Thursday, October 06, 2016

Chicken Tikka Masala Over Basmati Rice

I have to admit that Indian cuisine is pretty new to me. I have tried it while out at a few restaurants throughout the years. Some dishes impressed me more than others. One that I enjoyed in particular was Chicken Tikka Masala. I recently started testing some recipes at home for this rich, earthy Indian dish. If you're not familiar with it, Chicken Tikka Masala often begins with chicken that is marinated in yogurt and spices, then cooked in a tandoor oven. The chicken is then combined with ingredients like, tomato sauce, garlic, ginger and coconut milk/cream. And, it's usually served with basmati rice.

Since I do not own a tandoor oven (and I'm pretty sure that most of you don't either), I decided to simplify the recipe using one large pot right on the stove top. My recipe begins by slightly cooking chunks of boneless chicken in a little oil. Next, some onions, garlic and ginger get stirred in. I, then, add the spices in so that they get a chance to slightly toast in the oil prior to proceeding with the recipe. I like the inclusion of chickpeas, but this is completely optional. Tomato puree is added as the chicken finishes cooking. The mixture gets finished with some heavy cream, plain yogurt or full-fat coconut milk. (Any of the three worked well in my testing of this recipe, but I did prefer using the coconut milk.)

Serve this vibrant, beautiful chicken over a bed of basmati rice (easily found in the rice section of most supermarkets these days) and garnish with fresh cilantro. (I prefer everything doused with a squeeze of lemon, too.)

Serving this with naan bread (an Indian flatbread found pretty easily in the bakery section at your supermarket) is almost a requirement. The bread is used to scoop up the chicken and to dip into the sauce as you make your way through this outstanding dish.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have made several versions of Tikka Masala as I have researched the dish and recipe tested during the development of this recipe. I had success converting this to a vegetarian dish solely using canned, drained chickpeas or with using cubed, roasted butternut squash. So, there is some leeway in the recipe if you'd like to make it a vegetarian one. I have, also, read that cauliflower florets can be a good substitute for meat in this dish.

Yields 4 - 6 servings.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Creamy Chicken and Gnocchi Soup {Olive Garden Style}

This is a hearty, comforting soup laden with pillow-y potato gnocchi, tender chunks of chicken, fresh spinach and shredded carrots. The broth is rich, creamy and ultra decadent.  It's a popular soup at Olive Garden, but making it at home is simple and satisfying. {Plus, you'll probably end up with leftovers ... and that's always a good thing when it comes to soup.}

If you're not familiar with gnocchi, they are Italian-style mini dumplings made from cooked potatoes and flour. You can find a plethora of recipes online if you'd like to make you own, but pre-made gnocchi are easily found in most grocery stores these days. Buying them ready-to-use is a total timesaver and there are some pretty good quality ones out there from which to choose. Typically, packages of gnocchi can be located in the dry pasta aisle. But, gnocchi can sometimes be found frozen and even fresh at specialty markets.

In my household, we prefer this soup pretty thick. If you find that you'd like it a bit thinner, just stir in some additional chicken broth {or even water} at the end of cooking.

Serves 6 - 8.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Rum Caramel Sauce

I've amped up the flavors of a basic Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe by adding a little splash of spiced rum to the caramel sauce here. And, I've ventured off the path of traditional canned pineapple by going "fresh" for this version. Dark brown sugar is swapped instead of light to bring some additional depth to the sauce. Note that this particular recipe, also, is a semi-homemade one. Total timesaver. A boxed cake mix is used, but between the buttery caramel sauce and rum flavor seeping into the cake as it bakes along with an upgrade to one of the ingredients called for on the box, the cake turns out just as awesome as one completely from scratch.

You'll be replacing the water called for on the box with a combo of juice and milk. Typically, I would add some of the pineapple juice to my cake batter when using canned pineapple. But, using fresh fruit meant that I didn't have that luxury. Instead, I used some 100% pineapple-orange juice along with milk in place of water. The juice doesn't overpower anything, but does lend a nice subtle flavor that is appreciated. And, the milk makes the cake a little more rich and decadent.

Much to the disappointment of my children, I withheld the maraschino cherries that I usually intermingle among the pineapple slices, but, of course, you could add a few in if you'd like.

NOTE: The brown sugar/butter "sauce" can be totally made without the addition of rum, if desired. It will still taste amazing and turn out wonderfully.

Yields 6 - 8  servings.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Slow Cooker Overnight Apple Crisp Oatmeal

We are an oatmeal-cooked-overnight-in-the-slow-cooker kind of family. It's sorta become an obsession over the past few years. We love waking up to a hearty breakfast awaiting us - especially on busy mornings. I've shared with you several variations on my basic recipe like, my carrot cake version (my personal favorite). I wanted to incorporate apples and warm, fall-inspired spices in my newest version of cooking steel cut oats in the slow cooker. But, I, also, wanted there to be a twist. My mind went to apple crisp, a dessert that I make often for my family.

The premise of this recipe is to start with steel cut oats (I really don't recommend cooking any other type of oats overnight in the slow cooker ... unless you want totally mushy oatmeal). Then, a few basic ingredients like, milk, water, brown sugar and butter get stirred in. Warm, fragrant spices like, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg are stirred in. Chunks of crisp apple are then added before lidding the slow cooker as you head off to bed.

I do top this at the time of service with an apple crisp-style topping that I make a bit prior to starting the oatmeal in the evening. (The crisp topping takes about 40 minutes to bake, but only a few minutes to prep.) It is totally optional, but therein lies the "crisp" part of the recipe. Alternatively, some store-bought basic granola could be sprinkled on top if you don't wish to make the topping from scratch.

NOTE: I cook this oatmeal in a metal bread pan that fits perfectly down into my oval slow cooker. I loosely crumple up a piece of foil, place it on the bottom of the slow cooker insert, pour in about four cups of hot water and place the bread loaf pan atop the foil. A steam effect is created. Following this method ensures that the oatmeal does not burn and clean-up is a lot easier. This, also, ensures that the oatmeal stays moist and very creamy.

Yields 4 - 6 servings.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Apple Upside Down Bread Pudding

Just in time to kick off the fall season ... crisp apples, brown sugar and warm spices come together in this easy-to-assemble dessert. Bread pudding is one of the simplest desserts to make. This is essentially a bread pudding, but has similarities to an upside-down cake. Serving it warm, room temperature or cold is up to you. But, topping it with a dusting of powdered sugar, vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream is totally recommended.

The recipe begins with some melted butter and brown sugar marrying in the bottom of a cake pan. A sprinkling of sliced almonds is nestled around the slices of apple - just for some added crunch. Day-old bread chunks are mixed up with a vanilla custard that has been kissed with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. The custard-y bread is pressed into the buttery brown sugar and apple layer. Baked gently to keep everything moist and gooey, this dessert - once set a bit - is turned out onto a pretty cake platter for presentation and service to guests.

In regards to the bread, I've found that the sky is almost the limit when it comes to making bread pudding. I've used dinner rolls, sliced bread, buns and even leftover donuts. Sometimes I have even used a combination of different types of bread that I had on hand. I prefer to use day-old bread that is a little on the stale side, but I do recommend to, at least, allow the bread chunks to sit out on the counter to dry out a little before making this recipe if you're using very fresh bread.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Southern-Style Sausage Gravy {Over Biscuits}

My Kentucky-born grandmother was the queen (in my book) of making the most magnificent biscuits and "white pepper gravy" loaded with chunks of browned breakfast sausage. Weekend breakfasts of Sausage Gravy and Biscuits were a staple in my childhood. I am always leery ordering the same when I am dining out because there is rarely an occasion when the gravy comes close to measuring up to my grandmother's version.

So, I make it often at home. I wasn't lucky enough to have my grandma's recipe written down ... and frankly, I highly doubt she ever had or followed an actual recipe. But, I did spend years by her side watching and helping her prepare this dish. And, after many years of tweaking and perfecting the recipe as an adult myself, I think I now come close to what was served to me as a child.

I want to mention that the purpose of this post is to share with you my gravy recipe - not a biscuit recipe. Being honest, I often cheat and purchase frozen biscuits that simply need baked off in the oven. However, when I do take the time to make biscuits from scratch, I almost always use Alton Brown's Southern Biscuits recipe. I've found the recipe to be the best for yielding ultra-soft, tender, fluffy biscuits that most resemble my grandmother's.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Simple Method of Freezing Raw, Whole Tomatoes

My mother-in-law cans TONS of tomatoes each and every year. She is nice enough to pass along several jars to us for use throughout the winter months. We utilize most of the canned tomatoes from her in chili. This summer, we ended up with an abundance of fresh tomatoes ourselves, but I am not someone who enjoys (or even does well at) canning. So, I set out to research the method of freezing whole, raw tomatoes. And, I have to say that I am incredibly surprised at how easy the "process" is and how awesome it is to freeze tomatoes at summer's end.

The method is a quick and simple one. I was able to get six gallon-size freezer bags (with 6 - 7 large tomatoes in each bag) processed from start to finish in about an hour. (That's definitely quite a bit quicker than going through the canning process.)

Obviously, freezing tomatoes will change their consistency. The tomatoes work best - once thawed - used in recipes where the food will be cooked (soups, stews, chili and sauces). Using or serving the thawed tomatoes raw is not recommended as they will be a little mushy after their time in the freezer.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Graham Banana Bread with Cinnamon-Spiced Glaze

I have made many styles of banana bread throughout the years. Some large loaves. Some in muffin form. Some with chocolate chips included. Some with a crumb topping. Some have been successes. And, some have been down-right flops. This recipe, however, has become our family’s favorite banana bread. It’s not often that every single household member - all five of us - in the JD home agrees that a specific recipe is a winner. I have somewhat of a picky gang to feed. With this banana bread, every single one of my crew couldn’t get enough of these adorable, scrumptious loaves of banana bread goodness.

I combine finely-crushed graham crackers with the flour in this recipe. The result makes for a slightly chewier bread with a subtle flavor note of graham. A plethora of autumn-style spices come together, as well, in this bread that really enhance the banana flavor. But, it's the simple cinnamon glaze that - in my opinion - take these little breads over the top.

It's an easy recipe that doesn't take long to prepare. Frankly, waiting for the breads to fully cool prior to glazing (and eating) is the hardest part.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Chicken and Biscuits Casserole {No Canned Soups}

There's little more comforting than homemade Chicken and Dumplings. This recipe is a slight twist on the classic version. The recipe begins with a couple of chicken breasts simmered until tender in a rich, savory broth. Next, the broth is thickened with a cornstarch slurry and a splash of heavy cream. Then, instead of dropping biscuit dough into the thick, steamy broth to cook on the stove top, the chicken and "gravy" is loaded into a casserole dish, topped with half-moons of buttermilk biscuits and popped into the oven to bake to golden, bubbly bliss.

The result is the familiar flavors present in classic Chicken and Dumplings, of course, But, the biscuits are taken to new heights due to the browning on top of the casserole. The bottoms of the biscuits bake up - moist and soft - submerged in bubbling gravy while the tops of the biscuits puff up to golden, magical perfection.

Serves 4 - 6.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Potato and Sweet Corn Chowder

Tender chunks of potatoes and crisp, fresh-off-of-the-cob sweet corn come together in this thick, ultra-luxurious chowder that is just perfect for the transitional weeks between late-summer and early-fall. Sweet corn is in abundance. Many of us start experiencing cooler evenings. And, if you're anything like me, cravings for fall and soup weather creep up oh, right around mid-August. This is a great way to satisfy those yearnings.

Don't get me wrong ... this is an awesome chowder to make at any given time of the year. It's the ultimate comfort food for cold, blizzard-y evenings in say, January or ideal for lunch on a cool, rainy Sunday in April. If you can't get your hands on fresh sweet corn, frozen corn that has been thawed would be a great substitution. But, frankly, I think there's little more fabulous this time of the year than at-its-peak sweet corn. Incorporating a few ears into this chowder is highly recommended. And, don't throw out those stripped ears of corn after cutting the kernels off ... toss a few into the chowder as it cooks for extra flavor. Absolutely amazing.

Yields 4 - 6 servings.