Friday, February 19, 2016

Pizza Night?

Don't let the picture fool you, Friday is pizza night.  That's when I get a break from slaving over a hot stove and furthermore, the dishes.

However, when your kid loves to help you cook (which really means slow you down but as parents we're compelled to encourage their curiosity anyway) I had to think of something. 

Bunches of fresh broccoli were in the crisper and therefore, the quick answer was soup.  It was an easy solution because it's done in a snap in my beloved dutch oven.

My baby has always participated with food prep in some way or another, but this was the first time he assisted in tearing the broccoli apart and cutting the stems.

I handled the saute portion of course, but then I let him stand on a stool over our stove in order to carefully drop the cruciferous chunks into the simmering pot for me.

I always envisioned doing this with a daughter, but any boy of mine will learn how to cook just the same and not rely on anyone else to eat, unless he wants to.  I like the idea of him hosting for the holidays and not having to pretend we enjoy his wife's cooking because he can opt to create the family feast.  But hey, if she's got skills too then it's a win/win.  It means a banquet for us all.

But I digress, a hot bowl was served within half an hour and it was a nice appetizer before we tore into the large pie with fresh garlic that arrived shortly thereafter.  The cheese was perfectly gooey and no apologies here for the fact that no matter how hearty any soup is, it got pushed to the side once we had our delivery.

Were we really talking about soup?

But seriously, when not competing with a slice, I like a simple broth as much as the cream based.  I'm just a big fan of them all, you too?

The great recipe used this time around is courtesy of Gimme Some Oven (I didn't have any carrots or Dijon and instead of using yellow cheddar, I used the white I already had shredded.  Looking forward to a re-do in the near future according to their instructions.)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

My Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

An easy meal that I can always rely on is spaghetti with meat sauce.  It’s simple, hearty and delicious!  

So, in a perfect world, I’ll have a batch of homemade sauce but if not, my jar of choice nowadays is Victoria’s Marinara.  It satisfies my personal taste buds. I also alternate with Paesana, which also works for me.  The Pregos, Ragus and some others just don’t do it for me anymore.  Maybe one day I'll experiment again with something else but for now, if it ain’t broke…     

Everyone has their own method and here's mine:

  • Small onion diced fine
  • Handful of garlic (the more the merrier personally) crushed, sliced, pressed -- just however you like!
  • 1 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 T. Italian Seasoning
  • 1 t. Ground Oregano
  • Fresh Pepper
  • 1 Cube of Chicken Bouillon (Optional but I like this for some reason and when I use it, I don’t need to add any salt.)
  • 40oz jar of Victoria’s Marinara or Paesana
  • Small package of ground beef (Less than a pound more or less)

In a dutch oven (that I’m madly in love with) I brown the beef on med-high heat.  I use a wooden spatula that cuts easily through it because I don’t like big lumpy chunks of meat.  Once it’s cooked through and no longer pink, I set aside to drain.

Back to that pot I'll now add two tablespoons of the meat drippings to sauté the onions first.  When they become fragrant and a bit translucent, I'll add the garlic.  After a few minutes, I add the entire jar of sauce and everything else above (except for the meat) and give a good stir.  Once it starts to boil, I'll reduce the flame to low and leave it alone for about half an hour. 

By this time, a large pot of salted water (placed on a burner from the beginning) should be ready for our spaghetti.  Then, I put the meat back in the sauce and stir often as I taste testOnce it begins boiling again, I'll turn off the flame and cover.  

That’s it!  When it's time to plate, I put a generous amount of meat sauce over my spaghetti and dig in.

As a left over meal on the following day, I like to boil new pasta and then add that to my reheating sauce pot for serving.  I like to combine it all, the second time around.

Sometimes I want slices of avocado or tomato on the side.  On other occasions, I need a Caesar salad.  If I have any garlic bread handy, I'll dip that in the sauce, yum.  Also, as much as I love fresh Parmesan cheese with everything else, I prefer the powdered version here.

For Penne, Ziti or Rigatoni, I do a stove-top version of a baked dish by adding some shredded mozzarella and Ricotta cheese.  How much all depends on how cheesy and creamy you like it.  Everything melts fine enough for me and I don't need to turn on the oven or clean up an extra pan.

Don't you just love spaghetti?  Do you need something on the side with it?  Do you prefer powder or fresh Parmesan cheese? Last but not least, must we bake Ziti?

Tell Self-Rising Flower all about it!

Monday, February 8, 2016

TRIED: Buttery Garlic Parmesan Chicken

So, we don’t mince words at home.  This means that when a new recipe is tried, I’m on the edge of my seat.  Sometimes I’m in another room when my family is trying the latest and I never know what they're going to say.   

When it doesn’t go well, there's actually a bit of hesitation at first, then, when confrontation can no longer be avoided, what comes next is any of the following direct statements, I don’t like it, It’s missing something, I think you put too much xyz in it, and finally, maybe it would have tasted better if... and frankly, I respond in the same manner.  That's because I want to know what works and what doesn’t so we can move on.  Everything can be improved upon sooner this way so don't spare your taste buds in order to spare my feelings.  (By the way, I can only speak for me.  Please continue to tell your loved ones whatever they need to hear. It's wise for many.)  Well, this time around since I heard forks clanking against the plate consistently, I stood in silence thinking it had to be a good sign.  Does it mean that everyone is too busy eating something they like to comment either way?  Yes, it did.  

You know, I found this recipe while searching for garlic Parmesan buffalo wings to make in the future because I always devoured them whenever we stopped into a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant.  I was missing that flavor and it's a place I haven't seen again since giving birth!   

Anyway, I decided to try something else meant for thighs and after I found it, I was pleased that boneless is exactly what I had available as per the recipe.  All I could think of after that was, WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!  

One bummer though.  I still don’t have fresh parsley and that's a pity because fresh enhances the flavor.  Some other variations I made was to add a bit of chicken stock (in addition to the water and wine) and double the amount of Parmesan cheese. 

I also went ahead and added a touch of whipping cream because I was in the mood for a heavier sauce to compliment the red skinned potatoes I opted for as my side.  Next time however, I'll leave it "as is" to go over broth-like over my favorite side of all time, white rice.   Okay, so what else?  Oh, I think I began cooking around 4 o’clock in the afternoon and by 5:30 we were taking our first bite.  

We'll be adding this meal into the quick and easy, go-to stash.   

If you love tons of garlic and anything in a buttery sauce, this will not disappoint!

Find the original recipe here.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

TRIED: Chicken Florentine

This dish was a lot of fun to make and my first attempt was with the recipe from the lovely I AM baker website.

So, I did not have fresh parsley (unfortunate) and in place of dry white wine, I had mostly vermouth and some cooking sherry.  I have no idea if this combination should be avoided, but it is what it is.  Next time, I will try it again with the proper ingredients in order to compare flavors.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed this meal a lot.   

For some reason, I really wanted this on a bed of rice although the recipe calls for the chicken to be placed on the spinach.  Instead, after I sauteed the spinach I chose to combine it with the chicken and sauce directly in the pan.
I baked a sweet potato and was also in the mood for a plum chopped tomato on the side. Guess that's a personal taste bud thing but I loved it, just like that, along with the sight of all those colors on my plate! (I will say that keeping the spinach separate is ideal for more creamy saucy goodness with the chicken so I'll follow the recipe appropriately on my second try.)   Maybe in the future I’ll have it with spaghetti but either way, I devoured every last bite! 

Are you a fan of Chicken Florentine?  What about creamed spinach and/or spinach dip in general?  I love both so I had a good feeling this would be an overall hit and it was.

This one is definitely going in my go-to category for quick and easy family meals.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Recipe Request: Lobster Bisque and others!

Whenever I dined out, I looked forward to having soup to start, if, any of these three were on the menu that day: French Onion, New England Clam Chowder and Lobster Bisque.

Since I’m hoping to learn how to make such favorites at home, I thought I'd simply start with the Bisque.  However, the first recipe I found requires live lobster prep and I’ve never handled one in my whole entire life.  I’m just not ready to go there so I’d appreciate any recipes that call for lobster meat (assuming it's like working with lumped crab, yes?)  

For anyone who does know their way around a fresh lobster, here's the recipe mentioned above, courtesy of the FINE COOKING website.  It's just a bit too intimidating for me at this stage.  In the meantime, I’d appreciate any recipes you might have handy for the other two!

By the way, are you a seafood lover in general?  Do you enjoy chowder?  Have you ever made  it yourself? 

Please share your comments!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Self-Rising Flower!

Just to clarify. I’m not a trained chef or exceptional cook. I have good days and bad in the kitchen and sometimes they’re even great! Not sure if it’s my mood, desire or energy level at the time because it’s pretty much hit or miss whenever I’m preparing meals. While I'm not a natural, I'm eager, experimental but also, inconsistent!

Then there's the fact that I'm a klutz too.  I drop or spill things and use way too many utensils at once. I’m visibly frazzled trying to produce something edible and yet, there are times I possess the confidence and ease of a pro.  By the way, I did have a steady run long ago, when I cooked regularly and thus, successfully fed myself along with company.  Even so, I limited myself to only things I knew how to make at the time along with the usual seasoning.  It was the same for everything and although comfort foods are great, there was no variety. 

Eventually, I started ordering take-out and trying new restaurants frequently to taste meals that were perfected by others.  It was convenient and I didn't miss the dishes, that's for sure.  And, there was always a reason to make a reservation, something to celebrate, or spontaneous after-work invitation.
On the weekend, everyone and their mother had to meet for brunch too or else life just wasn't worth living. 

Well, that was fun while it lasted and expensive. Once I became a mom, home cooked meals became a priority for me. It’s economical and will only help me get better at something I consider to be a survival skill (unless you can afford to keep eating out or hire a trained chef to make everything for you.) So, thank goodness for the internet.

You can look up whatever you want on a whim, right from your smart phone no less. I did this with a child attached to my hip during many long nights, when it was too risky to move him while he slept right on top of me. Then, on the following day, I’d try one of the many recipes I found. I’m quite pleased with the fact that to date, I’ve learned to make random things like chicken pot pie, baked apple pie, banana cake, apple sauce, Chimichurri sauce and creamed spinach, to name a few. I'll be posting those soon!

One of my goals in life is to make a variety of delicious things for my family to enjoy.  Hence, this blog.  Why the name?  Self-rising flour was in the first recipe I had ever used for baking a cake from scratch.  I didn't even know it existed before then.  The change in spelling simply reflects that I'm always growing and I needed an outlet for my cooking experiences.

Also, when you’re struggling to make better lifestyle choices, it’s a positive toward any healthy goals you may have to actually cook the food you eat. But, this is not about that. I welcome all meal ideas, but I’m most excited by those that involve anything from scratch, simply because it’s fun for me to understand the process. For example, Roux trumps a can of condensed soup nowadays.

I will say however, that even the processed and instant stuff is a great exercise in getting familiar with a dish until you’re ready to do it without help. This was the case for me when I was curious about Shepherd’s Pie. I'll confess that so far I've settled for the box kit for this, but when I dare to go there, I’ll give Alton Brown’s version a try. His recipe calls for ground lamb but chances are I won’t have that any time soon. By the way, if you don't know who he is, watch Good Eats some time. He’s inspired me to can homemade jam but uh, baby steps.

In the meantime, what new dish have you learned to make?  Please share!