Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I have always been a huge fan of Zaarans, but Mr. L believes that jambalaya must be made from scratch. And Martha Stewart sent me an email with a link to a jambalaya recipe! And they call it "quick", which is key. Mr. L got a Le Cruset dutch oven for Christmas, and this was the perfect chance to they it out (and it's AMAZING!!!!).

Martha's Picture - mine was ugly

Quick Jambalaya

1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
3/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 can (14 ounces) crushed tomatoes with juice
1 cup long-grain rice

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Season chicken with salt and pepper.
Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side.
Cut into 3/4-inch pieces; set aside.
Add vegetables to pot.
Cook, stirring, 5 minutes.
Add sausage; cook 3 minutes.
Add garlic; cook 1 minute.
Stir in stock, Old Bay, tomatoes, and 1/2 cup water; bring to a boil.
Add rice and chicken.
Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes.
Cover; remove from heat.
Let stand until rice is tender and liquid is mostly absorbed, 30 to 35 minutes. (This took me longer - closer to 45 minutes.)
Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Baking

As usual, everyone on my Christmas list is getting baked goods. This year, I tried some new things and recycled an old favorite. I kept the gingersnaps in the mix, since they are a favorite, and added zucchini bread, apple butter, peppermint bark, and eggnog.

The peppermint bark was the most surprising - it was SO easy! The first batch I made according to the recipe (except without the extract, since I couldn't find any). For the second, I added a layer of dark chocolate, and that was much better. Finally, I made a batch with crushed oreos instead of candy canes - that was my favorite, but I don't really like mint. I bagged up a little of each as part of each gift.
The apple butter took up most of a Saturday, but I was very pleased with the end result. I was happy that I got to put my new food mill to work (and even happier about how much easier the mill made it!). It passed muster with my father-in-law, who is a true apple butter connoisseur.

The zucchini bread was a much sweeter bread than I expected, but I loved the sugar crust on it. It smelled awful while cooking, but turned out well, and got a ton of compliments. This will definitely be added to the regular Christmas rotation.

The eggnog was another new addition, and I went with Alton Brown's recipe, and just omitted the alcohol (since our families don't really drink). This was another hit - and easy in the stand mixer.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pork tacos with pineapple salsa

I found this recipe a while back in Cooking Light. After our last flop from Cooking Light, I was hesitant to try this one, but the pictures were so convincing! I'm glad we did try it. This definitely had more flavor than the stir-fry, and was actaully very filling. It earned a "VERY good for a light recipe" rating from Mr. L. It earned a "I'm too hunrgy, and this is too good to remember to take pictures" from me.

That's right - I forgot to take a picture of mine, so I'm tempting you with the picture that drew me in.

Chipotle Pork Soft Tacos with Pineapple Salsa (Cooking Light, May 2007)

Salsa Ingredients:
2 C minced pineapple
1 C minced apple
1/4 C minced shallots (I used 1 chopped chive instead, because that's what I had)
2 Tbs chopped cilantro
1 Tbs fresh lime juice (I just used all the juice from 1 lime, because who measures lime juice?!)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt

Taco Ingredients
1Tbs canola oil
1 C thinly sliced onion (It called for yellow; I used red)
2 garlic gloves, minced
1 1/2 lbs pork tenderloin, cut lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 C fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 chipotle chilis, canned in adobo sauce, chopped
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed (I used flour, because I don't love corn)

Combine all salsa ingredients in a bowl and stir.
Cover and chill.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add onion to pan and saute 2 min., or until tender.
Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.
Add pork to pan and cook 4 min., or until it loses its pink color, stirring occassionally.
Add all remaining ingredients.
Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.
Remove cover, and simmer 10 minutes or until liquid is nearly evaporated.
Warm tortillas according to package directions.


6 Cooking Light servings; 3 servings in my house

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving wrap-up

This thanksgiving I finally got to do most of the cooking. We got a condo with Mr. L's parents. They brought the ham and turkey (and cake and sweet potato casserole), and I made everything else. It was wonderful! The only thing that turned out a little off were the pumpkin pie (the bottom crust didn't seem fully cooked). Here's the rundown:

Corn Pudding (from the Dollywood cookbook - Tennessee Mountain Cooking)

1 c corn
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbs melted butter
1/4 c chopped onion
1/4 c pimento
1/4 c green pepper

Mix together all ingredients.
Pour into a baking dish.
Bake at 350 until set (about 25 minutes).

Green bean Casserole (LOVED this) (from Paula)

1/3 stick butter
1/2 c diced onions
1/2 c sliced fresh mushrooms
2 c sliced green beans
3 c chicken broth
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can of cream of mushroom soup
1 (2.8 ounce) can french-fried onion rings
pinch house seasoning (4 parts salt, 1 part black pepper, 1 part garlic powder)
1 c grated cheddar

Preheat oven to 350.
Melt the butter in a large skillet.
saute the onions and mushrooms in the butter.
Boil green beans in chicken broth for 10 minutes and drain.
Add the green beans, mushroom soup, onion rings, and house seasoning, to taste, to the onion mixture.
Stir well.
Pour into a greased 1 1/2 quart baking dish.
bake for 20 minutes, then top casserole with the cheddar and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the casserole is hot and the cheese is melted.

Parker House Rolls (from the Gourmet Cookbook)

3 Tbs warm water
3 Tbs sugar
1 (1/4 ounce) package (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
1 stick unsalted butter
1 c whole milk
2 c bread flour (not whole wheat)
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 - 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour

Stir together warm water, 1 tablespoon sugar, and yeast in a small bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Melt 3/4 stick butter in a small saucepan.
Add milk and heat to lukewarm.
Stir together yeast mixture, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, butter mixture, bread flour, and salt in a bowl with a wooden spoon until combined well, then stir in enough all-purpose flour to make a slightly sticky dough that forms a ball.

Butter a large bowl.
Knead dough on a lightly floured surface, kneading in more all-purpose flour if dough is too sticky, 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic but still slightly sticky.
Form into a ball and put in buttered bowl.
Turn to coat with butter, then let rise in bowl, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan.
Divide dough into 20 equal pieces and roll into balls.
Arrange evenly in 4 rows of 5 in pan and let rise, covered loosely, in a warm place 45 minutes, or until almost doubled in bulk.
Make a deep crease down center of each row of rolls using length of a floured chopstick or side of a ruler.
Let rolls rise, covered loosely, 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cool slightly.
Brush tops of rolls with butter and bake in middle of oven until golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
Let rolls cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes.
Turn out onto rack and cool to warm.

Cooks' note:
You can make rolls 1 day ahead and keep, wrapped well in foil, at room temperature. Reheat in foil in a preheated 375°F oven 15 to 20 minutes. (This is what I did, and it worked perfectly!)

Macaroni and Cheese (slightly modified from Alton Brown's)

1/2 lb elbow macaroni
3 Tbs butter
3 Tbs flour
1 Tbs powdered mustard
3 c milk
1/2 c yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp paprika
1 large egg
6 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
6 ounces cubed Velveeta
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh black pepper
3 Tbs butter
1 c panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta to al dente
While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter.
Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes.
Make sure it's free of lumps.
Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika.
Simmer for ten minutes, and remove the bay leaf.
Temper in the egg.
Stir in all of the Velveeta, and 1/2 of the cheddar.
Season with salt and pepper.
Fold in the macaroni and pour into a 2 quart casserole dish.
Top with remaining cheese.
Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat.
Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Fresh Cranberry Relish (also from Tennessee Mountain Home Cooking)

16oz fresh cranberries
1 orange
1 c sugar
1/2 c nuts (I used walnuts)

In food processor or blender, chop cranberries into big pieces. (I used a blender, because our food processor is buried somewhere right now - I wished I had it. The blender was a bit of a hassle, because it only wanted to chop what was at the bottom, and didn't really move the berries around.)
Add nuts and chop.
Add orange and sugar and chop until desired consistency.

Note: Better if made a few hours before serving.

Cornbread and Sausage Dressing (from a local cookbook - Cooking on Hazel Creek: The Best of Southern Cooking)

1/2 lb bulk pork sausage
1/2 chopped onion
4 c coarsely crumbled cornbread (less than 1 box of Jiffy)
1 c coarsely crumbled day old bread
2 eggs
2 c turkey or chicken broth (or 1 small can)
1/4 c chopped parsley (thank goodness for my little herb garden!)
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp salt

Combine sausage and onion and cook until browned, stirring to crumble meat.
Drain off pan drippings.
Combine with remaining ingredients, and spoon the mixture into a greased 12x8 baking dish.
Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
Remove cover and bake at 15 minutes longer.

Creamed Spinach (from Smitten Kitchen)


2 pounds baby spinach or 2 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, tough stems discarded
1 3/4 cups heavy cream or whole milk, or a mix thereof
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced (optional)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Wash your spinach well but no need to spin or pat it dry.
Place spinach in a large pot over high heat.
Cook, covered, with just the water clinging to leaves, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 2 to 4 minutes for baby spinach and 4 to 6 minutes for regular spinach.
Press or squeeze out the excess liquid any number of ways, either by wringing it out in cheesecloth, putting it in a mesh strainer and pressing the moisture out with a spatula or large spoon or letting it cool long enough to grab small handfuls and squeezing them to remove as much water as possible.
Coarsely chop the wrung-out spinach.
Wipe out large pot so you can use it again.

Heat milk or cream in a small saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until warm.
Keep warm.
Meanwhile, cook onion and garlic, if using, in butter in your wiped-out large pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about six minutes.
Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, about three minutes.
Add warm milk or cream in a slow stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, and simmer, whisking, until thickened, three to four minutes.
Stir in nutmeg, spinach, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until heated through.

Do ahead: Creamed spinach can be made one day ahead and chilled, covered then reheated over moderately low heat until hot. However, it really tastes best eaten immediately. (I made it ahead, and wished I'd made it the day of. It's just not the same!)

I did make most of it ahead, and merely cooked it the day of. I did all of the prep work at home, and then wrapped it and labeled it all with the coking times and temperatures, ready to pop in the oven on thanksgiving day. It made it easier, having already figured out what could cook at the same time (same temperatures) and what needed to go in early or late because it had a higher or lower cooking temperature.

I also made Pumpkin Pie and Mashed Potatoes, but can't remember which recipes I used for those - more than likely, they were from someone on the Food Network. ;)

Stir Fry and Fried Rice

Last night we had stir fry from a Cooking Light recipe (and yes, their recipes always do taste light to us), and tonight I chopped it all (along with some leftover ham from thanksgiving), and made fried rice. The fried rice was pretty good, but even though it's healthier, I just don't see myself making fried rice out of basmati rice again. But, I loved the chopped up stir fry in it - carrots make me happy!

Stir Fry

Basmati Rice (we just threw it in the rice cooker)
1 lb sirloin, cut into thin strips
1 c broccoli, chopped into florets
3 carrots, chopped diagonally
1 c snow peas
2 tbs canola oil
5 spice powder (I had 4 of the spices, so just used them)

I'm not even going to include this - it's that un-delicious.

Fried Rice

3-4 c day-old rice
1 c chopped up leftovers (sirloin, ham, broccoli, carrots, and peas)
1 chopped green onion (probably could have added more)
2 eggs, scrambled
4 tbs canola oil
liberal low sodium soy sauce to taste

Cook eggs until just done in a wok (or large frying pan), then set aside and clean out wok. with 2 tbs oil.
Heat remaining oil in wok, and add in rice. Break up with a wooden spoon.
Add everything else and keep adding soy until it looks/tastes right.
Cook until warmed through.
Serve with teryaki sauce (this is key).