Monday, May 23, 2011

Hello, there!

Thanks for checking's been almost a week since I've posted. I miss cooking dearly. The construction on our addition is nearly complete, but in the meantime, the house is chaotic. Nightstands and bunk beds in the living room, guest bed mattresses leaning against the wall in our bedroom...dust EVERYWHERE. Construction workers tracking MUD(!) up and down the hall. All the while, I've been trying to keep my little ones out of the way. So, that doesn't leave much cooking time! We are hoping to be done by the end of the week. Very exciting!

Until I can post my next recipe, here's a lovely photo of my peonies! I've cut almost all of them from the plant (a little problem I have) and they are in vases all around the house, trying to subtract from the messiness. What an incredible fragrance!

I'll be around soon!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bacon-Spinach Pinwheels

I know we're really not suppose to relate food to emotional comfort.

But these little things equal pop-in-your-mouth-happiness.

Savory, buttery happiness. 

And, just because it's time for a blogging reality check, let me zoom out a little for ya.

See?  These make you happy!

Freeze some to easily enjoy at a later date.

Bacon-Spinach Pinwheels
Makes 48 1/2-inch pieces

1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed (I used Pepperidge Farm)
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, softened
1 cup (packed) fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Using a sturdy wooden spoon in a medium bowl, mix together the bacon, cream cheese, spinach, chives, sage, garlic powder and pepper.  Stir in cheeses.

Lay the thawed pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface (like a cutting board).  Spread the cheese/bacon mixture evenly over the pastry.  Beginning with the end nearest you, roll up the pastry in a direction away from yourself. 

Slightly stretch the roll out (gently tug the ends).  Using a serrated knife, slice the roll into 1/2-thick pieces. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place the pinwheels about an inch apart.  Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown.  Serve warm.

(To freeze:  freeze pinwheels on a baking sheet.  Once frozen, transfer pinwheels to a freezer storage bag (Zip-Lock).  To reheat, bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.)

Linking up at:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lemon-Herb Chicken Packets

Thank you, Estela, for having me as a guest on The Weekly Bite!  It's such an honor. 

For those of you reading this on The Weekly Bite, please feel free to stop by and visit me over at Cooking With Chopin, Living With Elmo.


I love lemons.


And as much as I adore the intricacies of cooking, I really appreciate an easy, no-mess recipe every now and then.

Behold the perfect marriage of lemony simplicity!

(This recipe results in very lemony chicken. So, if you prefer a more mild lemon flavor, reduce the number of lemon slices you place on each chicken breast and skip the zesting step.)

What you'll need:

1-2 pounds chicken breasts*, fresh herbs,
garlic, butter, and lemon(s).

These are the herbs I used.
But you can use your faves. 
Mint, dill, and parsley also make for a very refreshing combination.

Chop the herbs.

 Here's a lil' trick to easily remove that
pesky papery garlic skin:

Place the broad side of your knife on top of the clove,

and firmly press down.

The skin will peel right off in one or two motions.


Finely mince it.

 In a small bowl, mix the garlic and the chopped herbs.

Lay the chicken breast(s) on a square of foil
(or parchment paper**),
and season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with the garlic/herb mixture, and about a 1/4 teaspoon of lemon zest.

Slice the lemon(s).

And lay a slice or two on each piece of chicken.

Top with a pat of love butter.
(Substitute olive or grapeseed oil for a healthier alternative.)

Seal packets (by folding) and place on a baking sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.


Lemon Happiness.

*My family is recovering from illness and no one has much of an appetite.  That's why I used breast tenderloins instead of larger cuts of chicken in these photos.  But I really recommend using a whole boneless, skinless breast per serving.  The flavors will balance better.

**You can prepare this up to a day in advance and then just pop it in the oven when you're ready to bake it.  If you do that, please use parchment paper instead of foil to minimize any reactions between the lemon juice and the foil. 

Lemon-Herb Chicken Packets
Serves 6

1 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, chives, sage, and parsley worked well), in about equal proportions, or to taste
1 large clove garlic, minced
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 lemons
6 tablespoons butter (or substitute oil or grapeseed oil)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Mix herbs and garlic together in small bowl.  Flatten chicken breasts by pressing them gently against the work surface with the palm of your hand.  Arrange breast pieces on foil or parchment paper and season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle herb and garlic mixture over chicken breasts and top with about 1/4 teaspoon of lemon zest. 

3.  Slice lemon(s) and arrange 1-2 slices over each breast.  Dot with butter and seal the packets.  Set on a baking sheet.

4.  Set packets in the middle of the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.  Transfer to serving plates and allow guests to open packets at table.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Minty Cucumber Salad

This salad will make your body temperature drop by 3 degrees. 

Just kidding.

But it is really, really cool and refreshing!

And you don't even have to fire up the stove.

Prepare it with or without the dressing...

You can use regular cucumbers and slice them in half lengthwise and remove the seeds.

Or, you can use the smaller seedless variety. 

Slice in half lengthwise,

 and cut into crescents.

 Chop up about a handful of fresh mint,

 and about half a handful of fresh flat-leafed parsley.

Zest an orange.

And toss together the cucumbers, herbs,
zest and some salt and pepper.

For the dressing, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, and sugar.

And pour it over the cucumbers.
Chill and serve.

Minty Cucumber Salad
Serves 4-6

3-4 large cucumbers, halved and seeded (or use a larger number of the smaller, seedless variety)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Grated rind of one orange
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup granulated sugar

Cut cucumber halves into 1/2-inch wide cresents.  Mix with the herbs, salt, pepper, and orange zest. 

Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over cucumbers.  Mix well, refrigerate until well-chilled, and serve. 

Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook

Monday, May 9, 2011

Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fajitas:  a summer essential.

When the temperature begins to rise, I start to think of limes.  Lime-aid, lime sherbert, guacamole (with lime juice, of course), and chicken fajitas.

The secret's in the marinade (hint:  there's a whole lime in there)!

Just plan ahead a teensy bit because the meat needs to marinate at least 2-3 hours, but preferably overnight. 

Prepare your marinade by mixing together:

Juice and zest from one lime, olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce.

Slice one pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts lengthwise into 1/2-inch wide strips.

Combine chicken and marinade in shallow bowl (or a Zip-Lock bag) and refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight.

When you're ready to start cooking:

Saute one onion and a sliced red pepper
(or a mixture of red, green and yellow peppers) in olive oil.
Saute over medium-high heat for about 8-9 minutes (stirring frequently) 
until they start to get a little brown on the edges. 

Then, just toss in the chicken (discard the marinade), and cook for about 10 minutes. 
Cut into a piece of the chicken toward the end of the cooking time to ensure doneness...

Serve with guacamole, sour cream, shredded cheese, salsa, and your favorite tortilla chips!

Chicken Fajitas
Serves 3-4

1 lime, juiced and zested
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I substituted Bragg's Liquid Aminos)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or more if desired for heat)
1 teaspoon salt

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 large), sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced (or a combination of green, yellow, orange and red peppers)

Combine marinade ingredients.  Add chicken.  Place in a large Zip-Lock bag or a shallow non-metal bowl covered with plastic wrap.  Marinate for 2-3 hours or overnight.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil.  Saute the onions and the peppers for 8-9 minutes over medium heat until browned. 

Discard marinade.  Add chicken to skillet, and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently, until cooked through.

Serve with warm tortillas. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Orange Pecan Bread

I love cookbooks.
Have I mentioned this before?  (*wink*)

And I love my mom. 

Were it not for her, I would undoubtedly be a different person without a love for cooking, gardening, decorating, sewing, and generally creating edible and visual beauty for my family and friends. 

And since each of those things means so much to me, I will be forever grateful for all that she has taught me. 

Including the fact that she (lovingly) made me listen to classical music while all the rest of my classmates were rocking out to B93 and early 90s hits such as "Pump Up The Jam", "Whoomp (There It Is!)", and "Runaway Train".   Probably a good thing, because otherwise, this blog might be called "Cooking with Roxette, Living with Elmo."  But then again, more people probably know who Roxette is anyway...

In all seriousness, Happy Mother's Day, Mom!  I love you!

One of Mom's favorite cookbooks is The Silver Palate.  She gave me a copy shortly after Chris and I were married, and it has firmly worked its now splattered and dog-eared pages into my heart. 

I was flipping through it this morning and came upon this old favorite for one of the most moist, tender, and flavorful quick breads around. 

Orange Pecan Bread.  Ever tasted it? 

Unless you have a retching dislike for oranges (hello, Beth dear), this stuff will have you licking your plate. 

In truth, it's really more like a cake. 

But we'll just call it a bread to make ourselves feel better, K? 

Be sure to slather it with this strawberry butter.  That will absolutely make you feel better. 

P.S., before you get to the recipe, if at this last minute (9:15 PM on Mother's Day Eve) you don't think your mister has any ideas about what to get you for Mother's Day, please nudge him to look at my friend Stacy's blog post, "The Perfect Gift for Your Minimialist Mom [Wife]"...even if you're not a minimalist!  It will have you grinning and nodding your head in agreement! 

Orange Pecan Bread
1 loaf

8 tablespoons (1 stick) sweet butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, separated
grated rind of 1 large or 2 small oranges
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup shelled pecans, chopped
Orange Glaze (see below)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

2.  Cream the butter.  Add 3/4 cup sugar gradually, beating with an electric mixer until light.  Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, and the grated orange rind.

3.  Sift the flour with baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and add dry mixture to the batter alternately with 1/2 cup orange juice, beginning and ending with the flour.  Gently mix in the pecans.

4.  Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them carefully into the batter.

5.  Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan, set on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. 

6.  Meanwhile, make the glaze.  Spoon hot syrup over the bread as soon as the bread is removed from the oven.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack. 

Orange Glaze
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Combine orange juice and sugar in small saucepan and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until a light syrup forms. 

From:  The Silver Palate Cookbook

Strawberry Butter

This strawberry butter is a delicious, quick, and easy spread just begging to adorn your morning toast or tea bread. 

It's oh-so-simple to make...just use your blender or food processor to whirl together: 

1 stick of butter
1/3 cup strawberry jam
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar

Cream ingredients together, transfer to a small dish, and chill. Bring the butter to room temperature before serving.

The butter can be refrigerated for several days
or frozen for several weeks. 

From: The Silver Palate Cookbook