Monday, May 17, 2010

We've moved!

Join in the fun over at the new and improved Eat, Drink, and Be Keri! - I am moving all the old posts over there as well, so come on over! (Missing your favorite pics?  They've moved over there as well!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Marinated Skirt Steak

The Hub loves skirt steak. This is fabulous news for me, because, well frankly, it is pretty cheap. It is hard to argue with the beauty of getting all that beefy flavor for a low-down fantastic price, no?
Skirt steak needs a little love to truly shine – it benefits greatly from a nice long set in an acidic marinade to help it break down a bit, and it is best cooked quickly over high heat. Oh yeah, and if it is overcooked, it is a tough as shoe leather. Luckily it is very easy to prepare well, and simply prepared is how we enjoy it most.
In a zip top baggie combine the juice of 2 limes and 1 tablespoon canola oil with 1 teaspoon of chili powder and 1 teaspoon of cummin and mix well. (Sometimes I zest the lime into the baggie as well, I was just feeling lazy yesterday.)

Add skirt steak (the piece I used was between 10 and 12 ounces) to the bag, close allowing extra air to escape, and massage the marinade into the meat so that the steak is coated evenly. Refrigerate at least 8 hours (I wouldn’t do this for more than 24 hours, even skirt steak will start to break down a bit too much if left in a marinade this acidic for too terribly long.)
Remove steak from refrigerator 1/2 hour before you want to cook it (it will cook more evenly if it isn’t chilled) and set oven to 35o degrees.
Heat large skillet or flat grill on the stove until it is screamin’ hot (hover your open palm just above the cooking surface – are you feeling lots of heat? Time for cooking!)
Place the steak in the skillet and rejoice at the sizzle – that noise is searing in all the juicy, flavorful goodness.
Let it get some nice dark color on that side and then give it a flip and sear the other side.
Now – here’s the thing: you can totally cook the steak from start to finish just like this. OR you can grill it on your Vogner Charking or whatever out on the back deck, if you prefer and it would be delish - no doubt. As long as you have nice high heat and take it off before it overcooks (which depends on the thickness - I’d go 4 minutes a side over direct, high heat, and then make a little cut in the center to see how it looked if you aren’t comfortable testing doneness by touch,) either is a great way to cook skirt steak.
But again, I was feeling lazy. So my steak got seared on each side about 2 minutes and then I popped it on roasting rack and put it in the oven to finish, which took about 12 minutes at 350 degrees.
That way I could concentrate on making some Martinis for The Hub and me while dinner finished cooking.
After cooking, I tented the steak with foil on my cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes (while I defrosted some frozen mashed potatoes and stirred in a bit of cheddar for a side dish) before cutting. This lets the juices re-absorb into the meat a bit.
How you cut skirt steak is important. It is best not to just plate it whole, because if cut with, and not against the grain of the meat, it will still seem tough, even after all that marinating and high heat cooking. So slice thin against the grain. (Slicing the long strip of it into shorter chunks first, which is slicing with the grain, and then slicing those portions thinly against the grain – as pictured at the top of the post.)
Dinner is served.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chicken and Spinach Stacked Enchiladas

This Enchilada-inspired Casserole is a great way to sneak extra veggies to your picky eaters, and it is so easy and yummy it is sure to make any dinner into a flavor fiesta!

2 pieces boneless skinless cooked chicken breasts, shredded
1/2 cans Spinach, drained well
2 tablespoons Chili Powder
8 whole corn tortillas
10 ounces-fluid Enchilada sauce of your choice
1 containers low fat plain yogurt
1/4 cups 2% Shredded Cheddar

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In large mixing bowl, combine chicken, yogurt, spinach, and Chili Powder (add 1 tablespoon at a time and adjust to your liking) – mix well.

Spray a square casserole dish with cooking spray and coat bottom with thin coat of Enchilada Sauce.

Tear tortillas as needed to make a single-thickeness layer over the Enchilada Sauce, then cover with 1/2 of the chicken and spinach mixture.

Drizzle with some of the Enchilada sauce and repeat layering process with tortillas and filling mixture again.
Top with final layer of tortillas, pour remaining sauce evenly on top of casserole and top with shredded cheddar.

Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Crunchy Garlic Chicken and Roasted Broccoli

Betty Crocker Crunchy Garlic Chicken
(This is the recipe as it appears on the Betty Crocker Website)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives or parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups Whole Grain Total® cereal, crushed (1 cup)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon paprika
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 3/4 lb)

Heat oven to 425°F. Spray 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. In shallow dish, mix 2 tablespoons of the butter, the milk, chives, salt and garlic powder.
In another shallow dish, mix crushed cereal, parsley and paprika. Dip chicken into milk mixture, then coat lightly and evenly with cereal mixture. Place in pan. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons butter.(mine looked like this)
Bake uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (170°F).

What I did differently:
I used Kroger Brand Bran Flakes instead of Total
I used Smart Balance Light as my margarine product
(Here are my chicken breasts all coated and drizzled and ready to hit the oven)

This was good and easy - a nice change from normal bread crumbs on baked chicken. It was really crunchy on top and had a good garlicky flavor. Next time I make it, I think I might put the breasts on a flat roasting rack or broiler pan like I do with breaded chicken when I bake it - the bottom of the pieces can't get crispy of air can't circulate around them.

(BTW - check out the new look coming to ED&BK here)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

New at ED&BK !

I get a lot of folks asking how, exactly, our $160.00 a month grocery budget gets spent, and so I give you the newest feature at ED&BK - The Weekly Shopping Rundown!!
I'll post links, as these will be the first step in my Big Move over to Word Press.
Here is this week's rundown.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

More fabulous food my husband won't eat...

Ok, so The Hub has eaten salmon before. If pressed he might do it again. But who wants to waste precious fatty fish deliciousness on that!? Not this seafood lover, that's for sure.
So last night while the oven was preheating to 350 degrees, I took a 3.5 oz portion of salmon out of the fridge and let the chill come off of it (so it would cook evenly in the oven) while I cut a small baking potato into thin chunks. Then both fish and potato got a generous sprinkling of parsley flakes, salt and pepper.
The whole kit and kaboodle went into a pyrex dish and got baked loosely covered for 25 minutes.
I know I should have done a veggie and maybe half the amount of potato - but it was SO GOOD in the simplicity, how could I resist?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ahhh, the magic of solo meals

So this is usually something I would grab for breakfast. Whole grain toast spread with 1/2 a Laughing Cow Light cheese wedge, topped with ham (or turkey sometimes) and tomato.
Breakfast perfection and quick out the door.
Only problem was, I found myself craving it at dinner time tonight.
BUT - here is the beauty of the out of town husband - you can make anything you are hungry for at any time.
So I did, and I ate it on the patio with a whole sectioned grapefruit and a glass of Vhino Verde.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spicy Beef with Sesame Ginger "Faux Mein"

Couldn't be easier, and yet SO tasty!

-Prepare two portions of spaghetti of your choice (I like to mix half regular, half whole wheat - this time around I used the Ronzoni Smart Taste since I had a coupon that made it super cheap on sale a while back)
-Drain the pasta and reserve while you prepare the veggies and beef
- Cut your choice of veggies (I used carrots and green onions in mine, and omitted the onion in The Hub's) in to matchsticks - I aim for 1 cup veggies total
-Allow a skillet (or wok if you have one) to heat over high heat before adding a spritz of cooking spray (I use canola) and 1/2 lb beef for stir-fry or thinly sliced beef of your choice - cook fast over the high heat until meat is just cooked through.
-Remove beef from heat and add 1 teaspoon reduced sodium Soy Sauce and 1/2 teaspoon (more or less to taste) Red Pepper Flakes - stir well to coat all the meat
-Return noodles to heat and add veggies and 1/4 cup Sesame Ginger dressing (I like Newman's Own Lighten Up Sesame Ginger) to the noodles stirring to coat and allowing to heat through (but not so long that the veggies get limp - they are good crisp but warm.
-Pile noodles on plate, top with beef and serve

Monday, April 5, 2010

Breakfast Tacos

Coloring Easter eggs is a favorite tradition around The Tree House and always loads of fun - but it leaves this wife-of-a-non-hard boiled-egg-eater left holding the (Easter) basket when it comes to what to do with all those eggs.
Don't get me wrong - I LOVE hard boiled eggs in all their many forms: a delicious egg salad, a tray of deviled eggs (reach for one of those and I might bite your arm off,) or just peeled and eaten plain with a sprinkle of salt - incredible, edible egg, indeed.
That being said - 18 eggs (what we colored this year) is a lot for one gal to eat (even skipping every other yolk like I am to keep the cholesterol in check.)

So for Easter brunch this year I devised a recipe designed to get The Hub to help me out with the task of eating his masterpieces. Breakfast Tacos!
I used my now standard method of making taco shells from the Prudent Homemaker (I made 4,) and then:
-Place one small potato, diced, into a frying pan and just cover with water. Allow to cook until water evaporates, and then spray potato pieces with a bit of cooking spray and allow to crisp.
-Add to potato 1 teaspoon ground Cumin, 1/2 teaspoon (more or less to taste) ground Cayenne pepper and mix to coat potatoes.
-Dice 3 - 4 hard boiled eggs and add to potatoes over low heat, stir.
-Add to egg/potato mixture 1/2 can Hormel 94% fat free Turkey Chili (we used the one with no beans) and stir over low heat, allowing mixture to heat through.
-Fill taco shells with the mixture, and serve with toppings of your choice (shredded cheese, diced tomato and onion, salsas, etc.)


Menu Plan Monday

Also - check back often this week for awesome recipes and rundowns, including a really easy, REALLY good breakfast taco recipe that makes great use of those left over Easter eggs!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stolen Moment, stop the presses!!

How good does this Chicken Taco Salad sound right now?

So. Dang. Good.

Might have to rethink tonight's menu and give into this craving....

Monday, March 29, 2010

Alexia House Party Recipes

The folks over at House Party recently invited me to be one of the hosts for an Alexia Simply Extraordinary House Parties, and since I was curious about how these House Parties work, I accepted this one to find out.
I was sent a hostess pack that included coupons for free Alexia frozen food products, and I used them to create recipes for the party. So I invited some fabulous ladies (and their beautiful kiddos) over for an afternoon of snacking and good conversation.

Along with Bellini's and Lemonade to go along with our Alexia menu. To make the most of the Alexia products I picked up a the store I made:

Alexia Onion Rings with Chipotle Ketchup (1 cup Ketchup, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 pepper in adobo sauce, minced - I removed the seeds so it wouldn't be too spicy - all mixed together and allowed to sit overnight)

Alexia Spicy Sweet Potato Fries with Blue Cheese Dip - (3/4 cup mayo, 3/4 cup sour cream, 4 oz crumbled blue cheese, mixed together and allowed to sit overnight)

Pulled Pork Sammies on Alexia Focaccia Rolls - (Pulled Pork recipe follows) - I added some bagged broccoli slaw with just enough mayo mixed in to keep the mixture moist. That is good stuff- it really maintains its texture, I doubt I will use regular cole slaw mix again in the future!

Keri's Southern Sloshed Pulled Pork:

In a crock-pot combine:
1/2 pint Jim Beam
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
and mix well to dissolve sugar

Then add 1 lb pork stew chunks or pork roast of your choice cut into chunks.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours, adding water to keep moist as needed, until pork falls apart when touched.

Remove pork from crock pot with slotted spoon or strainer, discard cooking liquid.
Shred pork and add 1/4 cup of your choice BBQ sauce (I used regular Safeway brand) and 2 Tablespoons to pork, stirring well to make sure it is evenly coated. Serve with rolls and slaw for topping. (I made little sammies and cut them in half so it would be easy for guests to grab them and not get messy.)

All the guests left with recipe cards and coupons for Alexia products. It was a fun afternoon.
I served the end of this Pork to The Hub for dinner last night along with corn and some extra onion rings (I know, I know, so starchy) and he loved it. Actually everyone asked about how I cooked the pork.
Between this and the Salmon glaze the other day, I am starting to think that Jim Beam is one very handy man to have in your kitchen!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Give Away fun for Friday

There is a review of Yoplait's fabulous new Greek Yogurt and a great give-away going on over at Deals In Denver between now and next Friday!
Check it out here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bourbon Glazed Salmon

Last night I made this Salmon with a Bourbon Glaze and some oven roasted herbed potatoes.
Ok, to be fair I omitted the ginger from the recipe because, truth-be-told, I am not much of a fan; and I also made new sauce mixture to use in cooking because I am not much for using marinading liquid as a sauce, no matter how long it has been cooking. But that is just me.
This fish, was yummy. I mean, super yummy. Bravo Jim Beam!
However, on that note, I must confess that I attempted the Julia Child "and some for the pan, and some for me" maneuver and took a tug off the Beam bottle, which was quickly followed by me wheezing "Sm-hooooothhhhhh!" while inhaling deeply to avoid a cough and smacking the counter repeatedly with the flat of my palm.
Guess Keri has grown out of her whiskey shootin' phase. Even the dog looked embarrassed for me.
But try the fish - the fish is good.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Old faithful Crunchy Chicken Caesar Salad

Perfect in its simplicity, a Chicken Caesar Salad is always well-received at our house. (Past posts will confirm that.)
Last night I used some left over flat-bread that I sprinkled with garlic powder, dried parsley, salt, and pepper, and toasted in the oven before cutting into bite sized pieces as croutons. I cut one large chicken breast into chunks and rolled them (no wet step needed) in whole wheat seasoned breadcrumbs.
The chicken went on to a rack in my roasting pan and into a 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes (it was about 18 for me last night) until it was cooked through and crispy. (you can pop the broiler on for a minute or two if the top needs help crisping up.)
I crumbled up a slice of extra lean turkey bacon and tossed it with 1/2 bag of prewashed salad (I don't actually use bagged salad very often, too expensive, but I found a good sale this week and took advantage of it,) and 4 tablespoons of Ken's Light Caesar dressing (yep, I measure, because it is good to know what you are really eating, but also because I don't like salad that is soggy with too much dressing!)
On top of the dressed lettuce went the croutons and the warm, crunchy chicken.
So simple, but so, so welcome on a sunny spring evening.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Moroccan Inspired Beef Stew

We love beef stew at The Tree House. It is always a winner at our table. Still, it is nice to change things up sometimes and keep everybody from getting board with the same old stew. (Although my "same old stew" is pretty dang good, If I do say so myself.)
By changing the spices and veggies in a basic stew recipe, a whole new dish takes shape in no time.

For this stew I cubed and cut the excess fat off of 1 lb of cross-cut beef shank. (VERY inexpensive cut, but needs a bit more time when cubing to remove the fat from within the meat and make things leaner.)

I browned the beef cubes in a large dutch oven, then removed the meat to a plate before deglazing the pot with a small can of V-8 juice, taking up all the delicious brown bits off the bottom of the pan. I added 1 cup of water to the pot as well, and seasoned with : 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon coriander, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon of curry paste, and red pepper flakes for some kick (add a pinch and first, and adjust to your family's own taste.)

Into the pot went 1 cup each cubed butternut squash and carrots chopped the same size and the broth and veggies boiled until the squash and carrots were tender (less than 10 minutes for me.)
While the mixture was at a boil I added a slurry made from one heaping tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with and equal amount of cold water - add this slowly, you may not need it all to thicken the mixture to the desired consistency.
Finally the beef was added back to the pot, along with some fresh shredded spinach (get those veggies in there where ever you can, right?) and the beef heated through.
I served the stew in a well of Quinoa prepared according to package instructions, with flatbread along side.
The stew was warm with spice and rich and complex for being so quick cooking. Well-received by The Hub, who went back for seconds too!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

It's Menu Plan Monday over at Spirit of Power! Stop by and see what I have planned for this week, and then check back here for recipes as the week progresses!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I finally got the new liner for the trusty Patio Caddie, just in time for Spring, so now I can resume dealing with all problems with my usual 3 step process:


Monday, March 8, 2010

Lazy-way Chicken and Broccoli stuffed pasta

So what do you get when you take cooked Lasagna noodles and spread them with a mixture of:
1 large grilled b/s chicken breast, shredded

1 cup broccoli stems (cooked) chopped fine

1/2 block of cream cheese

3 BIG fresh basil leaves

(blended together in the food processor)

and then roll the noodles up around the filling:

And then bake covered in a simple cheddar cheese sauce at 350 for 45 minutes, covered?

You get stuffed shell perfection, without the hassle of actually stuffing the shells! (and if you are me, you get The Hub to eat the part of the broccoli he usually won't touch!)

BTW - I was running around Sunday afternoon and evening, and The Hub actually got this out of the fridge at the appointed time, then turned on the oven and baked these all by himself - I arrived home to a piping hot dinner just coming out of the oven! Sah-weet!

Lighter Side Tostadas

We eat A LOT of Mexican/Tex-Mex food at our house. The Hub grew up in Texas, and I spent years working in a Mexican restaurant in my younger days - it is a sure-fire go-to family of flavors that I know will always be a hit.
Then again, sometimes the same old tacos or fajitas over and over can get a bit dull, even to the biggest fans.
Not to mention the damage that you can do to your waistline piling on all of those toppings with reckless abandon!
These tostadas are a good solution to both problems.

I started by lightly spraying 3 corn tortillas with Canola Spray, and baking them until crispy on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven (this takes almost no time at all.)

Then I piled on my "filling" made by mixing together 1 cooked b/s chicken breast shredded, 1 palmful of chili powder, 1 cup fresh spinach chopped fine, and 1 tablespoon of cream cheese. (I tested for taste and added Salt and Pepper as needed.)

To The Hub's (pictured at the bottom of the post,) I also added a sprinkling of shredded 2% cheddar cheese. Everything went back into the oven to heat the filling and melt the cheese.

I served mine with a salad, (picture at the top of the post) and a couple teaspoons of avocado puree. Mmmmm, crunchy and spicy and yummy!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It's Menu Plan Monday!

It is Menu Plan Monday over at Spirit of Power! Stop by and see what we are having for dinner this week, and be sure and come back for recipes and reviews here at ED&BK!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Oven Roasted Chicken and Veggies

Sometimes simple is just best. Last night for dinner I cut broccoli florets, carrots, and a small potato in large bite-sized pieces, tossed with a light spray of Canola cooking spray, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and roasted them uncovered in a 350 degree oven until tender. In a separate dish along side of the veggies, I cut a HUGE b/s chicken breast into chunks, gave them the same cooking spray and salt and pepper treatment, and baked covered until just cooked through. Then I added half a can of cream of chicken soup to the chicken pan, covered again, and cooked 5 more minutes. I tossed the veggies with the chicken and soup and plated it up.
Juicy chicken, tender veggies, light sauce - simple and delicious.

Teachin' Ya Tuesdays - Shopping Smart

There is a reason I am always banging into things at the Supermarket. I am always looking down, because that is where most of the products I buy are displayed. Looking down (and up high too) is a great way to avoid being taken in by the design tricks employed by grocery stores to get you to spend more.
As this article from Yahoo points out, lots of planning goes into product placement in stores - all with the goal of keeping you in the store longer and getting you to part with more of your hard-earned cash.
So (besides my downward gaze towards value/store brand product shelves) what other weapons do I use to Shop smart?
The #1 most powerful tool you can arm yourself with, in my humble (and cheapo) opinion, is the Price Book.
For the items you use most, the things you buy again and again, knowing how much the item costs when it isn't on sale is the easiest way for you to tell if you should get excited when a store say that it is on sale. It is also the fastest way for you to see which store is offering you the best prices on a regular basis.
Yes - this takes a bit of time. But I always have time to save money, don't you?
Grab a notebook - I find full-sized works better than small, but that is just me. I like to make a page for each product and then write the date, store, product size, and if the product was on sale or priced normally.
For meat I have a page for each store and have the NON sale prices of typical cuts listed. That way I know if it is worth getting excited about the sale price of a pork picnic roast at Safeway, or if it is really cheaper everyday at Walmart.
If you can't update the book at the store, do it based on your receipts at least, so that weeks from now you can look back and see that Sunflower's lettuce prices are WAY better than that Albertson's produce you are about to toss in your cart. A price book helps you recognize savings when you see it - and (as GI Joe told me when I was growing up) "knowing is half the battle."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Steak with Asparagus "Pesto"

This is a genius idea - I stand behind that (less-than-modest) statement. That being said, my execution left plenty to be desired. (Making Keri a sad cook.)

The plan was this - use some lean, inexpensive, thin cuts of round steak to make yummy rolls, filling them with a sort of riff on pesto using the tender portion of Asparagus stems just below the "tree" tip which The Hub actually likes to eat. (I like to use this cut to wrap around filling, as in this recipe, which was fabulous!)

So I put the cooked stems into my trusty food processor:

And I processed them until smooth - then I added 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese and pulsed to mix.
I spread this mix on to the steak, which had marinated overnight in a balsamic vinegar and garlic mixture.
Then I rolled them up and baked them on a broiler pan at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.
All of this was fine - but upon biting into my creation, I knew immediately what needed to be done to solve the problem I was tasting. It was bland. Well, the filling was bland, the meat was actually a little too sweet from the balsamic reduction I paired with it at the last minute.

So, what should I have done? #1 - I didn't salt the filling, because I thought the cheese would be enough. WRONG!!! Needed some salt to kick the flavor of the Asparagus up a bit. #2 - I omitted nuts in the "pesto" ripoff. Bad call. Traditional pesto has toasted pine nuts, but this would have benefited from some almonds in the mix to add a little complexity to the flavor. #3 - Balsamic was too strong a flavor for the marinade, and FOR SURE for the sauce. It was sweet when I was wanting something savory. No Bueno.

I served it all with my usual baked potato casserole, and I got to use my pretty new dishes (thanks to The Hub for buying them for me - I love them!) so it wasn't a total loss, but I was disappointed that I didn't execute my awesome idea in a better way.

This filling will rise again, I promise. In a much tastier version, natch.
And I will return to the kitchen tonight, licking my wounds a bit, but still happy to be there. :)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Everyday Poached Chicken Perfection!

So I picked up the Jan/Feb edition of Everyday Food to read on the plane back from Indiana earlier this week after visiting this guy:

(nephew Vaughn, seen here eating in a fashion very similar to Aunt Keri's usual practices.)

By the time I walked through my front door, all I could think about was poaching chicken.

That's right, poaching chicken. It gets a bad rap sometimes - because poaching chicken, especially white meat, correctly is an elusive process. Often the chicken is bland, or rubbery, or dry, or (gasp) all of the above.

But Everyday Food seemed to have come up with a foolproof process, and I was itching to try it, AND to use that poached chicken to make some of the things suggested in the magazine.

The recipe? (as I said - it is from Everyday Food, Jan/Feb 2010)

1/2 medium yellow onion, halved

1 medium carrot, cut into thirds

1 celery stalk, cut into thirds

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 sliced lemon (optional)

1 teaspoon coarse salt

3 springs thyme or parsley

4 b/s chicken breast halves (about 8 oz each)

In a large, straight-sided skillet or pot, combine all ingredients except chicken; cover with water by 1/2 inch. Bring to a boil over high. Add chicken and return to a boil. Cook 3 minutes, then cover and remove from heat. Let stand until chicken is cooked through, about 15-18 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove from liquid immediately.

Ok, so first off, I did indeed, do a few things differently, (seriously, Keri NEVER could follow a recipe exactly) so:

I used a small whole red onion, cut in half (because it is what I had)

I used 2 small carrots cut in half (because I didn't have a medium one)

I used an extra piece of celery (because why not?)

I used pre minced garlic

"coarse salt?" snort - Morton's for me!

I opted for parsley flakes and no lemon

I actually did 5 b/s breast halves instead of 4

Here are the veggies covered with water:

And after bringing them to a boil I added the chicken:

It isn't so much what is in that pot kids - it is the method I am interested in here... The whole "bring to boil and then cover and let rest off heat" thing. That intrigued me because cooking too fast is my biggest problem when I try to poach. Even uber-low heat can be too much, it seems.

Can I tell ya - this worked like dream!! I let the chicken rest in the liquid covered for 18 minutes, turning at 9 minutes (really quickly so I didn't let too much heat out) and it was perfectly cooked. I mean PER-FECT. Juicy, tender, with a flavor that was mild but not bland in the least.
What to do with it? Well, you could just eat it with a light sauce made by reducing some of the poaching liquid, or:

Yesterday I took one of their suggestions and mixed some of the chicken (torn into shreds) with a drizzle of EVOO, 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, a sprinkle of dried parsley and basil, 4 oz of blanched fresh green beans and a whole cucumber chopped up. I let it sit in the fridge until lunch and all the flavors had combined - it was cool and crunchy and really a great lunch salad.
Today was good old chicken salad with a spoon of mayo and plenty of dill relish on wasa crackers with red bell pepper sticks on the side.

I also used some of the poached chicken to make shredded chicken tacos - I shredded the cold chicken and then heated (covered) very briefly in the microwave with a palmful of chili powder mixed in - then used that mixture to fill soft tacos and set out whatever fixins we had around. Mmm mmm good.

Simple, easy, versatile... a truly foolproof technique for poaching chicken.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day -Steakhouse at home

The Hub and I are both huge carnivores - if we could get away with it, we would probably eat red meat 3 times a day, 7 days a week and be happy as clams. (Clams that love red meat, that is.)
But that isn't good - for arteries, waistlines, OR the family budget. So a nice steak is always a way to make an occasion truly special at our house.
Our "Steak house at home" menu included grilled steaks with seasoned butter, steamed asparagus, and individual baked potato casseroles. To complete the experience, a nice dirty martini.

For this meal I actually went with a moderately priced cut of meat - the chuck eye steak (or chuck fillet as I have seen it labeled alot lately.) It is an underrated steak, in my opinion. You need to give a little extra time to selection when choosing one at the store - Look for a cut that has smaller, rather than larger, fatty deposits running through it -after all, you want to pay for meat, not just fat. But cuts from the chuck primal cut of beef can be very flavorful if prepared with a bit of thought.
I took ours home and marinaded in a mix of Worcestershire sauce and Balsamic vinegar in the fridge for about 4 hours, and then an hour before cooking, I pulled the steaks out of the fridge to let them come up to room temp so the inside wouldn't be raw while the outside was already overcooked. I cooked the steaks (which were about 3/4 inch thick) 10 minutes on a preheated George Foreman grill (so handy because both sides cook at once) to a medium-rare finish.
The baked potato casserole was made with some thawed mashed potatoes from the freezer (about a cup and a half), which got combined with 2 tablespoons of sour cream, 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt, a bit of black pepper, and 1/4 cup of 2% cheddar cheese (shredded). I divided this between two ramekin's, topped with a bit more cheese and 1 slice each of extra lean turkey bacon (crumbled).
Into a 350 degree oven about 15 minutes to heat through.

Before serving the steak each one got a pat of buttery-spread that I had mixed with a minced garlic clove and some salt and pepper. Mmmmmm.
The asparagus steamed for a minute and a half in the microwave.

The dirty martini is an art in our house, 2 oz Svedka (or vodka of your choice) in a shaker with 3/4 oz vermouth, 1/2-3/4 oz olive juice or dirty martini mix, and ice - shake until the shaker is as cold as you can stand holding it, then pour into chilled glasses. Add toothpick with 3 olives (has to be 3 in our house) and enjoy.

It was a really great meal.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Prudent Homemaker's Yummy Tacos

I am often in awe of The Prudent Homemaker... She makes chicken fried steak out of OATMEAL, for one thing (I will be trying that one soon). Everything she suggests turns out yummy, and she has taken stockpiling sale items to a level that can only be called an art.
These tacos are no exception. I seasoned my beef with salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder and onion powder instead of using prefab taco seasoning, but we were pretty true to her recipe otherwise.
I think these are the "go to" tacos in our house from now on - they are just too easy and too good to resist.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Slow-Cooker Smothered Pork Chops

I confess, I deviated from the Menu Plan this week. But only sort of.
I changed yesterday to Bratwurst day, and today to Slow-cooker Pork Chop day, because I was running really late yesterday in the morning and I didn't have time to assemble everything in the crock pot before I ran out the door.
So I did it this morning - here is the recipe:

4 Boneless loin chops, medium or thin (bone in would work great in this as well)
2 Cloves of garlic minced
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 can cream of chicken soup (or cream of mushroom if preferred)
Olive oil (a drizzle)
1 bell pepper roasted and sliced.

To assemble:
Turn slow cooker to "low" setting and spread a thin layer of Cream of Chicken soup into bottom of Cooker. to this add 1/3 of the garlic and cayenne, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and a small drizzle of Olive oil (I used Rosemary infused today, since I had some.)
Place two of the chops into the pan, and repeat with 1/2 of the remaining soup, 1/3 of the garlic and cayenne, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a drizzle of oil.
Place the last two chops in the pot on top of the soup covering the first two, and repeat the process with the end of all of your ingredients.
Cover and allow to cook on low all day - about 8 hours.

When you are ready to serve, remove the chops to a plate and stir the sliced roasted peppers (I buy and roast lots when they are on sale, and then freeze them already cut in strips,) into the gravy (soup mixture left in the crock pot). Allow the peppers to heat through and then serve the Chops smothered in the gravy and peppers.
MMMMMMM. (you can use onion too, but The Hub doesn't like onion, so I leave it out.)

Tonight we are having our Chops with a mixture of broccoli, carrots, and potatoes, tossed in the Rosemary Olive Oil and roasted in the oven until tender at 400 degrees. I can't wait!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

BBQ Chicken and Wedge Salads

Confession: My hankering for blue cheese dressing has been BOUNDLESS the past few weeks. (I guess it *is* sort of like liquid cheese, if you think about it, so I shouldn't be too shocked)
Anyway, that might explain my sudden desire to serve wedge salads.
Who doesn't love a good old-fashioned 1950's throwback Wedge salad? The Hub for one. :(
He does not share my love of blue cheese dressing (although he does like blue cheese crumbled in salads,) and he finds the wedge concept to difficult to negotiate on his plate.
So the party pooper got a chopped up, choose-your-own dressing version of it, and I got the glorious monument you see on the plate above.
Simply cut a head of iceberg into wedges of whatever size you like, pour on blue cheese dressing (I cheated and used store bought since I had a killer coupon/sale combo to work with this week leaving me to pay 59 cents total for a giant bottle,) and then sprinkle liberally with bacon crumbles (these are extra lean turkey bacon cooked in a frying pan until nice and crispy.)
So good along side my chicken breast tenders baked simply at 375 degrees in store bought BBQ sauce spiced up with a few dashes of Tabasco sauce for 30 minutes, tender and juicy and full of zingy flavor. A perfect combo with my wedge. (HA, she said "my wedge" and that is close to "wedgie"!! Yep - I am, in fact, a 5 year old.)
This is one wedge anyone is welcome to inflict on me again and again.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Meal Plan Monday at Spirit of Power

It's Meal Plan Monday over at Spirit of Power! Check out what's cooking over the next week, and be sure to come back here for all the recipes (and reactions) throughout the week.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Egg topped noodles -Penny Pincher redo

So when I promised a Penny Pincher version of this fabulous and yummy-sounding recipe from Bon Appetit magazine this week, it was without consulting the magic 8 ball that would have no doubt told me "not likely" or "try again later" or (if it was a REALLY fancy magic 8 ball) "you will be too busy barfing and sipping flat coke this week, Keri."
I have tummy trouble. :(
Eating actually sounds like an awful idea to Keri right now - take a picture, this is maybe the 5th moment in my entire 33 years that this has happened.
But the blog must go on, right? So I did it anyway. (Who loves you? Keri does, that's who!)
What did I do different than the original recipe above? It was all about ingredient substitutions, actually, I followed the same basic steps, but I worked with what I had.
In a pot of boiling water seasoned well with salt, I placed two servings' worth of Ronzoni Smart Taste spaghetti (actually, I would have loved to use whole wheat pasta in the place of the buckwheat noodles called for in the original recipe, but I got a great deal on the Smart Taste a couple weeks ago, so it is what we had.)
While the pasta cooked, I heated up a swirl of olive oil in a skillet and added 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic to the oil over medium high heat. Within a minute I also added 4 slices of extra lean turkey bacon (salty and crispy and yummy, but less expensive than prosciutto and ALWAYS on hand in my fridge). The bacon crisped and got some nice color, and then I removed it to a plate.
To the pasta pot I added 1 cup of sliced broccoli stems (I usually save them for soup since The Hub only really likes "the tree part" of broccoli, but their bright green color and firm crunch seemed the perfect substitution for Asparagus, which I will buy if the price is right, but didn't have in the house.) I let that cook with the pasta for about 2 minutes before draining the pasta and returning to the pan, along with some grated Parmesan cheese. I covered the pot to let the cheese get melty and keep everything warm.
Meanwhile, I cracked two eggs into the pan that I had cooked the bacon and garlic in earlier and let the eggs cook over medium low heat, covered, until the whites were set.
I added the bacon to the pasta mixture and gave everything a good stir before nesting the pasta on to two plates and topping with the eggs.
I snuck a bite. It was worth feeling sick afterwards - the salty tang of the cheese and the bacon, the crisp crunch of the broccoli, and the comforting bite of pasta coated with the rich egg yolk all together? It was the perfect bite.
Simple, economical, and super quick - this one is getting made again when I can dig into a whole plate!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Teachin' Ya Tuesdays - Portion control, please!

I admit it - I suffer from SERIOUS portion control issues. When I eat, I tend to like quantity right along with my quality.
I have been really trying to be aware, over the past few weeks, of how much I actually eat, when I eat.
I was very proud of myself last night for NOT being a member of the clean plate club. I was starting to feel full, so instead of cramming down the last of the Garlic Fries on my plate, I backed away and took my plate to the kitchen. (I got a Tweet of approval from every one's favorite Dietetics student, Nuts4Nutrition for it too, yes I did, uh huh.)
But that is not my usual mojo. I am the girl with the GIANT bowl full of cereal, or huge Mexican combo plate, or Cesar salad big enough for the whole table to share, and usually scarfing it down at break-neck pace, to be honest. :(
So I have been concentrating on eating slowly. Enjoying the flavor, texture, etc of the food as I take each bite and concentrate on eating just that one bite. This seems to help with portion control because I don't feel like I "ran out" of food too quickly, like I do when I am shoveling as fast as I can.
It isn't quite as easy to convince The Hub though. He likes a plentiful portion too, and for him I have tried employing some sneakier tactics. (shhhh, don't tell.)
-We eat off plates that have a small area that actually holds food. It takes less food to make the plate look nice and full. Fooling the eyes AND the tummy!
-I load in the good stuff. A big bowl of beef stew looks like a large and hearty portion, and it is. But I have loaded in lots of chunks of healthy veggies, and cut back on beef in the mix. Also, now he gets one nice big slice of crusty bread for dipping, instead of half the loaf on the table to be eaten between the two of us!
-Thin cuts of meat = lots of plate covered with a smaller actual portion. Thin cut pork chops are a frequent sight on our table, as are chicken breasts that have been butterflied and then cut the rest of the way, to create two thinner "breasts" (reduction surgery, ED&BK style!)
-Presentation - I always like a pretty plate, true - but some of it is also about making portions look plentiful. In the picture below of my inside-out shepherd's pie, notice that I pile everything high in the center of the plate - it is taking up a lot of vertical space, not really filling the whole plate. The Hub sees that and thinks "giant mound of food" but really, not so much.

I can't lie - portion control is a battle I feel I fight a little each day. But I'll keep my dukes up, and try at least, to know when to put my fork down.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Menu Plan Monday link and rundown

It's Menu Plan Monday over at Spirit of Power, and here is what I have on deck for this week!
I am really excited for Tuesday night's Penny Pincher makeover of a recipe from Bon Appetit that looks amazing.
Also, I promise to confess the details of last weeks horrifying slowcooker taco casserole failure (cringe) sometime this week, so visit again soon!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Inside-out Shepherd's Pie

I have a confession. I can be a little lazy after a long day of work. But even when I am feeling a bit, um, "undermotivated" shall we say, I still love cooking a yummy dinner for the fam when I get home. Not only does cooking soothe my stressed-out soul, all of the "yummy noises" The Hub makes when consuming my creations do wonders for an ego bruised by slaying office dragons all day.
That being said - it never hurts to keep things as easy as possible, right? And so I give you the Inside-out Shepherd's Pie. All of the delicious flavor of the comfort food classic, with none of the extra assembly required!
Shepherd's pie is very forgiving, and I probably never do the exact same thing twice, but it is usually something like this:
-Make mashed potatoes (or use flakes, or use leftovers - this is a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes!) I dice potatoes small and boil them on the stove until tender before draining and adding a few splashes of milk and whipping them with my trusty hand mixer. Don't forget to taste and season with S&P.
-brown 1/2 lb of stew meat, cubed beef, or ground beef
-to the pan add 1 can of veggie beef soup and 1 can of water, stirring and scraping the pan bottom to deglaze the pan
-add 1 shake off the bottle of Worcestershire Sauce
-bring mixture to a boil
-mix two teaspoons of corn starch with two tablespoons of cold water and stir well
-add the corn starch slurry (yep that stuff you just made is a "slurry") to the boiling beef mixture and stir rapidly until mixture thickens.
Spoon mounds of mashed potatoes on to serving plates, making a well or indentation in the top of each mound.
Ladle beef mixture into potato well and allow to spill out over the sides of the mound.
Sprinkle with paprika and cheese if desired.
*Added bonus, not having to worry that when you attempt to serve your Shepherd's pie, it is going to fall apart in a messy heap. "Messy Heap" is what you are aiming for. :)

Beefy Mac with Creamy Tomato Sauce

I know it looks a little um, unimpressive, shall we say - but people, this is tasty as heck!! The secret here really is in the sauce.
While you are boiling your elbow macaroni:
Brown 1/2 lb ground beef and drain
Then add to the beef:
1/4 - 1/2 brick of cream cheese
1 palmful of Basil
12-16 oz of tomato sauce (I buy the 8 oz cans of the cheapy store brand sauce by the tomato paste and doctor it up myself.)

Stir it all together over medium heat, allowing the cream cheese to melt into the sauce. mmmmmm.
Then drain and add your pasta, sprinkle some Mozzarella cheese if desired, and serve in a delicious mound. I repeat: mmmmmm.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ritz Cracker Crumb Chicken

Folks, you've seen it before... Keri coats stuff in crumbs ands sticks it in the oven. Not much variation from my usual technique to be seen here. But what IS different = a whole different flavor, (which = no boring The Hub.)
To make the crumb coating this time I took this baggie filled with 10 Ritz crackers out on to The Tree House patio:
Then I smacked the snot out of it with the back of my frying pan until it looked like this:

Those crumbs coated the chicken breasts, which I first dipped in an egg white beaten with a splash of milk, and then the whole thing baked in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Honestly, it should have been more like 20 - they were a little over cooked this time, but I was busy sauteing some yellow squash with fresh basil for myself, as seen above. The Hub got steamed cauliflower and carrots (picky picky.)
The cracker coating on the chicken was buttery and just a little salty - really different and really good. I wonder what else I can pulverize into crumb coating with my frying pan. It does a cook a little good after a long day at the office. :)

Teachin' Ya Tuesdays - Making Menu Planning Work for You

Last week my fabulous friend Kate repeated the same lament I have heard from girlfriends and ED&BK readers alike: "My freezer is full but I don't see anything to actually cook!" Every week groceries get bought and put away, and every night full pantries and fridges are met with blank, overwhelmed stares.
The answer to this? Menu planning. Regardless of how you attack your grocery shopping, menu planning can make the most of your time and money and make getting dinner on the table each night oh-so-easy.
Each week I take a peak in the freezer and pantry cabinet to see what I have, I consider any new recipes I have found that I want to try, what favorite recipes we haven't had in a while, and any time commitments that might affect dinner plans during the week. Then I make a list of meals for the week which hangs on the side of the fridge where I can easily see it.
But there is one more step, and this is a biggie - it can make or break the whole thing: I gather the frozen meat I will need for the week and I put it all in a bottom drawer in my fridge (in a glass dish just in case there is any leaking) so it will at least begin to thaw. (The picture above was from this menu plan.) I pull any canned items I want to use to the front of the pantry cabinet, and I make sure any fresh fruit or veggies are washed and easily seen and accessed in the produce drawer. If I have any other prep that I can do (making bread crumbs, grating cheese, etc, ) I get that done as well.
With all of that done, I know what I am making, and I know I have everything I need to make it. There are no surprises that way, and no excuses needed. Dinners are ready in a snap.
I encouraged Kate to give it a try, and to take it a step further and start out with an "eat from the freezer" week - a week of menus planned using ONLY what they already have in the house.
Taking less than an hour a week to do just a little bit of planning can transform dinner preparation from a dreaded chore to a quick and enjoyable activity each evening.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Nachos - the lazy cook's way.

Hello, Nacho.

Oh look, Keri is eating liquid cheese. The sun probably also came up this morning too, eh?

Ok, but I have a reason this time. The Hub decided to stay around the house for last night's Saints game instead of meeting the gang at the local watering hole, so I wanted to have something of the "bar food snacky" persuasion. (Thinking in the same vein as that old country song about the lady who hires a wino to decorate their home to make her hub feel comfy.)

I was so lazy about this go around, I must confess. I browned up some ground chicken with a generous palmful of Chili Powder:

in to which I mixed a can of Campbell's Fiesta Nacho Cheese soup (Which I scored stacking a sale with an awesome coupon and got for practically nothing - hooray for cheap liquid cheese,) and 1/4 cup of diced jalapenos, and 1/2 of the soup can of milk:

Mmmmmm.. cheesey. I added diced onions to mine, and a few shakes of extra spicy hot sauce all around.
Oh Campbell's, is there anything you can't do?

Menu Plan Monday!

It is Menu Plan Monday over at Spirit of Power!! Check out this week's dinners, and be sure to stop by tomorrow for a Teachin' Ya Tuesday devoted to the magic of menu planning!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Breakfast For Dinner - Sweet Potato Casualty

Having "Breakfast for Dinner" night is a great way to shake things up a bit AND pinch pennies. Our latest BFD night included one of my favorite breakfasts with a new twist.

I have talked before about the recipes that I have been cooking since my girl scout days, and Casualty was a staple camp breakfast for good old troop 1062. Loved it then, love it now.

The traditional recipe (amounts vary according to number of hungry BFD eaters) that we cooked as scouts involved using a big dutch oven over a camp fire to cook chopped up bacon, rendering the fat, then cooking thin-sliced or small diced potatoes in the bacon drippings, adding some diced onion, and then pouring scrambled eggs over everything and letting it all cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggs set. Then topping the whole thing with plenty of shredded cheese and serving in a big heaping pile. It looks like a mess, which must be why we called it "casualty". It is SO good.

I decided to mix it up (and make it a little healthier) this time. I started out with some leftover sweet potatoes and yams which had accompanied adobo chicken last week, and some extra lean turkey bacon all into a hot pan coated with canola spray:

All of that cooked together for a bit to crisp up, and then I added 2 whole eggs and 4 egg whites, all of which had been scrambled with a splash of milk and a pinch of dry mustard powder. Last week King Soopers had some grade B eggs in the manager's special section, so I snatched some up - I assure you they are just as good as grade A, and so much less expensive:

For some added kick, a few generous splashes of Louisiana hot sauce:
Then some chopped up American cheese (use what ya have, I always say):

And then the lid went on until the cheese got all melty. mmmmmm, melty.

I served it in a nice messy pile next to a thick slice of fresh-from-the-broiler sourdough toast and left the hot sauce close by in case we wanted things EXTRA spicy.
I think my troop leader would be proud.