Thursday, July 24, 2008

Oven Fried Chicken

I LOVE fried chicken. When I think of making fried chicken though, I almost always come up with a number of reasons not to make it. For starters, it's time consuming and makes a huge mess of the kitchen, then there's that pesky nutrition thing... fried chicken is just plain bad for you. So, it was time to come up with an alternative.

I've always looked at oven fried chicken recipes a little suspiciously, to me they just never looked they would work well or the recipe used bread crumbs, which... well , just reminds me a bit of shake n bake. This week, however, I decided to try one of the recipes I had set aside a while back and give it a shot. Not only was it healthier than fried chicken, it tastes really good and was a whole lot easier and less messy. I was actually very surprised with how well this recipe turned out, it was crispy, flavorful and the coating stayed on! This will now be making regular appearances in our monthly menus as it's quite affordable on top of everything else... WIN WIN WIN!

1 cup low fat buttermilk
1 heaping Tbs whole grain Dijon mustard
1-2 Tbs your favorite hot sauce
12 chicken legs (you can remove the skin to make it healthier, but I left it on)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste
cajun seasoning to taste
2 tsp paprika
olive oil cooking spray

Combine buttermilk, mustard and hot sauce in a gallon size zipper top bag, add chicken legs and allow to marinate 2 to 4 hours (you can even let this go overnight if you want).

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a baking rack large enough to hold all of the chicken pieces on it. Spray the rack with olive oil spray.

Mix flour and seasonings in a medium bowl. Remove chicken from marinade, shaking off excess, and coat in flour. Place on prepared rack. Spray chicken pieces with olive oil spray, turn and spray the other sides. Place in oven and bake 40 minutes, turn and continue baking another 15-20 minutes or until chicken is browned and cooked through.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

French Onion Meatloaf

Ok, no picture this time. I apologize, but no matter how much I tried, I just could not make meatloaf look pretty. I swear, I DID try, but my lack of photography skill and meatloaf's lack of looking attractive wore me out.... and the kids were getting hungry. So... no picture.

Ok, FINE... if you insist on a picture, here's one of my lovely 2 year old princess patiently waiting for me to serve her dinner.

Happy now? Good. Let's continue.

It's has been brought to my attention that, while I'm posting some good recipes, I haven't really broached the subject of how I manage to feed my larger than normal family on a budget. Well, I plan.. A LOT, and part of that planning is to include meals that I can make on my less busy days that can carry over well to another day where time may be a bit more crunched, either as leftovers or a new concoction that includes the leftovers. This French onion meatloaf is an excellent example.

Let me first start by saying that as an adult I haven't been a big fan of meatloaf in general. It's not that I dislike it, or won't eat it, it's just one of those meals that I hated to see come to the table even when I was a kid. It's boring, dry and oh so 60's/70's "what were we thinking when we ate that stuff?". My husband and children, on the other hand, decided to mutiny one day and insist that I make the "stuff", so I had to find a compromise. I searched, and I experimented, and each time I came up short of what either side of the war was looking for. One day I found this recipe. It was so different I had to try it. It's now been my go to recipe for a number of years (so many that I can't remember where I got the original recipe). This makes a large loaf (2lbs), so miracle of miracles... it's a meal I can actually use as leftovers. It reheats well and makes one heck of a meatloaf sandwich too (according to my husband, I personally draw the line at cold meatloaf sandwiches... sorry.)

Give this one a try, you won't be sorry... it's moist, savory and flavorful, and it works just as well with mashed potatoes and peas as your Mom's meatloaf... maybe even better.

French Onion Meatloaf

1 lb hamburger
1 lb pork sausage (any kind you like)
1 medium onion, diced and sauteed until just cooked through
1 sleeve saltine crackers crushed (may add more if it seems too moist)
1 8 oz container of French onion chip dip
2 eggs

Mix all ingredients together and form into loaf. Bake at 350ºF for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the center reaches 150ºF.

* You can also make this into 2 smaller loaves and freeze.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Baked Rice Pudding

Rice pudding is normally something I make when the weather gets cooler, but to be honest, the weather rarely gets all that cool in Florida. If there's an advantage to the weather always being warm or hot, it's that there's central air conditioning that works VERY well. Things that many people wouldn't dream of cooking in the summer come out of my kitchen in the middle of July all the time. If I'm craving one of my comfort foods and it's 98ºF outside... it's ok! It's only 70ºF inside and I can cook whatever I want :)

1 1/4 cups cooked rice
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
seeds from 1 soaked vanilla bean (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2/3 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 325º.

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl and then pour into an 8x8" baking dish. Place the smaller dish inside a 9x13" baking dish and place on center rack in the oven. Pour cups of water into the larger pan to create a water bath. Bake 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, stir pudding and then continue baking 20 more minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving. Serve warm with homemade whipped cream and another sprinkle of cinnamon.

Garlic Romano Roasted Potatoes

Potatoes are part of many of our meals in this house. My family loves them in almost every way, shape and form. New potatoes, red potatoes, Yukon golds and russets may end up in potato salad, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, baked potatoes, twice baked stuffed potatoes, potatoes au gratin, potato casserole... you get the idea :) And, no matter how many potatoes I cook, I rarely have any leftover for dinner the next night, if they aren't consumed with the meal I made them for, my son WILL finish them as a snack the next day. I can't really complain that my family loves potatoes so much either, they're inexpensive, versatile and easy to prepare.

This is one of our favorites. It's simple and delicious and really bad for you, but... but...YUM!

2 lbs small white new potatoes (you can use the small red ones too if you like)
3 Tbs olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 stick butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
freshly grated pecorino romano cheese, to taste
2-3 Tbs fresh, flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 425º.

Lightly oil a large baking sheet. Cut potatoes in half, or in quarters if they're bigger that about 1 1/2" in diameter, and place in a large bowl. Add olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat well. Place potatoes cut side up on prepared baking sheet and bake at 425º for 15 minutes. Turn potatoes cut side down and bake another 10 minutes. Check potatoes after 10 minutes, if they're still not tender enough turn them cut side up again and continue cooking another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Melt butter in a small saute pan over low heat. Add garlic and cook just a few minutes, until garlic is mellowed and butter is infused with flavor. Place potatoes in serving dish, pour butter mixture over them, add chopped parsley and grated cheese ; toss to coat well.

ALWAYS make more of these than you think you need... they go fast! :)

Lamb Skewers

Today was my last day of vacation, so I wanted to do a few things. First, I wanted to relax, and second, I wanted to make a nice meal that wouldn't take a whole lot of work, preferably something for the grill. I had a boneless leg of lamb in the freezer that I'd been drooling over for a week, so lamb skewers it was!

This was our first try at this recipe, and we really enjoyed it. The only thing we may do different next time is to tone down the marinade a bit. I actually like the slight gamey taste that lamb has, and this marinade overpowers it just a bit too much for me. I think next time we'll go with a simpler garlic and white wine marinade.

5 lbs boneless lamb, cut in 1" pieces
6 Tbs Dijon mustard
4 Tbs white wine vinegar
4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dry rubbed sage
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
assorted vegetables, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, etc

Mix together mustard, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, sage, oregano and garlic. Add marinade to cubed lamb in a large ziploc bag or bowl. Refrigerate 4 hours to overnight.

Alternate marinated lamb and vegetables on stainless steel skewers, or wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for 1 hour. Grill over medium high heat about 6 minutes per side for medium doneness.

Clams Casino

One of the advantages of growing up on the New England coast was the seafood. In the summer clams were a staple. Whether it was my grandmother's clam chowder at a family picnic or steamers on a night when my parents just felt like eating outside... we ate a LOT of clams back then.

Now that I live in Florida, I can still get some of those New England clams, but it comes at a slightly steeper price these days, so I tend to reserve the clam consumption for days like the 4th of July. On Thursday I stopped by the best seafood market in town (best because they fly clams and lobster in daily from New England) and picked up some beautiful steamers and chowder clams, as well as some Florida little necks. On Friday, we had a clam feast... Rhode Island style chowder, steamers with drawn butter and... these wonderful little things. This is my father's recipe for clams casino.

1/2 stick butter
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 doz small hard shell clams (like little necks)
Italian style bread crumbs (optional)
8 slices of bacon, partially cooked and cut into 1" pieces

Preheat broiler.

Melt butter over low heat in a small pan. Add chopped peppers, onions and garlic and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, just until vegetables are tender crisp. Set aside to cool.

Pour about 1/2" of kosher salt on a baking pan large enough to hold all the clams. Shuck fresh clams over a large bowl to catch the liquid. Discard top half of the shell and place bottom half with the clam onto the salt (this will keep the clams straight, and keep them from spilling the butter). Spoon a little of the butter and vegetable mixture into each clam shell and top with a sprinkling of bread crumbs and partially cooked bacon.

Place clams under broiler, about 6 inches from the heat and broil about 4 minutes, or just until the bacon crisps up. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.