Sunday, July 27, 2014

Southwest Chicken & Rice Skillet

I am sure you are getting the idea that I wholeheartedly support local business, especially when it comes to food! This recipe is predominantly local right down to the chicken and homemade stock, both from the same bird. This spicy, veggie laden masterpiece has been rolling around in my head the last few weeks. I have had multiple foodie projects in the works recently so many of our meals have been predetermined. Last night the stars aligned, the right veggies were in the crisper and I had leftover chicken so I went for it.

I love the fact that this recipe can be adapted for a meatless meal, just leave out the chicken. You could even use veggie stock and go vegetarian. Like it spicy, leave the jalapeño seeds intact. Did I mention that it is a one-pot meal to boot? You even have your choice of serving vessels... Stick with the veggie avenue and make lettuce wraps. Like a little crunch? use tortilla bowls! Play around with it and as always...

Enjoy~

the new Mrs. B ❤️

Southwest Chicken & Rice Skillet


Serves~ 6
Difficulty~ Easy
Prep time~ 15 minutes
Cook Time~ 30 minutes

Ingredients~


3 tablespoons canola or extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1 cup long grain white rice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin
3 cups chicken stock
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
2 cup shredded chicken
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions~


1.     Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, jalapeno and rice to skillet. Cook 3-4 minutes until veggies are soften and rice is toasted.

2.     Add tomato paste; cook 1-2 minutes.

3.     Add tomatoes, garlic and spices; cook 1-2 minutes.

4.     Pour in chicken stock; scrape any bits off bottom of skillet. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a low boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

5.     Add beans, corn and chicken. Cook uncovered 10-12 minutes until desired consistency. Stir in cilantro. Serve alone, in tortilla bowls or lettuce wraps.

The following local vendors contributed to this recipe~

Gratitude

I am sitting here editing pictures, writing up a recipe, enjoying a bowl of mac-n-cheese that my son made for me and for a moment the world paused, I experienced a moment of pure gratitude. 

Two years ago I was a die-hard, single mom with a fancy job that caused more stress than it was worth most days. I know I took too many things for granted and rarely appreciated what was important. Spending was favored over saving, appearances were more prevalent than substance, and status was preferred over stability. Don't get me wrong... there were a lot of good things going on in life but I was permanently restless and unfulfilled.

I was learning to cook more and taking better care of my body. The kid and I were becoming weekly regulars at the farmers market less then 2 blocks from our home. I discovered the world of food blogging and was instantly envious of their beautiful, creative, carefree lives. In my head I wondered if it was really as good as it seemed. I started a Facebook page for foodie ideas because friends and family were complaining about all my food shares; even purchased the ideal domain name for the blogger life I secretly coveted. And life went on unchanged...

Then I unexpectedly reconnected with an old friend who quickly became the love of my life. I discovered the joys and occasional angst of a healthy, stable relationship. With that newfound sense of security came the courage to face my fear of failure and finish graduate school after an 8 year absence. The final project of my MBA was to take everything learned in the program and apply it towards a business I was familiar with. There was the obvious choice of my current, long-term employer OR I could create a business. The age old question 'What do I want to be when I grow up?' was staring me right in the face. I took the plunge and developed a long, tedious, academic version of my dream career. In that world we owned an urban farm complete with onsite restaurant, space for a small farmers market with daily offerings, and maybe a community garden. It was an exciting, pulse-raising idea centered on food, local business, and sustainability but it was all on paper.

I was cooking more and more, creating original recipes for my new family and meeting people in the food industry. We got engaged, moved and started planning a spring wedding for the following year. I was welcomed with open arms by my future family-in-law and both our boys were happily doing well in school. My fiancé was even up for a potential promotion; all his handwork was paying off! 

A few weeks later the big bombshell... My company was going through major changes and we no longer saw eye to eye. It took less than ten minutes to dismantle a 13 year career. It was a humiliating experience yet I could sense the relief floating below the surface. I called my fiancé to give him the news but couldn't reach him for the better part of an hour. By then I was in a pure panic about what would happen next. How would we financially survive, what would I do, would he be angry with me? The phone rang; he was finally calling me back! He patiently listened while I had a complete meltdown, with more and more anxiety peppering my end of the conversation. My stress needed an outlet so I lashed out at him for not calling me back right way, it was obviously an emergency. He had good news, he got the promotion! While it was not going to replace my lost income it was enough for us to be comfortable as I regrouped. My heart stopped when I realized we were in this together, it wasn't a burden I had to bear alone. 


That was almost five months ago and I have yet to fully find my footing. The break has afforded me the opportunity to cook full time and finally start this blog. I spent a lazy summer with my teenager; probably one of the last of it's kind. We skipped the pressure of a big wedding and eloped. Career goals are unclear, intimidating even, but there is no pressure from the home-front only love and support. I appreciate the little things more now. Happiness is the people around me, not the price of my purse. Work is food 24/7... planning, shopping, cooking, blogging. Small paycheck yet big potential. I look for joy in the life that is right in front of me. Dreams come in big and small sizes. Gratitude and acceptance occupy the same space. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Extreme S’more Cookie Bars

Food bloggers have a ton of hurdles to overcome especially when it comes to recipe development. When I get an idea for a new dish the first thing I do is jump online to see who else has already had the same unique, brilliant thought. More often than not quite a few bloggers have already 'been there, done that' which can be a little deflating. Ultimately most recipes have been around for awhile so the trick is to be creative and add an own original spin to an old favorite. I am a researcher at heart so combing through dozens of recipes to compare them is second nature. Once I have a good grasp on what other people have done with a recipe the outline for my version emerges.

Recently my husband Paul brought home a stack of Hershey's candy bars and asked me to make snacks for his team at work. At the same time the kid was bugging me to open a bag of marshmallows hiding in the back of the pantry so he could snack on them. We almost always have graham crackers on hand so why not make something s'more-like. I needed portable goodies since they were going to the office... 

My inspiration for this recipe came from Chocolate, Chocolate and More! who pointed out that cookie bars are better for this concept rather than individual cookies. I learned to use marshmallow creme instead of marshmallows (the little buggers burn right up) from Sally's Baking AddictionCookies and Cups homemade marshmallow creme was impressive and intimidating all at the same time!

I really loaded these guys up, hence the Extreme title, and they were a real hit at the office. My husband is one popular guy these days!

Enjoy~

the new Mrs. ❤️

Extreme S’more Cookie Bars


Makes 36 1.5x1.5 inch squares
Difficulty~ Easy
Prep time~ 15 minutes
Cook Time~ 25 minutes

Ingredients~


½ cup butter (1 stick), softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1¼ cup roughly crushed graham cracker crumbs
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup marshmallow crème (Fluff)
2 whole graham crackers, broken into large pieces
4 Hershey’s candy bars, roughly chopped

Directions~


1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9 inch baking pan with parchment paper, set aside.

2.     Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla.

3.     In a separate bowl mix together flour, graham cracker crumbs and baking powder. Gradually add dry ingredients into creamed mixture until just combined. Press dough into baking pan.

4.     Using half the marshmallow crème, drop evenly spaced spoonfuls on the dough. Sprinkle half the graham cracker pieces and half the chocolate over the marshmallow. Evenly layer the remaining crème, graham cracker pieces and chocolate over that.

5.     Bake 20-25 minutes until browned. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Use parchment to remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into bars. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer Veggie Tart

This recipe was developed specifically around the CSA share I received from On The Vine Farms. The veggies could easily be swapped out with whatever you have on hand. I love the savory crust of this tart. Typically I would agree that you could use a store-bought pie crust but then you would be missing out on the herby thyme and spicy black pepper. If you absolutely want to use a pre-made crust, amp up the herbage in the filling to balance it out!

Enjoy~

the new Mrs. B

Summer Veggie Tart


Serves~ 8
Difficulty~ Easy       
Prep time~ 25 minutes
Cook Time~ 45 minutes

Ingredients~


For the crust~


1¼ cup flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) very cold butter
3-4 ice water
1 egg white
2 tablespoons water

For the filling~


½ medium zucchini sliced into thin rounds
1 small squash sliced into thin rounds
1 medium carrot sliced into thin rounds
1 cup chopped kale
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 small tomatoes sliced into thin rounds

Directions~


For the crust~


1.     Add flour, thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper to a food processor. Pulse 1-2 times to combine. Cut butter into small cubes and add to food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles course crumbs; do not over mix. Continue to pulse while slowly adding ice water until dough just starts to come together. Dump dough onto a floured surface and form into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Dough can be made the day prior.

For the filling~


1.     Put zucchini, squash, carrots and kale in a medium bowl. Add extra virgin olive oil, thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper, toss to coat.

Assemble tart~


1.     Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2.     Place dough on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper; gently roll into a 10-11 inch circle. Carefully pick up the parchment and transfer the crust to a baking sheet.

3.     Starting in the center of the crust place zucchini, squash and carrot slices in a circle pattern alternating each veggie, overlapping each layer leaving a 2 inch border of crust. Sprinkle with cheese and top with kale. Place tomato slices on top.

4.     Fold edge of crust over veggies. Whisk together egg white and water in a small bowl; brush on crust.

5.     Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake 30-35 minutes until brown and veggies are tender. Cool before slicing.

The following local vendors contributed to this recipe~


Brandy Soaked Fruit Tart

I have a confession to make, I like my booze... sometimes maybe a little bit too much. I like to drink it, cook with it and sometimes even hoard it. Yep, hoarding. I am a bona fide food hoarder but today let's focus on the boozy aspect of it. We when go to our local booze superstore, you know the kind that you can get lost in for days because it's so big, I am always drawn to section with the mini bottles. Those adorable little guys that remind you of airports and long, tedious flights. I have a hard time resisting the temptation of so many options and somehow end up with a variety of bottles in my basket. There are usually no real plans for them other than the knowledge that they will not go to waste! In this case I had a teeny bottle of brandy that just kept staring at me, plaguing my thoughts until I finally caved and came up with this delicious recipe. I made the crust from scratch, but you could easily substitute a store bought pie crust. I am more cook than baker so I try to practice as much as possible. 

Enjoy~

the new Mrs. B

Brandy Soaked Fruit Tart


Serves~ 8
Difficulty~ Easy       
Prep time~ 25 minutes
Cook Time~ 45 minutes

Ingredients~


For the crust~


1¼ cup flour
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) very cold butter
3-4 tablespoons half & half
1 egg white
2 tablespoons water

For the filling


½ cup dried cranberries
1½ ounce brandy
2 Golden Delicious apples
2 Anjou pears
1 lemon
¼ teaspoon cinnamon



Directions~


For the crust~


1.     Add flour, 2 tablespoons sugar and salt to a food processor. Pulse 1-2 times to combine. Cut butter into small cubes and add to food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles course crumbs; do not over mix. Continue to pulse while slowly adding half and half until dough just starts to come together. Dump dough onto a floured surface and form into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Dough can be made the day prior.

For the filling~


1.     Put dried cranberries in a small bowl; add brandy. Soak fruit for at least an hour to reconstitute. Can be done the night before.

2.     Core and slice apples and pears into thin pieces, add to a medium sized bowl. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over fruit to keep it from browning. Add sugar, flour and cinnamon, toss to coat. Stir in the cranberries and brandy.

Assemble tart~


1.     Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2.     Place dough on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper; gently roll into a 10-11 inch circle. Carefully pick up the parchment and transfer the crust to a baking sheet.

3.     Starting in the center of the crust place the apple/pear slices in a circle pattern alternating each fruit, overlapping each layer. Disburse cranberries throughout mixture. Continue until fruit is used; leave a 2 inch border of crust. Pour any remaining liquid in the bowl over the fruit.

4.     Fold edge of crust over fruit. Whisk together egg white and water in a small bowl; brush on crust. Sprinkle with remaining sugar.

5.     Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake 30-35 minutes until brown. Cool before slicing.