Monday, November 24, 2014

Chicken Shawarma with Israeli Salad

I've been branching out in the kitchen with different recipes these days.  From fragrant curries, to slow cooker soups, grilled meats, unique homemade pizzas, and more.  It has been fun to try new things and change up my weekly menu instead of sticking to the "usual" dishes.  I have found that with a little prep the day or night before - I can actually look forward to coming home from work and making dinner because I know the meal is already half-prepped and all I have to do is bake it, or scoop it out of the crock pot.  

With this meal, you can mix all the ingredients up the night before, marinate the chicken - and then simply grill/bake it the next day.  You can even make the salad ahead if you want to, but I found it easy enough to chop up while the chicken was in the oven and that way everything is fresh and ready at the same time. 

Have you been trying any new recipes lately?  Feel free to share!  

Chicken Shawarma with Israeli Salad

2 lbs chicken thighs (Boneless, skinless or bone in, skin on - which is what I used)
2 T ground cumin
2 T ground coriander
6 cloves minced garlic cloves
2 tsp kosher salt
6 T olive oil
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp allspice

Place all in a bowl and mix. Make a paste. Rub chicken on all sides with the marinade and let sit 20 minutes (or up to 24 hours refrigerated).

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Heat a cast iron skillet on high heat and grill chicken on each side for 3-5 minutes until skin is browned.  Finish the chicken in the preheated oven until cooked through – about 35 minutes, checking and flipping after 15 minutes.  Broil on high for 5 minutes to make the skin crispy if desired.  Make sure the chicken reaches a safe temperature of 165 F before serving. 

Enjoy the chicken over Israeli salad, or with rice and veggies.

Israeli Salad 

2 large tomatoes
1 cucumber (seeds removed or use an English cucumber)
1/2 medium red onion
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
½ C herbs (I used a blend of fresh basil, mint & cilantro)
Zest of one lemon
Lemon juice (about ½ a lemon)
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Chop the first 6 ingredients into a very small fine dice. Place in a large bowl and toss with the lemon zest, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper. Serve with Grilled Chicken Shawarma.

Recipes Adapted from Feasting at Home

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Sundried-Tomato Basil & Mozzarella Chicken Pasta

This is one of those meals that is basically impossible to mess up.  It's easy & delicious comfort food with bold flavors that could fool you into believing it was from a fine Italian restaurant.  The photo doesn't even make it look that yummy - I apologize.  Lighting is never good at night especially when the sun sets at 4pm now. Ugh.  Despite how appetizing or unappetizing it looks though - I promise it definitely IS yummy. 

Usually I have some ground rules for myself when ordering at restaurants.  It may sound silly, but typically I don't like to order something that I feel I could easily make at home.  There are times though that I just have to go with my gut (quite literally) and order whatever sounds best at the time.  I feel like if I saw this dish on a menu, I would definitely order it - regardless of my ability to easily make it at home.  Because lets be honest, even the easiest meal to make at home is still more difficult than going out to eat. ;)

Should you choose to stay in and cook your own Italian is a dish I recommend! 

Sundried-Tomato Basil & Mozzarella Chicken Pasta 
Serves 4-6

3 large garlic cloves, minced
4 oz sun-dried tomatoes, julienne cut (packaged, not in oil)
1 lb chicken breast, cut into smaller pieces
Salt & paprika (for sprinkling on chicken breast) 
1 cup half and half
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 oz penne pasta (for gluten free, use Tinkyada gluten free brown rice pasta)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tablespoon basil if using dry basil)
1/2 cup reserved cooked pasta water (or more)
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt, to taste

In a large pan, on high heat, saute garlic and sun-dried tomatoes in 2 tablespoons of oil  for 1 minute until garlic is fragrant. Remove sun-dried tomatoes from the pan, leaving the oil, and add chicken, salted and lightly covered in paprika (for color) and cook on high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from heat.

Cook pasta according to package instructions (I always prefer al dente). Reserve some cooked pasta water. Drain and rinse the pasta with cold water (to stop cooking).

Add sun-dried tomatoes back to the skillet with chicken. Add half and half and cheese to the skillet, too, and bring to boil. Immediately reduce to simmer and cook, constantly stirring, until all cheese melts and creamy sauce forms. Add cooked pasta to the skillet with the creamy sauce, and stir to combine. Add basil, stir to combine.

Add about 1/2 cup reserved cooked pasta water to thin the creamy sauce (do not add all water at once - you might need less or more of it). Season the pasta with salt and more red pepper flakes, to taste, if needed. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes for flavors to combine.

Recipe adapted from Julia's Album

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Maple Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie

Pies scare me a little bit. 

Maybe "scare" is the wrong word - but they definitely seem "touchy" and I'm not super confident that they will always turn out.  Is the crust done?  Overdone? Underdone?  Will I cut into it and will it be complete mush?  With the filling run out all over the place?  So many questions when you make a pie!! I just don't feel that I've mastered the art of pie.  Every attempt is a gamble.  

Then I go and make a pecan pie (my husband's favorite)...and I'm thinking it turned out great.  But I should have known that my husband would consider the addition of chocolate to pecan pie "ruining it."  Whoops.  I think the chocolate was a delicious addition - but if you share my husband's feelings about pecan pie - feel free to omit it. :) 

It didn't stop him from eating half of it couldn't have been that bad, right? :) 

How do you feel about making pies?  Are you a pro?  Feel free to share your tips with me!

Maple Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie
Makes one 9”pie

For the crust, combine the following and press into a 9 inch pie dish:

1 1/4 C graham cracker crumbs
1/4 C butter, melted
Add to the bottom of the crust:
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
2 C whole, raw, unsalted pecans

For the pie filling, mix together:

1/2 C butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 C light brown sugar, packed
½ cup sugar in the raw
½ cup pure maple syrup
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons Maple Bourbon (or regular bourbon – or if you’re not into adding alcohol, use vanilla)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°.

Pour the egg and sugar mix over the nuts and chocolate in the prepared pan.

Place the pie dish on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes until it is puffed and golden, still slightly jiggly but cooked through.

Allow to cool (may need to put in the fridge for a while) to set fully before slicing and serving.

Recipe adapted from Feast for all Seasons 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Compost Cookies {for kids' cancer}

Sometimes you just need a good cookie.

I had the pleasure of eating at the glorious Momofuku restaurant when in New York this past January.  If you ever go to New York, Momofuku's noodle bar is the place to be.  However, perhaps not as well known to some is the somewhat "sweeter" side project - Momofuku's Milk Bar which features, I kid you not, the best cookies on the planet (or that I've tasted).  My favorite was the "Compost Cookie" which can be thought of as "everything but the kitchen sink" in a cookie.  In a good way. :)

These cookies are my attempt at recreating the compost cookies from the Milk Bar.  Although these follow the compost cookie concept - I still think the real Milk Bar version is way better, and who knows if I'll ever be able to match it.  Too bad I don't live in New York...I would be eating cookies all the time!  

I also have the honor of being a part of OXO company's blogger outreach program and was selected to participate in their annual "Bake a Difference" blogging challenge to support the Cookies for Kids' Cancer organization.  It is an awesome fundraising program through OXO that gives proceeds from their product sales to support research to develop new, improved treatments for pediatric cancer.  

For every stickered item sold, OXO will donate 25 cents in support of pediatric cancer research as part of its $100,000 pledge to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. (Look for specially marked OXO products with this sticker at participating retailers.)

To help me "bake a difference", OXO sent me a package full of cookie making essential tools including: 
 3-piece cookie cutter set
Cookie Spatula
Cupcake icing knife
3-piece spatula set
6 piece measuring cup set
7 piece measuring cup set

Thank you OXO! :) 

Compost Cookies
Adapted from Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook

Recipe notes: I followed Averie’s recipe from Averie Cooks who followed Tosi’s recipe from the cookbook, however she made quite a few changes and from her recipe I also made changes so I have to admit this is a very loose interpretation of the Milk Bar compost cookie recipe.  However, the concept of the compost cookie should in essence be that whatever you have in your kitchen, you use. And that my friends, I followed to a T.  

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup crushed Chex cereal
2 heaping tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats (half of her value of 1/3 cup)
1 ½ teaspoons ground coffee
1/2 cup tortilla chips (I would have used potato chips as the original calls for and I would suggest potato chips but again, I only used what I had on hand)
1/4 cup mini pretzel pieces

Combine the butter, sugars, maple syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla, and beat for 7 to 8 minutes (it sounds long but that’s what they suggest!).

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Still on low speed, add the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, oats, coffee, and mix until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add the chips and cereal (and any other add-ins) and mix on low speed until just incorporated, taking care not to over mix or break too many of the chips or cereal pieces.

Depending on how large you want the cookies, you could use a normal cookie scoop, tablespoon, or even ¼ cup or 1/3 cup to portion out the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet. After portioning the dough, pat the top of the cookie dough domes flat. Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 week. Do not bake your cookies from room temperature – they will not bake properly.

Heat the oven to 375F.  Bake for 14-16 minutes (check them earlier if you are making smaller cookies.  You want these ever so slightly crispy but not over baked). The cookies will puff, crackle, and spread. Note that because of the high butter content in these cookies, they will be prone to burning around the edges; watch them closely.

Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pans before transferring to an airtight storage container.