Beka To Basics

Real Food Cooking

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Chicken Cordon Bleu and Sweet Poatoes

This is another fancy dish, but it’s actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it and it’s so good.

The first time I made Chicken Cordon Bleu, I actually took chicken breast and pounded them until they were thin.  Dumb, and a lot of work and half the time I ended up with chicken pieces instead of an actual thin piece of chicken breast.  Well, I got smart and started to cut the chicken into thin slices.  Much easier and faster.  I didn’t take any pictures of this, but if you look up how to butterfly a chicken breast, I’m sure you can find something.

I ended up with 5 pieces of chicken, so that’s what this recipe calls for.  Just use as many ham slices and cheese slices as you have chicken slices and it’ll all work out. 🙂

Chicken Cordon Bleu

  • 5 thin pieces of Chicken Breast
  • 5 slices of Ham
  • 5 slices of Swiss Cheese
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian Seasoning = thyme, marjoram, rosemary, basil, sage, parsley (I actually don’t think that’s real Italian seasoning, but close enough, right?

Chicken Cordon Bleu before baking

Season the chicken on both sides with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Take one chicken piece and put a slice of ham on top – the ham should basically cover the chicken.  Put a slice of cheese at the bottom of the stack and roll it up and place it seam side down in a baking dish.  Repeat until they are all finished.  Season the top with Italian Seasoning and bake at 350, covered for about 20 minutes. It may take longer, depending on how thick your chicken is.

This is also really good if you bread it before baking or pan fry instead of baking.  I like baking because it’s easy.  If you bread and bake them, take the cover off the dish for the last 10 minutes to get the breading all crispy.

I also make roasted sweet potatoes that turned out really well and is a little different than the traditional sweet potato dish.  I know I’ve seen a similar recipe somewhere, but I can’t find it to be able to link back to it.

Roasted Garlic and Thyme Sweet Potatoes

  • 1 Sweet Potato, if they’re small, use two
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Pour some olive oil into a baking dish and crush the garlic into it.  Add thyme, salt and pepper and stir.  Peel and cube the sweet potatoes and put them in the baking dish.  Mix until all the pieces are well coated.  Cook at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through and slightly crisp on the outside.

When everything is done, you have a really cute plate of food for dinner! Yes, I referred to my dinner as cute.

And the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

Chili.

Yes, that’s right.

Chili since its chilli outside.

But first, I have to tell you about Wednesday.  It’s probably my favorite day of the week (well, not really, but almost). Why?  Because it’s milk day!!!  I pick up milk, come home, change into some PJs, and pour a giant glass of delicious milk.  Now that I’m all settled, milk in hand, I’m ready to tell you about Chili.  So, pour yourself a glass and take a seat.

I am not afraid of eating hot foods all summer. In fact, as everyone knows, I’m not even afraid of soup in the summer. I rather enjoy it.  But that’s already been established.  There are a few things, however, that I just don’t make until Fall has started and I don’t make them after Spring has begun.  I’m talking about the Autumnal Equinox and the Spring Equinox.  This is serious and I mean it.  Ask anyone who has requested one of these dishes in the middle of the summer.  They’ll tell you.  The answer is, “Wait until the Fall.”

I don’t know why I’ve established these rules, but it just feels right and now it’s a mini tradition.  Plus it’s fun to make people wait for it.

Chili is one of those dishes.  It’s one of my specialties.  Seriously, this isn’t the best chili ever.  It’s not even a real chili, in the traditional sense.  I guess it’s a type of American Chili.  I’ve been debating on whether or not to even share the recipe since it’s one of my favorites to make for friends and family.  But, I’m feeling giving today 😉 so here you go!

One more thing, the ingredient list is a little bit daunting. I know that. Use what you have and forget what you don’t.  It’ll still be good.

Beka’s Chili

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 cup baked beans (wanna make your own?  Don’t worry, I’ll have a recipe soon)
  • 3 cups kidney beans
  • 3 cups pinto beans
  • 1 1/2 cup corn
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce or tomato paste

Are you ready for the seasonings?  I did warn you this list was long…

  • 2 tbsp Chili Powder
  • 2 tbsp Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Curry Powder
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • dash Nutmeg
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick – Broken in half
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Ok, now let’s take a breath.

Ready? OK.

Chop the veggies and saute in olive oil until they are almost soft.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.  Add the spices, except for the Vinegar and saute a little bit longer.  Add the tomato sauce.  Add all the beans and corn and a little bit of water or stock to loosen everything up.  Simmer this mixture while you cook and drain the beef and then add the beef in. Taste it and add salt and pepper as needed and maybe a little bit more of anything else it might be lacking.  Stare at your spice cabinet (ahem, wall) and something will jump out at you that just has to be added 😉  At least that’s usually my method.  Add a splash of Vinegar.

I recommend making this AFTER you’ve eaten dinner and waiting until the next day to eat it.  It’s much better that way.  Still good fresh, but better after a day.

So, there you have it! The Chili I make people wait for. I hope you like it as much as they do!

And a Kitty Cat picture, just ’cause I think she’s cute!

Lazy Potato Leek Corn Soup

I need to confess, I ordered pizza this weekend instead of making it. (Oh, the horror, the horror)

I want to see if anyone else does what I do when I order pizza.  Instant regret.  It comes, I eat it.  Then, I start to think about how much I paid for dough, sauce, cheese and toppings.  I have everything I need to make a pizza in my cupboards and fridge and it would have been a lot cheaper.  But making it would have involved work, so it’s a trade off.  Still, every time, I go through the same thing.

And what do you think I did AFTER I ate the pizza?  Yeah, you’re right.  I cooked.  Kind of ironic, huh?  Or maybe not.
Anyways, this soup didn’t take long at all and it fed right into my laziness since I put corn on the cob right into the soup to cook. instead of cooking it and then de-kernelling it (have we determined the correct word for that yet?).

Lazy Potato Leek Corn Soup

  • 2 leeks, chopped and washed well
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 4 small potatoes
  • 3 ears of corn, shucked and broken into pieces
  • 3 pints of stock – veggie stock makes this a wonderful vegetarian soup!
  • salt and pepper

Melt the butter and cook the leeks and onion for a few minutes.  While this is cooking, I cut the potatoes and shucked the corn.  By the time I was finished, the leeks and onions were soft so I added the flour to make yet another roux.  I’ve been in love with this method the past few weeks, can you tell?  I added the stock and let it come to a simmer, then added the potatoes and corn and let it all cook for about 20 minutes.

The worst part of this soup?  Just how good it smells, and I’m not hungry anymore!

The best part?  The PURPLE POTATOES!!! Did you know they came in all purple? And all red? And there are so many other types of potatoes besides the few that I knew about.  They aren’t typically in the grocery store, although I have seen the purple ones recently.  I was so silly excited when I picked up these purples from my farmer that he gave me a mini potato lesson.  I’m totally on a search for all types of potatoes now.

This is why my soup has a purplish hue! 🙂

Batch Cooking for Refrigerator Food

I know when people talk about batch cooking, they are usually talking about putting it in the freezer to have a fully cooked meal ready.  Well, I’m not quite ready for that step.  I do A LOT of cooking from my freezer, but I freeze the pieces of a meal and the cook it.  Like, potatoes, chicken, stock and random veggies.  It’s great because everything is already prepped and ready to use, but it’s no where near the amazing batch cooking of freezer food you can find people talking about.  Part of the reason is that I love cooking.  It’s part of my unwind from the day ritual almost every night.  Get off work, drive home, cook dinner, eat.

There are some nights that I wish I had something that I could pull out of the freezer though.  Or a large meal I make doesn’t end up being so large and runs out before I’ve made something else, leaving me with the never ending now what do I eat question.  Freezer cooking would answer that question easily.  Even though I don’t think I will cook all of my meals for the freezer, I do want to have some options.  So, here’s my first step towards freezer cooking.

I cooked Sunday morning, Monday evening and a little bit on Tuesday.  Sunday I made refrigerator dough, a few buns, boiled and dekernelled (is that a word?) corn for chowder, tomato sauce and Bombay Sloppy Joes.  Monday I made corn chowder and tacos.  Tuesday all I had to do was make guacamole and heat up shells and tacos were ready to eat.  So far, I’ve had dinner and lunches all ready for the week.  It just takes a few minutes to heat everything up and you have dinner. 🙂  And dinner that’s way better than running out to the nearest fast food restaurant.  Plus it’s left me time for my newest project.  Anyone need a baby blanket? It’s handmade! 🙂

Since everyone has their own personal perfect guacamole recipe, I’ll spare you mine.  Just know that its amazing and I’ll share if you really want. 😉  Tacos we’ve talked about before and the sloppy joe recipe isn’t mine.  I will say that it is so awesome and you should make it as soon as possible because you won’t regret it. Promise.  It’s even better with homemade buns fresh out of the oven.

Corn Chowder

  • 6 ears of corn (why are they ears?!) boiled and kernels cut off
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup stock
  • rosemary and basil – I’ve also seen recipes with tarragon that look really tasty!
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded white cheese
  • 1 clove garlic

Melt the butter and add onions.  Saute until they are soft, then add the garlic and saute for a minute or so.  Add the flour to make a roux.  Add the stock and milk and bring to an almost simmer.  Let it thicken just a bit and then melt the cheese into the mixture.  Add the seasonings and corn kernels.

Because this is a milk based soup, I try to make sure it gets eaten within three days because I’m not sure that it would hold up longer than that.  I had it for lunch for three days and breakfast one day.

Is soup ok for breakfast?

I need a Gyro

I’m slowly working my way towards making an entire Gyro. I’ve gotten the Tzatziki sauce and gyro meat down, so you might wonder what else there is that I would need to make in order to claim a from scratch Gyro.  There’s the Feta, which I haven’t tried yet. Although I did make my first real cheese a while ago – Farmer’s Cheese – just because it’s really easy and I wanted to try it.  So, Feta is on the list of things to try, along with mozzarella and perhaps brie.  But, I digress.

What did I make this time?  You got it! Pita Bread!  I don’t think I will be able to buy store made pita again, this is so delicious fresh out of the oven, it’s unbelievable!

Pita straight from the oven!

I used King Arthur Flour’s pita recipe because they have yet to fail me.  Seriously, every single one of their recipes turns out perfectly!

I won’t walk you through theirs because you can read it if you want to make pita too.  What I will tell you is that I didn’t have the dough improver, so I added 1/4 tsp of baking powder like some of the comments say.  Mine didn’t puff up exactly as they say, but they were still oh so amazing.  I think part of my puffing problem was my oven might not actually get up to 500 – the dial says it does, but I have my doubts.

Anyways, I will share my Gyro meat and sauce recipes and some delectable photos.

Gyro Meat

  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper

Mix it all together and make a meatloaf. Bake at 350 until done, usually 20 or 30 minutes depending on your meatloaf’s thickness.  When you’re ready to eat, slice the meatloaf thinly and assemble Gyros.  My favorite thing to do it make the loaf a day before, slice when I’m ready and pan fry the pieces until they’re heated through.

Tzatziki Sauce

  • Yogurt
  • salt and pepper
  • dill
  • shredded cucumber
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

Mix enough yogurt with the other seasonings until you are happy with the way it tastes.  This sauce also makes a most excellent salad dressing.  You can also add lemon or wine vinegar if you feel like it needs a little something extra.  I think true Tzatziki sauce has mint in it, but I don’t always have mint.

I feel like that deserves a extra large photo, don’t you?  🙂  I top my pita with meat, lettuce, tomato, onion, tzatziki sauce and feta.  These were so good, I’m seriously considering making them again next week.

This Post is featured at What’s in the Box?

Update 11/9/12 – I found where my recipe came from and I wanted to give proper credit.  You can find it here.

Stretching Food and my Three Year Blanket

So, I found this sage pork sausage that I love.  The problem?  It’s expensive.  The other problem?  It’s so delicious.

Hmmm, how to solve the problems?

Like my tennis coach used to say, “Let’s stretch it out.” (I knew his advice would come in handy at some point in my life)

With 1 lb of sage pork sausage, I made 10 meals.  Squash and Pork Hash and Sage Pork Soup

Hash

I cooked the pork in my stock pot, removed it, added chopped squash, zucchini, onions, green peppers, garlic and tomatoes and sauteed them all.  I added about half of the pork back in and had dinner for two for two nights, plus lunch for one more.

After I stowed the leftover Hash in it’s refrigerator container, I added some olive oil to my pot, sauteed more onions and garlic.  Then I added stock, potatoes and green beans and simmered until they were all done.  I added the other half of the pork in and called it a night.  Five meals from the soup, plus five from the hash all from 1 lb of meat isn’t too shabby. 🙂

While we’re talking about stretching things out, I’ll admit why I’ve been slacking a little bit on my cooking.  I started crocheting myself a blanket.  Well, I started it three years ago and have been lugging the pieces and unfinished portion around with me.  I fondly call it my Three Year Blanket.  It was time to finish it.  I had stretched its creation as FAR as is would go.  No more stretching on that one!

The Three Year Blanket

Normally, it doesn’t take me three years to finish one.  Normally, there is a goal, like someone’s birthday, a baby being born (I know, same thing), or Christmas.  When I have a reason to finish, I do, but when it’s just for me, well… You know, it turns into a three year project.

Beef Stew

Well, the time has finally come. I know it’s here because it was below 50 degrees when I woke up this morning.  There was frost on the cars outside.  So, it’s time.  Time to bring in the herbs overnight.  Time to pull out the jeans and sweatshirts and make sure they are clean and ready to go.  Time to get heavy socks and long johns (yes, long johns).

Don’t get me wrong – I love the fall and I love the winter.  I love getting bundled up.  I love getting unbundled and cozy in a warm house.  I love waking up to frost and going to bed under a heavy blanket.  I love the still and the quiet than comes with the cold.  I love that it forces a pause to life before spring wakes.

I realize there will be summer like weather still, and I will fully enjoy being outside in the warm while I still can.  However, I am looking forward to cool weather, bonfires, coats and cozy nights while it snows outside and I’m inside eating a hearty stew.

Beef Stew

  • 1/2 lb leftover cooked chuck roast
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • a large potato or a few small ones
  • a cup or so of green beans
  • 1 quart of stock
  • butter or olive oil
  • all green herbs you have that you think will taste good together  plus salt and pepper (seriously, this is how I decided what to season the stew with) If you want specifics, I used 2 Bay Leaves, thyme, sage, basil, tarragon, parsley and rosemary

Saute the onion and carrot in olive oil or butter until they are soft. Add the garlic and saute for a few minutes.  Follow with the green beans.  When they are bright green, add the chicken stock and bring it all to a simmer.  Add any herbs you like and the potatoes and let it simmer for 30 mins to an hr, depending on when you want to eat.  When you’re ready, add the chuck roast in and shred it as it warms.

While I wait for fall and winter to truly start, I’ll take my own pause and remember there are plenty of warm days left to enjoy…

And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
~Robert Frost

 

On the fly soup

You know it’s been too long since I talked about soup. 😉

I made an awesome soup with random leftovers the other day, which means the four meals I got from it were basically free.  It’s really simple to do.  Just freeze all your extras.  Yes, even if you only have enough to fit one of those little itty bitty containers.  I know someone who is irritated by those little tiny containers that only have a couple bites in them (you know who you are 🙂 ).  While I understand the frustration of having these tiny things hanging out in your freezer, they really come in handy sometimes.  Like On the Fly Soup.

I had two little containers with beans (a mix of black, pinto and lentils), some CSA jalapenos and garlic, frozen sauteed onions and green peppers and chicken stock.  I just let everything thaw in the fridge while I was at work. I came home and chopped, then sauteed the jalapenos and garlic in a little butter, added the other veggies, the beans and the stock.  I seasoned it with some thyme, salt and pepper and let it simmer for about ten minutes.  Soup’s ON!!

 

Add a fresh baked bun and some brie and you have a very happy Beka!

Even the cat wants some!

 

COOKIES!!!!!

There are some days that a chocolate chip cookie is totally necessary.  Admittedly, I am not a cookie master.  In fact, I mess up tested cookie recipes over and over again.  EVEN when I make them WITH someone who is a cookie master, I manage to find a way to do something wrong.  I mean, they still TASTE good, they’re just not so chocolate chip cookie looking. Almost every direction tells you to put teaspoons of the dough on the cookie sheet and let the cookies spread out by themselves in the oven.  (Mine never spread out right, they just stay in dough-y little piles all crispity on the outside and uncooked on the inside – My friends called them cookie flavored dough balls to make me feel better about them. Like I said, good, just not so cookie like.)

I have figured out the secret. It’s in the fat.  The tried and tested recipe that I’ve been using is half butter and half veggie oil.  Well. I’m not so big on using veggie oil, so I knew that I would need a new recipe if I wanted cookie flavored dough balls again. And really, I thought I was going to be making dough balls again because if I CAN’T get cookies that are half oil to spread out, then I give up! Here’s what I used for my batch tonight. And yes, I followed it to a T, lard and all.

I DID DID IT!

They were a perfect dessert for my garlic scape pesto marinated pork chops and sweet corn. Which got eaten. Before my camera came out. Oh well, C’est La Vie!

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