Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Risotto - a few variations

I've been on a risotto kick recently. It goes so well with everything, chicken, pork, steak, and it's so easy to make. I think a lot of people are intimidated by it, because you have to pay attention to it. But I think it's a great quick side to make if you're going to have to be at the stove watching other things cook anyways, or while something finishes roasting in the oven.

1 cup aborio rice - this used to be hard to find, but these days I can get it at any grocery store, next to the other "fancy" rices
1 box of stock, vegetable, chicken, or beef all work just fine.
1 shallot, chopped
1 Tablespoon chopped dried roasted garlic, or regular garlic - See below
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 Tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup white cheese, I use parmesan or feta
splash of white wine (I usually use this as a good excuse to have a glass while I'm cooking)

Saute the aborio rice and the shallot in the olive oil till rice is lightly browned. If using fresh garlic add it in this first step, if using dried garlic add it with the broth. Add the broth, about a quarter cup at a time to start, making sure you are stirring while you add it, and that none of the rice is sticking to the bottom of the pan. You want to keep the heat set so that the rice is simmering when you add the broth. Keep adding broth and stirring until the rice is cooked through, its generally about 3 cups but can vary depending on the temperature it's boiling at and the rice itself. Stir in the butter, and cheese and wine if using, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

I get dried roasted garlic at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, this is the website for the dealer who sells it, but I can't find it on their website right now.

Tri-Color Chicken Noodle Soup

We've got a couple of major house projects going on right now. We're completely re-decorating our basement and finishing re-finishing our kitchen. We will also be changing my office into a second guest room in preparation for a friend staying with us through the summer. And we have to do it all as cheaply as possible now that I've been laid off. Luckily we have a friend who used to build houses and accepts payment in food. Last Saturday I made this chicken noodle soup, with cheddar bacon corn bread from the King Arthurs Flour cookbook. Unfortunately the recipe isn't online, but I will post it soon because it was very delicious and I've already been asked to make it again.

1 Tblsp olive oil
2 medium shallots, dices
1 Tblsp garlic, diced
1 pound chicken tenders
2 1/2 boxes chicken broth
1 small bag baby carrots
4 bell peppers diced, this is where the tri-color comes in, I used 1 orange, 1 yellow, and 2 red to balance out the corn and carrots.
8 ounces of corn kernels, approximately
1 can Hunts Diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper, or more to taste
1 large pinch rubbed sage
3 small leaves fresh basil, chopped
3/4 tsp diced rosemary
1/8 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp cumin, or more to taste
3-4 cups wheat penne, cooked separately

Caramelize the shallots and garlic in olive oil. Continue to cook until the shallots are mostly clear, and add the chicken tenders, leaving them whole. Add just enough chicken broth to cover the chicken and simmer till cooked through. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the good flavors. Remove the chicken tenders and set aside. Add the carrots, corn, and 1 box of the broth, cook for about ten minutes. Add peppers, tomato, and dice the chicken and add it back in as well. Add remainder of broth, seasonings, and cook until vegetables are as soft as you would like. Add the penne and let sit for a few minutes to warm the noodles. Soup is done!

Everyone really enjoyed this soup, I will certainly be making it again. It was great for a winter lunch, and I think will be wonderful in the summer when I can get all of the vegetables fresh from the farmers market as well. I recommend freezing the leftovers, so the noodles don't soak up too much broth and get too soft. Like I mentioned, I served it with a bacon cheddar corn bread, next time I think I'll stick with a regular corn bread as this soup can certainly hold it's own flavor wise.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies

When The Man joined a new office right before Christmas I sent a lot of my extra baking in with him. Since then he regularly brings home requests from his workers. The most recent was for peanut butter cookies, which I think was just an excuse to get me to make them since they're his favorites. I don't make them very often because my recipe is a little messy. But the results are worth it.

1/2 cup butter, very soft - this is important, the butter wont mix well with the honey and peanut butter if its not soft enough.
2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar + extra for decoration
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
2 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and use greased baking sheets for this recipe, or parchment paper.
Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, and set aside.
Cream the butter and honey together till completely incorporated, add the sugar and mix well. Mix in the peanut butter, scrape the bowl often to make sure the ingredients are completely incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, continuing to scrape the sides of the bowl completely. Fold in the dry ingredients until completely incorporated, but don't over mix. Chill the dough for a half hour, scoop out 1-1 1/2 inch balls of dough, flatten using the bottom of a glass coated in sugar. Bake for 13-15 minutes, cool on cookie sheet for 3 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. This is where the parchment paper comes in handy, you can just pick up the entire sheet and move it to a wire rack. I get about 3 dozen cookies from this recipe, but it all depends on the size of your cookies.

This is one of those recipes where you really have to make sure all of the wet ingredients are very well mixed before you add the dry, I've been making these cookies for ten years and the first few times I'd end up with big lumps of plain butter or peanut butter or sugar. I like to use a hand held mixer instead of my kitchen aid, because its easier to get to the sides and bottom of the bowl. I use a drinking glass with a star burst pattern on the bottom to press the cookies. It gives them a unique design. I just spray the bottom of the glass with nonstick spray and press it into a bowl of sugar. I usually have to respray it every 4 cookies or so. These were a huge hit at his office, and there were a couple of requests for the recipe, so here it is.