese a day or two ahead of when you want to serve it. I noticed mine tasted better after it sat for a few days in the fridge; it was less mayonnaise-y than the very first day. My N.C.-born and bred friend Ashley came over several days after I made my pimento and declared, "This is very good."


PS: Pimento cheese joins my other Southern dishes — collards, cornbread, deviled eggs and low country boil.

Amy's Pimento Cheese

16-ounce block of extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces cream cheese softened
Scant 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder — or extremely finely grated onion
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
4-ounce jar of diced pimento, drained
Salt and pepper to taste

First, make sure to buy a block of extra-sharp cheddar cheese and shred it yourself, using the side of the grater that make larger shreds. Pre-shredded cheese that you buy at the store has been dusted with cellulose to keep the shreds from sticking together, which doesn't make for good pimento. And now that I know this I may never buy pre-shredded cheese again.

Place cream cheese in large bowl of electric mixer and mix at medium speed until lighter and no big chunks remain. Add in remaining ingredients and mix on medium, occasionally stopping to use a spatula to turn the mixture by hand so that all is blended together.

Refrigerate in an air-tight container a couple hours before eating. Can last a week or more in the fridge.

Don't forget to make some grilled pimento cheese sandwiches!