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Tart Cherry Pie Recipe

Cherry Pie Recipe

Cherry Pie reminds me of Lums Diner in Peoria, hot tea, good friends, and deep conversation.  Back in my high school days, my crowd and I would congregate at the the Lums Diner, as years of soul searching, bored, but generally well behaved teenagers had done before us.

This wasn’t your wild crowd, it was filled with quiet rebels.  The kind that might get a little crazy discussing a classic novel or simple existential angst over an endless pot of tea or coffee and maybe sit in the smoking section.  Gasp.  The horror.

Anyhow, one of my favorite Lums menu items of choice was warm cherry pie.  It was a time of dear friends, endless conversations, and that first taste of independence that is adolescence.

Tart Cherry Pie Recipe

1/2 c. chilled butter

1/2 c. chilled Spectrum Palm Oil Shortening

3  c. flour

1 tbsp sugar

6 tbsp ice water

1 c. sugar, plus extra for dusting

5 cans tart cherries in water, reserve 1/4 c. of juice

3 tbsp cornstarch

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

3 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces for dotting

In a food processor, combine flour and salt.  Add butter and shortening cut into little pieces.  Use the pulse button to cut butter and shortening into flour until you see no more large pieces.  Through the top, pour the water 1 tablespoon at a time and continue to pulse until dough is just moist.  Move to a floured surface and form a ball.  Divide into two equal sections.  Wrap in waxed paper and chill at least 30 minutes.  Roll out one with a floured rolling pin into a circle.  Press into the bottom of a glass pie pan, evening out and smoothing the edge.  Roll the other into a circle, then using a sharp knife, cut into 1 inch wide sections to start your lattice.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, cherries and juice.   In the reserved 1/4 c. of juice, dissolve the cornstarch with a fork.  Add cornstarch mixture and heat until bubbling, then simmer 5 min, stirring occasionally with a wooden spatula being sure to scrape the bottom.  Add lemon juice, vanilla extract, and almond extract and remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 375.  Pour thickened cherry mixture into prepared pie crust.  Use small butter pieces to dot the surface evenly.  For the lattice, start on the left side and lay down three of your smaller strips vertically with a 3/4″ gap in between.  I like to use 1 piece in from the edge of your circle, skip a piece for the horizontal side, then choose the second strip for your 2nd vertical, skip, then the 3rd piece for your third vertical.  Continue all the way across with your vertical strips. Moving back to the strips, skip that outermost edge again and grab your next strip for your first horizontal lattice.  I like to start at the top.  Start on top of your first vertical, then lift the second vertical from bottom of pie pan to lace underneath.  Place on top the third, lace under the fourth, to the edge.  Start your second horizontal, and reverse the pattern.  Start underneath the first vertical this time, then lift from the bottom to lattice, then over, then under, repeat.  Don’t get discouraged!  Be patient, this are your hardest two rows coming up, after that it’s smooth sailing.  Repeat the pattern until you complete the pie.  Dust the top with a spoonful of sugar and and place in oven over a cookie sheet or a piece of aluminum foil to catch drips.   Bake  an hour, watching crust to keep from browning too much.  If it starts to look to brown on the edges, ring in foil and continue baking.  Bake until bubbly and golden.

Enjoy!

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Tomato Soup Recipe

No picture sadly, but I’ve missed writing recipes.  I have a backlog of photos without recipes written down and recipes without photos.  At this point I find I’m killing myself with wasted time, trying to remember how I came up with that delicious dish 3 months ago.  So while it may not be pretty, the blog is back with it’s original purpose in hand – to serve as my mental diary of things I’d like to cook again and felt were worth writing down.  Cheers.

Tomato Soup Recipe

serves 8 bowl size servings or 12 when served with grilled cheese

2 28 oz can peeled whole tomatoes, roughly chopped, juices reserved

olive oil

kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

2 tbsp butter

4 stalks celery, not quite minced

12 baby carrots, chopped

2 yellow onions, diced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 c. flour

4 c. chicken stock

2 bay leaves

2 sprig fresh thyme

1 c. heavy cream

Preheat your oven to 425.  Spread chopped tomatoes over a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper.  Roast in oven for 25 minutes.

Heat a 8 quart stock pot to medium high heat.  Add 2 tbsp butter plus 1 tbsp olive oil.   Heat until fragrant, then add celery, carrots, and onions, lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.  Heat until soft over medium high heat, reducing after about 5 minutes to prevent burning.  Stirring occasionally, cook until soft, about 12 minutes total.  Add chopped garlic and cook another 2 minutes.  Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to cook for another 2 minutes.  Add now roasted chopped tomatoes, chicken stock, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 25 minutes.  If you have an immersion blender, lucky you!  I’m hoping for one for Christmas.  Use it now to puree your soup.  If not, work in small batches in your blender or Cuisinart/Food Processor to puree.  I find three batches necessary and a clean pot for the pureed results.  When fully pureed, add heavy cream, simmer another 5 minutes, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

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If you are suffering from boredom and inertia in your weekday meals, I have found the perfect recipe for you to add into your repertoire.  Since the arrival of our third child, sweet Baby Hiatt, my time in the kitchen has been fractioned.  I see glimpses of the future where I will gain a little of that time back.  Reality for the moment means I am severely limited in time, energy, and creativity.  I realize Sweet Baby Hiatt (SBH), has passed the year and a half mark and is no longer a baby at all.  That said, I forgot how intensely one is required to watch daredevil, strong, pixie-like toddlers.  As my friend Sarah says, I’m neck deep in the “Don’t Blink” phase.  I think I have made this recipe every other week or at least every three weeks for more than the last year.  Maybe not a million, but it saved us a bunch of pizza takeouts and desperately unsatisfying sub sandwich meals.

Sometime during a late night baby wrangling session, I caught Trisha Yearwood on the Food Network showing off her daddy’s Barbecue Chicken Recipe.  The episode is sweet and outdoors and full of family and cooking, so basically, right up my alley.  Instantly, I knew I had found my way back in the kitchen.  Now, I admit to not really liking chicken very much.  I consider it a necessary evil for both variety and health reasons.  I also admit to not ever previously liking barbecued chicken.  I love a steak or a burger on the grill, but chicken always seems to fall victim to that horrible burned flavor.

The best thing about this recipe is it is easy, has a short ingredient list, and requires no obscure items.  You need a grill.  Mine’s charcoal – but I’m not particular.  You need a decent basting brush.  Spring for the silicone one – those thinner floss/corn silk like ones don’t stand up to heat well.  In a pinch, I’m sure you can spoon on the sauce, your grill will just likely flare more.  Do not get confused and sub olive oil for the peanut – you will have a hot smoky mess.  Most importantly, do not be scared by the spices in this recipe.  This is a basting sauce –  almost none gets through the skin.  I swear Mom, even you, could handle the heat, but you might have to forgo eating the skin which is delicious.  My kids all eat this with no complaints about heat (only Q eats the skin – cause I can’t think of anything he does turn down).  It saves well and is great the next day.  If I ever lose this recipe, I might cry, which is why I’ve come back to the blog to document what I’ve been cooking.  ‘

 

Trisha Yearwood’s Barbecue Chicken Recipe

adapted slightly from her Food Network show (aka we don’t eat dark meat)

4 split chicken breasts (the bone in/skin on ones) – check Central Market, Whole Foods, Costco or Albertson’s – weirdly our Tom Thumb quit carrying any bone in chicken breasts

3 tbsp kosher salt (if you’re short on time, double the salt and half the brine time)

1 c. apple cider vinegar

3/4 c. peanut oil

1 tsp Tabasco

16 turns ground pepper

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 c. water

Brine chicken in water with salt for six hours or overnight in fridge.  This step is helpful, but if you need to speed it up you can use lukewarm water with double the salt.  Do not skip entirely, however.

Heat your grill.  If you’re charcoal, you want your coals mostly white to avoid flareups- but make sure you have enough coals to last 50 min of grill time if required.  If you have a gas grill, I’d start with a medium high heated grill then turn down to medium after you add the chicken.

Turn on your fan/vent in your kitchen to make your barbecue sauce.  Add vinegar, oil, Tabasco, pepper, cayenne, and 1/4 c. water to a small saucepan.  Bring sauce to a boil while stirring, then take to your grill.

Place chicken skin side up on grill, baste with your sauce.  Check at 4-5 minutes for flare-ups.  (In case of flare-ups, move chicken away from flame source to an outer edge of grill-plate then further reduce heat if a gas grill.)   Baste 10 min later.  Turn 5 minutes later and baste the other side.  Turn 10 min later then baste again.  Turn  10 min later, baste, check temp with meat thermometer.  You are now at 40 minutes of cook time.  Depending on the size of your chicken you may be finished or need 10 more minutes.  Chicken needs to reach an internal temp of at least 165, then remove from grill and let rest 5 minutes before serving.  I serve with a light green salad and couscous or black beans.

Enjoy!

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This week Central Market had the most beautiful local portabella mushroom caps on display.  Though I’ve never been able to pull off the portabella burger (it’s a texture thing), I absolutely love the flavor of cooked portabellas.  This super fast sauce created from roasted chicken pan juices and a little whiskey was the perfect way to fancy up a Thursday night chicken dinner.  Trust me, it’s magic!

When you’re roasting a chicken breast, skin and bones yield the very best flavor.  It’s also very important to have your split breasts closer to room temperature before throwing in the hot oven.  I drizzled and seasoned these about an hour before they went into the oven creating an optimally tender result.  I’ve cooked them straight out of the fridge lots of times.  Fear not, in a time crunch this won’t wreck your dinner.  You simply won’t have *ideal* results.  I’m led to wonder if this is what went wrong with my bone in ribeye at Wolfgang Puck’s CUT in Las Vegas – surely they couldn’t be aiming for mediocre?

As a photography aside, I am dutifully working through a Publix (grocery store generic) paprika that I picked up this summer in Rosemary Beach, FL.  I kind of hate it.  The flavor is fine but the color is WAY TOO ORANGE!  I’ll probably throw it out soon, but take note if you use a different brand your chicken will have a slightly different color.  As my mother taught me, the purpose of  paprika is for coloring – not for flavor.  So if it’s not serving it’s purpose, I guess I should throw it out.

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Whiskey Portabella Mushroom Pan Sauce

serves 2

2 medium chicken split breasts (out of the fridge an hour before cooking if you can!)

olive oil

kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

paprika

1 and 1/2 tbsp butter

2 large portabella mushroom caps, chopped

pan drippings 2 roast split breasts

1 c. hot water

1/3 c. Makers Mark Bourbon Whiskey

1 tsp corn starch and 2 tbsp water mixed together

Preheat your oven to 425.  Place chicken breasts in a heavy bottomed saute pan.  Drizzle chicken breasts with olive oil, then generously sprinkle with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and paprika.  Roast chicken in oven for about 45 minutes to an hour – until they have an internal temperature of 165.  Remove to a cutting board to rest.

Warm a separate saute pan over medium high heat.  Add butter after two minutes to melt, then add chopped portabella mushrooms.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, then brown thoroughly until mushroom water has been released and evaporated.  Set aside.

Spoon off any oil gathered in your pan drippings, then add hot water to pan over medium high heat.  Use a wooden spatula to scrape up the brown bits, cook until volume is reduced by half.  Add whiskey, then cornstarch and water mixture.  Stir continuously with spatula.  Stir until slightly thickened, then add mushrooms, stir and serve immediately.

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“Crunchy Green Beans with Almonds and Butter!”  cries the smallest of my small ones.  Not that he’s very small any more, as he’s approaching his fifth birthday.  This is likely both my children’s very favorite vegetable, yet hell hath no fury if I run out of slivered almonds.

The proper name for the tiny french green beans is haricots verts (ah-ree-ko v-eh-rr).  That’s my personal pronunciation guide, so your mileage may vary.  As other children hustled off to Camp Longhorn or Mystic or Birch Knoll, I begged to go to French camp at Concordia Language Villages in central Minnesota.  Instead of soundly declaring me completely dorky, I prefer to think this an example of my endearingly bizarre nature.  Unfortunately, I can offer no tips on Spanish pronunciation, my husband declared me useless there years ago.  (I do think I’m improving with my Pimsler’s Spanish Audio Cds.)  In retrospect, I also went to computer engineering camp before my junior year in high school.  Only student not to get my 2 bit by 2 bit multiplier to work.  Yep, I think I’ve confirmed myself totally dorky.

Anyhow, these haricots verts are a super fast, healthy side, perfect for a weeknight.  I hope you enjoy them as much as my children and I do.  If you enjoy your shallots more caramelized – cook longer right after you add them.  Bon appetit!

Haricots Verts with Almonds Recipe

serves 5 adults

1 lb haricots verts, cleaned and ends trimmed

1 and 1/2 tbsp butter

2 large shallots, sliced into thin rings

1/2 c. blanched, slivered almonds

1/2 tsp kosher salt

12 turns fresh ground pepper

1/4 tsp dried oregano

Place a steamer basket or a colander over a pan of boiling water.  Place haricots verts in steamer basket and cover with a lid.  Steam for about 2 minutes then, taste to check tenderness.  When bright green, softened, but still crunchy – remove from heat and plunge into an ice bath to stop cooking.  This batch took approximately 2 minutes and 45 seconds.  They need to be *vibrant* green!

Drain haricots verts and pat dry with a towel.  Heat a saute pan over medium heat for three minutes.  Add butter, let melt, then add shallots.  Cook two minute, then add haricots verts and almonds.  Season with salt, pepper, and oregano.  Cook two more minutes, then serve.

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Chicken Tetrazzini Recipe

Blasted tech support.  I spent the whole day yesterday trying to get this post onto my site.  Someone asked me for a chicken tetrazzini recipe.  I can’t remember who it was, SMIL perhaps?  Someone else?  I haven’t made this in ages, so it took me awhile to track it down.  I don’t think I’ve attempted much in the way of casseroles since I was working in an office job six and a half years ago.

Yesterday I was migrating my website to a different server to correct the interminable slowness my site has been experiencing.  The first tech support call was great.  The second guy is responsible for the rampant hostility toward computer guys everywhere.  You know like the Nick Burns computer guy skit from Saturday Night Live.  I used to be Nick Burns – well hopefully I was less of a jerkhole, but that was my job.  At the end of the day, the site has been migrated and from my end all the issues seem resolved.  Please let me know if you continue to experience any time outs or slowness, and I’ll try to keep traceroutes, ping tests, and packet loss out of casual conversation.

I really was trying to be reasonable with the chicken tetrazzini.  I planned to make one for dinner and one for the freezer.  Found the recipe, then completely abandoned any potential for taking the easy road.  Cause I’m all from scratch, y’all.  Don’t feel compelled to fall victim to my insanity.  If you do, I recommend this as a Sunday project if you’re a working person or at least as a part of a larger meal plan.

My dear friend, Elizabeth, tried some Oprah meal planning awhile back.  In my memory it involved something like buying two rotisserie chickens, shredding them, then making four meals from the bounty.  I can’t remember much other than I don’t think she was wowed by the results.  My problem is we don’t really eat dark meat, so rotisseries don’t really provide a lot of shredded chicken.  Many things in cooking don’t translate into economies of scale but shredding chicken does.  No need to go all crazy and roast first, then boil the chicken like I did.  I was suffering from existential angst on Monday, forgive me.  I’ve been boiling split breasts for chicken soup for years with wonderful results, the extra roasting is so *not* necessary.  In any case, if you want to shred your own chicken, just get a large pot and do a bunch – like 8 or 10 large split breasts.  Then you can have shredded chicken and broth for Chicken and Goat Cheese Enchiladas or Chicken Stuffed Fried Avocados or Mediterranean Penne  or Chicken Salad or something of your very own creation.

Chicken Tetrazzini Recipe

adapted from Martha Stewart Everday Food April 2007

makes 2 casseroles, each having about 5-6 servings

5 split chicken breasts

kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

1 lb sliced white mushrooms

1/2 c. flour

3 c. 1% milk

3/4 c. dry white wine

3 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves

1 lb. linguine

10 oz. frozen petite peas

(Martha uses the shredded meat from a rotisserie chicken, if you go that route you’ll also need 2 c. of chicken broth)

In a large pot, cover split breasts with water, then add 2 teaspoons of salt and 16 turns fresh ground pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer for about an hour, then remove chicken to a bowl.  Using a two bowl system, remove the skin and bones from the split breasts with two forks, then move your chicken to clean bowl and shred.  Repeat until you’ve shredded all your chicken.  Reserve 2 cups of chicken broth.

In a heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter, then add sliced mushrooms.  Season mushrooms generously with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.  I sprinkle the whole surface, but you can use approx 1/2 teaspoons of salt as a guide.  Increase heat to high to brown mushrooms, stirring occasionally.  Wait for mushrooms to release all their water, then continue over high heat until nicely browned.  Remove mushrooms to a bowl.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a bowl.  Break linguine in half, then cook approx nine minutes until just slightly less than al dente.  Drain.

In the same skillet used to brown the mushrooms, melt remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, then add flour, stir, and brown for 2 minutes.  Add milk while whisking furiously, then add wine and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, then continue to cook over medium heat for 3 more minutes.  Whisk every 30 seconds or so.  Add a teaspoon of salt and 20 turns of fresh ground pepper, then 2 cups of the grated parmesan and the thyme.  Stir to combine, then adjust seasonings to taste.  This is the easiest place to mess up the recipe!  Be sure to season your sauce to taste.  The pasta, the chicken, and the peas are all pretty bland – all the flavor comes from the sauce!

In the now empty pasta pan, combine pasta, shredded chicken, browned mushrooms, peas, and sauce.  Stir until thoroughly coated.  Pour into two 8×8 glass pans.  Top with remaining cup of Parmesan.  Cover one pan with Saran wrap, then press down on casserole to create an airtight seal.  Freeze for up to two months.  Bake other casserole for 30 minutes at 400, until bubbly.  In full disclosure, I don’t use my freezer very often.  I’m not entirely sure what will happen when I cook the frozen one, but Martha says it’s freezer friendly so I believe her.  I’m guessing to thaw it in the fridge the day before, then cook it covered at 400 (30 min?), then uncovered  another 15-20 for browning.  I’ll let you know when I cook mine!

 

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To combat the inertia threatening to lock me in a culinary bell jar, I’ve been rereading an old stack of the now defunct Gourmet Magazine.  Looking for a flavor, an ingredient, a style I’d forgotten about, anything really.  I stumbled across a 2008 recipe for cumin-scented stir fried beef with celery.  The recipe looked intriguing and surprisingly quick to prepare.  I’ve never stir fried flank steak before, but I loved the way this turned out and will never again purchase they mystery grocery stir-fry cut.

I made only minor changes to the original recipe based on what ingredients I had on hand.  Never be afraid to make little changes!  If you wait to have everything on hand, you can never be spontaneous.  Though, I just realized my math was off when I was adjusting quantities so I halved all the seasonings.  Anyhow, this is how I prepared it, and we thought it was great.  If you’re cooking for children or my mother, you should probably half the amount of crushed red pepper shown below.  Otherwise when eaten with rice, I would call it only mildly spicy.  L.E. loved it, but Q was wary (spicy), so use your best judgement.

Spiced Flank Steak and Stir Fry with Celery Recipe

serves 2

2/3 lb flank steak

2 and 1/2 tsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp cornstarch

kosher salt

2 tbsp sake (extra dry Ginjo Hananomai – you could also use dry sherry, dry vermouth, or Chinese rice wine)

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

ground ginger

3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced

1/8 tsp cumin seeds

1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

3 stalks celery, sliced diagonally 1/2 inch thick

Slice the flank steak in half following the grain.  Slice flank steak against the grain into slices about 1/8th of an inch thick.  Place beef slices in a bowl and stir with 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce, 1/4 tsp cornstarch, and a pinch (really just a pinch – this will be plenty salty!) of kosher salt.  In a separate bowl combine remaining 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch, and sake.

Heat a heavy bottomed skillet over high heat until it is very hot.  Add 1 tbsp of grapeseed oil, then swirl to coat skillet evenly.  Cook half of the beef slices – making sure to lay slices flat in only one layer.  Test one slice after about 30 seconds and flip if browned.  Transfer to a plate when browned – flank steak slices will cook for a total of just about 1 minute.  Add remaining teaspoon of grapeseed oil and repeat with second batch. Set cooked flank steak aside.

Turn off the heat on the skillet.  Add 3-4 heavy shakes of the ground ginger.  This will smell very pungent – to the point where you’ll wonder if you’ve over done it, but fear not.  Add garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes, then return heat to almost high and stir fry for about 15 seconds.  Add the celery and stir fry for 1 minute.  Add back reserved beef and and accumulated juices; stir.  Stir reserved soy/sake mixture, then add to skillet and stir.  Stir-fry all together about a minute longer, then serve.

 

 

 

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It’s been an absurdly long time since I posted a new recipe.  It really wasn’t intentional; I’ve just been doing other things.  Many people asked if I stopped cooking or was quitting the blog.  As for cooking, no I haven’t stopped, just suffered from a lull in creativity and perhaps from over committing.  As for the blog, I never intended to stop writing.  I got a new computer, was slow to transfer things over, then looked up and half of summer had passed.

What have I been up to the last six months?  Inertia.  Does that ever happen to anyone else?  I wish I had more to report, just enjoying life mainly.  As for culinary endeavors, here are a few of the best meals we had this summer.  Martha Stewart’s Thai Chicken and Noodle Salad – Click where it says Spicy Asian Dressing for the recipe, do *not* leave out the mint, and if you’re feeling courageous – boil the chicken then hand shred (same method as my Chicken Enchiladas), then marinate the pulled chicken and warm in a saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes.  If you’re not feeling courageous, you could always buy a rotisserie chicken and shred that, then toss with the marinade and heat.  In any scenario, the result was great!  The Italian Beef Stew from Jan/Feb issue of Cooking Light was shockingly good.  Shockingly, because I almost never want to make *anything* from Cooking Light, but I keep taking the magazine for years on end.  Just remember to add your fresh herbs right at serving time, otherwise they’ll be browner than green.  So much prettier that way.  And of course tons of shrimp.  If you haven’t tried my Roasted Shrimp with Chimichurri sauce, you should.  It’s probably my most requested dish this year.  Roasting the shrimp is covered in this post, and you can find my favorite chimichurri recipe here.

This chicken was a quick weekday night meal for us.  Roasting split breasts does take nearly an hour, but you can half that with your convection setting or use skinless, boneless for a similar meal in less time.  If you go that route – I’d use this style for braised chicken breasts.

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Artichokes, Mushrooms, and Capers

serves 3 adults

3 chicken split breasts

olive oil

kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

paprika

1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained, and quartered

8 oz cremains mushrooms, sliced

1 tbsp butter

1/4 tsp oregano leaves

3 tbsp capers

1/4 c. Madeira wine

1/4 c. water

2 tbsp chopped Italian Parsley

Preheat oven to 425.  Place chicken breasts in a heavy bottomed skillet skin side up, then drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with kosher salt, pepper, and paprika.  Roast chicken in oven approx 45 minutes, then start checking internal temperature.  The larger sizes tend to take just under an hour to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.  Remove from oven and cover your handle with a handle sleeve.  (You can use a towel or hot pad, but if you’re anything like me – you’ll suffer at least 3 burns in the process.  Save your skin and buy a sleeve!)

Remove chicken breasts to a cutting board to rest.  Heat skillet over medium heat to reduce the pan juices.  (You can skim any visible fat at this point if you’re counting calories!)  Use a wooden spatula to scrape up all the brown bits.  When juices are reduced by half (approx 3-5 minutes), reduce heat to low and add artichoke hearts, stir.  In a separate skillet, melt 1 tbsp of butter, 1/4 tsp kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp oregano leaves.  Brown cremini mushrooms until thoroughly browned, then remove from heat and set aside.  Add capers, Madeira and water to artichoke mixture, then stir until combined.  Heat 2 minutes, then add creminis and stir.  Just before serving, stir in chopped parsley, let rest no more than one minute.  Plate chicken breasts, then spoon sauce over the top.  Enjoy!

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One of our tried and true staples back since my Round Rock days has been beer can chicken. First and foremost, who doesn’t love a recipe that starts off 1) Open beer, 2) Drink half… (I feel like Jim Belushi in the Johnsonville Brats commercial.) As summer lurks just around the corner, it’s time to get back to grilling. If the idea of roasting a whole chicken scares you – this is a super easy way to prepare it perfectly every time. The chicken is so tender and moist – probably the hardest part of your process is lighting your grill!

As for grill lighting, I’m becoming the master. After a tragic winter of failed attempts at chiminea lighting, I simply won’t be outdone by my grill. Incidentally, I can not believe I haven’t blogged about my awesome new grill/smoker combo. Mr. Richard bought this mammoth grill then only used it three times, at the end of the day, realized his vision was merely a pipe dream and lovingly passed the grill to me. Because of course I want/need a way to cook for a small army at one time. Back to the point, if you’ve been thwarted when lighting a charcoal grill, look no further. This method is absolutely fool proof. First, you need a chimney starter.  Next, you need lighter cubes.  You can light it using newspaper coiled into tubes in the bottom of the chimney starter, but if you live with someone like me, all newspaper is instantly recycled upon delivery.

To start, open the grate, pour in most of your charcoal into a small group, but no more than to about two briquettes deep.  My grill has two grates, if yours only has one, hopefully it will swing open halfway, otherwise, I don’t know what to tell you.  Place two lighter cubes on the remaining grate, then place the chimney starter on top.  Pour a small bunch (15? briquettes) onto the top grate of the chimney starter.  Light the cubes and then wait about 10 minutes until the large flames begin to die down.  Use a heavy potholder glove to dump the freshly lit coals onto the waiting pile in grill.  Wait about 20 minutes and you will have a piping hot fire, that’s hot, but not too hot.

If you’re a boy scout reading this, you’re surely laughing at my step-by-step breakdown of charcoal kindling.  And embarrassed by my necessity of gear and equipment.  But I’m neither a boy nor a scout (I don’t think that brief stint in Brownies counts) and even though I’ve done this a bunch of times, I still have to look up directions from Google.  Heaven help me, I could have never made it before the Internet, I’m certain I would have simply starved on the spot.

Beer Can Chicken on the Grill

serves 4

1 whole roasting chicken, giblets removed, rinsed, and patted dry

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp paprika

1 tsp garlic salt

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp kosher salt

1/8 tsp cayenne

12 turns fresh ground pepper

1 beer in can

2 wedges lemon

3 cloves garlic, chopped

Prepare a grill.  Use the instructions above to light charcoal grill until coals are nearly completely white or turn a gas grill on medium high.  Open beer, I of course, prefer Bud Light, but please use your beer of choice.  Drink half the can.

Mix together all the spices in a small bowl, then rub all over the skin.  Squeeze the lemon juices into remaining beer and add chopped garlic.  Place beer on grill, then lower the chicken onto the beer can so the bottom of the drumsticks are standing tripod fashion on the the grill.  That’s it!  This will need to cook for about an hour on the grill, check for an internal temperature of 165, being sure not to press the thermometer to the beer can.  When you’ve reached this temperature, we use a combo of turkey forks to remove chicken and tongs to slide out the beer can and leave it on the grill.  Be gentle!  The chicken is unbelievably tender and the bones will pop right out!

Enjoy!

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It’s possible my children are aliens.  Or perhaps that’s just the announcement of the 3rd snow day in a row talking.  Either way, the four year old cried at dinner that what he really wanted was flounder and wilted spinach.  It took me almost a quarter century to delve into seafood, and I’m still blaming the Scarsdale Diet.  Somewhere circa 1st or 2nd grade, I’m pretty sure my parents attempted something called the Scarsdale Diet at least a couple of times.  All I remember is fish with lemon.  Gross.  After googling, it appears you are only required to eat fish about twice a week, but that conjured hell on earth for 7 year old me.  Luckily my children were born with their father’s palate and will more often than not eat most anything offered.

Now that I’m a mature, over quarter century old gal ; ) I love seafood.  It’s great for you, quick to prepare, and readily available in my neck of the woods.

Since I can’t eat at Neighborhood Services every night, I included my guess at their wilted spinach.  I love and crave their wilted spinach, but it’s been pointed out that at times I can be a bit fanatical.  At the end of the day, Popeye loves it so perhaps you will too.

Flounder Fillets

(serves 4)

1.5 lbs flounder fillets (more weight if they have skin on one side)

1 tbsp butter

3 tsp olive oil

kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

juice of one lemon

My flounder came in three fillets at this weight.  You can do this in all olive oil if you’re so inclined but it is such a mild fish, I think the butter makes a world of difference.  Rinse fillets and pat dry.  Season fillets with a generous sprinkling of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on each side.

Heat a stainless skillet over medium high heat for 2 minutes.  Add 1/3 of your butter and 1 teaspoon of olive oil, then turn heat down to medium.  Allow butter to melt.  Brown one fillet for 2 minutes, then flip with a wide spatula.  Ensure that the edges are opaque before flipping.  Pour 1/3 of juice from one lemon after flipping, then brown second side for 1-2 minutes.  Add a 1/3 more of the butter and 1 more teaspoon olive oil then repeat process.

Serve and enjoy.

Lemon-Garlic Wilted Spinach

(serves 3)

The hardest part about wilted spinach is the sheer amount of spinach leaves you need to wilt.  When they cook they shrink so much that it’s easy to under prepare!  If you’re trying to cook a larger quantity you’ll need a HUGE skillet.  You only want the spinach to touch the surface for a very brief time.

1 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly

8 oz fresh baby spinach

1 tsp kosher salt

8 turns fresh ground pepper

Heat skillet over medium high for 2 minutes.  Add olive oil wait 30 seconds, then add garlic slivers cook about 1 minute until fragrant.  Add spinach leaves and flip continuously with tongs.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss and pour lemon  juice.  Toss and serve when barely wilted – less than 2 minutes total cook time!

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