Tuesday, April 30, 2013

king ranch chicken tostadas

King Ranch Chicken isn't something many Canadians are familiar with. When I read the title of this recipe I had to Google the term. What I learned is this is a casserole popular in Texas which includes chicken, tortilla chips, mushrooms, cans of creamed soup and Ro-Tel tomatoes. Yes, Ro-Tel tomatoes (seasoned canned tomatoes with chilies) aren't sold here in Canada, but I have several cans in my pantry from grocery trips to the USA and I was glad to find a way of using them when I stumbled upon King Ranch Chicken Tostadas in the May 2013 issue of Everyday Food Magazine.

Right now I'm very hooked on buying rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. It costs about the same as buying fresh chicken breasts only all the work is done for you! Honestly, it's such a bonus for us working parents (or anyone looking to make dinner prep a whole lot quicker). I know I constantly talk about using these chickens on this blog, but having the option for light or dark meat is something that really works for our family. So rotisserie chicken it was for this recipe. The only real prep is a quick sautee of onions, mushrooms and a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes. (Just a note - you can use a small can of tomatoes and a small can of green chilies in place of Ro-Tel if you aren't a frequent cross border shopper). From there it's assembly time. We used prepared tostada shells, layer of spicy tomato and mushroom mixture, layer of shredded chicken, layer of shredded romaine lettuce, sprinkling of shredded Monterey jack cheese and a dollop of plain low fat yogurt (we use this in place of sour cream since it's more versatile also working in our smoothies).

Because I have no previous experience with the casserole this recipe is inspired by as a flavour comparison - all I can judge is the end result, which was totally delicious! The photos just show one tostada, but I couldn't stop myself from wanting more... and ended up devouring three. My favourite element of this dinner as the contrast of every element (especially the cool lettuce and yogurt). It's so fresh and delicious. For the past two years, we've frequently eaten tostadas in the summer and I think this will be our new summer time go-to recipe.

everyday food magazine May 2012 issue

I am (as I'm sure everyone reading this is) eagerly anticipating the month of May. We haven't had much of a feeling of spring around here since every day is so nippy, we're still bundled in winter coats and boots around here. But I'm thinking tomorrow is when everything will change. Or maybe just our meals.

Looking forward to next month found me looking back at last year's May 2012 issue of Everyday Food Magazine. I don't recall trying a single recipe from this issue before and when I revisited it I had to wonder why that was. Just about every recipe is intriguing and I've marked about half which I intend on trying, staring with last night's King Ranch Chicken Tostadas.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

slow-cooker spanish meatballs

I often ask Owen what he really enjoys for lunch at child care (he has a on-site cook who prepares scratch-made lunches which feed more like dinners). I'm usually surprised he doesn't say something like pizza. Instead he tells us he loves chili and Spanish rice. Knowing this, when I stumbled upon Slow-Cooker Spanish Meatballs in the May 2011 issue of Everyday Food magazine, I was inspired to give them a go.

Anytime I see a slow cooker as the method of cooking I immediately think, “ah - piece of cake”. What usually happens is I realize it’s a slow cooker day first thing in the morning and end up struggling to do all the prep in amongst the mayhem of our mornings. With Nuno now starting work at 7am out of town, it’s no easy feat prepping dinner, wrangling the dog (in this case 2 since we are dog sitting) in a muddy backyard in the pouring rain, getting myself and Owen out the door – all before 8am. Anyone want to switch morning routines with me? I almost croaked when I read that these meatballs needed to sear before entering the slow cooker, but I was too far along to turn back. I mean, who doesn’t love arriving to work smelling of fried meat, ugh. The recipe calls for ground pork but we love buying a triple mix of beef, pork & veal (tastes best and our butcher makes it super-lean). Paprika is generally an underused spice for us, but a really nice flavour in these meatballs. I knew the inconvenience would be worth it in the end, and they were pretty good. The house smelled fantastic walking in at 5:30pm. And when it’s chilly and rainy, meatballs are a wonder comfort food. But with all the reward of this dinner, I really feel it’s best to think about/work on dinner in the evening and forget it as a morning task.

Monday, April 22, 2013

baked onion rings

When was the last time you had onion rings? I know for us it’s been a long while. You know, it’s not that I don’t enjoy them, it’s just that they are unreliable when you get them out. Sometimes they are so hot and the oil & moisture inside the ring burns. I’ve been disappointed with them being too soft like they were dredged in pancake batter. Probably the biggest bummer is when the onion slips out entirely on first bite. But if they are done right they rank way higher than fries on the pleasure scale.

We decided to try Everyday Food Light’s Baked Onion Rings alongside our Lemon Horseradish Fish Cakes with Herbed Mayo. Using a sweet Vidalia onion, the large rings are battered in egg and coated in a seasoned cornflake/bread crumb mixture. From there they are baked in the oven till toasty. These were an absolute pleasure to eat and rate right up there with the best onion rings I’ve ever tried. They were light, crispy and super crunchy - as if fried. The flavour was spot-on, even Owen enjoyed them. A total make-again (and again).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

light chicken parmesan

Last night we tried Everyday Food Light’s Light Chicken Parmesan. I’m pretty sure most of us have tried our hand at a homemade chicken parmesan (typical duinner to impress in the college days, anyone?). I know for me it was my first experience shallow frying resulting in a burnt exterior and undercooked interior. It’s certainly one of those dinners that can be prone to fails. Because it’s a plain chicken breast, there is the threat of completely drying it out as well. But when it’s done right, it’s so good. If you follow this recipe I’m thinking you’ll be successful (and your waistline will definitely thank you).

The technique behind this chicken parmesan is to use a flour, egg white and roughly blitzed whole wheat bread crumbs as coating. Then the chicken is baked in the oven in place of frying. Very similar technique to this Oven Fried Chicken recipe from a few months ago. I know it sounds strange to use whole wheat bread as a coating, but in both the Oven Fried and Chicken Parm the results are (in my view) just as delicious, only a slightly different experience. You can feel good knowing you slashed a load of calories and at least half the fat. Both recipes use clever tricks to avoid the breading from becoming a soggy mess (which is a risk if you don’t follow the recipe). Oven Fried Chicken requires a wire rack placed on your baking sheet to elevate the meat so it cooks evenly all the way around. The Chicken Parmesan instructs you to bread only one side of the meat preventing the soggy bottom.

Overall totally delicious, moist chicken with great flavour. My only issue with this recipe is the homemade marinara sauce. It was bland and watery no matter how long it simmered (needed at least a tablespoon of tomato paste). It's a good idea to use a jar of your favourite tomato sauce for better results.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

chicken, spinach and potato hash

Well, who doesn't love some good hash? Yes, well, I've only had one experience trying hash, at a diner, in a time long since forgotten. So I figured now's a great time to give it another go and turn our son onto it as well.
OK, enough innuendo, I'm sure it's not even funny. Nuno and I have never touched any illicit substances in our lives. Kinda like tattoos, which we both do not have. How did we ever make it through art school, right? Well, this blog is proof enough of how truly square we are.

Yes, the recipe... Chicken, Spinach and Potato Hash from Everyday Food Light. I think we all associate hash with corned beef and potatoes for breakfast, but I do love my breakfast foods for dinner and this recipe is seamless taking AM to PM. We started by roasted bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. Along with 2 shallots, I also tossed in half a white onion I had on hand and I'm glad I did because the onion and garlic is what builds flavour in this dish. Although the recipe called for Yukon gold potatoes, we couldn't find them so we opted for yellow potatoes instead. These worked fantastic because they didn't need to be peeled (thin skin) and retained their shape after being cooked and then sauteed. I was pretty impressed these potatoes withstood my constant flipping and turning. Final addition of spinach and a final taste for seasoning and dinner is served!

This is one of the most kid-friendly dinners. I didn't give it much thought till I saw Owen hardly stopping for a breath between bites. And it makes sense, it's soft, comforting, warming and familiar. Super easy to eat and tasty to boot. This was a real winner and it leaves me wanting to make it again, but with corned beef.

Monday, April 8, 2013

quinoa stuffed peppers with provolone

These are our Quinoa Stuffed Peppers with Provolone from Everyday Food Light and they are defintely an interesting take on the idea of a stuffed pepper. I found the stuffing to have a strange consistency - if you can imagine quinoa and bites of provolone together, well, they don't blend very well at all. The flavour was nice, it was just a little strange.
We didn't love it, but we didn't hate it. We just won't make it again.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

chicken posole

We tried the Chicken Posole recipe from Everyday Food Light. We’ve made posole only once before when cooking through Fresh Flavour Fast and it used pork. I wasn’t entirely sure how chicken would translate, but it didn’t disappoint. I just love buying rotisserie chicken as a short cut and making use of it in recipes. I’m always very nervous about cooking chicken too long and drying it out. But it worked beautifully in this recipe because you basically add it at the last minute to reheat it. It was because of this short-cut that this recipe is extremely easy to prepare. Although it is a very delicious dinner, we found it a little on the spicy side. After reading that it called for 3 tablespoons of chili powder, we opted for 2 and that was well enough heat. To take the bite down a notch for Owen we added a large dollop of plain yogurt and it did the trick. He really enjoyed the hominy but was mistaking them for chickpeas. Since this is our second time eating posole, we both felt like it had been far too long without hominy. They are so hearty and have a great bite which is just another element that makes posole so delish! Another note about this recipe is how much food it yields. Luckily, this is the sort of meal that’s great for lunch or dinner, so we were OK with eating it over a few days.

Monday, April 1, 2013

easter cookies

Leading up to Easter this year Owen and I made sugar cookies together. Since Owen is now so well versed with playdoh he found cut-out cookies is even more rewarding having the chance to decorate as well as eat his creations.

Rolling pin action

Looking pretty satisfied with his butterfly shape.

Very carefully removing excess dough.

The process of baking and decorating sugar cookies is a 2 day process, so we had to take the baked cookies to Sarnia with us and decorate at my grandmother’s home.

There they are very delicious looking... but you still must to wait for the icing to set.
Plated on my grandmother's dessert pedestal (which she passed on to me - thanks g'ma!)