Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Apple Cranberry Crock Pot Oatmeal

I first prepared oatmeal using steel cut oats a few weeks ago. I love the texture, but the few recipes that I tried did not have a lot of flavor. I like using my slow cooker so I can start the oatmeal before I go to bed, and have a hot breakfast ready for me when I wake up, and enough to last the rest of the week. 

I had a lot of apples and pears in my house this weekend so I made some apple pear butter, and then used it in this Apple Cranberry Crock Pot Oatmeal. I'm sure store bought apple butter would make the oatmeal taste just as good. This recipe produces about 8 cups of cooked oatmeal.  If you don't have apple cider, replace it with an additional cup of water. Make sure to use the cooking spray so the oatmeal doesn't stick.  I like to use Reynolds slow cooker liners, which makes cleanup easier. 

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 c. steel cut oats (I used Bob's Red Mill) 
  • 1 c. apple cider 
  • 1 c. dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. apple butter
  • 6 c. water 
  • 1 tsp.cinnamon 
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • Chopped walunts (optional)

Directions

  1.  If using a slow cooker liner, place in slow cooker.  Spray thoroughly with cooking spray.
  2. Place all remaining ingredients in slow cooker. Stir to combine.
  3. Cook on low for 7 hours, with the lid on. 
  4. Remove lid. The oatmeal will appear very wet and loose. Stir for about 30 seconds, being sure to scrape along the edges. The texture will change to that of typical oatmeal. Top each serving with chopped walnuts, if desired.   

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Make Ahead Cook - Chicken Tagine

As I continued to cook my way through the America's Test Kitchen Make Ahead cookbook,  I decided to make Chicken Tagine. This is a North African dish using chicken thighs, dried apricots, and olives. It's a braised dish, meaning that they meat is first browned, and then simmered in liquid until finished.

The dish starts by browning skin-on chicken thighs. The chicken is removed, and onions and other aromatics are browned. A spice mixture is added, which immediately makes the kitchen smell amazing! Broth and the browned chicken are added, along with carrots. The dish is simmered until the chicken reaches 160F. Prior to serving, olives, cilantro, dried apricots, and lemon juice are added.

This dish was the first time I have ever tried olives.  The flavor of the olives worked well in this dish, but I don't think I would eat them on their own. I served this over couscous, which absorbed the juices from the chicken. The recipe can be found here.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Make Ahead Cook - Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables


While I do not make New Year's resolutions, I do think it's important to set goals for myself. So I decided to buy a cookbook and make everything in it. It doesn't matter if its something I normally wouldn't make or an ingredient that I may not like or haven't tried. I'm determined to get through the whole book. I hope to learn some new techniques, try different ingredients, and explore various cuisines.

I went to Barnes and Noble and browsed the cookbook section. I decided on the Make Ahead Cook by America's Test Kitchen. It has over 150 recipes and various types of cuisine. The book is broken up into different sections such as meals that you can prepare and then finish cooking the next day, slow cooker recipes, meals that you can freeze, and meals that you can, prepare, put in the refrigerator and finish later. I decided to start off with Roasted Chicken and Root Vegetables.

I've made one-pan chicken and vegetables before. It's good, but the vegetables really don't get crisp. They sit in the chicken juices, get steamed, and taste greasy. This recipe resolves that issue. Instead of using a whole chicken, a cut-up chicken is used. The individual chicken pieces give off less moisture. After the chicken is done, the vegetables go back in the oven for one last blast at high heat, which gives them great color and flavor. I used parsnips, potatoes, shallots, and Brussels sprouts. The vegetables and chicken marinate in herbs and olive oil for a few hours, then are roasted in the oven. You can view the complete recipe here.

Prepping the vegetables


Placing the Brussels sprouts towards the center of the pan prevents overcooking
White meat in the middle of the pan ensures it stays moist.



Friday, January 2, 2015

Spiced Oven Fries


This is an easy and tasty side dish. It is fast to prepare, uses pantry staples and goes great with roasted beef, pork, or chicken.

Ingredients 

  • 4 russet potatoes
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Slice the potatoes into 1 inch wide planks, then slice the planks into 1 inch fries. 
  3. Place the fries on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the spices and oil on the baking sheet.  Mix well, ensuring every fry is coated with both oil and spices. 
  4. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until brown and crisp.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Day Tips and Grandma's Stuffing




Over the past 10 years, I have cooked Thanksgiving dinner many times. It is one of my favorite days of the year. I love family and friends getting together and sharing a good meal. Here are some tips that will help you have a great Thanksgiving dinner:


  • Make a list and a schedule. Determine everything you want to make and when each item need to go into the oven or cook on the stove top.
  • Print out recipes for everything you're going to cook. This will help keep you organized and you can make sure that you have all the ingredients you need.
  • Make sure you move the turkey from the freezer and refrigerator a few days early so it can thaw. 
  • Thanksgiving dinner is not the time to experiment. Use recipes that you are familiar with and that you made in the past.This will help alleviate any Thanksgiving disasters.
  • If guests want to help, let them.There is no reason why you need to make the entire meal yourselves. Let guests bring appetizers, wine, side dishes, or dessert.
  • Don't feel like you need to make everything yourself. There's nothing wrong with buying a pre-made pie or salad in a bag.
  • If you don't have one, buy a meat thermometer. The little pop-up timers in turkeys are incredibly inaccurate.
  • Buy a carving board. A carving board is the one that has a channel around it to catch any juices.
  • Also purchase an electric knife. It comes in very handy when it is time to carve turkey.
  • Let the turkey rest for at least 30 min. before carving. Don't tent with foil or the skin will not remain as crisp.
Below is a recipe for my grandmother's stuffing.  All of the ingredients are pretty common, and they taste amazing together in this recipe. I am a firm believer in stuffing the turkey, but if you don't want to do that you can certainly bake this in a casserole – with some chicken or turkey stock added if needed to keep it moist.

2 onions, chopped
3 stalks of celery chopped
1 loaf of white bread
3 Italian pork sausage links, removed from skin
1 to 2 eggs
Italian seasoning
chicken broth
seasoned breadcrumbs
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Dice the bread into 1 inch cubes. Bake for 30 to 60 min. until the bread is dried, but not browned.
  2. Browned sausage in large skillet over medium-high heat. After fat renders, and onion. Cook for 5 to 8 min. until brown.
  3. And celery to skillet. Cook for 3 to 4 min. And bread cubes to pan and mix thoroughly. Cook for 3 to 5 min., then and 1 to 2 cups of chicken broth until bread i just moistened.
  4. Scraping pan to remove any browned bits. Cook 10 min. over low heat, stirring constantly.
  5. Play stuffing mixture in large bowl. Beat in one egg (two if a large turkey). Stir in Italian seasoning. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If stuffing is too moist, and bread crumbs