Well, I hope that you got to spend a wonderful Independence Day with your family. I spent a lazy day with my hubby, and then we had dinner with my best friend’s family. Our menu was turkey/Italian sausage burgers topped with a caprese salad (mozzarella, tomato, and basil), spicy sweet potato fries, grilled veggies (peppers, mushrooms, summer squash, zucchini, and onions), mango/orange/passion fruit sodas, andsome hazelnut gelato to finish it off. It was a great meal, and a good end to a wonderful day.
A few months ago, I told you about a deal from a Groupon like site run by Amazon. It’s called Amazon Local, and today they’re offering up the most amazing deal. If you go here, you can get a FREE voucher for $3 to spend on MP3 purchases at Amazon.com. My voucher was ready in just a few minutes, and I used it to get 3 single tracks. You don’t have to make a minimum purchase, but you do need to use it before it expires on 7/11. The deal is only on for about 12 more hours, so you have to hurry. Just so you know, they will ask you for a credit card number, but they won’t charge you since the voucher is free. I’d love to hear what songs you chose, so come back and share what you downloaded.
Last week, I mentioned that one of my best friends had shared some of her bounty of cherries with me and that I’d tell you this week what I made with them. The cherries were a little tart, so I didn’t really want to just eat them out of hand. She had given me enough to fill a quart size Ziploc, so I had a nice amount to work with. One day, I defrosted a frozen pie crust and cut out large circles with a biscuit cutter (I got 4 out of a regular sized crust). Then I used a technique on the cherries like I do on strawberries for shortcake. After pitting them, I put some in a saucepan with some sugar and let them get soft. After they were soft, I squished them (very technical term) with a potato masher, and added some other halved and pitted cherries. Since these were going to become hand pies, I sprinkled in just a little bit of cornstarch, so that the filling would thicken up and not leak out of the pies. I put them on the crusts, sealed them, brushed them with a little beaten egg, baked them for about 15 min. at 350 degrees, and then enjoyed them immensely with the hubby. The only thing that could have made them better would’ve been a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum!
With the rest of the cherries, I made some delicious cherry pie muffins. They were super easy to make and delicious. The only thing that didn’t work was the drizzle. The proportions that she gave turn out a very runny drizzle. You have to either decrease the amount of milk or increase the amount of powdered sugar. Personally, I also like to leave the vanilla out, since it can turn the drizzle brown.
Cherry Pie Muffins (From the Cheeky Kitchen blog) (Update – as of February 2014 it looks like the blogger has update her recipe to be more healthful. This is how I wrote it down when I first saw it.)
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar
6 oz. vanilla yogurt
3 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. canola oil
2 c. rinsed, pitted cherries
1/4 c. oats
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp. milk
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a muffin pan. In a large bowl, combine 2 c. flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
2. In another large bowl, combine the sugar, yogurt, eggs, 2 tsp. vanilla, and oil. Mix to combine.
3. A little at a time, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients til fully combined. Fold in the cherries, then fill each muffin tin 3/4 full.
4. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 c. flour, oats, brown sugar, and butter. Sprinkle this on top of the muffins.
5. Bake the muffins 20 minutes or til the tops are golden brown. Remove the muffins from the oven and cool in the pan for 20 minutes.
6. In another small bowl, combine the confectioner’s sugar, milk, and 1 tsp. vanilla. Drizzle the glaze over the completely cooled muffins.
I don’t really consider the cherry hand pies a recipe that I created, I just think of it as something I threw together. Nevertheless, I like to tell you about my cobbled together meals, since they might inspire some of you to do the same. I’ve been enjoying eating the summer abundance of zucchini and summer squash. They are some of my favorite vegetables, and I love coming up with new ways to use them. My best friend and I will often make a “diet” risotto for lunch, and I’m shocked that I haven’t shared it with you before. It’s very easy to cook and tastes great, but we do like putting our own spin on it. We tend to leave out the chicken (unless one of us has some leftovers handy), and we’ll swap out different veggies for the asparagus. Our favorite version uses some sauteed corn and zucchini. I dice up a small zucchini (or summer squash) and saute it in a pan with some corn. It only takes a few minutes to get some good color on the veggies.
Stuffed Peppers Risotto (from Better Homes & Gardens)
½ c. Arborio or long grain white rice
1 ¼ c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 small or 2 large sweet peppers
3 oz. Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 c. 1-in. asparagus pieces or broccoli florets
1 c. cubed cooked chicken
½ tsp. tarragon or oregano
¼ c. whipping cream
¼ c. toasted pine nuts or walnuts
1. In 2 qt. saucepan, combine the rice and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 15 minutes.
2. Cut tops off small peppers or halve large peppers lengthwise. Remove membranes and seeds. In 4 qt. Dutch oven, immerse peppers in boiling water oven for 3 min. Remove; drain, cut sides down, on paper towels. Place in serving dish cut side up. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper; set aside. (I don’t really like the texture of the boiled peppers, so I usually roast them for a few minutes in a toaster oven.)
3. With a veggie peeler, shave 1 oz. of parmesan into thin strips; set aside. Finely shred or grate the remaining parmesan and set it aside. Stir veggie (asparagus or broccoli), chicken, and herb (tarragon or oregano) into rice. Cover and cook 5 more minutes. Stir in whipping cream, shredded parm, and nuts. Spoon the filling into the peppers and top it with shaved the shaved parmesan.
Last week, I used this same technique to saute a summer squash and some corn that I had sprinkled with some homemade taco seasoning. When it was done cooking, I stirred in a dollop of sour cream which helped it come together with a sort of sauce. Then I put the filling into some butter lettuce leaves that I was using as taco shells. I topped it with a little chopped tomato and cheese and enjoyed a fantastic dinner. It’s so easy and tasty that I’m planning to cook it again for dinner tonight.
Another dinner that we’ve had recently is a new enchilada recipe that has you making your own sauce. The recipe comes from the same blog where I recently found the naan recipe. Since my hubby and I adore enchiladas, I like the idea of making my own enchilada sauce, instead of just opening a can. Though the recipe is a little bit labor intensive, the flavor is worth it. The chicken is especially flavorful since it’s poached in the homemade sauce. Since I knew it was going to take some work, I went ahead and doubled the recipe. That way we’d have a week’s worth of dinners for just one night’s worth of work. Once the filling and sauce are made, the enchiladas come together in no time. My hubby loved the taste, so this recipe will definitely be getting lots of use at our house.
Chicken Enchiladas with Red Chile Sauce (from Dainty Chef)
1 finely chopped onion
2 seeded, finely chopped jalapenos
1 tsp. canola oil
3 cloves minced garlic
3 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
3 tsp. sugar
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 c. water
1 seeded, chopped beefsteak tomato
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 c. shredded white cheddar
1 c. shredded monterey jack
1/2 c. minced cilantro or parsley
12 corn tortillas
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large saucepan, combine the onion, jalapeno, oil, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cover and cook on medium-low, stirring often, til the veggies have softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar and cook til fragrant, less than 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce, water, and chopped tomato. Bring this to a simmer and cook til slightly thickened, 5 minutes.
2. Once thickened, nestle the chicken into the sauce, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook til the chicken is cooked through, 12-20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and let it cool.
3. Strain the sauce through a sieve into a medium bowl, pressing the onion mixture to extract as much liquid as possible. Transfer the onion mix to a large bowl and set it aside. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Shred the chicken into bite-size pieces and add it to the onion mix. Also add in 1/4 c. sauce, 1 c. cheese, and cilantro and toss to combine. Stack the tortillas on a plate and cover it with plastic wrap; microwave til warm and pliable, 40-60 seconds. Spread the tortillas on a clean surface and spoon 1/3 c. of the chicken mix down the middle of each. Roll the tortilla up and place it seam side down in a greased 9×13 pan. Lightly spray the tops of the enchiladas with Pam and place the pan, uncovered, in the oven for 7 minutes or til the tops start to brown.
5. Reduce the heat to 400 degrees. Remove the enchiladas from the oven and pour the sauce evenly over them. Top the enchiladas with the remaining cheese. Cover the pan with foil and bake 20 minutes or til heated through. Remove the foil and bake 5 minutes more or til the cheese browns. Remove the pan from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes.
Now, last week I teased you about a twist that would be coming to the movie/recipe series that we’ve been doing. Since you’ve waited so patiently, I’m ready to tell you what that twist is. For the next four posts, we are going to be celebrating Christmas in July!! That means we’ll be watching romantic comedies that always put me in the Christmas mood. This week’s Christmas movie choice was The Holiday. It was one of the first movies I discussed after starting this blog, but in that short time it’s really worked its way onto my list of favorites. In the beginning of the movie, both Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) are having problems with their relationships (or lack thereof). In an effort to get away from their problems, they decide to switch houses for 2 weeks at Christmas. You’ll have to watch to see if a change of address can help them find love. (Trailer here.) As I mentioned before, it’s rated PG-13 for some sexual content and strong language (which are not necessary, but you know Hollywood). Still, there are so many really sweet parts as well as some hilarious ones. My favorite parts are any scene that has Arthur in it, the tent scene, the three-way phone conversation, Iris and Miles in the video store, and when Iris finally finds her gumption. What was a surprise to me when I first watched this movie was how nice Jack Black could be. I admit that I don’t usually like any of his movies, but he really did great in this one. Also, you have to admire Amanda’s beautiful mansion and Iris’s quaint little cottage. As another teaser, here are some of my favorite lines: “Busy, Honey, I haven’t been busy since 1978.”, “He let you go. This is not a hard one to figure out.”, “Yeah, I sew, and I have a cow.”, and “I like corny. I’m looking for corny in my life.”
Since Iris hosted a Hanukkah party and Miles complimented her macaroons, I knew that I wanted to make the raspberry coconut macaroons that I didn’t get to make for Easter. You already know I’m a coconut fan, so I’m sure you don’t have to wonder why I wanted to make these. Mine didn’t turn out quite as pretty as Deb’s, but they were delicious nonetheless. I was a little scared that they wouldn’t work, because after putting them in the oven, I noticed that I’d only put in 2 whites instead of 3, and I somehow forgot to add the sugar. Amazingly, they come out in one piece and tasted delicious. One of my favorite things about these is that they come together in just a few minutes and the only bowl you have to dirty is the food processor’s work bowl. If you can find raspberries on sale, these would be a great way to make use of them. (Update 3/2014: I made these again and remembered the sugar and 3rd egg white. They turned out great, so I added photos of them.)
Raspberry Coconut Macaroons (from Smitten Kitchen)
14 oz. coconut
2/3 c. sugar
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. almond extract (Which I subbed vanilla for.)
1 1/4 c. raspberries
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment. In the food processor, blend the coconut for a minute. Add the sugar and blend another minute. Add the egg whites, salt, and almond extract and blend another minute. Add the raspberries and pulse in short bursts til they are largely, but not fully, broken down. (Do not stir.)
2. Scoop the batter by tbsp. into 1 in. mounds. Bake 25-30 minutes or til they look a little toasted on top. Let rest on the pan 10 minutes.
I hope you have a great rest of the week!