Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Semi-Homemade Sundried & Roasted Garlic Chicken Alfredo

The other night Charlie was craving Alfredo. I don't usually make it because it makes me feel like a stuffed pig for about 23.5 hours, but I had everything I needed at home, and honestly wasn't feeling the grocery store in this rainy weather, so I obliged him.

Now if you know me, or read this blog regularly, you know I can't just leave well alone and I always have to one up every meal I make. In other words, I'm not ok with putting jarred sauce on some noodles and calling it a day. I decided to fix up my alfredo with a jar of marinated artichoke hearts, some homemade sun-dried tomatoes my mom made, fresh parsley and some faux roasted garlic.

You will need;
* 1 jar of your favorite Alfredo sauce. I used the Roasted Garlic flavor from Classico
* 1 head of garlic
* 1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts
* 1 jar sun dried tomatoes ( or make your own!)
* 1 tsp sugar
* 1 tbsp butter
* 1/4 cup heavy cream
* Italian flat leaf parsley
* shredded parmesan cheese
* 2 chicken breasts
* Italian seasonings
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* pasta noodles of your choice

Start by faux roasting your garlic by separating the head, peeling, and rough dicing the garlic. Add the sugar and butter into a small pan and melt over medium heat. Add garlic and sautee until straw colored.

Clean and season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper and Italian seasonings. In a medium to large frying pan add olive oil over medium heat and cook chicken breasts until golden brown and juices run clear.

Boil water in a large pot and cook pasta until al dente. Drain.

In a large saucepan, combine Alfredo sauce and heavy cream, whisk together until mixed and smooth. Dice sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and parsley and add to sauce. Add roasted garlic. Add parmesan cheese.

Serve by placing a serving of pasta on a plate. Top with sliced chicken breast, pour sauce over the top and garnish with additional cheese and parsley. Viola!
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Red Velvet Cupcake Wine!!!


We saw this at Albertson's last week and I was floored. I mean I've had Cupcake Winery before but just their Rosé sparkling wine (the night Charlie gave me my ring!) and I've tried their whites, but Red Velvet!? How could I resist?

We had it before dinner with a bit of Scharffen Berger's 65% cacao chocolate bar. In December of 2008 Michelle, Melissa, Michelle's brother Jimmy and I toured the Sharffen Berger factory in Berkeley and that's when I fell in love. I've never been a huge dark chocolate fan, but theirs is creamy and delicious and tastes amazing. The pairing was awesome.

The wine had undernotes of mocha, blackberries and creamy chocolate and is recommended to pair with Smokey sweet food such as big juicy Bacon cheeseburgers.

It's a "California Red Wine", sampling from several vineyards in what I can only guess come from the Alexander and Napa valleys, but to us it tasted like a sweet Cabernet. Just like a red velvet cupcake it was dark, rich and left you craving more.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hot Spiced Apple Cider

So today in San Diego it decided to drizzle... all day. No rain, no thunder, no lightening, just barely there drizzle. Charlie was supposed to go riding with the boys, but seeing as how slick wet roads and motorcycles at 60+ MPH don't mix, we stayed in, cleaned house, and watched The Breakfast Club instead. He's currently folding laundry (*gasp!* a man who does housework!) so I decided to warm up with a mug of spiced cider. I worked with what I had in the house and came up with this sweet little autumnal treat.

* apple juice or cider (if you use juice, use twice as much liquid and cook longer to reduce by half)
* ground cinnamon
* freshly ground nutmeg
* a dollop of maple syrup
* a pinch of salt
* a dab of brown sugar

You could also add any of the following;

* Allspice
* Clove
* Citrus peels

Put it all into a medium saucepan and cook for 10-15 minutes, pour into an adorable mug, let cool and enjoy!
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Enchilads Verdes

Whenever Charlie has a bad day, I do my best to make the rest of his day perfect. This usually includes letting him play Red Dead Redemption for hours on end, giving him a back massage, buying him a 12-pack of his favorite beer of the moment and cooking him one of his favorite labor intensive meals I try to avoid on a normal day. Charlie's love is a little different from mine so when I have a bad day I just ask that he's a little nicer and caring than normal. If I'm really lucky he'll give me a night off from cooking duty and make me one of famous dishes that he makes so well.

Yesterday was one of those days. I spent the majority of my day with my dads side of the family at a memorial and celebration of life of my recently deceased Uncle "Wesser", and I was drained. Emotionally, mentally and physically. So Charlie stepped up and made me one of my favorites - Enchilada Verdes!

We both grew up eating a lot of Mexican food - both mine and Charlie's father's sides of our families are part Mexican - which leads to some of the best food you're going to find anywhere. Plus we're from San Diego, so you could say we're both pretty picky about our Mexican food. His enchiladas are better than any enchiladas I've ever gotten at a restaurant and I'm going to share with you the secret. Lucky you!

You're going to need;

* 6 medium sized flour tortillas
* 2 cans La Victoria mild green enchilada sauce
* 2-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
* 1 cup shredded "Mexican" Cheddar Jack cheese
* 1/4 cup sour cream
* 1 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
* 1 block of Jack cheese, sliced into 1/4 inch chunks

Start by boiling the chicken breasts until cooked, then cool and shred with your hands or 2 forks. Open and dump both cans of sauce into a medium saucepan and let simmer until slightly reduced and thickened. In a large bowl combine the chicken, shredded cheese, sour cream and cilantro and mix well. Stuff a tortilla with the chicken mixture, roll up and place in a casserole dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and chicken. Pour the thickened sauce over the top and top each enchilada with the sliced cheese. Bake at 350* until sauce bubbles and cheese on top is melted, about 15-20 minutes. Cool to set and serve with rice, beans and a ridiculously healthy appetite! Om nom nom.
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Caramel Apple Crumb Pie

Last night, the fall weather got the best of me and I decided to make an apple pie. This is the first pie from scratch I've ever made so I researched the components extensively beforehand and made my decisions based on ingredients, level of difficulty and the comments left by the people who had attempted it before me.

I posted pictures of my success on Facebook and after an overwhelming response of people asking for the recipe, I decided to share it here. Bear in mind this was my first pie and feel free to add and subtract ingredients at will to your liking. My pie was tart with a sweet syrup and a slightly salty crust, which in my opinion balanced itself out perfectly.

I started out using 5 Gala apples because they hold up well in baking and are a nice in-between of sweet and tart. I peeled them, and sliced them into thin slices, placed them into a large bowl and set them aside for the moment. Next in a medium sized bowl I added 1/2 a cup of apple juice (reduced from 1 cup, but 1/2 a cup apple cider would work too) the juice from 1/2 a lemon, cinnamon and fresh grated nutmeg, 1/3 cup maple syrup (the real stuff people, not Aunt Jemima) and 2 teaspoons of sugar - brown or white depending on the flavor you want to achieve. In a large skillet I melted 2 tablespoons butter and sauteed the apples until the color changed to a rich yellow, sprinkled them with some cinnamon and sugar, then poured the juice mixture over the top and cooked about 2 minutes more. I transferred the apples into my pie crust that I had prepared earlier and returned the juice mixture to heat, added 2 teaspoons of cornstarch and simmered until thickened, and poured it over the apple filled crust. I topped my pie with a crumble I made of 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup brown sugar, cut with 3 tablespoons butter until it resembled a coarse meal, then I sprinkled it over the top but not before drizzling the apples with caramel sauce. I got mine at Starbucks, I use it to make Charlie his coffee in the morning, but it worked well on the pie too! The girls at my Starbucks got a kick out of my creative use for it. I baked the pie at 375*, loosely covered with tinfoil for 25 mins and then uncovered for another 25 and it came out perfectly.

For the sake of me testing this recipe I used a Pillsbury readymade rolled pie crust. They are found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and come in packs of 2. Feel free to use any type of crust you would like. Next time I'm going to attempt to make homemade crust, so I will definitely share those results as well.

I topped my pie with some homemade whipped cream to which I added a bit of sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon and whipped on high in my Kitchen-Aid for about 5 minutes.
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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Back from Hiatus!

Well... as the title suggests, I am back from a very long hiatus. I know my blog has suffered greatly since I took a long needed personal break, but well, I needed it.

My relationship with Charlie has progressed a lot since the last time I posted an update or recipe and since then we've been working on building a life and home together. The last time I updated things were going well and since then they have greatly increased. We now live together in an adorable 2 bedroom apartment with a nice kitchen and I've finally got the room and space to be the cook I want to be. Charlie's tummy has been reaping the benefits of my adventures in the culinary world and we've even ventured out of our comfort zone a few times.

Currently I am using my brand new GE 6 quart slow cooker for the first time, trying my hand at making homemade chicken stock as the weather on San Diego has finally come around to admitting that its actually fall.

I decided since I spend so much money on canned chicken stock and broth that I should try my hand a making a more flavorful, delicious option.

I searched the internet for a decently fool proof recipe and found one from Alton Brown with quite nearly 5 stars and after reading the comments and taking their advice into account as well I began to prepare myself for my adventure.

Me being the planner I am, I went to the store almost a week before I actually made the stock and got all the ingredients so I would be ready when the perfect day struck. I started saving the roasted bones from the rotisserie and baked chicken I had made and froze them to make sure I had enough for my stock. After a record breaking blazing hot week, it's finally cooled down to a nice drizzle and luckily I had the day off and the 8+ hours required to prepare and simmer my stock.

I'll link to the recipe I used but basically I threw all this into my slow cooker, cooked on high for 2 hours, then simmered for 6-7, skimming the goop off the top every hour or so. Into my cooker went:

* 2 chickens worth of bones, seasoned skin and whatever meat was leftover
* 1 onion, quartered
* 3 carrots, peeled and broken in half"
* 4 ribs of celery, trimmed leaves intact, cut in half
* 1 leek, green removed, cut in half lengthwise
* half a head of garlic, peeled and smashed
* 8-10 sprigs of fresh thyme
* heaping handful of fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
* salt and pepper to taste, as needed
* enough water to cover

Because I had so much stock, I decided to freeze it in mini cupcake pans, which yield around 1/8-1/4 a cup per stock cube and will last me through the fall and into winter when I'll be going through stock like it's going out of style. As I use it I'll share the recipes.

Good luck!
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