Monday, February 20, 2012

Blueberry Muffins

 It's a two post kind of day, since I am on mid-winter break from school right now and it was my last day off before heading to work tomorrow. And what a surprise, another recipe from good ol' Martha Stewart.  I have been dying to make something with my muffin/cupcake pan I bought around Christmas time and finally decided on these muffins. I figured since lately I've been having trouble forcing myself to get up and make breakfast before work, these would be prefer to grab on the go this week. One thing I noticed about this recipe is that I had some batter left over that I just couldn't squeeze in anywhere - it was probably one or two muffins worth. I'm not sure what I would change to prevent that from happening, but just be aware that you might not be able to cram all of your batter into your muffin tins.

Blueberry Muffins (from Martha Stewart)
Yields 12 muffins

You will need:

  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 3 cups + 2 tbsp of all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 egg and 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup milk (I used 1/2%)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups blueberries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and butter your muffin pan (I used a 12 tin, although recipe states you could also use a 6-tin pan for large muffins). Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar on medium until smooth and fluffy. Add in vanilla, egg and egg yolks, beating well to combine. Turning your mixer down to the low setting, and alternate adding flour mixture and milk to the bowl. Be sure to start and end with the flour mixture. Finally, remove bowl from the mixer and gently fold in blueberries by hand. Distribute the batter to your muffin tins - we found it a bit easier to use an ice cream scoop to do this evenly. Each tin holds about 2 scoops worth of batter. Sprinkle the tops of muffins generously with additional sugar.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until edges are browned (and blueberries oozing!). Allow to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy your delicious (although a bit unhealthy) breakfast for the next week - I know I will!


Dinner Tonight: Chicken Stir-Fry Wraps

I had tried a new recipe recently and it did NOT turn out well. But this one turned out on the first try and it was super simple! I think I set a record in the kitchen for quickest turn around time for a new recipe today. This couldn't have taken me more than 20-25 minutes including all of the prep. I think that this recipe would also be a fun one to play around with because it is so simple. You could probably add a multitude of different types of stir-fryable veggies, and you could easily sub tofu, pork, or thinly sliced flank steak perhaps?

Once again, I am still a newbie in the kitchen and so I use a lot of short cuts and eliminate things that I am not familiar with. This recipe calls for grated fresh ginger, and I considered trying to figure out how much ground ginger I could use instead, but in the end I opted to leave it out. I also cheated and used my trusty jarred minced garlic instead of fresh cloves. It's another Martha Stewart recipe - I am kind of obsessed, I'll admit it. I've been collecting recipes from her site for about two years now and I still have loads to test out!

Chicken Stir-Fry Wraps (slightly adapted from Martha Stewart)
Serves 3-4

You will need:

  • 3-4 chicken breasts, halved horizontally and thinly sliced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, rib and seeds removed, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp jarred minced garlic 
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp water
  • 2-4 tbsp oil
  • salt & pepper
  • iceberg lettuce leaves, (or rice) for serving
Heat 1-2 tbsp of oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat, add chicken breast slices to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Stirring constantly, cook until chicken is golden brown on edges and opaque in the center. Remove to a plate.

Add remaining oil to the pan along with red pepper and onion. Cook, stirring constantly, until onion is golden brown and soft. Reduce heat to medium, and add garlic and red pepper flakes, heating until just fragrant (about a minute). Add rice vinegar, soy sauce, and cornstarch-water mixture; stir to combine until sauce starts to thicken. Finally, add chicken and any juices back to the pan, and stir to completely coat. 

Serve this meal in lettuce wraps (how I ate it), or overtop of rice (how the husband ate it). We also had some pineapple on the side and the flavors actually complemented each other well!


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dinner Tonight: Chicken Parmesan

Here is another SUPER easy recipe that I would consider a go-to for the husband and I. It is especially good for those of you that are in need of a low-budget meal. I almost always have all of the ingredients I need on hand. If you want to be really fancy, you could of course make your own sauce - but jarred sauce is what we always use and I have never looked back. Maybe someday I'll be more daring and make my own.

Bear with me on the measurements for this recipe - I eyeball everything typically and add more or less if it seems like it needs it. So these are just rough estimates of what I *think* I use...feel free to experiment!

You will need:
  • 2-4 chicken breasts cutlets
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (I usually prefer shredded, but grated works just as well)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 jar of pasta sauce
  • A few ounces of spaghetti or other type of pasta - as much as your heart desires!
  • Extra Parmesan cheese, for topping

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and put a pot of water on to boil. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray (for easy clean-up). Divide flour, egg, and breadcrumbs into three separate bowls. Add Parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs and stir. Wash and trim chicken breasts, then dip first in flour, then egg, and finally coat with the breadcrumb/cheese mixture. Place the chicken on the baking sheet, and repeat with each chicken breast. Cook in the oven for about 20 minutes.

While the chicken is in the oven, boil your pasta and warm your jarred pasta sauce. When everything is ready, layer pasta, chicken, and then sauce, and top with extra Parmesan cheese. Serve with a salad or mixed veggies, maybe even some garlic toast or breadsticks. And done! Dinner in less than 30 minutes and all with ingredients you already have on hand. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dinner Tonight: Lighter Sesame Chicken


Ah, the elusive sesame seeds. Traditionally, you would expect sesame seeds to be involved with sesame chicken, but for whatever reason I just haven't been able to find them at the grocery store. Granted, I only tried to look once and then never again, but even so this recipe has never disappointed. Another staple at our house, the sauce is what really makes this recipe phenomenal. Add to that the lightly breaded, tender chicken chunks, crisp broccoli, and steaming rice and you've got a Chinese take-out style meal that is much healthier for you!

This recipe, slightly adapted from Martha Stewart, claims to serve 4, but typically the husband and I cut out one chicken breast and devour all of it ourselves! If you tend to show bit more restraint, you could possibly stretch this to 3 servings. Another note is that this recipe calls for scallions, which I omitted this time around (by accident).  The recipe is still great either way, and since the ingredients in general are typically easy to find in your cupboard, I wouldn't run out and buy scallions just for this recipe. It will taste great either way!

You will need:
  • 2-3 small chicken breasts (or 4-5 chicken breast tenderloin)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed (or 1/2 tsp jarred minced garlic)
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1-2 bunches of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 3/4 cup of rice (preferably brown, but I only had white on hand)
  • sesame seeds and chopped scallions, if desired
Start out by cooking your rice according to the instructions on the package. I decided to make a full cup of rice just to ensure my measurements according to the package were correct and then save the leftovers for another meal.

Chop broccoli into florets, set aside. Chop chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks, about 2-inches.
In a small bowl, combine honey, soy sauce, garlic, and red pepper flakes, set that aside.
In another small-medium sized bowl, combine cornstarch and egg white, drop chicken chunks into the bowl, and mix so that the chicken is covered in batter.

Heat a large saucepan with 2 tbsp of oil over medium-high heat. Drop chicken chunks an inch or two apart, turning occasionally until the outside is golden brown and inside is opaque. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to work in batches. Once the chicken is golden brown, transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add broccoli to pan, (add a bit more oil if needed) and cook about 1-2 minutes, stirring. (Conversely, you can steam the broccoli as indicated by the actual recipe via the link above)

Return chicken to pan, pour sauce over chicken and broccoli mixture, add scallions if desired. Let chicken and sauces meld together on medium-low for about 3-4 minutes. Serve over rice.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dinner Tonight: Grilled Lemon Chicken with Oven Fries

This meal is a staple in our household - I began cooking it long ago and it still graces our table at least 1-2 times per month. We have had a variety of different sides with this chicken, including baked potatoes or rice. The chicken itself is very quick. Highly recommend if you are looking for an easy weeknight meal. (And please excuse the dreadful phone picture.)

For the chicken you will need...

  • 2-4 chicken breasts (depending on how many people you are feeding or if you want leftovers)
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (fresh is best)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp jarred minced garlic)
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
Whisk together all ingredients into a marinade, add the chicken breasts, and let soak for 20 minutes-1 hour. We grill our chicken breasts on a George Foreman grill, but I don't see any reason why you couldn't use a grill pan or bake them. Cook for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally, and voila! Quick and painless dinner.

We had them with these oven fries (adapted from Martha Stewart)
  • 3-4 russet potatoes
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • Mrs. Dash seasoning, to taste
Wash and scrub potatoes, then cut into thick wedges and place in a bowl of cold water while oven preheats to 425. Once preheated, drain water and pat potatoes dry with paper towels. I also dry the bowl off and add the olive oil and seasoning to the bottom. In small quantities, add potatoes to bowl, toss in oil & spices, and then transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes until desired crispiness, turning occasionally.

We added a side salad, but this meal would also go great with some breadsticks or rolls. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Superbowl/Madonna

I have a few thoughts on the Madonna half-time show.

First, I am not a fan of Madonna.

Second, there were a lot of performers on that stage that I actually would have liked to see in their own element separate from her.

Third, the acrobats/dancers appeared to be more talented than her lip-syncing self. It wasn't like she was doing so much dancing that she couldn't save enough air to actually sing the songs.

Fourth, dancing with LMFAO...I felt like I was watching my mom doing embarrassing karaoke! That was just dreadful. I was sort of wondering if it was supposed to be funny? She just seemed very out of place in that moment.

Sixth, her voice is so average! Like if she went and tried out for American Idol tomorrow as a no-name I don't think she would make it. I'm so confused by this - I know back in the 80s she was uber popular as far as being a performer goes but on voice talent I'm just not hearing it.

Finally, I'm noticing a trend in which one person complains about the annoyance that was her half-time performance with the comeback - "yeah but she's like 53 and she looks amazing and I wish I looked that great go Madonna!"

...???!!!

What does that have to do with performing at the Superbowl? That's wonderful that she looks so young at 53. Just fantastic. I'm glad she's kept in such amazing shape. However, that is something totally different. I didn't like her voice, or her songs, or her dance numbers. Period.

And I never liked them, so I guess it should be no surprise that I wasn't impressed by this half-time show.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Weekly Menu

Hey all! I kind of went a little wild with menu planning today (why do I love it so?) and decided to challenge myself to trying out an abundance of new recipes in the coming months. This week's meal plan is nothing new at all since I've already done the grocery shopping for it, but next week I will be ready to expand my newfound hobby.

You may notice that some of these recipes are awfully familiar...that is because the husband and I are bad, bad people who sometimes just say "whatever, I'm not cooking" and pretty much eat out the entire week. Or have sandwiches and eggo waffles instead of cooking. So, if you page down a little ways you will find that the menu plan is pretty much identical to last week's. Sigh. But here they are:

Su: lighter sesame chicken, extra rice and broccoli

M: crockpot beef stew (I froze 1/2 of the recipe I made earlier last month) over egg noodles

T: DIY/Take-out night

W: sausage with garlic lentils, salad

Th: chicken parmesan with pasta and salad

F: eating at my parents' house for my brother's birthday (which is actually today!)

Sa: leftovers

Hope you all have a great week full of lots of yummy food, too!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

poor puppy

Gosh, I feel like I'm just full of happy things to say lately. Here is a lovely story for you about my drive in to work today.

I was nearly to work, driving on a four lane road that was about 45 mph (everyone was going more like 50 though) when I see a tiny little golden brown dog start bounding across the street. I'm not sure if he was a Yorkie or not, but he was about that size. The other side of the road was clear of cars, but the side that I was on had a grouping of cars coming just up the way. I slammed on the brakes and luckily missed the car. The car next to me wasn't so quick though - in fact, they didn't even attempt to stop! I watched in horror as the car continued on at the same speed, running over the poor puppy with both front and rear left side tires. The puppy was literally spinning around rapidly on the spot, just like a car spinning out on ice.

I was initially in shock, watching the poor dog laying still and incredibly worried that it was gone. I pulled over into the center lane, and glancing in my rearview mirror noticed that another couple of cars had also pulled over to help. As soon as I got out of the car and looked over to the dog, I saw him bounding back across the street, yelping and crying REALLY loudly. The guy behind me said "well, I guess that's that!" and got back into his car. My heart sank though - there is no way this dog wasn't injured. I'm shocked that he was able to not only get up, but run just as rapidly as he was before the accident down a side street. The sound of his yelping pretty much solidified my feelings that this dog was hurt.

At this point, I got back into my car and didn't know what to do next. I started back on the drive to work and called the first place I could think of - a nearby animal rescue. I didn't know the exact side street's name, but I knew the general area and figured they could hopefully send someone out to look for him. I had no clue how far he might get. The number rang...and rang...and rang...until an answering service mentioned the hours of 10:45 to 4. No option to leave a message. It was 8:30 AM when this poor dog was hit! Who knows where he might be 3 hours later!

So I gave up. I didn't know what else to do apart from calling 911 (is that legit? to call 911 on a dog accident?) or going to find him myself. I feel really guilty, like I should have done more or should have gone after him. I mostly feel angry that the car who hit him didn't even ATTEMPT to slow down. And supposing they didn't see the dog, they certainly would have felt the impact. No slowing, no stopping, no  nothing.

That poor dog. I hope he's okay. I hope he's found his way home...although I'm seriously doubtful that this dog even has a home.