Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chicken, Corn, and Sausage Stew (GOOD)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chicken, Corn, and Sausage Stew (GOOD)

This is a rerun from an earlier recipe (see here), but this time I added a can of cream of chicken soup to give it a level of creaminess that definitely enhanced the dish (though also increased the sodium content by a ton).

Cider Roasted Chicken (EXCELLENT)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cider Roasted Chicken (EXCELLENT)

If you have the time to prepare this one, it makes an incredible roast chicken. The cider brine needs to be done the day before, so this is almost certainly a weekend dinner. This will give you some of the most moist and flavorful roast chicken you'll ever make ...

3 quarts water
1 quart apple cider
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 (6-pound) roasting chicken
2 cups apple cider
1 large onion, peeled and halved
4 flat-leaf parsley sprigs
4 garlic cloves, peeled

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring until salt dissolves. Remove from heat; cool completely. Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken. Rinse chicken with cold water; pat dry. Trim excess fat. Pour brine into a 2-gallon zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken; seal. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight, turning the bag occasionally.
Preheat oven to 400°.

Bring 2 cups cider to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until cider has thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup (about 15 minutes). Set aside.

Remove chicken from bag; discard brine. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Place the onion halves, parsley, and garlic into cavity. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under chicken. Tie legs. Place chicken on rack of a broiler pan. Bake at 400° for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until thermometer registers 175°. Remove from oven (do not turn oven off). Carefully remove and discard skin. Baste chicken with half of reduced cider; return to 400° oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven; baste with remaining cider reduction. Transfer chicken to a platter.

Place a zip-top plastic bag inside a 2-cup glass measure. Pour drippings into bag; let stand 10 minutes (fat will rise to the top). Seal bag; carefully snip off 1 bottom corner of bag. Drain drippings into a small bowl, stopping before fat layer reaches opening; discard fat. Serve jus over chicken.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus (GREAT)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus (GREAT)

A perfect and easy appetizer for the holiday season. It's very simple ... asparagus wrapped in phyllo dough and dusted with parmesan cheese, but they taste great and look like they take a lot more effort than they do. Props to Paula Deen for the recipe. Click here

Red Curry Marinated Pork Tenderloin (DECENT)

Monday, November 10, 2008)

Red Curry Marinated Pork Tenderloin (DECENT)

This was good, but needs one tweak for next time to make it better. The pork tenderloin was marinated ina red curry paste and coconut mixture I found in a recipe for Red Curry Marinated Shrimp at FoodNetwork. The flavor was very good, but the one change I'd make next time is to reserve some of the marinadeahead of time, and boil it down into a sauce when cooking the pork. Outside of that, it had very good flavor and was cooked well (I hit it on 450 for about 20-25 minutes until done)

Big Boy Chicken Noodle Soup (Very Good)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Big Boy Chicken Noodle Soup (VERY GOOD)

Nothing in a can can really beat a homemade chicken noodle soup, and this was no different. In addition, few things are much easier to make, especially when you shortcut the chicken and use a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken like I did. This was basically chicken, carrots, onion, garlic, egg noodles, okra, and green beans simmered together in a pot and the results were quite good. And sine I'm a nerd that makes my own chicken stock, the flavor was that much better. Definitely a winner with some crusty bread on the side.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Taco Soup (VERY GOOD)

Saturday, Novermber 1, 2008

Taco Soup (VERY GOOD)

Brought dinner over to some friends that recently had a baby, and Paula Deen's Taco Soup is a great one for that since it makes a ton of food and is easy to put together. Click here for the recipe

I will say this about Taco Soup, the recipe calls for a TON of food. Since this dinner was for four, I cut out one can of beans, one can of tomatoes, and one can of green chiles. I also left out the black olives (personal preference).

This is a great cold weather meal that sort of combines two great comfort foods ... chili and tacos ... into one big bowl.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Barbecued Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps (VERY GOOD)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Barbecued Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps (VERY GOOD)

A Rachel Ray recipe that needs no modifications, which is a rarity. Click here for the recipe. I used romaine lettuce instead of iceberg since that's what I had on hand, but pretty much any lettuce will work.

I'm a fan of lettuce wraps, and if you've ever been to P.F. Chang's restaurant, they have a hot sauce that goes with their lettuce wraps that is excellent. I managed to dig up the coycat recipe online a while back, and it's definitely a keeper. A great sauce to use as a topper for many different things ...

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon Chinese hot mustard
2 teaspoons water
1-3 teaspoon garlic and red chile paste (to taste/heat level desired)

* Dissolve the 1/4 cup sugar in 1/2 cup water in a small bowl.
* Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons ketchup, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon sesame oil ... Mix well.
* Combine the 2 teaspoons water with the Chinese hot mustard
* Add your desired measurement of Chinese mustard and garlic chili sauce to the sauce mixture ... whisk together to incorporate

Friday, October 24, 2008

Beef and Sausage Chili (GOOD BUT HOT)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Beef and Sausage Chili (GOOD BUT HOT)

Messed around with a couple of flavors and textures with good results, outside of maybe a little too much spiciness. Browned some stew beef with salt and pepper, then browned ground sausage. After browning the two meats, I sauteed onion and green pepper, added various chile seasonings, added the meat back in, as well as a can of red kidney beans and two cans of diced tomatoes. Simmered it for a couple hours until the beef was tender.

For whatever reason, I always end up making my chili too spicy. Since I eyeballed the amounts, it's hard to pinpoint the culprit, but I'm thinking it may be chipotle powder. I also added chili powder, ancho powder, cumin, coriander, and paprika, but none of those are really that spicy, so I think the chipotle is the one. As someone without a spicy filter, I don't mind at all, but it's usually a little too much for everybody else. So in the future, maybe kick back the chipotle and see what happens.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Crockpot Chicken with Lemon, Peppers, and Tomato (GOOD)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Crockpot Chicken with Lemon, Peppers, and Tomato (GOOD)

A good crockpot experiment ... browned off the chicken pieces (I had drumsticks, wings, and breast) and put them in the crockpot with a can of whole plum tomatoes (crushed with my hands), a can of cream of chicken condensed soup, and the juice and zest of a lemon. Put that on high for about 4 hours, then added sliced green pepeprs, red peppers, and sweet onion for the last hour. Served it over rice and hit it with some fresh parsley and lemon juice. Good taste all around ... though I could definitely add some capers or green olives next time for one more level of flavor.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pulled Pork and Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas (VERY GOOD)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pulled Pork and Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas (VERY GOOD)

Tonight was the Leftover Bonanza, so I took my leftover pork from Sunday and leftover chicken from Tuesday and threw together two different quesadillas, both with very good results. The first was pulled pork, BBQ sauce, and mozzarella cheese. The second was chicken, Buffalo sauce, mozzarella, tomatoes, and a sprinkle of gorgonzola. Threw them on the grill for a few minutes and the result was very good.

Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Okra Stew (DECENT)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Okra Stew (DECENT)

This was basically "throw what you got in a pot and see what happens dinner" and it came out fairly well. No real recipe to pass on, other than adding chicken, sweet potato, okra, and some egg noodles to chicken stock.

I will say this ... I'm forever on the quest to find "depth" for my soups and stews that I throw together. By depth ... I'm talking about how the whole thing tastes good, but lacks some sort of layer to it that makes it a little bit fuller tasting. My guess is that because a home-cooked stew with homemade stock has considerably less sodium in it, it gives it that "thin" taste. In the future, I'm thinking I may try butter or heavy cream for that depth, or maybe even starting with a roux to see what happens.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Smoked Pork Butt, Baked Beans, and Acorn Squash (GREAT)

Summer meets fall in this one with a pork butt done on the BBQ smoker. I think I'm finally getting the hang of the smoker I have, and have learned that the temperature becomes wildly inconsistent after about the first 4-5 hours. So with that in mind, I took the approach of smoking the meat on the grill until this point, and then finishing it in the oven on 225 where I can regulate the temperature for as long as I need. This works great because a good bark has already been achieved after the first 5 hours, so it's basically a matter of cooking it in the over until it reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees.

The acorn squash is a rerun ... click here ... and admittedly I went lazy on the beans and bought a can on Bush's. But hey ... I gave up 8 hours of my time to cook the meat, so there!

Strip Steaks with Gorgonzola-Thyme Butter (GREAT)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Strip Steaks with Gorgonzola-Thyme Butter (GREAT)

Steak on the grill is a no-brainer, especially once you've had the same grill for a couple years and know exactly how to cook one. I like to keep the steak simple ... load it up with gray salt and fresh black pepper, coat with a little olive oil, and hit the grill. For me, a perfect medium-rare is four minutes a side on high on an uncovered grill. After the first four minutes, I topped the steak with the gorgonzola-thyme butter (1 TB butter, 2 TB or more of gorgonzola, 2 sprigs of thyme, and ground pepper), and put the grill lid down for the last minute to melt the butter.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tarragon-Cream Chicken and Polenta Pot Pies (GOOD WITH HELP)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tarragon-Cream Chicken and Polenta Pot Pies (GOOD WITH HELP)

Saw this one on 30 Minute Meals and it looked pretty good, so I gave it a whirl. As with just about every Rachel Ray recipe, it needed a little bit of help to take it from OK to good.

Here's the link to the original recipe

If there's one thing I've learned on just about every Rachel Ray dish ... they're bland. It's not that they're bad, they just need more seasoning (I imagine her blandness is by design for the mainstream crowd).

So here's my tweaks ...

* Not nearly enough polenta in the recipe, and the polenta that it called for was also incredibly thick (too thick). I added more polenta and more liquid. You certainly don't want the polenta to be soupy since it needs to sit on top of the chicken mixture, but the original result was way too damn thick and borderline pasty and dry.

* Way too much liquid in the chicken mixture. Again, you want the polenta to sit on top of the mixture, and if it's too liquidy there's no way that will happen. I ended up straining off some of the liquid, but next time I'd just use less stock and cream.

* Not enough seasoning. You'll definitely need to add salt and pepper a couple times, and I'd also add fresh tyme next time as well as the tarragon to give it a little more punch.

All in all it was good, but it needed a little minor surgery to get it there.

Lemon-Lime Crockpot Chicken and Acorn Squash(GOOD)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lemon-Lime Crockpot Chicken and Acorn Squash (GOOD)

Fall is here ... so that means Sunday football and Sunday crockpot. This was very simple, but very good. Took a whole chicken (cut up), seasoned it with salt, pepper, and Emeril Essence ... browned it on both sides and threw it in the crockpot. I then added the juice and zest of two lemons and limes each, a half can of cream of celery soup, a couple of chopped cloves or garlic, and about a half cup to a cup of chciken stock (whatever you need to come up about halfway on the chicken).

Cook it in the crockpot until the meat is falling off the bone and serve on a bed of rice. I thickened the juices in a sauce pan with some cornstarch and served that on top. Quite good.

For the squash ... bake squash halves face down on 400 until tender. Let cool a little bit and then scoop out all the squash into a saucepan and add butter, brown sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Heat through on medium to medium-low.

Fall cooking rules!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Baked Four Cheese and Sausage Ziti (GOOD)

September 9, 2008

Baked Four Cheese and Sausage Ziti (GOOD)

This one's nice and easy, and also works great if you need to feed 4-6 people. I just cook some penne pasta (or whatever you want) for about half the time that the directions call for. I then browned off some ground sausage, and mixed it together with the pasta, some bottled pasta sauce and ricotta, parmesan, mozzerella, and asiago cheese. Toss it in an 8x12 baking dish (spray it with a little cooking spray first) .. sprinkle more cheese on top ... and then baked on 425 until everything is hot and bubbly.

Serve with a garden salad and my favorite toasted bread ... Panne Rustico (which is basically a rosemary ciabatta) sprinkled with some olive oil, black pepper, and Hawaiian red salt. Bake it on 425 as well for about 8-10 minutes until golden brown. If you've never had Hawaiian red salt it's an awesome finishing salt and is great on things like hot bread, salads, and grilled meats.

Black Sauce Chicken Breasts (GOOD)

September 5, 2008

Black Sauce Chicken Breasts (GOOD)

Hey ... look who still had some Black Sauce left over from the weekend BBQ. I marinated two bone-in chicken breasts for a couple hours, and then threw them on the grill for about 25 minutes until they were done, basting them all the way with the rest of the sauce. It was definitely quite good, and the sauce doubled nicely as a marinade (since it's most vinegar and Worcestershire anyway). Side were very basic ... brown rice and green beans.

Click here for the Black Sauce recipe

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Grilled Red Hot Wings and Asian Sticky Wings (VERY GOOD)

September 4th, 2008

Red Hot Wings and Asian Sticky Wings (VERY GOOD)

A great one for company is to grill up a big batch of chicken wings, and then toss them in a couple different interesting sauces for people to try. What makes this great for entertaining is that you can grill the wings earlier in the day, and then just heat them up in the oven with the sauces when it's time to serve.

For grilling the wings I keep it simple ... salt, pepper, and paprika ... the sauce can do the rest. NOTE: I highly recommend paprika when you're grilling things that you want to have a char (wings, steaks, etc.). For whatever reason, paprika makes a great crust on an open flame.

When the wings are done I put them into two different over trays (buy this disposable aluminum ones to avoid any messy cleanup later), and then tossed one tray in a Red Hot Sauce and the other in the Asian Sticky Wing Sauce. When it was time to serve, I put them both under the broiler for a couple minutes to brown up the sauces.

The Red Hot sauce came from a Paula Deen recipe I found. (Click here for the recipe) I will say this ... I did NOT add the butter ... I thought it was plenty good without it and it seemed like it would be too buttery if I added it.

The Asian Sticky Wing sauce is one I came across awhile back, and am definitely a big fan. This time all I did was make the sauce and toss it with my grilled wings, but the full recipe gives you oven directions as well. Here's the recipe ...

Asian Sticky Wings

1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Asian chili sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons dark Asian sesame oil
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 pounds chicken wings, cut in 2 pieces at joint

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease large baking pan.

Combine green onion, honey, soy sauce, chili sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic in large bowl. Add wings; toss to coat. Place wings with sauce in single layer in prepared baking pan. Bake, turning occasionally, 25 minutes or until chicken is evenly browned.

Increase oven temperature to broil. Broil wings 6 inches from heat, turning occasionally, for 8 minutes or until sauce is thick enough to coat back of spoon. Remove wings to platter; spoon sauce over.

BBQ Ribs and Chicken (GETTING THERE)

September 1, 2008

BBQ Ribs and Chicken (GETTING THERE)

Perfecting BBQ in your own home is like searching for the Holy Grail ... it's pretty much a never-ending process. I've just about nailed chicken on the smoker, but my ribs haven't yet turned out the way I've wanted. That being said, this is the closest I've come so far.

My recipes online says you should be able to slow smoke a rack of ribs for about 4 hours and they'll be done. Based on my experience, I say that's a big fat lie. At the four hour mark the ribs are definitely cooked, but I have yet to see them be so tender that they're practically falling off the bone (which is of course what we're all looking for). That being said, leaving them on longer doesn't seem like much of an option, because they're almost sure to start drying out if they stay on the smoker much longer. Enter my tactic this time ... smoke 'em for a while, then finish them in the oven. This way you get the smoky taste and the pink smoke ring, but can also regulate the temperature toward the end and get them to be both tender and most.

So this time I approached both the chicken and ribs the same way ... rub 'em both down with my Four Chile Brown Sugar Rub that I've whipped up ... and then leave them on the smoker for just under 4 hours. At that point I took them both and finished them in the oven on 225 degrees for another hour.

The chicken was about 175-180 degrees when it came off the smoker (185 is ideal), so the hour was ideal. The ribs were good and crusted on the outside when coming off the smoker, but also definitely needed some more TLC to tender up. I wrapped them in foil, making a little pouch, and then put some apple juice in the bottom of the foil pouch to keep them moist. After an hour they were quite tender ... I threw some BBQ sauce on top (Stubb's this time ... I was too lazy to make my own) .. .and hit the broiler for a couple minutes to char.

Both the chicken and ribs were tender and juicy, though I think they could actually come off the smoker a little bit earlier (the ribs were smoked-pink all the way through, which isn't bad, but not ideal). Next time I think I'll try 3 hours (or maybe 3:15) on the smoker, then finish them in the over and see what I get.

Oh ... served the chicken with Black Sauce, which I love. Black Sauce is a blog rerun ... click here for the recipe

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chicken, Sausage, and Corn Stew (GOOD)

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

Chicken, Sausage, and Corn Stew (GOOD)

This was a classic "here's a bunch of flavors I want to taste so I will throw them in a pot together" meal. So this one consisted of cooking off some ground sausage, then sweating down some onions and red pepper, adding the sausage back in along with some rotisserie chicken, chicken stock, a can of corn, and later some frozen peas after everything simmered for about 40 minutes. For spices, I put some toasted spice rub (which is a fennel-based mixture from Napa Style), Italian seasoning, and a bay leaf ... though you could season with just about anything you want (I was thinking curry powder would be good another time if I was in the mood for that flavor). I used 2 cans of chicken stock for this stew, so wasn't super thick, but definitely not a full on soup either. (You could go ahead and use the awful Rachel Ray-created word "stoup" right here if you want, but I'd rather chop my hand off with a dull chef's knife than do it myself).

Definitely a good Sunday meal (especially as we enter the cooler fall weather) and certainly worth making again.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shrimp Stir Fry with Peppers and Green Beans (GOOD)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

*** Shrimp Stir Fry with Peppers and Green Beans (GOOD) ***

Thanks to the garden, the pepper supply in the house is ample, so I cut up one green and one yellow pepper to go with some shrimp and green beans for a quick and tasty stir fry. I seasoned the shrimp with togorashi spice (which is a Japanese spice blend of chile, sesame, and seaweed that I highly recommend and is also called "Tokyo Spice Rub" at some stores). Having yet to find a homemade stir fry sauce that I enjoy (I'm all ears if you have one by the way), I went with a bottled sauce that was good, but I'm sure sodium and sugar-laden as well. A quick weeknight meal that's a winner (serve it over basmati rice to round out the dish).

Roman-Style Chicken (VERY GOOD)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

*** Roman-Style Chicken (VERY GOOD) ***

I got this one from Giada DeLaurentiis, who I've always found to have consistently good recipes, and this one is no different. It gives a nice "all day taste" even though it takes less than an hour to cook, and you can't really go wrong with something that has lots of pig and sweet red peppers in it. If you don't like capers, I'm sure you could leave them out, but that would certainly subtract from the dish. Definitely a keeper ... and be sure to serve a crusty bread to mop up all the sauce. Recipe link

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Quick Turkey Tacos (EASY)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

*** Quick Turkey Tacos (EASY) ***

Welcome to an unexciting, but perfectly fine weeknight staple. Brown some ground turkey, add a taco seasoning packet, and then put together all the fixings for some tacos/burritos and enjoy. Needless to say, this won't be a recipe you see on a cooking show any time soon, but it tastes good and takes two seconds to make so I have no complaints.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Fresh Garden Sauce (GOOD)

Monday, August 11, 2008

*** Whole Wheat Pasta with Fresh Garden Sauce (GOOD) ***

It's that time of year, so we're swimming in tomatoes from the garden, which is definitely a good thing. This year is the first time I've ever done a garden, so it's also the first time I've ever tried to make my own tomato sauce. For try #1, I was definitely happy with the results. I skinned and seeded about 8 roma tomatoes and added them to a pan of sauteed garlic on medium-low heat. In another pan I cooked a half pound of turkey sausage and added it to the cooked down tomatoes along with some fresh garlic, basil, and Asiago cheese (and salt and pepper of course). The result was definitely a fresh and flavorful sauce. Oh ... and I did add a couple of spoonfuls of tomato paste to thicken the sauce, and that definitely helped. My only regret was mixing it in with a pound of pasta, which resulted in too much pasta and not enough sauce. Next time I either need to make more sauce, or just spoon it on top of each serving.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Chicken With Roasted Lemon-Rosemary Sauce (VERY GOOD)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Chicken With Roasted Lemon-Rosemary Sauce (VERY GOOD)

I had a bunch of lemons that needed to get used, so this worked perfectly. I cut four lemons in half, salted them a little, and threw them under the broiler for about 10 minutes until they were browned. Then I took the juice (a little less that 3/4 cup) and saved it for the sauce. I browned two bone-in chicken breasts in a pan, and then threw them in the oven on 400 with some red potatoes sprinkled with salt, pepper, and rosemary for about 15-18 minutes until everything was done. Meanwhile, I put 3 cloves of minced garlic and 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary in the pan where I browned the chicken. After a minute I added 1 1/4 cup condensed chicken stock (no water added), deglazed the pan, then added the lemon juice, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, a tablespoon of butter, and salt and pepper to taste. This makes a great sauce that I pured on top of the chicken and potatoes when they were ready. Finished it off with a side salad for a winning dinner.

Rubbed and Grilled Flat Iron Steak and Salad (GOOD)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

(Back from vacation)

Rubbed and Grilled Flat Iron Steak and Salad (GOOD)

Just got back from the beach today, so I wanted to keep it simple and relatively healthy compared to the food and drink bonanza of the past week. I rubbed the flat iron steak with a fresh batch of rub that I made this week ... highlights of the rub are four kinds of chile peppers and a hint of the Indian vindaloo seasoning for a little kick. This was the first time I used this batch on a grilled steak, and it was to very good results. Grilled the steak uncovered on high for 6 minutes for the first side and 4 minutes for the other side for a perfect medium rare. The previously mentioned Ancho-Chipotle BBQ goes great with this kind of steak (though tonight was a bottled steaks sauce cop out). A tossed salad made for a nice side.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Grilled Lemon-Pepper Trout and Corn on the Cob (GOOD)


*** Grilled Lemon-Pepper Trout with Corn on the Cob (GOOD) ***

I got some fresh-caught trout from a friend, so I fileted it up and threw it on the grill. I like trout to be pretty simple, so I just put some lemon pepper on it and a little olive oil and nothing else except for some fresh-squeezed lemon juice when it was done. Threw it on the grill for a few minutes, along with some corn on the cob, and it was a delicious (and healthy) weeknight meal. Opened a can of peas for a side as well.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Portobello and Vegetable Chili (BLAH)

TUESDAY, JULY 29, 2008

*** Portobello and Vegetable Chili (BLAH) ***

This is why I'm not a vegetarian. To quote my wife, "This would be better if it had big pieces of steak in it." I agree.

I basically took all the veggies I had on hand (portobellos, summer squash, zucchini, green peppers, and onions) and threw them in a pot with some chili seasoning, diced tomatoes, and kidney beans. By no means did it taste bad, but there was just something missing (MEAT!). Hell, even ground turkey would've been fine.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Smoked BBQ Chicken and Grilled Mozzarella-Stuffed Balsamic Portobello Mushrooms (GREAT)

SUNDAY, JULY 27, 2008

*** Smoked BBQ Chicken and Grilled Mozzarella-Stuffed Balsamic Portobello Mushrooms (GREAT) ***

CHICKEN: Had company over so I smoked a few whole chickens on the charcoal smoker with a mixture of apple and pecan wood. The smaller two chickens were done in about four hours, and the larger chicken took about 20 minutes longer. All three were moist and had a good smoky flavor that wasn't too overpowering. Two chickens sat on the bottom rack on the far side of the smoker, while the third sat above them on the upper rack. NOTE FOR THE FUTURE: The upper rack definitely cooks quicker than the bottom, so rotate the meat accordingly.

I also made a paste of minced garlic, lemon zest, salt, lemon pepper, and fresh thyme and rubbed it under the skin of each chicken, as well as a couple lemon slices. In addition, I sprinkled the skin with some more lemon pepper and paprika to give it nice colorful crust. As a result, all three chickens looked great. Whole chickens work great on the smoker and don't take nearly as long as big cuts of pork, so they work great for company. Leftovers make a great smoky soup or chili, and if you're in to making your own chicken stock, the smoky bones/carcass make an awesome stock.

SAUCE: Made two sauces ... a Spicy Ancho-Chipotle BBQ Sauce and a Worcestershire-based sauce called Black Sauce. Both are awesome and have a million applications.

Spicy Ancho-Chipotle BBQ Sauce

1/4 cup granulated sugar (or less ... depends on how sweet you like it)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons chili peppers packed in adobo sauce, chopped/minced

Mix everything in a pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce head to medium-low and simmer 12-15 minutes until sauce thickens.

Black Sauce

1 c. Worcestershire
1 c. white vinegar
2 TB brown sugar
2 TB lime juice
1 TB plus 1 tsp black pepper
2 garlic cloves minced
1/2 tsp allspice
lemon zest (optional)

Mix together and heat over medium heat for 10 minutes.

MUSHROOMS: The portobello mushrooms is an appetizer that I often breakout for company, and it's always loved by everybody. Here's the original recipe I used from Epicurious. I also like to add fresh basil to the mixture, it gives it a nice depth. In the future, I would also use a bottled balsamic glaze (or boil down your own) to drizzle over the top.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dinner Out: Surf and Turf (GOOD)


*** Black and Blue Burger ***

Went out to dinner tonight at Surf and Turf so we could sit outside on a nice night in Grandin Village in Roanoke. Surf and Turf grinds their own sirloin for their burgers, which is always a great sign because you can then comfortable order a burger medium-rare and eat it the way it's supposed to be eaten. Topped with some crispy bacon and a nice strong blue cheese, this meal was a winner. Throw in homemade potato chips and a side salad (and several Black and Tans!) to round out the meal. Grade: A-

Grilled Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin (GOOD)


*** Grilled Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin ***

Basic and easy, but good and relatively healthy as well. Threw a pork tenderloin on the grill and glazed it with some bottled teriyaki sauce in the last few minutes for a nice crust. Served it with steamed edamame and basmati rice.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chicken and Corn Salad with Chili-Lime-Cilantro Sour Cream (DECENT)

TUESDAY, JULY 22, 2008

*** Chicken and Corn Salad with Chili-Lime-Cilantro Sour Cream ***

I'll often roast a whole chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken from the store, pull it apart, and then use the meat for a couple of lunches/dinners. It was 95 degrees here today, so I was in the mood for something cool that also allowed me to not have to turn the stove on. I mixed some of the chicken with a tomato, a can of Mexicorn, some cilantro, and some chives from the garden together in a bowl. I then sprinkled in some chili powder and made a super-quick vinaigrette with olive oil and blood orange vinegar (balsamic or apple cider would work fine too). I then threw it on a bed of romaine lettuce and topped it with a dollop of the sour cream.

The Chili-Lime-Cilantro Sour Cream is something I came up with that is great with all sorts of things. Just mix together 1/4 cup sour cream with lime zest, lime juice, chili powder, and cilantro. I'd give you amounts, but I just do it to taste and feel. My best guess is about a teaspoon of zest, juice, and powder and a tablespoon or so of cilantro. Regardless, it adds a great kick to otherwise boring sour cream (great on a burger too).

I wouldn't say this is the greatest meal in the world, but it was a solid meal for a hot weeknight and I'd certainly eat it again. You could definitely add black beans to this as well, but I didn't want to since I had eaten so many beans the night before.

Double Bean Burritos (QUICK and BORING)

MONDAY JUNE 21, 2008

*** Double Bean Burritos ***

This is one of my standbys when I don't feel like cooking or have anything defrosted or fresh in the fridge. I heat up a can of refried beans as well as a can of black beans. Throw them into a tortilla and add whatever other taco fixins you want. Good, quick, and easy (but boring).

Honey-Dijon Chicken Thighs (VERY GOOD)

SUNDAY JULY 20, 2008

*** Grilled Honey-Dijon Chicken Thighs ***

I like mustard-based sauces, but could never seem to find one that was exactly what I was looking for. I want one that has some kind of Asian flair ... soy or ginger or whatever. The store-bought ones are always WAY too sweet, and most of the online recipes seem to be for a honey dijon sauce that you would get with your McNuggets.

I finally found a honey-dijon glaze from Bobby Flay that had what I wanted ...

3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger

Melt the first threee ingredients over medium heat. Then remove from the heat, add the rest of the ingredients, and let it cool to room temp.

I threw some salt, pepper, and paprika on the thighs and tossed them on the grill. FYI ... paprika is my secret ingredient for just about anything grilled since it puts a great char on the food from the fire. Brush them with the glaze during the last few minutes of cooking.

I would definitely make this again, and this glaze is great for most meats ... salmon, pork, chicken, and shrimp all come to mind.