Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Childhood Throwback: Ranch Oyster Crackers

Certain foods just exude memories of childhood. Seems just like yesterday I was popping Bagel Bites in the toaster oven and picking off those creepy square pepperoni pieces one by one...Or, eating the cornbread coating of the corn dog, sans hot dog. Apparently I liked things 'just so' by a very young age!

Ranch Oyster Crackers

I distinctly remember one of the grade school homeroom mothers always made ranch oyster crackers. I'm not sure why or for what occasion, but all I know is that I ate them a lot and my mom surely didn't make them! The other day I got an intense craving for them and was pleased to find they weren't just a figment of my imagination. And, 20-some odd years later, they're just as tasty as I remember.

Try these zesty crackers in a bowl of chili. Its an utter delight.

Homeroom Ranch Oyster Crackers
1 1oz. package Ranch dressing mix
1/2 teaspoon dill
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper (optional)
1/4 cup canola oil
5 cups oyster crackers

Preheat oven to 250 degrees
1. In a large bowl, combine ranch, dill, garlic powder, lemon pepper and oil. Stir until well combined.
2. Add oyster crackers and toss gently until crackers are evenly covered with seasoning.
3. Spread crackers evenly on a cookie sheet and bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Gently stir about half way through baking.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Spicy Parmesan Green Beans and Kale & Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays everyone! Being a relative newcomer to California, I still have a hard time adjusting to a warm & sunny Christmas. Where's the snow, people? Luckily (or unluckily) our house is so poorly insulated that we will probably spend our nights sipping hot cocoa and wearing fuzzy slippers anyway. Here's to wishing all of you warm and cozy nights with your family :)

This yummy & healthy dish is my new holiday favorite. Surprisingly, this veggie dish was the hit of our Thanksgiving spread (I'm still partial to dessert, of course) and I plan on bringing it to Christmas dinner at our friends' house tomorrow. Sauteed kale, green beans and mushrooms are nicely spiced with red pepper flakes, lemon and Parmesan cheese. It doesn't get much easier than this, folks!

Have a very Merry Christmas and stay warm!

Spicy Parmesan Green Beans and Kale
adapted from my favorite cook I love to hate (Giada)

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered (about 14 mushrooms)
1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and slice into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used a 1/4 teaspoon)
1 bunch kale (1/2 pound), rinsed, stemmed, and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan + extra for sprinkling

1. Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, mushrooms, green beans, salt, and pepper and cook for 2 minutes.

2. Add the wine and continue cooking until the green beans are almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and the kale and continue cooking until the kale has wilted, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and the Parmesan cheese. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan to taste and serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Foodie Gift Guide

Hope your Christmas shopping is going well! For those go-getters out there, it must be quite satisfying to sit back and relax while you watch the rest of us scurry around in a frenzy. While I am not quite finished, I have never been more grateful for the internet. Since most of our gift recipients live elsewhere, I've come to rely on the internet for 99.99% of my shopping.

For anyone with a foodie on their Christmas list, here's a few ideas that personally leave me salivating, intrigued, or feeling guilty because its the season of giving, (not gift giving for myself!):

Lava Lake Lamb

Lava Lake Ranch raises 100% grass fed free-range lambs. And when I say free-range, just think that these guys have grazing lands that extend over 800,000 acres! I was lucky enough to try the Rosemary Garlic Lamb Sausage and let me tell you it was heavenly. The seasonings were just right to compliment, but not detract from the meat. Served with some veggies and Crash Hot Potatoes, this was just about a perfect meal.

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Though I consider myself fairly educated about what I eat, the virtues of sustainable farming and slow food, I was nonetheless utterly fascinated by this book. Pollan's book forces you to face the fact that so few of us really consider what we eat on a daily basis.

Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer
I'm not sure if I need to give a testimonial for the true greatness of this mixer, but if you're still in the dark you must buy one! Th
ere are quite a few models to chose from - ranging from the simple to the fancy schmancy.

Ebelskiver Filled-Pancake Pan
If you're really loved by someone, buy them this pancake pan and wait around until they make you a tasty morsel. I mean, how could you say no to fluffy delicious-ness. I've been coveting this guy for quite awhile now.
Magnetic Spice Rack Board

If you're any type of foodie, you probably have an absurd number of spices, artisan salts and rubs. If you're anything like me, you probably have spices falling out of drawers and lazy susans and you're continually asking yourself "where the hell is the {insert spice name here}?!" This magnetic board comes to the rescue. Not only is it cute, but no more cussing needed.

Hearst Ranch Grass Fed Beef
I'm not what you'd call a meat eater, but I can certainly appreciate some good looking steaks. If I'm buying you a present this year and you're reading this guide, you uh, may or may not be receiving some cows in the mail. Along with aged steaks and hamburgers, they also sell artisan sauces and jerky. Yum!

Happy Holidays to you and your favorite foodie!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie Turnovers

Let's be honest. What's better than chicken pot pie?

Chicken Pot Pie Turnover**Ahem, eating chicken pot pie out of your hands, of course!**

Maybe its just me but taking any culinary classic and modifying it for portability is culinary genius (think Mickey D's handheld apple pies!). And thanks to the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program and the fine folks at Challenge Dairy butter, I had some delicious ingredients on hand to make a one of a kind, creative dish.

Though chicken pot pie is really nothing new or cutting edge, I thought I'd spice up the filling with grilled chicken seasoned with beau monde seasoning, a blend of celery, onion and salt, and smoked paprika for a little extra zing.

Chicken Pot Pie TurnoverI've seen pot pie topped with pastry pie dough, biscuits, and cornbread, so I thought I'd give puff pastry a try for a change. I ended up loving these turnovers for the crust to filling ratio. I've always been a fan of the crust top, but not bottom, so this is just perfect for me. Flaky goodness all around. Delicious. And portable. Yum.

Chicken Pot Pie Turnovers
1 package Pepperidge Farms frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed on counter for 30-40 minutes
1 lb chicken tenders, cubed
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 teaspoon beau monde seasoning
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1/3 cup diced onion
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 can reduced fat cream of mushroom or celery soup
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon corn starch

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet or saucepan, melt 1 tbsp butter over medium heat. Sprinkle beau monde seasoning, paprika, salt and pepper on to chicken. Saute chicken until golden brown on all sides. Remove chicken from skillet.

Add remaining tablespoon of butter to skillet and saute carrots and onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Add mixed vegetables and sprinkle veggies with garlic powder. Stir for 2 minutes. Return chicken to pan.

Add soup and chicken broth to pan and simmer until warm and well combined, about 4 minutes. Combine corn starch with enough water to make a thick paste. Add to chicken/veggie mixture and continue to stir until thickened. Remove mixture from heat and allow to cool.

On a floured suface, roll puff pastry sheets into an 11-12inch square. Be sure not to roll dough to thinly. Cut each sheet into 4 squares.

Spoon mixture evenly among squares. Brush edges of square with water and fold over to create triangle. Place on 2 separate baking sheets.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

If you happen to have a great recipe idea more exciting than portable chicken pot pie, try entering the 1,2,3 Puff! Recipe contest or a chance for a trip to Montana!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Soft Potato Quick Rolls

After consecutive days of being unable to breathe due to an unfortunate constriction in my waistband, I began to seriously second guess my holiday gluttony. I love my family but more importantly, my family loves to eat. After a yummy Thanksgiving feast and days of shuttling my parents around to each of our favorite restaurants in town, things were surely getting a little tight. Luckily, I awoke this morning to discover that my pants had finally granted me a freebie by stretching out so I can resume eating leftovers. {{sigh of relief}}.

Soft Quick Dinner Rolls
Last night hubby and I desperately wanted turkey sandwiches but could not subject ourselves to a 10th grocery store trip in a week. I scoured the internet for a quick sandwich roll recipe and found several using a common theme of potato flakes, onion powder, yeast and a muffin tin. With a total rise time of about 50 minutes (split between two sessions), these rolls were ready right before bed time, a perfect time to gorge on bread, dont you think?

I must say i'm desperately in love with this easy recipe. I added Parmesan cheese, used roasted garlic potato flakes and threw in a little extra sugar. Next time, I may try adding real garlic and some cheese. The possibilities are endless!

Soft Potato Quick Rolls
adapted from Allrecipes and King Arthur's Flour

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup dry roasted garlic potato flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar and stir. Add potato flakes, salt, egg, oil, onion powder, cheese and 1 cup of the flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in remaining flour. Continue stirring until smooth, scraping batter from sides of bowl.

Cover and let dough rise in warm place until doubled, about 20 to 30 minutes. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups.

Once risen, punch down dough. Spoon dough evenly into greased muffin cups. Let rise until batter reaches tops of cups, or about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bake for 15 minutes.