Friday, January 28, 2011

Paprika Chicken and Cornbread Muffins

Instead of going out for our anniversary this year, we decided to cook a meal at home. I found a paprika-rubbed chicken from Martha Stewart magazine. (Oh, Martha, I love-hate you.) The recipe calls for 8 heads of garlic to be roasted on the same pan with the chicken. While my fiancée is still a vampire, we skipped the garlic all together.

The chicken was fantastic on it's own. The skin was nice and crispy. The only thing I would change is to rub the paprika, oregano, and salt under the skin and add a little black pepper to the mix.

It was so tender and juicy. Be sure to cover the bird with foil and let it rest for at at least 10 minutes after removing it from the oven so that the juices can climb back into the bird. Get the recipe here. I would love to try the recipe completely, garlic and all. The garlic would round it out nicely.

As we were cooking a full meal: a roasted whole chicken, mashed potatoes & gravy, a fresh salad, and cornbread, we cut a few corners with a boxed cornbread mix. I don't see any harm in grabbing a box once in a while, especially when you can spice it up.

This cornbread box twist comes from a random old lady that I encountered in the baking isle at the grocery store once years ago. As I was grabbing a box of cornbread mix, she told me that to make the mix even better to add a 1/2 cup of self rising flour (or 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/4 tsp of salt, and 3/4 tsp of baking powder if you don't have self rising flour), an extra egg, and 1/3 cup of honey.

I found this method to make 10 regular sized muffins. For me, it cooked in the same amount of time as the box suggested - no difference at all. The after photo doesn't exist due to the complete inhalation of the cornbread muffins.

Enjoy your weekend! Happy cooking and baking!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Soup for the winter blues

Hello again. I hope you haven't forgotten about this humble blog. I've been taking some time off to fight off the winter blues. That blasted winter gets me every year. I find myself loading up on vitamins (B complex, C, D, and 5HTP if you were wondering) and pining for sunshine. Behind the scenes, I've been working on a recipe using POM Wonderful's delicious pomegranate juice and a savory cocoa bread for ReadyMade Magazine. I hope POM and ReadyMade will like what I have in store. For today, I've got a roasted veggie stew that will warm the cockles of your soul.

First I have to show you my new knife. My pal, Natalie, brought it back from her stay in Japan. It cuts so extremely well. I was amazed at how I barely had to use muscle to slice through a potato. If you're interested in knowing how this knife and other sharp iron objects are handmade, check out the two blog posts that Natalie wrote on the subject. Part 1 and part 2. It's really interesting and makes you appreciate the hard work that is put into such a "simple" object.

On to the soup. Can I tell you how utterly in love I am with fennel bulb? I may never use celery again. For this soup, I chopped up one fennel bulb, 3-4 medium sized red potatoes, half of an onion, and about a cup of carrots. What's great about soup-making is that you can use whatever veggies you have on hand.

I chopped them to about the same thickness and drizzled & tossed them with a hearty pinch of sea salt and olive oil. Roast them in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes, toss/turn then put them back in for another 15 minutes. Let them cook until they are a bit brown. Just a touch of brown.

While those are roasting, get your herbs together. I've got a couple of bunches of thyme, some rosemary, 3-4 cloves of garlic, and a bay leaf. Use your favorite herbs. I've bundled mine in some cheese cloth so they'll be easy to retrieve from the soup before eating.

Heat up 4 cups of broth and a couple of 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes. Toss in the bundle of herbs. Keep a low simmer and add the veggies after they've browned. You can add leftover chicken or beef at this stage. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 10 minutes or until all ingredients are the same temperature.

Crackers are optional. Chins up. Springs on it's way.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Cookies for the New Year

Greetings and happy new year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season filled with lots of friends, family, and love. Although the festivities are over, there's always an occasion to bake cookies. This sugar cookie recipe is one that is close to my heart. It's a simple recipe that my family has been using for a couple of decades. We first discovered it in one of my favorite childhood books - a costume/decoration/cookbook for Halloween. We've used this dough not just for Halloween, but for every holiday. (As you might notice, the Christmas cutters below.)

This isn't your typical sugar cookie. I don't really care for regular sugar cookies that are tough and loaded with extra sugar. This cookie is mild in flavor and has a soft, light texture. They puff just slightly in the oven while baking.

I do love those old-timey cookie cutters. I believe this was a great grandmother's cutter.

This dough doesn't spread too much so you can place them about one inch apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Here are the lightly puffed delights. There is an icing battle in my household. Whenever we take the time to ice them, we have to leave half of them bare. Dad and I prefer them sans icing and my brother and mom like them iced. Again, this cookie dough is great for any occasion: weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, cookie exchanges, and every holiday that a cookie could be involved. Enjoy and best of luck in the new year!

Puffed Sugar Cookies
-1 cup butter
-1 cup sugar
-3 eggs
-1 tsp. vanilla
-3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
-1/2 tsp. baking soda
-1/2 tsp. baking powder

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, and 1 cup of flour. Mix until combined. Sift together the rest of the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Fold into the wet mixture. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. (This part can be done a day in advance.)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet (or use parchment paper).
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to somewhere between 1/4 and 1/8 inch thick. *** Cut out dough with cookie cutters of choice and place on baking sheet. Bake for 6-8 min. or until very lightly browned. Transfer to a cooling rack. Let cool before icing.

***It's easier to roll out the dough in sections. Divide the dough into quarters. Take out only one quarter at a time and roll it out. Put the scraps back into the fridge while you are rolling out the second quarter. Keep the dough as cold as possible. When it gets to room temperature or warmer, it can become a bakers nightmare. If you divide the dough, touch it as little as possible, and chill the rest, you'll be just fine. Happy baking!

Here's a recipe for simple drizzle icing:
Combine 2 cups of powdered sugar, 3 tbsp. milk, 1 tbsp. melted butter, 1 tsp. of vanilla extract, and a few drops of food coloring if desired.