Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cleaning Out Summer

The summer decor is down and the fall is going up. Not only do I love cooking for the seasons but I LOVE decorating. Now that my husband and I are fairly settled into our home of one year and all the big immediate decorating is done, not to say there aren't small touches needed here and there, but I finally feel like I can take up seasonal decorating project. I love going through magazines like Pottery Barn and Southern Living to see their decorating styles for the seasons. In fact, I have a large stack of magazine pages on my desk full of projects I'd like to do for the fall season and around the house in general. I realized that there was no way to physically, and for my husbands sake, financially going to be able to get them all done so I decided to make a fall project list, one each week till the end of fall and the rest will get filed away to potentially be done next season. The changing of the seasons also triggers a pantry, fridge and freezer clean out. My recipes this week are simple and great for a week night meal. One of them is a perfect example of how I also like to hide vegetables from my husband and trick him into eating them but shhh... don't tell him!

Red Pepper & Herb Chicken Strips

I like doing several variations of chicken strip and using ingredients that sound good to me at that time. This time we used:

-2 strips of chicken per person (you can cut chicken breasts if you don't have strips) I used 4.
-1/2 cup flour
-1 egg, beaten
-3/4 cup panko
-1 tbsp red pepper flakes
-1/2 tsp thyme
-1/2 tsp cumin
-1/2 tsp oregano
-salt and pepper
-2 tbsp olive oil
Serve with a side sauce

1. Wash and pat dry chicken strips.
2. Put 1/2 cup flour in a bowl, beaten egg is a separate bowl and in another bowl mix together panko and the next 6 ingredients. Set up your assembly line in this order.
3. In a skillet heat 2 tbsp olive oil on medium heat.
4. Now that everything is in order, one at a time coat your chicken in flour, then the egg, and lastly the panko mixture. With the panko mixture use your fork to generously cover the chicken and press firmly, flip and do the same thing on the other side. Place your chicken one at a time in the skillet and cook each side until it's a deep golden brown.

Summer Squash & Cheese Orzo
A fresh take on mac-and-cheese 
Serving Size: 2
1 cup orzo
3/4 cup summer squash, diced
1/4 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tbsp parsley flakes
salt and pepper
1. Cook orzo according to package and add squash at the same to the same pot.
2. Once cooked, drain water, remove from heat and mix in  the cheese and the next 6 ingredients. Cover for 5 minutes.
3. Enjoy!  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fall, Baby Fall

Well, it's that time of year again. Does anyone else feel like this year has flown by? Living in Texas I consider it fall when temps. stay in the low 90s and 80s. I also know fall is right around the corner or is here when everyone starts having their babies. Fall is by far, hands down, my favorite cooking season of the year. There's just something a little extra special about the flavors of fall; apples and cinnamon, pumpkin and nutmeg, and so many other warm flavors. Recently I cooked up some sweet baked potatoes for dinner and added, what I think, is the best sweet potato filling. When I first found a similar recipe my husband and I were a little hesitant but intrigued at the same time. I always know when a recipe is a winner when my husband is ready to literally lick his plate clean. This recipe is also what I like to refer to as a "dump" recipe; I go through my fridge, see what kind of veggies are in there and use what I have. So with out further adieu, Chipotle Chicken Southwestern Baked Sweet Potatoes.

What  You Need:
1 sweet potato per person
For the Chicken (serves roughly 6):
3/4 lbs Chicken breast
1/4 cup Olive oil
2 tbsp Fresh lime juice
2 Cloves of garlic, minced
1 6 oz can Chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
1 tsp Dried oregano
1 tsp Cumin
Salt and pepper
Potato Stuffing (Personal desired about of each ingredient):
(this can all be varied depending on what you have in your fridge)
Bell pepper, diced
Red or white onion, diced
Chili powder
Black Beans, drained
Corn, drained
Scallions, Cilantro or Green Onion
What to Do:
1. Wash and scrub sweet potatoes, dry with towel and wrap in foil. Put potatoes in a crockpot and if you're going to be gone for longer than six hours put temp on low or if you have less that 6 hours put them on high. The microwave works too for faster results.
2. When you're ready to start dinner, in a medium bowl mix olive oil, lime juice, garlic, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, oregano, cumin, chili powder, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. In a skillet add a tbsp of oil and heat. Add chicken and flavor with salt and pepper. Once cooked through place on a cutting board and shred. Toss chicken in the chicken sauce and set aside.
4. Drain any juices left in the skillet and return skillet to medium heat. Saute peppers, onions, jalapeno, chili powder, paprika, cumin, and salt.
5.  While the veggies are cooking open and drain black beans and corn. Add to skillet and warm.
6. Once all veggie ingredients are warmed, remove chicken from sauce and add to skillet. Turn off heat and cover skillet.
7. Remove sweet potatoes from crockpot and cut as desired. Spoon filling on top of potato and top with scallions, cilantro or green onion, cheese, and sour cream.
8. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Date Night In

Around noon on Fridays I usually send my husband a text saying 'in or out?', aka are we going out for dinner or staying in? While I like date nights out, it sure is nice to get creative at home with dinner, find a good movie to rent and pop open a bottle of wine. One of our favorite date night in dinners is pizza. When we first decided it would be fun to make our own pizza I was a little hesitant about the work involved in making pizza dough but after playing with a few recipes, I found what I think is the best base pizza dough EVER!

What you'll need:

3 1/2 - 4 cups Bread Flour ( you can sub in all-purpose flour but it will be a chewier crust)
1 tsp. Sugar
1 envelope instant dry yeast
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 1/2 cup water at 110 degrees F
2 tbsp Olive Oil, plus 2 tsp.

What you'll do:

1.Using a stand mixer with a dough hook combine flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.

2. With the mixer running at medium speed, slowly add water and 2 tbsp. olive oil and beat until dough ball forms. The perfect dough ball wont stick to the sides of the bowl or have crumbles in the bottom of the bowl. If the ball sticks to the side, add 1 tbsp of flour at a time until the dough pulls from the side. If there are crumbles in the bottom, it means your dough is to dry so add a tbsp of water at time.

3. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and gently knead into a smooth ball.

4. Coat mixing bowl lightly with 2 tsp of olive oil and place dough back into the bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and place in a warm area to let rise (I usually place in a non-heated oven) for 1 hour.

5. Remove dough from bowl onto a lightly floured surface and divide into the number of desired pizzas ( we've done 2 and 4). Cover with a towel for roughly 10 more minutes.

6. While the dough has it's last rest, now is the perfect time to place your pizza stone in the oven and start heating the oven to 400 degrees.

7. Roll out dough to desired thickness and shape. Take a fork and poke several holes into the crust. This will help the pizza cook.

8. I would suggest building the pizza on the pizza stone as it can be tricky to transfer a pizza from one surface to another once topped.

9. The amount of toppings placed on the pizza will determine the cook time. Well topped pizzas should take about 30 minutes to bake through and create a yummy, crispy crust. Check the bottom of the crust occasionally and when the bottom is slightly golden it should be good to go!

Note: While the entire process take roughly 1 hr 30 mins. there's only about 20 minutes worth of work.
Note: The above recipe is a base recipe. Add what ever flavors desired. Roughly 3 tbsp. of honey give it a sweet flavor and 2-3 tbsp of Italian seasoning gives the crust a very fresh herb taste.