Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Balsamic Chicken & Oven Baked Risotto

Merry Christmas to all of you!  This week between the holidays is a little weird - Claremont is empty and I'm wondering where everyone went.  Big sister had preschool today and there were only 5 kids there in the whole preschool.  Maybe everyone is vacationing somewhere tropical?  I might normally be jealous of that idea, but right now I'm happy to be home (not having to go on an airplane anywhere) and enjoying some time with family.  We're hosting family dinner tonight and headed back to my mom's on Thursday night - fun!

So, did you know that you can make risotto in the oven?  It actually turned out awesome with a lot less hands on time.  I'll be making it again soon!  I only made a very basic version with parmesan cheese but I bet a lot of risotto flavors / variations would work with this technique.  I made it to go with a favorite chicken recipe that's never made it on the blog so both recipes are below.  Usually I do the pan sauce for the chicken like the recipe below, but this time, I skipped it and just sliced and served the chicken over the risotto.  I put a little caprese salad garnish on top . . . would have been better on the side because the chicken and risotto made it warm and it wasn't great that way.

Balsamic Roasted Chicken (serves 4)
from Giada de Laurentis

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or pieces)
  • 1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper in small bowl to blend. Combine the vinaigrette and chicken pieces in a large resealable plastic bag; seal the bag and toss to coat. Refrigerate, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove chicken from the bag and arrange the chicken pieces in a large greased baking dish (or Dutch oven). Roast until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30-40 minutes. If your chicken browns too quickly, cover it with foil for the remaining cooking time. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. 
At this point, if you're using a Dutch oven that can go on the stove, place it on a burner over medium-low heat. Whisk the chicken broth into the pan drippings, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon and mixing them into the broth and pan drippings. Let it come to a boil and reduce a bit.  Drizzle the pan drippings over the chicken. Sprinkle the lemon zest and parsley over the chicken, and serve.
Alternatively, you can dump the drippings and any leftover marinade into a saucepan with the broth and make the pan sauce that way.  I've also eaten the chicken without making a pan sauce at all (skipping the broth part altogether).
Oven baked Risotto (serves 4-6)
1 1/2 c. arborio rice
4 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
3/4 c. finely grated parmesan cheese
2 T butter, cut into small pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour rice and broth into a large baking dish (or Dutch oven) and stir to combine.  Cover and place in the oven for 45 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente.

With a wooden spoon or spatula, beat in the parmesan, butter, salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Homemade Turkey (or chicken) Noodle Soup

So far we've had a really fun Advent season.  The days are flying by and I can't believe Christmas is in 6 days!  We took our annual family trip to the desert last week and in our hotel was this giant Christmas tree.  There is a circular staircase around it and the girls had fun walking up and down and around the tree.  We also had a couple chilly trips to the park and a fun day at the Children's Discovery Museum in Rancho Mirage (highly recommended!).  

I told my husband the other night that I've felt cold for 3 days . . . this warm soup was just the remedy.   I've never made homemade chicken noodle before and I know it's sort of cheater because I didn't make it with a whole chicken or even homemade broth, but it was so yummy (so so much better than a can).  I thawed some frozen (cooked) turkey from Thanksgiving but cooked chicken (even rotisserie) would work fine as the meat in this soup. I bet wild rice would be a nice substitute for the noodles for our GF friends out there.  Since I sort of threw it together, the amounts are approximate - use your own judgment :)

Homemade Turkey (or Chicken) Noodle Soup (serves 4)

About 1 cup each:  chopped carrot, chopped celery, chopped onion (Trader Joe's sells their Mirepoix in the vegetable section which I used).
2 minced garlic cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp. dried or you can skip it)
6 c. chicken broth
1-2 c. uncooked egg noodles (I used pappardelle pasta noodles from TJs and broke them into small pieces)
1 T. white wine (or 1/2 T white wine vinegar or lemon juice for a little acid)
1 bay leaf
2 c. shredded cooked chicken (or turkey) - about 8oz

Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat and add a litle olive oil.  Add carrot, onion, celery and garlic, and saute about 5 minutes or until onion is soft and lightly browned.  Add salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil.  Add the noodles, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the turkey or chicken and cook for a few more minutes (until noodles are soft and chicken is hot).  Discard bay leaf and serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My 300th post

Today marks 300 posts on my blog!  Thanks for reading and commenting . . . I'm still really enjoying writing this blog and I hope it's inspired you to cook something new.

For the past few years, I've hosted the Christmas party for 4 of my girlfriends and their guys.  Like last year, we did cocktails and dessert (without any kids) and I had a great time.  Things are changing with our group (bff is moving, twins are being born, busy schedules) so we're not getting together weekly like we used to, but the party this past weekend was a fun reminder of how special it is to have a group of close girl friends who know each other well.   Thanks for a fun evening girls!

Whether or not you're hosting a party this Christmas season, here are a few new ideas to try out:

First up, a holiday cocktail:  Cranberry Ginger Rum Martinis

I made a mason jar of this and it was decided that next time, it should be a pitcher (there were 10 of us so it didn't go very far).

1)  In a jar (or pitcher), thinly slice some fresh ginger (I did about 4 long peels).  Add 1.25 cups of rum.  Use the handle of a wooden spoon to crush the ginger and release juices.

2)  Stir in 4 cups of cold cranberry juice.

3)  Refrigerate overnight so that the ginger has time to flavor the mixture.  Shake in a martini shaker with ice to make it really cold.  Serve in martini glasses with a sugar rim (dip rims of martini glasses in water and then in sugar).  Yields 8 drinks

Next, a new cookie:  Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles (recipe from sugar, eggs and love)

This recipe yields about 2 dozen but I made a double batch.  At first, I wasn't as excited about them as I thought I would be but they really grew on me and I liked them even better the next day.  They are reminiscent of chocolate crinkles, a Christmas cookie staple in my family, but with cinnamon and a little kick from the cayenne.  Be careful when adding the cayenne . . . for some reason, the bottle I have is super hot (even for our tastes) and I know better than to add the full amount to anything.  1/8 tsp was perfect for me.  I burned the first batch so pull them out a little earlier than you think you should.

For the cookies:
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 T half and half (or almond milk for vegan cookies)
1.5 tsp. vanilla extract
1 2/3 c. flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (my jar is super hot so I only used 1/8 tsp)

For the topping:
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two large baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper.  Mix the topping ingredients together in a shallow bowl.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, use a whisk to vigorously mix together the oil, sugar, syrup, half and half, and vanilla extract.  Use a mixer to mix as you sift in the remaining ingredients.  Once all ingredients are incorporated, mix until you have a pliable dough.

Roll dough into walnut-sized balls.  Roll them in the cinnamon sugar topping mixture.  Transfer to baking sheet and flatten slightly.  Place them on baking sheet at least two inches apart.  Bake 9-11 minutes until the top is a little crackly but not 100% dry.  Remove and let cool on pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Finally, a dessert that will accommodate a lot of dietary restrictions:  Pumpkin Custards

My mom made these for us a little while ago and I was hooked.  They are gluten free, vegan, and contain no refined sugar.  But, they're really tasty and satisfying as a dessert.

The white spots are from the coconut milk and it has a good pumpkin pie flavor - neither the maple syrup or coconut milk are very noticeable flavors in the final product so don't be put off by those ingredients.  I served it with whipped cream.

Pumpkin Custards (from Living Without magazine) - serves 6

1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk (not lite)
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. maple syrup
1 T arrowroot (powder - can buy it in bulk in the spice section of Sprouts)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil 6 ramekins.  In a large bowl, whisk together coconut milk, pumpkin, eggs, vanilla and maple syrup.  In a small bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time, stirring constantly.  

Pour batter into prepared ramekins, about 3/4 cup per serving.  Place ramekins in a 9x13 pan and add enough warm water until it reaches half way up the outsides of the ramekins.  Carefully place baking dish in preheated oven and bake about 45 minutes, until custard is no longer jiggly and has lightly browned tops. Cool on wire racks. You can make them ahead and refrigerate until you want to serve them (probably for a couple days if you tightly cover them) or serve them warm. (230 cal/ramekin)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gingerbread Pumpkin Guinness Bundt

The Sunday after Thanksgiving was a memorable one for our family.  In the morning, my nephew was dedicated.  In the afternoon, my sister (who lives out of town) came over for the day.  We watched a movie and then she played with the girls while I baked - have I said how much I miss my sisters living close by??  Anyways, it was nice to have a little peace while she played with her nieces so I could make this bundt cake.  It was for our evening plans - my brother's 30th birthday celebration.  If it seemed weird to turn 30 myself, it's been really strange watching my two younger siblings (so far) hit that milestone.

You know I'm a fan of bundt cake and this recipe combined things I love:  pumpkin, gingerbread, and a good stout beer.  The original recipe was made with an oatmeal stout but I used Guinness.  It's a nice holiday dessert and I should have made much more icing . . . it looked a little skimpy and I didn't have time to make another batch.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Stout Bundt (10-12 servings)

1 cup dark stout
1/2 cup molasses
1 tsp. baking soda
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 T grated fresh ginger
2 c. all purpose flour
1 T ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray bundt pan with nonstick spray.  In a medium saucepan (you need room because the mixture will foam way up), combine the stout and molasses over medium heat.  Bring to a boil then remove from heat.  Stir in the baking soda.  It will foam up a lot - set it aside until the foam subsides and the mixture slightly cools.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugars, oil, pumpkin and ginger.  In a medium bowl, mix together the flour and the rest of the ingredients.  Add a third of the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until just combined.  Add half of the stout mixture and whisk to combine.  Continue alternating flour and stout until the batter comes together.  Pour into prepared pan.

Bake about 45 minutes or until top feels springy and a tester comes out clean.  Cool for about 5 minutes and then turn the bundt out on a wire rack to continue cooling.  

To make the brown butter icing:
Melt 4 T butter in a small sauce pan over medium high heat until it browns (about 8-10 minutes).  Remove from heat.  Stir in 1 cup sifted powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Add milk, about a tablespooon at a time, until it's the consistency you want . . . I like it pourable but still really thick.  Pour over the bundt cake in wide ribbons.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

I know the photo isn't the best, but I forgot to photograph the pan before we all dug into it. I was originally going to make a cake for my bff's birthday party but with lots and lots of rolls and bread left over from Thanksgiving, I thought I'd use the leftovers to make a bread pudding.

For me, bread pudding is like risotto (bear with me here) . . . it always sounds great on a menu but usually after about 3 bites, I've had enough:  it's tasty, but rich and heavy.  This last time that I made it, I managed to eat a whole serving.  Sure, I felt it the next day but it was worth it!  

What's especially good about this recipe is the cinnamon rum sauce.  I bet it would be great on just about anything (ice cream, pound cake, fruit).  Also, don't skip the chocolate chips.  That little bit of bittersweet chocolate interspersed between the bread is just perfect.  

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding serves 12-14
(Bon Appetit 1/03)

  • 1pound loaf of bread with crust, cut into 1-inch cubes (original recipe calls for Brioche or egg-bread but I used approximately 1 pound of french rolls)
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

  • 2 1/2 cups half and half
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Place bread in large bowl; pour 8 tablespoons melted butter over bread and toss to coat. Add chocolate chips and toss to combine. Transfer mixture to prepared dish.

Whisk half and half, 1 cup sugar, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and salt in large bowl to blend. Pour over bread cubes in dish. Let stand 30 minutes, occasionally pressing bread cubes into custard. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter over pudding; sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake bread pudding until puffed, brown, and set in center, about 1 hour. Serve warm with Cinnamon-Rum Sauce.

Cinnamon-Rum Sauce (yield 1.5 cups)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dark rum
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Melt unsalted butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add dark brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and salt and whisk until sugar is dissolved and mixture is bubbling and smooth, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in dark rum and vanilla extract. Serve warm.

(Cinnamon-Rum Sauce can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat, whisking occasionally, before serving.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thanksgiving Memories

I know that it's a little late for a Thanksgiving recap and I'm super delinquent in posting this but it was such a special holiday that I can't move on to Christmas posting yet without sharing a little bit here on the blog.  This Thanksgiving was memorable for a few reasons:  it was my first time hosting Thanksgiving, my cousins came from Connecticut for the holiday, and filling our new home with family from near and far really felt like a true housewarming for me.  Instead of a bunch of stories or any recipes (most of what I made is on last year's Thanksgiving post), here are some photos!

Baby girl trying to "help" as we started cooking in our pjs on Thanksgiving morning

My cousin, a veteran at hosting Thanksgiving, giving me some help stuffing the cavity of the turkeys with herbs

Baby girl getting some cuddles from big cousin - the two blue-eyed brown-haired girls :)

Hard at work making place cards for the tables

The final product

Getting to use some of my Grandma Vi's dishes was really special for me on Thanksgiving.  Although we didn't celebrate too many Thanksgivings together because we lived far apart, I thought of her a lot this holiday.

What's Thanksgiving in Southern California without swimming in a heated pool?

My dad and his brother intently carving turkey with some supervision from my cousin's son.

My nephew's first Thanksgiving!

The turkey!

The spread (yes, there are 3 kinds of stuffing . . . )

Playing games after supper - one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving.