Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jalepeno Cheese Corn Muffins, take 2

A while ago I tried to find a recipe similar to one used by California Cafe. This isn't it, either, but it's really good and easier than the last one I tried (in May). I would absolutely make these again.

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
3 tbsp sugar (you could cut this to 2, but I like the "crunch" added to the crust of these when you use more sugar)
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup buttermilk (or yogurt)
4 oz melted butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup jalepeno pepper (I just bought a good-sized jalepeno and chopped it up, but you could use jarred jalepenos if needed)
1 cup cheddar cheese (low fat ok)

Pre-heat oven to 400 and grease a muffin tin.

Mix dry ingredients together. Add buttermilk (or yogurt), melted butter, and egg. Mix to combine (do not overmix).

Gently stir in the cheese and jalepenos.

Spoon into muffin tin and bake 20-25 minutes until well risen and pale golden brown.

Enjoy! These are great with chili!

Italian Sausage, Red Pepper, and Mushroom Risotto

Oh, risotto. You are so delicious. If only I didn't have to stand and stir you the whole time you cooked.

But I will, because you are delicious.

This risotto is a good main dish for a cold day. Excellent comfort food--not low-fat!

5 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp butter
8 oz Italian sausage, casing removed (or use ground sausage)
3/4 cup finely chopped onion (I used a red onion but I think yellow would be better)
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
4 oz white button mushrooms, coarsely chopped. I do not like the texture of mushrooms, but the last time I made something and left them out the recipe was noticeably missing something. Since it's purely a texture thing I decided to chop some mushrooms up really really really really really really small and try it out. I think they were a good addition, but I'd not include the whole 4 oz next time. Maybe 2 was enough.
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley as a garnish, if desired

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Cover the broth and keep warm over low heat.

Now, that is how you are SUPPOSED to make risotto--warm the broth and add it warm to your rice. I, however, am lazy and don't want to dirty another pan, so I usually warm it in the measuring cup and add it that way. It's not as warm as it should be, but it's warmer than room temperature. I'm sure this causes great damage to the risotto, but it always tastes fine to me.

You do what works for you.

In a large heavy saucepan or dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sauseage and saute, crumbling, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms and saute until tender, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, about 8 minutes. Season with salt & pepper.

Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute.

Add 1/2 cup broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 min. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and alowin geach addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 25-30 minutes total. Remove from heat.

Stir in 3/4 of the Parmesan. Transfer to a servign bowl and sprinkle with parsley and remaining Parmesan.

I thought this was awesome. The little geeks refused to taste it, which really annoyed me ("it's cheese and rice! You LIKE cheese and rice!!). The Big Geek got stuck at work that night and ate some when he got home, but I don't know if he really liked it or just ate it because he was hungry. However, since I plan the meals, do the shopping, cook the meals, and clean up after the meals, I will probably make this again.

Fondue Favorites

The Big Geek and I love fondue. What's not to love--melted cheese and stuff to dip into it? It's awesome. When we have a fondue party, I like to make one traditional fondue and one cheddar-beer fondue. Both are good, and are suited for dipping different things. These are my favorites so far:

Swiss Three-Cheese Fondue

1/2 lb grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 lb grated Emmentaler cheese
3 oz (1/2 cup) grated Appenzeller cheese
1 clove garlic
1 cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp kirsch (Kirschwasser)
white pepper to taste
nutmeg to taste

Rub the inside of a medium saucepan (or the fondue pot) with the peeled garlic clove. Throw away garlic clove. Add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

In a medium bowl, mix the cheeses with the cornstarch and toss. Stir the cheese mixture into the wine mixture one small handful at a time, making sure each handful is melted before adding another (try stirring in figure 8s). Do not let the mixture boil (a little bubbling is ok). Season with the nutmeg and pepper, and stir in the kirsch.

I like this one best with chunks of crusty bread, cooked broccoli, roasted potato wedges, or crisp cooked carrot.

German Cheddar and Beer Fondue:

10 oz (2 1/2 cups) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
4-6 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded (1-1 1/2 cups)
1 rounded Tbsp flour
1 cup German lager
2 Tbsp spicy brown mustard
a few drops of hot sauce
a few drops of Worcestershire sauce

In a bowl combine the cheeses and flour. Add the beer to a small pot (or the fondue pot) and bring up to a bubble over medium heat. Reduce the heat to simmer and add the cheese in small handfuls, stirring constantly. When the cheese has been incorporated fully, stir in the mustard, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.

I like this one best with green apple slices, small sausages or slices of sausage, and crusty bread.

I like to make the fondue in the fondue pot on the stove. Your ability to do this depends greatly on the type of fondue pot you have. I suggest a cast iron or enamel pot, not a thin metal one.

Obviously, this is not a great meal choice for little geeks since long sharp forks are involved. We like to do this with friends or on our own after the little geeks are in bed.

Also: this is NOT the time to decide to count fat grams. Use full-fat cheese. If you're worried about doing that, then you probably shouldn't have fondue. On the plus side, if you don't dip bread or potatoes it's low-carb. . .

Sam's Casablanca Chicken

I love Facebook. I mean, where else can you find out what happened to that person from high school, get parenting advice from an old college friend, AND get recipes from someone you don't often see "in real life." That's where I got this recipe: a facebook friend posted it with thanks to someone I don't know--presumably a friend of hers.

I held onto it for a while because it doesn't seem all that kid-friendly and I wasn't even sure The Big Geek would eat it. Well, as it turns out the little geeks ate the chicken and the noodles, and TBG and I really enjoyed it. By the time everything cooks you don't even realize there is eggplant in it, and the flavors combine to make something pretty darned tasty. I had prepared myself for a struggle at dinner but it turned out just fine.

The other great thing about this recipe is you make it in the crock pot--perfect for long days, because you come home to a prepared meal and only need to boil some noodles or cook some rice to be ready to eat.

8 skinless chicken thighs (recipe calls for bone-in but I used boneless as it's what I had and it turned out fine)
1 large eggplant (1.5 lbs), peeled and cubed
3/4 lb plum tomatoes, in 1/2 inch chunks
1 yellow bell pepper, in 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup red onions
8 marinated sun-dried tomato halves, drained and cut into strips (dried ones are ok if you can't find the marinated ones--mine came in strips so I guessed on the amount)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 large crushed garlic cloves (or the pre-minced kind if you're lazy like me)
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 can rinsed & drained chick peas (aka garbanzo beans)
2 Tbsp peanut butter (I must confess I used more than this)

Trim fat from chicken (mine didn't have much). In crock pot, combine eggplant through red pepper flakes and mix well. It will look as if there isn't enough liquid, but there will be when it's finished cooking. Place chicken on top, bone side up (if bone-in). Cover and cook on low 5-6 hours (or on high 2 1/2-3 hours, but I didn't try this). Stir in chick peas and peanut butter. Let stand 5 min. Serve with chopped peanuts as a garnish if desired (I didn't have any so I skipped this, but it would be tasty).

The recipe suggests serving it over egg noodles, which was good, but I also think it would be good with rice or quinoa. This makes A LOT of food. TBG said he thought the chicken should be shredded and mixed in, which you certainly could do if you wanted. I liked being able to make the little geeks plates of chicken and noodles, NOT touching, that they would actually eat. Neither of them would eat the veggie mixture.

Give it a try. I know it sounds weird, but it really is tasty!

Bean and Chicken Sausage Stew

Hey look at that--my semester ended and I came here to post a recipe for the first time since September.

Seriously, folks, we've eaten between then and now, I just haven't had the time or energy to post recipes here. Plus I tend to stick to stuff I know how to make when I'm trying to feed the family and complete assignments.

This is one I probably could have used during the semester as it is SO INCREDIBLY EASY. It's a great filling meal that is both good for you and inexpensive, plus it seriously takes about 15 minutes to prepare.

Bean and Chicken Sausage Stew

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 130oz package chicken sausage links, thinly sliced. Be sure to get a flavor everyone really likes, because this will create a lot of the flavor in the stew. I used sun-dried tomato and artichoke because the store was very limited in options, but The Big Geek doesn't care for artichokes so this probably was not the greatest choice. He ate it anyhow.
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (or the pre-minced kind for those of us who might be lazy)
1 19-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed. (aka white kidney beans)
1 14.5 oz can low-sodium chicken broth (or 14.5 oz of broth you made)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 bunch kale
Kosher salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, WITHOUT TURNING, until browned (about 3 min). Turn, add the garlic, and cook for 2 min. more.

Add the beans, broth, and tomatoes with their liquid. Bring to a simmer and cook over med-high heat.

Meanwhile, cut out the tough stems and center ribs from the kale leaves and discard. Tear into large pieces.

Add the kale to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, 2-3 minutes. Season with 1/4 tsp of salt and pepper.

Serve with crusty bread!

The little geeks did not have this as one has stomach flu and the other is too busy to sit down and eat. My guess is they would eat the sausage but not much else from this meal. I really liked the flavor, I love that you get the nutrition from the kale, and I LOVE how easy this is to throw together. I'll make this again with a variety of chicken sausage TBG will like.