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Week 2: Mint – Chicken Roulade with Mint Pesto

This was a recipe full of firsts for me.  My first time to use fresh mint.  My first time to use shallots. My first time to make pesto.  My first time to pound chicken with a meat hammer.  My first time to use one of my Christmas presents.  Unfortunately, all these firsts made for some ugly chicken.  Oh well.  Here’s the recipe.

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First, here’s my mise en place.  The ingredients, at least.  The cooking utensils are elsewhere.  As you probably can’t tell from the picture, I couldn’t find any pecorino cheese, so I substituted romano.  I had no idea how much mint I would get out of these store-bought packages; I only ended up needing one package for the pesto.  Looks like we’ll be having mojitos later this week!

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So I needed to measure out 1 ounce of blanched almonds (couldn’t find whole, so I had to go with slivered).  To do this I got to use an awesome Christmas present from my sister Melissa!  This measuring cup has digital readout that measures weight and temperature, as well as having the markings to measure volume.  The cup detaches from the handle for easy cleaning!

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This is Adam trying to make sure that I had exactly 1 ounce of almonds.

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He started breaking an almond into pieces to get it exactly right.  He might have been able to get it perfect, but I chased him out of my kitchen.

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Toast up your almonds for about 6 minutes over medium heat, until they’re golden and fragrant.

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This is a shallot.  They’ve never carried these at my local grocery store that I’ve found, but they just happened to have them the one time I needed it for a recipe.  I chopped it much like I would an onion.

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Throw the almonds and the shallots into your food processor until it becomes a coarse paste.  I broke my food processor a few weeks back so I used the chopper attachment on the new immersion blender that Adam got me for Christmas!

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Here’s the coarse paste.

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Add your mint, cheese, and olive oil and pulse it a bit in the food processor.  Mine doesn’t look exactly right; probably because I didn’t use a real food processor.

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Put your chicken breasts one at a time between two pieces of plastic wrap.  Then take them out of the plastic wrap when you realize that you forgot to trim them.  Trim them, then put them back.  Pound them flat, about 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick.  Then sprinkly both sides with salt and pepper.

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As you can probably tell (though I couldn’t at the time) I didn’t really get my chicken pounded flat enough.  You really need to pound it very thin, or else your roulade will become a chicken pita instead.

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Spread your pesto on the chicken.  Roll it and secure with skewers.  Make certain that the skewers are somewhat short, as it will make browning your chicken easier.

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See how the skewers really stick out?  I chopped them shorter with my kitchen shears after I took this picture.  Brown the chicken on all sides on medium heat.

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After you’ve browned them, reduce the heat to medium low and cook about 20-25 more minutes, or until the chicken is done through.

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Remove the chicken from the pan and slice each breast into about 5 slices.  Notice how my chicken doesn’t really look like a roulade?  That’s because I didn’t pound it thin enough!

I really did not care for the taste of this recipe.  I think that pesto should really be made with basil.  The mint tasted too cold to me, and so I didn’t think it went well with the chicken.  Adam liked it though, so don’t be scared by my picky palate.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Another year…another 52 weeks. Week 1 – Appetizers: Whiskey BBQ Sliders

So I did not make it through the entire 52 weeks of cooking last year.  I’ll blame the fact that I was pregnant when the year started and gave birth to my beautiful baby girl in May.  I’m starting over this year with Reddit’s 52 weeks of cooking.  I will not be doing the baking challenges; I think it would just be a little too much for me.

The first challenge this year was pretty simple:  Appetizers.  My choice for this challenge is Whiskey BBQ Sliders, a la Pioneer Woman.  She calls hers Spicy Whiskey BBQ Sliders and puts jarred jalapenos in them.  I don’t mind spicy, but jarred jalapenos make me want to yack.  So I substituted a couple of shakes of cayenne pepper.

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If I’ve learned anything from watching Food Network (which I only do at hotels now…no more dish), it’s the virtue of the mise en place.  That’s basically French for getting your shtuff together ahead of time.  Here are the ingredients!

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Looks simple, right?  This was not a difficult recipe in the least.  So the first thing I did was to shape my slider patties from the ground beef.

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I’ve heard that if you put a dimple in the middle of the patties, they don’t shrink up as much.  It worked somewhat well!  Also, it’s best practice to shape the beef at room temperature (I didn’t do this), and to work the beef as little as possible to prevent it from getting too tough.  Season your patties on both sides with salt and pepper.

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Cook your patties for 3-4 minutes on each side in 4 tablespoons of butter.  (Mine could have used more cooking…they were a bit rarer than I usually like.) I had to brown mine a few at a time…my stove top has hot spots and cold spots.

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Chop up an onion.  I like white onions best for most things, but you can use whatever floats your boat.  If chopping up an onion makes you nervous, check out P-dub’s guide here. It will help you take a whole onion…

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…and turn it into this!  When the meat is done cooking, drain off all but a couple of tablespoons of the butter/grease.  Add the onions to the pan and cook for a few more minutes.

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Add whiskey and cook for a few more minutes.

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Add a couple shakes of cayenne pepper and a cup of BBQ sauce.

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Some of my pictures won’t load right, so I don’t have any more, but add your burgers back to the sauce and cook them for a few more minutes.    Split the dinner rolls and grill them with butter until golden brown.  Put a patty on a half-roll, and top it with some sauce and the other half.  Enjoy!

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Edit:  Here is the Pioneer Woman recipe.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

52 Weeks of Cooking – Week 7: Love-inspired – Cheese Fondue

This sounds and looks really good, doesn’t it?  A mixture of white wine, cheeses, and spices into which you dip bread, veggies, and cheese.  What could go wrong?

Well first, we realized that our fondue pot was not really made for cheese fondue.  It was a Hershey pot that you’re supposed to use a tea light with to melt the chocolate for a chocolate fondue.  So Adam ghetto-rigged a heat source that worked out rather well.

The other problem?  It was disgusting.  Seriously.  The mix of the sweet wine (it was a dry white, but still sweet) and the pungent cheeses was just revolting to me.  Adam really liked it, though. Go figure.  I used this recipe from Tyler Florence, but I would honestly say, “Don’t bother.”

Hubby’s rating: 4.5 out of 5.  Weird.

My rating: 1 out of 5.  Gross

Difficulty rating: 2.5 out of 5.  It was really easy to make this really gross fondue.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

“I can’t cook”

Found in The New Orleans Menu Daily

A little break from the 52 weeks challenges as I offer some encouragement.  To every person who believes that he/she cannot cook I say, “Yes, you can.”

In this age of the internets that we live in, anyone who can read and navigate the internet well enough to be reading this blog can cook.  This biggest challenge in home cooking is being able to find good recipes and follow them.  So here are a few tips in overcoming this hurdle.

  • What type of recipe are you looking for?  If it’s a classic recipe, like a Coq au Vin, I suggest searching a website where the contributors are chefs, like the Food Network website.  Enter the recipe you’re looking for in the search bar and hit enter.  After the results come up, sort them by rating rather than by relevance.  That way, the best-reviewed recipes are always at the top.
  • If the recipe you’re looking for is something a little less specific or something that has many different variations (like lasagna or chicken enchiladas), I suggest websites where the contributors are home cooks, like the Taste of Home website or Tasty Kitchen.  Once again, I suggest sorting your results by rating rather then relevance.
  • Do you have a bunch of ingredients that you want to use up?  Try going to AllRecipes and doing an ingredient search.  Enter all the ingredients you’re trying to use up and see what recipes come up!  Pay attention to the user ratings…if something has just one-star, you might want to avoid it.
  • Do you really have no idea what to make?  I suggest subscribing to some food blogs.  I have at least 10 different food blogs on my blogroll right now, so I get new recipe ideas every day.  Here are some of my favorites.

So at this point you’ve found a recipe.  Here are a few suggestions for being able to follow it successfully.

  • Read the entire recipe before you decide to do it.  Look at the ingredients.  Will you be able to find all of them where you live?  Living in small-town Arkansas, I have to drive up to an hour in order to get specialty ingredients.  So if I want to make a recipe with odd ingredients, I have to make sure I’ll be able to get to Little Rock or Hot Springs beforehand.  Look at the instructions.  Is there anything that you don’t understand?  A word or a technique?  Google it.
  • Food substitutions.  Try not to have to do this at all.  If you absolutely cannot help it, google your food substitution idea BEFORE you attempt it.  You think you can substitute spread for butter?  Look it up.  You think you can substitute olive oil for vegetable oil?  Look it up.

Okay.  You’ve finished your cooking, and you have one of three reactions.

  • “This is delicious!  I want to make this again!”  Make sure you’ve saved the recipe somewhere.
  • “This is okay, but it would be better if______.”  Try the recipe again sometime and make some small tweaks.  Don’t change too much.  You want to keep the integrity of the original so that the whole thing doesn’t fall apart.
  • “This is really nasty.  I never want to have this again.”  Scrap it and try something else.  Don’t beat yourself up.  This happens to everyone, even people who have been cooking for years.  It happens to me all the time!

Just a couple more things before you venture into the unknown.

  • The more you practice, the better you’re going to get.  You may start with half a dozen flops.  But you will get better!
  • Try to surround yourself with encouraging people.  When I was growing up, my dad would eat absolutely anything that I cooked.  I tried making fudge for the very first time in an Arkansas summer with no air conditioning in the house.  I think I was around 10 years old.  It was a gloppy mass of what tasted like burned marshmallows.  My dad put it on his ice cream.  Today, my church family will eat any experiment that I choose to subject them to.  Even if it’s not that good!
  • Remember that the way you cook has no correlation to your worth as a person.  You can make flop after flop, and you are still worthwhile and full of value.

Let me know if you have any questions!

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The experiment

I know this is a bit late in getting started, but for each week of this year I will be (have been) participating in Reddit’s 52 weeks of cooking and 52 weeks of baking.  I’m creating this blog in order to catalog my attempts.  Reddit will give me a category for each week, and I will attempt a recipe I’ve never done before to complete the challenge.  I will post each attempt on this blog and let my adoring fans (teehee) know which recipes are worth trying!

 

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Uncategorized