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Saturday
Apr022011

Chicken salad sandwich

Alternate title: Pantry sandwich.

On a recent snowy, cold day, I stood staring into my pantry, hungry, pondering lunch. It happened to be my 4-year-old's birthday, and he had already eaten a lunch involving raisins, chocolate and candy. So this lunch that I was pondering was for my husband and myself.

Soup, no. Pasta, no. Canned chicken, YES! And I immediately knew what I wanted to do with it. I hadn't made chicken salad in far too long, and suddenly I needed it! I started grabbing ingredients, whatever I saw that would taste good with chicken and mayonnaise.

I threw the following ingredients into my favorite new splatter bowl:

One 12.5-oz. can chunk chicken, drained, pieces broken apart with a fork

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup pecans, chopped

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup Craisins

1/4 cup green olives, chopped

I mixed it all together.

And piled it in between two pieces of sourdough bread along with some fresh spinach. It rocked. Next time I will use meat from a Rotisserie chicken instead of from a can. I think that would rock even harder.

Chicken Salad Sandwiches

One of my favorite versions of the delicious and satisfying chicken salad sandwich.

Serves: 4

Total time: 10 min

Chicken Salad Sandwich

 

Ingredients:

  • 12.5-oz. can chunk chicken, drained, pieces broken apart with a fork
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup Craisins
  • 1/4 cup green olives, chopped
  • 8 slices sourdough or white bread
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
Instructions:
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, mayonnaise, pecans, raisins, Craisins and green olives. Mix well.
  2. Divide the mixture four ways and place each serving on a slice of bread. Top with ¼ cup fresh spinach and another slice of bread.

 

 

Wednesday
Mar302011

Minestrone with black-eyed peas and kidney beans

This is Week #13 of my 2011 cooking challenge! Click here to view all recipes from this challenge. All recipes created for this challenge come from the Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2010.

We have settled into a Sunday routine at our house that I love. Church or family-time, depending on the week, followed by lunch and a family nap. After that, I retreat to the kitchen to prepare something for dinner while my boys play or lounge or watch golf or read or play on the computer or the Wii. Sometimes I turn on music while I cook. Other times I tune into the sounds coming from the living room as I thinly slice the white parts of a leek.

This was the scene at one end of the kitchen this past Sunday afternoon.

And this beautiful face was at the other end.

And this was the scene in the living room.

This Sunday routine that I love so much will sadly be ending soon. Starting in mid-April, my husband will be working his cute little butt off on the weekends doing this (photo courtesy Luke Evens) until the end of October.

While I take on the scene at home. You know, ignoring the laundry and dirty toilets while caring for my boys and cooking.

The important and yummy stuff! At least I've got my priorities straight.

One of my last carefree Sunday cookfests for a while involved lots of vegetables. I had never made Minestrone before, and I was most definitely pleased with the outcome of my first attempt at it. The top keywords that come to mind when describing it are: fresh, healthy, satisfying, delicious!

Start out by heating 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large soup pot.

Add:

2 oz. pancetta, finely diced

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 celery ribs, thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 leek, white and tender green parts thinly sliced (reserve the dark green top for later)

Salt & pepper

Cook over moderate heat until the vegetables are softened, 10 minutes.

Sometimes I am struck by how artistic food can be. Perhaps that is why I'm so fond of food blogging and food photography.

Add 1/2 pound coarsely shredded Savoy or other green cabbage and cook until slightly wilted, 1 minute.

Add a 14.5-oz can of diced tomatoes and cook for 5 more minutes.

Add:

1 cup dried black-eyed peas

2 quarts water

Bring to a boil.

Grab the reserved top portion of the leek and stuff the following inside its outer leaves:

3 parsley sprigs

1 bay leaf

3 thyme sprigs

Secure the leek with kitchen twine and add to the pot.

Cover and simmer over low heat until the black-eyed peas are tender, about 45 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, cook 2 oz. penne pasta in boiling water until al dente. Drain and cool under running water and then slice the penne crosswise into 1/4-inch rings.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive in a skillet over moderately high heat. Add the penne to the skillet in a single layer.

Cook, turning once, until golden, about 5 minutes. Drain the penne rings on paper towels.

Once the soup is done simmering, discard the herbs and stir in:

One 15-oz. can red kidney beans, drained

Penne rings

1/2 cup shredded basil

Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

And to think that once upon a time, I, too, spent my weekends jumping out of airplanes. Ahh, those were the days.

Click here for a printable recipe!

Saturday
Mar262011

Sweet & tangy pork chops

I'm going to refer to the month of March as Pork Month from now on. I didn't plan it this way, but my husband and I have prepared much more pork than usual in the past few weeks. And every tender, juicy bite has been totally scrumptious! I have another pork recipe on my list that I plan to make soon. Mom's Pork Chops! My mother makes the best pork chops under the sun, and I cannot wait to share that splendor with you all. I mustn't get ahead of myself, though. Back to the delicious recipe at hand!

This is how my husband has been preparing pork for the past year or so. I swoon over this recipe. And I swoon over the fact that I have a husband who makes me delicious pork and mouth-watering mai tais.

Combine in a medium bowl:

6 oz. light beer

2 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons ketchup, with an extra squirt for good measure

Set aside.

Salt and pepper both sides of 3 pork chops. If you plan to make more than 3, double the sauce. You will want plentiful amounts of its deliciousness.

Coat a large skillet with cooking spray. Cook the pork chops for 3 minutes on each side over medium heat.

Pour the beer mixture over the pork chops and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center reads 160 degrees F.

Remove the pork chops from the skillet and cover them to keep warm. Continue to let the sauce simmer until it has reduced to 3/4 cup, about 5 minutes.

Pour the sauce over the pork chops and serve immediately! I love Pork Month!

Sweet and Tangy Pork Chops

This is such a simple way to prepare pork chops but one of my favorites. The sauce is DELICIOUS.

Serves: 3

Total time: 25 min

Sweet and Tangy Pork Chops


Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. light beer
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 pork chops
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions:
  1. Combine the beer, brown sugar and ketchup in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Coat pork chops with salt and pepper. Coat a large skillet with cooking spray. Cook the pork chops for 3 minutes on each side over medium heat. Pour the beer mixture over the pork chops and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center reads 160 degrees F.
  3. Remove pork chops from skillet and cover to keep warm. Let the sauce simmer until it has reduced to ¾ cup, about 5 minutes. Pour sauce over the pork and serve immediately.

 

 

Wednesday
Mar232011

Spicy chickpea salad

This is Week #12 of my 2011 cooking challenge! Click here to view all recipes from this challenge. All recipes created for this challenge come from the Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2010.

Fresh-ingredient salads rock. They're pretty and fresh and tasty and versatile. My husband and I make a killer fresh salad that rivals this one, and I'll share it before summer arrives. By the way, where is summer? We got teased with a bit of warm weather last week, so now the cold and snow and freezing rain are even harder to swallow. I'm not convinced that summer will ever welcome us into her warm embrace.

This colorful salad helps me to believe that it might happen, though. It makes me think of lunches outside with my boys as we sit barefoot on the grass, wiping beads of sweat from our foreheads. Mmmmmmmm.

Back to my cold reality known as Minnesota.

If you, too, enjoy tricking yourself into believing it is summer when it is in fact not, make this salad! My family loved it and the entire batch was gone within 24 hours, despite the lack of warm weather.

If you want to go fresh and do as the recipe suggests, soak 1 cup of dried chickpeas in water overnight. Drain the chickpeas and bring to a boil in a large saucepan in 4 inches of water. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 2 hours, or until chickpeas are tender.

If you want easy, purchase two cans of chickpeas at the grocery store.

Either way, drain the chickpeas and place them in a medium bowl.

Add:

1 tomato, chopped

1/2 cup cucumber, diced (This is where I should explain that my husband is a juicing fanatic these days. Every fruit or vegetable that enters our home gets run through the juicer unless I declare that it is off limits. I opened the fridge to grab my cucumber. Juiced. So I used 2 stalks of chopped celery in its place.)

1/2 small red onion, chopped

1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (The lemon I had purchased for this recipe? Juiced. Luckily its juice was fresh and still in the fridge.)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon dried mango powder (optional)

Salt

Mix everything together and serve chilled.

The first thing we did upon making this was throw it onto a piece of flatbread with sliced turkey and black pepper.

A piece of lettuce would have added a nice crunch, but that had probably been juiced, as well.

No mayo needed! It made a delicious, healthy dinner wrap.

The next day for lunch, I used it as a topping for my boring baked chicken and cottage cheese.

And I ate the last of it with crackers for a snack.

I can think of about 100 other things I'd like to put it in and on and in between. Or, I wouldn't mind eating it straight from the container while having a picnic lunch with my family, the beating sun making the tops of our heads hot.

Ahhhhh, a girl can dream.

Click here for a printable recipe!

Wednesday
Mar232011

Tomato-basil and olive-leek tartlets

As a Foodbuzz featured publisher, I have the honor of writing a post for a very good cause. Foodbuzz is donating $50 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund for every Top 9 Tea Party Takeover entry received on its site today. Please go to the Kelly Confidential website to donate money toward ovarian cancer research!

The challenge for this takeover is to create the perfect tea party recipe. The scene in the below photo is the closest I get to having tea parties. Do you see the "tea" magnet? I didn't even strategically place that. I saw it and knew I was meant to capture this photo.

I might serve plastic French fries, chicken and watermelon at a tea party, but perhaps not for guests over the age of 5.

My idea of the perfect tea party recipe involves a huge burst of flavor in a teeny tiny bite. Or two teeny tiny bites. I thought of some of the flavors I have fallen in love with recently and incorporated them into two delicious tartlet recipes. If a tea party is on your agenda, you will want to remove the plastic food from your table and make these! They are just what I was aiming for. Big flavor in a small package.

Both tartlets induced an "Oh dear LORD, this is good!" from my husband, my tea party companion.

Start out by defrosting 2 puff pastry sheets according to the package directions. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

While you are waiting for your pastry to defrost and your oven to heat up, combine the following ingredients in a medium bowl:

2 cups cherry and/or grape tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt & pepper

Set aside.

Slice the white parts from 2 medium leeks.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.

Add the sliced leeks to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes, or until they are soft. Give them a little sprinkling of salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, combine:

Cooked leeks

1 cup Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped (I used slightly more than this due to my olive obsession)

2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt & pepper

On a floured surface, roll out the defrosted pastry sheets with a rolling pin until they reach a thickness of 1/8 inch.

I used 3 different sizes of tartlet tins, so I cut 3 different sizes of squares from my puff pastry sheets. Round biscuit cutters would work great, too, but I personally love the corners-hangin'-over-the-edge look.

My general size guidelines:

1.5-inch tin (all diameters measured on bottom) = 3x3-inch pastry square

2-inch tin = 4x4-inch pastry square

3-inch tin = 5x5-inch pastry square

Once the squares are cut, use a fork to create perforations over the surface of the pastry squares. Grease the tins and place the pastry squares in their respectively-sized spots. Gently press the centers of the pastries into the bottom of the tins, allowing the corners of the squares to fold over the edges.

Place the tins on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the pastries are flaky and golden in color. You will likely need to bake the tartlets in batches, unless you have an abundance of tartlet tins lying around.

Place a small cube of fresh mozzarella cheese in the center of each pastry (sizes of the cheese cubes should vary depending on the size of the tartlet).

In half of the pastries, top the mozzarella with a spoonful of the tomato-basil mixture. For bigger tartlets, make that 2 or 3 spoonfuls.

In the other half of the pastries, top the mozzarella with a spoonful of the olive-leek mixture.

Top with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven for 7-10 minutes, or until the mozzarella is gooey and you are salivating.

Top the tomato-basil tartlets with fresh basil, if desired.

Remove from tins and serve immediately. With tea, of course.

These are ridiculously tasty. Your tea party guests will be begging you to please go make more.

Printable Tomato-Basil Tartlet recipe

Printable Olive-Leek Tartlet recipe