Saturday, April 23, 2011

Verde Chicken in Red

Claire and both her boys were sick today, so instead of cooking with Claire, today, I cooked for Claire. Claire still managed to contribute chocolate chip cookies and homemade croutons, as well as a loaf of bread, so today's session still deserves its own entry.  Fortunately for me, my sister and her fiance came over to help with child wrangling and cooking. We finished all our dishes in about 2 1/2 hours, not including things like simmering time and tossing the salad before serving. Not too bad.  Several people have suggested that I add a recipe index on the side.  That should be coming soon. 

Pollo Rojo  (previously Verde Chicken)

Claire and I had decided on making this last week. She says that if she ever wrote a cookbook, this recipe would be in it. Since she was not here today, I was kind of on my own, but I already had all the ingredients so I went ahead and made it.  She forgot to tell me not to add the tomatoes listed in the original recipe, which is why my chicken turned out red and not at all green.  Hence, the new name.  The chicken is great served with tortillas and Cowboy Caviar (see below) on the first night.  The leftovers can be used the next night for chicken quesadillas.  If there are any leftovers after that, try making Mexican Chicken Soup.

2 T olive oil
1 medium chopped onion
4 cloves chopped garlic
4 large chicken breasts cut in half vertically
1 cup salsa verde
½ c. chicken broth
1 T chili powder
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 can diced tomatoes with juice (optional!)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Heat oil in the pan.  Add the chicken and sprinkle with flour.   Let it brown, remove temporarily and saute the onion and garlic until soft.  Add the chicken back to the pan, turn a few times.   Add the salsa verde, tomatoes, and broth.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 20 min.  Add more broth if necessary. Shred the chicken as it simmers.  Garnish with cilantro.

Cowboy Caviar

This recipe is from my co-worker Dawn.  It's amazing.  Don't let the shoepeg corn throw you.  It's just canned white corn. Although, for some reason, I picture long-toothed cartoon hillbillies wearing overalls and worn-out boots.  This is great as a fresh salsa, on burgers, with chips, or as a stand-alone side dish.  You can adjust the jalapeno pepper to taste.  Dawn uses 1 small pepper or 1/2 large pepper, and I omitted it for the kids.  It's better with at least a LITTLE jalapeno.

¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
¼ tsp. pepper
¾ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 can black eyed peas – drain
1 can shoe peg corn – drain
1 bunch chopped cilantro (approx. ¾ cup)
1 bunch green onion (approx. ¾ cup)
Diced jalapeno pepper (to taste)
2 diced roma tomatoes
2 diced avocados (add right before serving)

Add all ingredients together and stir.  Allow to marinate for about 2-4 hours.  Add the avocado right before serving. 

Slow-cooked Cannellini Beans and Sausage
(adapted from Williams-Sonoma recipes online)

The original recipe is a little different.  It calls for beans soaked overnight, and whole kielbasa sausages. I wasn't prepared for this, so I used canned beans instead.  We also sliced the sausages and served it more as a stew/soup. I am also terrible with slow cookers- we started this in the slow cooker, but ran out of room.  After a couple of hours, I moved it to a large pot and finished the cooking there. It was delicious.  Serve with crusty bread.  It's a lot of ingredients, but mostly things that you probably already have in your pantry or fridge.

2 T olive oil
2 lbs. sausages (I used chicken kielbasa, with sundried tomatoes and spinach), sliced into 1 inch pieces, diagonally
1 large onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 Tbs tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, chopped
Red pepper flakes, to taste
2 cups chicken stock + 2 cups of water
2 bay leaves
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp sage
3 cans cannellini beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes, including liquid
1 c fresh breadcrumbs (better with homemade larger ones rather than the finely ground premade ones)
1 T butter, melted
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped
2 cups chopped fresh spinach

Brown the sausage in a pan with the oil. Add the onions and garlic, cook until onions are soft.  At this point, transfer to a slow cooker.  Add tomato paste, stir.  Stir in the chicken stock, water, and spices.  Add the cannellini beans. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours. Stir in the red bell peppers and let it cook another 20-30 minutes. 

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, 1 T olive oil, the melted butter, and salt and pepper.  Saute in a pan until crispy.  Take off the heat and stir in the parsley. 

Stir the chopped spinach into the stew until it's wilted.  Serve in a big bowl topped with bread crumbs, and a side of crusty bread.

In progress.  The breadcrumb topping finishes it off!

For lunch, I scavenged some things from the fridge and counter:  1/3 lb. ground turkey, 1 1/2 lemons, 1/4 red onion, and a handful of grape tomatoes. I came up with this Melange Pasta, which by definition has limitless possibilities, and served it with our favorite salad.

Melange Pasta

1/3 lb ground turkey
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 T chopped onion
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp sage
salt and pepper
4 T olive oil
1/2 cup grape tomatoes
1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
juice and zest from 1 1/2 lemons (1 or 2 lemons okay too)
1/2 package cooked pasta (spaghetti)
1 cup chopped spinach

Toss the tomatoes and red onion slices with 1 T olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and broil for about 3 minutes on high until browned. 

Heat 1 T olive oil in a large saute pan. Add garlic and onions. Add the turkey, rosemary, sage, and salt & pepper.  Once cooked, add the cooked & drained pasta, the roasted tomatoes and onions, and the lemon juice and zest.  Toss with the rest of the olive oil and the spinach.  Add a little more lemon juice to taste.  

Our House Dressing
1/4 tsp finely chopped garlic
1/8 cup olive oil
1/8 cup lemon juice (to taste)
1/4 tsp salt

Whisk it until emulsified.  My husband puts it into a small plastic container and shakes it.

Homemade Herbed Croutons

Homemade croutons are a mixed blessing.  They are awesome on salads or soups, but you have to make at least twice as many as you need, because it is impossible to not snack on them after they're ready.  Impossible. The following is an approximate recipe that we both use, although we both generally wing it.   These are also great over soup.

Stale bread (preferably sourdough)
1/3 c olive oil (depends on how much bread you have)
garlic powder
pinches of assorted spices (sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, whatever)
salt and pepper

Toss cubed bread with olive oil and spices, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Bake at 350 for a bout 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Roasted Mini Sweet Peppers

This doesn't even need a recipe because they're so simple, but I made them, and they're delicious.  I just like to eat them plain but they would be great on a sandwich with chevre cheese and scallions. So, here you go.

10 sweet mini peppers
Drizzle olive oil
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper

Trim the tops off the peppers, slice in half, and remove the ribs and seeds. Lay out on a baking pan and drizzle olive oil over the peppers.  Sprinkle salt and pepper. Broil on high, for about 4 minutes or until they are golden.  The baking sheet should be close to the top burner, about 4 inches or so.  

I dropped off salad, cannellini and sausage stew, and a loaf of bread for Claire and her family for dinner, only to find that she had been busy baking chocolate chip cookies, bread, and croutons.  (Crouton recipe above.)  I've included a link to the bread recipe, as well as posting it here.  Cookie recipe follows.  Wouldn't want to forget dessert!

No-Knead Bread Recipe 
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1 5/8 c water
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

One delicious 1½-pound loaf.

World's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's a pretty bold statement, but these are hard to resist.

1 c white sugar
1 c brown sugar
1 c butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 t vanilla
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
3 c white ap flour
12 oz semi sweet chocolate chips

Place sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla in kitchen aide mixing bowl. Mix 1 min.  Add dry ingr.  mix 30 sec and chocolate chips mix 15 seconds.  Drop rounded tablespoon onto greased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  Bake 375 for 10-12 min>  Remove from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks.

You can also make 1 batch and freeze half of the dough for later.

Please let us know if you try any of the recipes, and leave us a comment!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Comfort Food: Fried Rice and Matzo

This week I had volunteered to make a meal for a family with new triplets, one of whom was in the hospital with complications of prematurity.  They have a preschooler at home as well, and not a lot of family in the area, so I wanted to make something relatively kid-friendly but nutritious.  I also wanted to offer a departure from lasagna noodle bake cheesy mexi-casserole, which I'm sure they've been eating a lot of lately. (We're making something along those lines next week!)  Claire is especially fond of my fried rice, so we'd been planning all week to make that.  A few days earlier, my sister had brought over a rotisserie chicken from Costco.   Claire and I LOVE rotisserie chicken, but those chickens deserve their own blog post.  I had made some chicken stock from the leftover bones earlier in the week, and was hankering for some matzo ball soup.  Which of course pairs perfectly with Chinese fried rice and brownies.

Extra challenges: This week, maybe because it was a Friday, maybe because it's been raining seemingly nonstop since October, we were low energy.  I had a few errands to run before we started (like buying a dress for a work dinner with a cranky toddler in tow); Claire had forgotten her cell phone, and had to pick up her son from preschool in the middle of meal prep. I had forgotten to make the rice the night before. Oh, and despite bugging her repeatedly for the past 2 weeks, my friend Natalie, who makes the best matzo ball soup, still hasn't given me her recipe.  So I also needed to find a recipe for matzo ball soup. And, some friends of ours were coming over for dinner- no menu planned, house a mess, and the twins each budding new teeth or something that was making them kind of clingy all day.  But, life doesn't just stand still because there's a lot going on, so here's what we did:

Homestyle Chinese Fried Rice
This is our family recipe. Fried rice is a great go-to meal that uses up leftovers.  You can subsitute just about any vegetable, but I like to keep a bag of frozen peas and carrots and a bag of diced ham in my freezer at all times.  The only additional ingredients you need, then, are leftover rice, eggs, and green onions. You can make it however you want, but for me, green onions, sesame oil, and white pepper are essential. I also am somewhat picky about the type of soy sauce I use (Superior Soy Dark), but you don't have to run out and find this. I sometimes like to add the little dried shrimps that you can get in the Asian markets.  It adds a great authentic flavor, but it might be too adventurous for some families.

My family's comfort food.
The kids will all eat bowl after bowl.
4 cups leftover cooked rice
1 cup frozen peas and carrots  (if you use fresh veggies just dice them so they're the same size cubes as the diced carrots in the frozen peas and carrots bag)
1 handful of chopped fresh spinach (optional)
1/2 cup diced ham  (use turkey ham if you don't eat pork)
3 eggs
1 + 1 tsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic
2 green onions, chopped
dash WHITE pepper
chicken stock or water

The order in which you do things is important.  Start by mixing the eggs in a bowl with 1 tsp of sesame oil and half the chopped spinach- just enough to make the eggs pretty. Heat up 2 T canola or veggie oil in a large pan- whatever you're going to cook in.  (I don't like to dirty more than 1 pan for this.) Add the egg.  Let it cook almost all the way through, omelette-style, and then flip it just for a minute.  Put it on your cutting board and slice it into small squares or rectangles. Set aside.

Like this.
And this...
Heat up 2 T of canola oil again. Put in the garlic (do NOT let it scorch.  If it scorches, start over or your rice will taste like burnt garlic.) and then add the chopped ham.  Give it a few stirs and clear out space in the middle of the pan. Add the veggies, and stir fry them a little, then mix all together.  Clear out a space in the center of the pan again and add the rice.  Stir, breaking up the chunks of rice if you need to.  Mix it all together. Add 2 T of soy sauce (this is mainly for color) and 1 tsp of sesame.  If the rice is looking a little dry, add a little bit of chicken stock or water. (I usually add about 1/2 c total liquids, but it depends on how dry your leftover rice is.) When it's nearly done, fold in the green onions and spinach. Add a dash of white pepper.   That's all there is to it!

Pearl River Bridge Superior Dark Soy Sauce, 16.9-Ounce Glass Bottles (Pack of 2)           Taiwan Cooking Michiu Tou (Price Is for 3 Bottles)         WHITE PEPPER GROUND FRESHLY PACKED IN LARGE JARS, spices, herbs, seasonings         Kadoya - Pure Sesame Oil 5.5 Oz.    

Matzo Ball Soup
adapted from "Oma's Fabulous Matzo Ball Soup" at

Full disclosure: I don't really know anything about matzo ball soup. I'm not Jewish, I've really only had my friend's soup, and I love it every time.  In my mind, her matzo balls were really big.  I made mine big, but I think they would be better if I had made them golf-ball sized.  I also accidentally bought Mediterranean matzo crackers, which had sundried tomatoes, olive oil, and basil baked into them.  You couldn't really taste it, but it made me hold back on the dill, and I think the soup recipe needs dill. 

One 11 oz package of matzo crackers
1/3 c butter
3 eggs
4 T minced parsley
1 small onion
small amount of matzo meal
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
3-4 quarts of chicken broth, homemade if you have it
1 tsp dried dill weed or a sprig of fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste

Boil a pot of water. Break the matzo crackers into small pieces and soak in the water for a few minutes.  Drain.   Melt the butter in a large skillet and add the matzo. Stir until slightly dry and brown. (My mixture was about the consistency of polenta.)

While this is cooking, throw the onions and parsley into a food processor.  Or finely chop if you like. Add the lightly beaten eggs.  When the matzo is ready add the onions/parsley/eggs to the matzo and mix with your hands.  Add a little matzo meal if it can't be shaped into balls.

Once you have them shaped into balls, and here's where I got impatient, you're supposed to test one out in the boiling water.  They're supposed to float up to the top.  If it sinks, add more beaten egg.  If it floats, make the rest of the dough into balls. (I didn't do this, and they turned out fine. Oma would probably be horrified, though.) Heat up the chicken stock.  Add the carrots and a sprig of fresh dill if you have it, 1/2 tsp dill weed if you don't.  Once this is boiling, add the matzo balls and serve as they float to the top.

This is awesome when you're feeling sick and bored with chicken noodle soup.
The matzo balls are also deceptively filling.
I highly recommend that you start with smaller balls.
Not everyone can handle balls this big.

We ate the soup for lunch along with some Trader Joe's shiu mai.  Once I put the rice into the box for the family, it didn't seem like enough for a full meal.  So I tossed together the following quick stir-fry with some sugar snap peas and ground turkey I had on hand:

Sugar Snap Peas with Ground Turkey

1 lb of sugar snap peas, with strings removed
1/2 package of ground turkey (1/2 lb, I think)
2 T rice wine
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp minced ginger
dash szechuan peppercorn powder (optional)
salt to taste
about 1 T of cornstarch
1/2 c water or chicken broth

Heat the oil until it's hot enough that the garlic talks to you when you add it to the pan. Add the garlic and ginger, stir in the ground turkey.  Keep in mind that the ground turkey in this case is really more for flavoring. Clear out a space in the center and add the sugar snap peas.

Stir.  Add the rice wine and sesame oil. Shortly before the peas are done (I like them so they are still bright green, with a little bit of crunch but no raw taste.)  mix the cornstarch with the water or chicken broth and pour it into the pot.  Stir and watch closely.  The cornstarch will thicken into a sauce.  You may need to add more liquid. Add the dash of peppercorn powder (it adds a great subtle flavor) and it's ready to serve.

Off to feed a new family of six!

Ok, we just made the brownies from the Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix that you can get at Costco.  I know some people swear by homemade brownies, but this particular mix always turns out perfect, with minimal effort.  Claire agrees.

This is the special brownie pan that I got for Mother's Day one year.  I love the edges that it makes, although sometimes I miss the irregular edges that you get from cutting the brownies with the knife.  I do love that the brownies are all pre-cut, though- it makes it a cinch to serve.

I added one last dish at the end, one that Claire and I have made often.  It's a knock off of the Zuppa Toscana that you can get at the Olive Garden. My son, for some reason, loves the Olive Garden. I could take or leave the Olive Garden, but I do love this soup and it is super quick. I can't remember who gave me the original recipe (speak up and I will credit you!), but you can find it at under "Toscana Soup."  As always, this is my adaptation.

Toscana Soup

1 package sweet italian sausage or chicken sausage
1/2 small diced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
2 T chicken soup base
3 potatoes, quartered then sliced into 1/4 inch slices (think thick potato chips)
2-3 cups of kale (we had some fresh organic Russian kale from our CSA-thanks, Mel!)
1/2 c half and half

Remove the sausage skins and brown the sausage in your soup pot. Add the garlic and onion.  Once the sausage is cooked, add water (not sure how much, enough to make soup!). Add the chicken soup base. Add the potatoes & let it boil for a few minutes.  Reduce the heat and add the kale and half & half. Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.
Add some red pepper flakes if you want to spice it up a little.

Please leave a comment if you plan to try, tried, or have any suggestions for any of the recipes above. Enjoy!

Friday, April 8, 2011


Claire and I met at the birth of my second child, Allison.  She was herself about to give birth to her second son. We became friends later when I got a job at her hospital.  Claire was also there during the birth of my twins, and not long after that, we decided to cook together on one of my days off.  I can't remember exactly what we made.  Probably easy macaroni and cheese (we'll share this recipe later!), but it worked so well that cooking with Claire became a regular event.
This is Claire, on the day we met.
(It's the only picture I could find of her!)
You can't tell she's  pregnant.
She's holding Allison. 
We share similar philosophies on cooking: nutritious, hearty, flavorful, and kid-friendly but not kid-catering. We share ideas on how to sneak veggies into food, but best of all, when one of us is tapped out and bored with the usual routine, the other one comes to the rescue with something different. When one of us is having a hard week, the other has been known to drop off a meal.  (We live 5 minutes from each other.)  There is nothing better than having a hot, home-cooked dropped off at your house when the kids are restless and twitchy, your husband is out of town, and you have no idea what you are going to make for dinner.

Claire and I have garlic in common.  She brings to the table an Italian background, while I tend to cook with more of an Asian flair (read: green onions and cilantro).  Our approach is generally to shoot a few emails back and forth, come up with something, and go from there.  The recipes may or may not be in our head, and there is a lot of "pinch of this" and "dollop of that- mmm, no a little more." Often we wing an additional dish or two after we've already started. There is no plan, but there is harmony and magic, and 2 hours later, dinner for nine families.  (We did that once.)  We try to make quadruple batches so that each of our families can have something that night, and something to put in the freezer.  Sometimes we donate a meal or two to a family in need. We frequent Costco, Trader Joe's, the regular grocery store, and the occasional specialty store.

One of these days we'll take a picture of the kitchen mid-meal prep, as it is truly a disaster. Sometimes there is a playdate with multiple 4 y/o girls going on in the background, and twins that need to be fed or put down for a nap. But, afterward, the house smells great, the kitchen sparkles, and bellies are full. Here we go...