Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips

Nothing says summer like fresh, vibrant flavors. Nothing says summer like fruit. I love when summer finally gets here, because that means all of the fruits and vegetables will be at their peak for freshness and flavor. And I could live on fruits and vegetables!
This is another one of those recipes in my collection that I found somewhere, and it wasn't exactly/entirely what I wanted, so I added some stuff and changed it until it was my own. I had liked the original idea, that of making a sweet salsa instead of a savory, but it just didn't have enough fruits in it for me. So, more of the fruits I like were bought and added to the mix! The first time I made this was with my best friend, Steph, and I can't even remember what exactly we were cooking for. I only remember that we were cooking a lot of food for some kind of party, and this was to be our snack while we were preparing all of this other food. We doubled the recipe, and there was still very little left over at the end of the night!

Printable Recipe

1 qt. finely chopped fresh strawberries
½ pint blueberries, halved
1 (15 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained and chopped
1 lb. fresh bing cherries, pitted and chopped
3 medium kiwifruit, peeled and finely chopped
16 oz. unsweetened crushed pineapple, drained
1½ tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Cinnamon Chips:
10 (8-in.) flour tortillas
¼ c. butter, melted or butter-flavored cooking spray
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
⅓ c. sugar

In a medium bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until serving.
For the chips, brush tortillas with butter; cut each into eight wedges. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over tortillas. Place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 5-10 minutes or just until crisp. To prepare the chips in less time, and with more calories, you can also deep fry the tortillas in hot oil until they are golden brown and crisp. When they are done, remove them from the hot oil to a paper towel lined plate, and immediately sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Serve with fruit salsa. Yield: approximately 5 cups salsa (80 chips).

Oven Roasted Potatoes

So, this recipe is not entirely difficult or anything, but it IS one of my favorite ways to prepare potatoes. Actually, roasting is one of my favorite ways to prepare almost everything! I love the way that what you're roasting gets this wonderful golden brown color from being gently caramelized and the flavor that the roasting brings out. It's just wonderful, yummy goodness...
When it comes to roasted potatoes, I have gotten so discouraged at times because nearly every single recipe out there calls for you to roast them with rosemary. I'm fairly certain that I just haven't had a recipe in which it was prepared properly and this has led to my absolute dislike of the herb as a result. In my opinion, there are two things, despite some popular belief, that you can have too much of - garlic and rosemary. Don't get me wrong, garlic can be delicious. But you CAN have too much of a good thing! As for rosemary... Until someone can prepare a dish for me, using rosemary, and I am not overwhelmed by the extremely intense flavor of it, I will continue in my dislike of it. And if I feel the unbearable desire to eat something that tastes like pine needles, I'll just take a hike out to the pine tree in the yard and pick a few off! :-P Now, give me some yummy, fresh basil, and I could probably just put that in a salad and eat it all by itself!! Hee hee hee!
For roasted potatoes, my very favorite are the baby reds. However, you can probably use any potato you like and they will be wonderful and delicious. I recently found a bag which contained a combination of baby russet, red, and purple potatoes, so I used those with yummy results! I've seen purple potatoes, like in magazines and on television, but they had never been in any of the grocery stores I had access to, so I never tried them. So, of course, I just had to try them! And they taste like a potato. While being a pretty and interesting presentation, the flavor does not stand out as being anything really spectacular or addictive. But, they ARE potato goodness! :-) I think the important thing to remember is that you don't NEED to have the little baby potatoes to make this dish - you can use whatever potato you have on hand or find on sale at the grocery store - you just need to be sure to cut the potatoes into a somewhat uniform size so that they roast in the same amount of time.

2 lb. red new potatoes, quartered
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the potatoes in a bowl with the olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper; toss until the potatoes are well coated. Transfer the potatoes to a sheet pan and spread out into 1 layer. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until browned and crisp. Flip twice with a spatula during cooking in order to ensure even browning. Remove the potatoes from the oven and serve hot.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tarragon Chicken Salad

So, this is the chicken salad recipe I had been referring to... The one that one of my residents begged her daughter for so that she could give it to me! Admittedly, I did change a couple of things in the original recipe to suit my own tastes better, but the original comes from Kathy! :-)

I remember when I was first given the recipe... One of the ingredients - East Shore brand Key Lime mustard - is not a very conventional ingredient at all, and I spent a long time searching in local grocery stores for the dumb stuff. Only to find that Kathy usually gets it when she vacations in Door County! So, we called Kathy up and she told us exactly where I could find this mustard, which happens to be a little store called Main Street Market in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin. Needless to say, I called them up and gave them my credit card information to send me some of this mustard... Now, normally, I would have just forgone the special mustard and opted for a good Dijon instead (which is what I did when making it prior to ordering this special mustard), but I was intrigued by what the flavor might taste like. It's really quite interesting!
I don't know if anyone else does this, but I do it all the time... Any time I'm working with a new ingredient that I'm not sure of, I taste it. Just the ingredient, whatever it may be. There are a few exceptions, of course, but I generally taste everything separately before adding it to anything else. Spices... Herbs... Fruits... Vegetables... Sauces... Mustards... Whatever! It really is easier to know/figure out what I would like best with an ingredient if I know what said ingredient tastes like on its own. And this Key Lime mustard was no exception. In fact, I still remember the day it came in the mail... I opened my mailbox and was initially confused by what it could be in this big manila envelope, until I saw the return address and realized that it was my mustard arriving already!! (I'm easily excitable at times...) I ran back to my apartment and immediately ripped the envelope open and took the jar of mustard out, followed by breaking the seal and taking a small sample about a minute later! It's different... But really tasty!

Now, like I said, if you can't find the Key Lime mustard and/or don't want to order it, don't even worry about it; feel free to use a good Dijon mustard instead. And feel free to mix up some of the ingredients if you prefer something else, make it your own! That's what recipes are for. Recipes are not set in stone, they're a guide you can change all you want until they are exactly what you do want!

2 (13 oz.) cans Chicken Breast (like Tyson)
4 Tbsp. coarsely chopped walnuts
4 tsp. dried minced onions
4 tsp. dried tarragon leaves
8-12 twists fresh ground pepper
1/2 - 3/4 c. craisins
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. Key Lime (East Shore brand) or Dijon mustard
1 c. Hellman's mayonnaise

Drain the chicken and remove from cans to a double layer of paper towels; pat dry and then flake the chicken into a medium bowl. Add the next five ingredients and stir to combine. Mix together the mustard and mayonnaise in a small bowl and add to the chicken mixture. Cover and chill; allow to sit for at least an hour to marry the flavors. Serve on croissants.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer Tomato & Cucumber Salad

Last night I thought I had it all figured out about what I was going to post for today... I have this wonderful chicken salad that one of my residents begged her daughter to share with me (who I in turn share it with every time I make it), and I just made a fresh batch of it so that I could take pictures. I bought some fresh croissants from the bakery. Everything was planned out. And then today happened!
Like the crazy person I am, I agreed to work for one of the girls this morning. But, it was only a four-hour shift, so it wasn't so bad... At 10:30, I finished that shift and started walking home when I came across someone setting up a garden-fresh produce stand on the route I take! There were baskets and baskets of fresh, red, ripe tomatoes... Baskets of fresh zucchini... Fresh cucumbers (the great farm fresh kind that aren't covered in wax)... Watermelons... And all kinds of other stuff that I know I'm missing! Admittedly, the cucumbers and tomatoes caught my eye and grabbed my attention right away, so I didn't really have eyes for much of anything else today. The only thing stopping me from buying a whole crap-ton of vegetables right then and there was that I only had $7 in my pocket... So, I settled for 2 cucumbers, at a lovely price of 2 for $1, and 3 very large tomatoes, at $2 a pound.
I didn't even know what I was going to do with my treasures right away - there are so many things I want to make with the fresh produce that I was having a hard time picking just one! Should I make some yummy BLTs?! With a Creamy Cucumber Salad? That sounded wonderful! But, as delicious as that sounds, there is ONE thing that sounded even better, especially because I haven't had it since last year - Tomato and Cucumber Salad!! It's so easy, yet so delicious! My only regret... It was so good that I ate it all in one afternoon/evening and now I have none left until I go back and get some more veggies! :'( Maybe I should just triple the recipe... ;-P
This is one of those recipes I have in my arsenal which was inspired by something else. I used to work at a nursing home that made a very similar salad, and I liked it so much that I decided to try making it myself. I might be a little biased, but I think mine tastes much better! Hmmmmmm... Perhaps because I am so awesome?! :-P Most likely, I think it's because I only make it in the summertime, when fresh produce is at its peak and readily available. If you've never had a real garden-fresh tomato, you NEED to go find your local farmer's market and grab yourself some real tomatoes! I can't even describe how much better the flavor is compared to what you buy in the store... They are just AWESOME!!

Look at these! You can just SEE how much better they're going to taste!!

3 large, ripe tomatoes
1 large or 2 small cucumbers
1/2 medium purple onion
2 Tbsp. dried parsley (or use fresh if you have it)
Zesty Italian salad dressing

Core the tomatoes, chop into large chunks, and place in a medium-sized bowl. Peel the cucumbers and cut them lengthwise into quarters; slice to medium thickness and place in the bowl with the tomatoes. Dice the onion and add that to the bowl. Sprinkle dried parsley on top of everything, crushing a little bit to help release the flavors of the herb. Pour Italian dressing over everything until it makes a nice sauce for the vegetables to bathe in (I used approximately 3/4 of a bottle of dressing) and stir to combine. Let the salad rest for at least an hour, to marry the flavors, before serving.

Roasted Ratatouille Paninis

After making my ratatouille and having so much left over, I had to come up with something to do with the rest of it... I mean, it was really good and all, but I can only eat the same exact thing for about two or three days in a row before I'm growing a little tired of it. And since I apparently only know how to cook like I'm feeding an army instead of one person, I had a TON of ratatouille leftovers!

That got me thinking... I make a roasted vegetable panini, which has many of the same ingredients, so I got out my little George Foreman grill, some bread and cheese, and got to work! These paninis are equally delicious and I know I received at least one envious stare while sitting at the lunch table at work that evening. :-)

2 slices cottage or potato bread
2 slices Provolone cheese
1 c. (approximately) prepared ratatouille
Spreadable margarine or butter

Spread one side of each slice of bread with enough margarine or butter to just cover, like you would for a toasted cheese sandwich. On the non-buttered sides of the bread, place one slice of the Provolone cheese each. On one of the slices of cheese-covered bread, spread the ratatouille mixture to evenly cover the inside of the sandwich and top with the other piece of cheese and bread. Place the sandwich, with the buttered sides facing the outside, onto a preheated panini press or George Foreman grill and cook until the bread is toasted a nice golden brown color and the cheese is melted. (If you're using a George Foreman grill, you may have to rotate the sandwich 180 degrees after a few minutes in order to get an even press on the sandwiches.) Remove sandwich to a cooling rack and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before cutting into it. Makes 1 sandwich

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Oven Roasted Ratatouille

So, this is one of those recipes that I have NO idea exactly where I found it... I know I had found it online somewhere, and had just happened to stumble across it while looking for something else, but I don't remember exactly where it was.
In any case, I was intrigued by the recipe and typed it up into a Microsoft Word document and then saved it onto my "Cookbook" flash drive. (Yes, I am THAT kind of fruitcake! All of the recipes I find and like or am intrigued by, I type into a Word document and save onto this little flash drive which I titled "Cookbook". I have the folders - 25, to be exact - and subfolders on this flash drive set up so that I can easily access it and find whatever I might want, from beverages to vegetables. I even have a Twilight-Themed Party folder, which includes recipes for a party I am helping to plan with some friends for when the next movie in the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn, comes out in theaters! And, yes, the recipes I test for that will appear on my blog. :-) )

So, anyways, back to the ratatouille!

I had never had the stuff before, but I was more than willing to give it a try... Especially when it included one of my favorite herbs - basil! Not to mention, it is loaded with vegetables, making it extra healthy. Basically, all ratatouille recipes are made up entirely of vegetables which are cooked or roasted in some way, shape, or form. I've come across recipes for ratatouille previously which consisted of a number of ways to prepare the dish, including grilling and cooking on the stove top, but they didn't really grab my attention because they were essentially just recipes of a bunch of cooked vegetables thrown together in a dish and served. Now, c'mon, that's not really a recipe! Well, not in my opinion anyways...
Then, I found this recipe! Every time I make this dish, it turns out delicious; and I'm not one for exact measurements when cooking, so it turns out a little bit different every time. The best thing about ratatouille is that it's so versatile - you can eat a whole plate of it with some crusty French bread as a meal in itself, you can serve it as a side dish, and even use it in sandwiches. And while you CAN prepare this and freeze it for later, I would suggest that you only use the thawed stuff in sandwiches because all of the vegetables tend to get really soft when thawed out and heated up.

1 pan of already roasted ratatouille next to one waiting to be roasted.

The completely finished product!

1 medium Italian eggplant or several Asian
2 lb. ripe Roma tomatoes
¼ c. red wine
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 medium green or yellow zucchini
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 large red onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. coriander seeds, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the eggplant into 2½ - 3 cm. chunks and put all of them into a colander. Salt well, if necessary, and then place several paper towels on top of the vegetable. Place the colander in a sink basin or in a bowl and then put a weight on top of the vegetable to draw out the bitter juices and let sit for about 30 minutes. (This step of salting is really only necessary sometimes for the Italian eggplants.)
Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the pulp and seeds before cutting them into chunks. Put the chunks into a bowl, add salt, pepper and then the wine and vinegar. Let the tomatoes macerate as you set the oven temp to 450°, then go about chopping the zucchini and bell peppers into 2½ - 3 cm. pieces and cut the onions into wedges.
In one or more roasting pans (for this quantity, two 9 x 13 pans will work splendidly - and I used disposable pans so that I wouldn't have to scrub my good pans afterwards) coat the insides with olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Take the weight off the eggplant, discard the bitter water, rinse, and tumble the vegetable into the pans, then follow with the tomatoes (juices and all) and the rest of the vegetables and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, and then sprinkle the spices on top and mix all the vegetables together by hand. I usually add another restrained glug of olive oil on top prior to popping the tins into the oven. Bake for an hour or until the veggies are tender and their edges are slightly singed.

Monday, July 19, 2010

French Onion Soup

For many years now, I have sampled French Onion Soup at nearly every restaurant I've gone to (so long as they've offered it on the menu). If it's good, I LOVE French Onion Soup. But, when it's bad... Ugh! The part that really burns my butt, though, is this - French Onion Soup is cheap to make. I mean really cheap. So, for them to rob me of my hard-earned five dollars in exchange for their mostly mediocre broth concoction is just a crime! Especially when said concoction is mostly just a bunch of beef stock or broth with a few little chopped onions in the bottom of the bowl. What the frank is that crap?!
Frustrated by the lack of deliciousness when I'm being forced to pay an obscene amount of money for something, I finally decided to figure out how to make it myself. I went to Google and typed in "French Onion Soup," and could have spent days pouring through (no pun intended) all of the soup recipes... From Julia Child's recipe to every other home cook's variation, I picked through maybe 10 different recipes, looking for what I wanted most. I never actually did find that recipe, though... So, what I did instead was looked at the recipes I liked some parts of, took those parts and mixed them with some other parts, then put my own little touch on it. The recipe I came up with gets rave reviews from everyone who tries it!

Printable Recipe

4 lb. onions, sliced
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 - 6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
8 c. beef broth
1 Tbsp. dried thyme, crushed
2 - 3 bay leaves
Salt & pepper to taste
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
Baguette, cut in ½-in. slices and toasted or croutons
Provolone cheese, sliced
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

In a Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter with the oil; add onions. Cover and cook, without stirring, for 15 minutes. Cook 30 - 45 minutes longer or until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally.
Add the garlic, mixing it with the onions a little bit, and pour in the beef broth. Add salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaves, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 20 to 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven's broiler. Toast the bread slices. Ladle the soup into ovenproof bowls and place the bowls on a baking sheet. Place a toasted slice of bread (or croutons) over each bowl and top with Provolone and Parmesan cheeses. Place the bowls under the broiler until the cheeses are melted and lightly browned.

Welcome to Sandie's Bitchin' Kitchen!

I can't even begin to describe what I am feeling right now in creating this blog... I am really very excited about the whole thing! I'm also a little nervous too. I know that I don't come up with all of my recipes on my own, and I have never claimed that I do either. However, I don't remember where I found all of my recipes, and I don't want to get in trouble for copying someone else's recipes because I don't know who to give the credit to - although, if it's a basic recipe, it most likely definitely came from Alton Brown. :-) I seriously have Food Network or The Cooking Channel on my television ALL THE TIME. I'm always looking through cookbooks and cooking magazines. And is that really necessary with recipes, to have to give your source for where you got your inspiration?! I don't even know! Really, if you think about it, all recipes had to start somewhere... All recipes had to get their information, even a base knowledge, from somewhere... So, if they don't credit those base recipes as where they adapted their "original" recipe from, is that not also copying someone else's ideas? A painter or musician receives inspiration from their everyday lives, the people around them, objects around them, but they don't have to state the source for said inspiration. Cooking is equally artistic and beautiful! Really, I would just like to think that we're all sharing and borrowing... Food can be so wonderful. Why hog it all to ourselves?! And, for the most part, I don't mind sharing my recipes, whether original or not. If someone else would also enjoy the creation too, why keep it a secret and hoard it like the last cookie found at the bottom of the cookie jar?

Now, speaking of cookies, there is ONE recipe in this whole world that I will NOT share... And that is the recipe for my Oatmeal Cherry Cookies. That is a special recipe, created with a friend, and we are both sworn to secrecy. One day, we are going to make it rich with that recipe! I just know it!! :-)

With that being said... Welcome to my blog!