Thursday, February 28, 2013

Quinoa Mixed Greens Salad

This is a continuation of the Sunday cooking extravaganza I did for Zack. The salad portion of the meal was this amazingly flavorful and pretty simple to throw together. Which I needed after preparing the main course, but I'll get to that in another post.

Now, quinoa has been a part of American cuisine for a while, but we had yet to work it into our rotation. Well, as it turns out, it's so simple to prepare, is extremely good for you, and tastes good. Why weren't we using this before?!?

Here's what you need:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups low sodium chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you're vegetarian)
1/2 package of mixed greens
1 red pepper
1 scallion
1 handful of Italian parsley
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette

Here's what you do:
Combine the quinoa and chicken (vegetable) stock in a medium sauce pot and bring to a boil.

Once that comes to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. (Sounds kind of like making rice, doesn't it).

Let cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the grain absorbs the liquid. You can lift the lid and check it if you don't have a glass lid like this.

While the quinoa is cooking, get started on the other pieces of your salad.

Chop your red pepper.

Then slice your scallion.

And, finally coarsely chop the parsley. You can skip this step if you want. I was just in a chopping mood.

Combine all of that into your bowl, cover and put in the fridge until you're ready to eat.

Transfer the quinoa into a bowl and let cool in the fridge until you're ready to build your salad and take it to the table.

Right before you're ready to serve, add the feta cheese and a couple of scoops of the quinoa to the salad and toss.

Top with our seriously tasty homemade balsamic vinaigrette


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Continuing on with the documentation of my day of cooking while Zack was at work, I bring you the salad dressing next. We use a lot balsamic in our house. It's probably one of Zack's favorite things, so it was only natural that I would make a homemade balsamic vinaigrette for the salad.

It's very easy. If you stock the essentials, you will never have to buy sodium packed salad dressing again.

Here's what you need: 
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil

Here's what you do:
Combine brown sugar, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a bowl.

Add balsamic vinegar to the mix and whisk to combine.

Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking to emulsify.

Transfer to a carafe or squeeze bottle and keep in the fridge until ready to use.

Stick around for the amazingly tasty and simple Quinoa Mixed Greens salad I topped with this!


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Puff Pastry Cheese Straws

Hello faithful readers! This blog comes to you just from Michelle. Zack worked a rare first shift Sunday, so I had a full day of cooking to myself. My day started with these Puff Pastry Cheese Straws. 

You see, Zack got me the Jacques Pepin book, "New Complete Techniques" as a Christmas gift and I have been pouring over the 725 pages of recipes and techniques for weeks. In true Amateur Foodie fashion, I don't follow recipes very well, but I basically followed this to the letter... aside from making my own puff pastry from scratch (but Pepin does have a recipe for that).

Here's what you need:
1 sheet of pre-packaged puff pastry
1 large egg, beaten
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp Paprika
A bit of flour to sprinkle over the working surface

Here's what you do:
Preheat you oven to 400 degrees. 

Sprinkle your board with as little flour as possible. These are going to be twirled, so you don't want flour getting trapped inside the twirls.

Roll the puff pastry out so that it's about 1/8" thick.

Brush the beaten egg over one side of the puff pastry.

You can combine the Parmesan and paprika ahead of time if you with. Jacques Pepin told me to, but I just didn't want to, so I sprinkled the two separately. 

Rub the Parmesan and paprika into the dough.

Flip over and repeat with egg, Parmesan and paprika.

Cut into strips with a knife or pizza cutter.

Starting at the top, roll the puff pastry toward you at an angle to twist it. This was my first attempt at this, so of course I didn't get the hang of it until the last couple, and by then, I had forgotten to snap a picture.

Place the twisted puff pastry in a cookie sheet over a bit of parchment paper. Press the ends of the pastry into the cookie sheet so that they stick. This will prevent the pastries from shrinking up while they bake.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until nicely browned. Cut into 5" pieces and serve. Or, make ahead of time and keep in a Ziploc bag until you're ready to serve them.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chicken Meatballs: Traditional & Buffalo

We made these meatballs for our annual Super Bowl party with Zack's parents. We made two different versions, buffalo chicken and traditional chili sauce. The actual meatballs are exactly the same, we just cooked in the sauces after the meatballs were cooked through. They turned out great! 

We made 3 pounds of meatballs (2 lbs of traditional meatballs and 1 lb of buffalo), so adjust your quantities as needed.

Here's what you need:

3 lbs ground chicken
3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs (You may need more depending on the consistency at the end)
1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3 eggs
3 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
Kosher salt & black pepper

Chili Sauce:

2 jars Heinz chili sauce
1/2 cup grape jelly

Buffalo Sauce:

1 1/2 jars Louisiana brand wing sauce
1/4 cup chicken stock
This turned out really spicy, we added some Ranch dressing to the sauce to cool it down and save our taste buds. You could also use sour cream to cool it down.

Here's what you do:

Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix with your hands to combine. You can try mixing with a spoon, but by hand is really the best and easiest way.

Don't over mix. You want the meatballs to be moist, but not super wet. If you need to add breadcrumbs, just add a few at a time until the meatballs hold together well.

Roll the meat into one inch balls between your palms. Don't over roll them. You don't want to heat the meatballs up too much. We placed on the cookie sheets we'd be baking them on for the time being.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a 12" skillet with about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on two sides. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked to 165 internal temperature. We just broke one open to check the center.

Remove from the oven, and dump them in their respective slow cookers.

Mix the buffalo sauce and chicken stock in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Pour the sauce over the meatballs destined for buffalo sauce and keep on low in the slow cooker.

Pour the chili sauce and grape jelly over the other meatballs and give it a good stir. Put that one on low in the slow cooker as well.

We cooked the meatballs for a few hours the day before and then stored them in the fridge overnight. The longer the meatballs can soak up the sauce, the tastier they'll be.