Sunday, January 31, 2010

My first 3 course pot roast dinner

I now not only own a crock pot but I also know how to use it!  I definitely put it to good use today when we had some guests over... plus Jr and Lorena LOL  It all started last night when I seasoned and prepared my 5 lbs piece of meat!  I seasoned it with salt and pepper and then coated it all around with flour.  I wish I had taken step by step pictures but my words will have to do for now.  It laid there in the fridge all night until 7 this morning when I woke up ready to sear my meat on some bacon fat.  I saved the bacon for breakfast with eggs and toast!  Yum!  During my searing process I chopped up some carrots, some onions, some celery, and some golden potatoes (peeled).  I laid it all down inside my crock pot.  I then placed the meat on top of the vegetables.  Along the sides I put in some chopped vine tomatoes, 3 bay leaves, and some tomato paste.  Next came 2 cups of beef broth and 1 cup of red wine. I set it and forgot it!  lol  It cooked on high for 8 hours!!! 

I got home and there was still one hour left for the pot roast to finish cooking so during that time I prepared an awesome mimosa for cocktail and bruschetta for appetizer!  I know everyone liked it because they devoured it all!  I didn't even get a chance to take a picture!  lol  Anyway, the mimosa is very simple and easy to make.  Just use the same ratio of champagne or sparkling wine to orange juice.  I then splashed some triple sec just to make it more interesting!  I folded orange slices in each cup for garnish.  For my bruschetta ( I love bruschetta) I chopped some tomatoes, parsley, and fresh mozzarella.  I then poured a good amount of extra virgin olive oil and seasoned it with kosher salt and pepper.  Ciabatta is a great bread for bruschetta (did I mention I love bruschetta?).  Basically just cut 1 inch slices of the bread and fry it on a hot pan with olive oil.  It took about 3 minutes.  Just enough to make the bread kinda toasty but soft.  It's definitely not too oily.  Then carefully lay the tomatoes on top of each ciabatta slice and serve!  Total crowd pleaser!

I got an awesome yellow rice from BJs.  It cooked in 30 minutes and made a perfect side for the pot roast along with the onion farofa I made.  Farofa is really easy to make and is great with stew like dishes.  Basically just put a stick of butter on a hot pan.  Once it's melted add about 3 medium sliced onions.  I added some salt and pepper and let the onions swim in butter until they were tanned but not completely browned.  Then I added about a cup of yuca flour.  You can find this flour in any Brazilian market.  It is a very popular flour in Brazil especially for farofa making.  Since I forgot to mix in some raisins during my preparation of the farofa I just sprinkled some on top after it was done. 

I was extremely pleased with the whole crock pot experience and I recommend it to everyone!  After dinner everyone was really tired from eating so much but I was ready for dessert!  Another first for me:  Banana Fosters!

I have learned that most of the time when it comes to cooking you are better off not measuring things too much.  So, with that in mind, making banana fosters is actually very easy.  I sliced 3 bananas half way.  I wish I had a banana split type of dish to serve it with but the regular plate did the job too.  Then I melted 3 tbls of unsalted butter and added about a cup of brown sugar to the medium hot pan along with some nutmeg and a little bit of allspice!  Everything mets pretty quickly so right away I added a couple of splashes of banana liqueur and my bananas.  The bananas cooked in about 2 minutes.  I then placed them on my serving dish and put some good rich vanilla ice cream on top of them.  Now for the fun part!  With the remaining sauce going on medium heat I added 1/2 a cup of spiced rum!  Yum!  I took my flame tool and ignited the rum!  The fire burned down the alcohol as I added some orange zest to the sauce.  Then it was basically time to just pour it over the ice cream and the bananas!  This was really, really, really good!  

I had a great time entertaining friends today and cooking for them!  From the mimosas to the banana fosters it all blended in quite well!  I think we ate enough for the week but then again that's what Sundays are for!  Great dinners!  Remember to season your food!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chicken Corn Chowder Comfort

The weather in Jacksonville today was dark, wet, and windy (tornado warnings windy).  Basically perfect weather to stay in eating comfort food and watching a great movie!  I decided to try making a chicken corn chowder!  I had never attempted making any kind of soup or chowder before so it was definitely a learning experience that started at Publix.  As I keep cooking I find myself figuring out what ingredients go into certain dishes.  This was one of them.  I knew I needed chicken stock and heavy cream for my base.  My  other ingredients included potatoes, chicken, corn, mushrooms, celery, garlic, onions, lime, and parsley.  First I sauteed my seasoned thighs on a separate frying pan.  Once they were done I deboned them and roughly chopped them. I chopped my potatoes into small nickel size    
pieces, my celery into small penny size pieces, and then roughly chopped my onions, garlic, mushrooms, and parsley.

With some extra virgin olive oil and butter in the pan I sauteed my onions until they became translucent.  Then I added garlic, celery, salt, and pepper.  I pretty much let this cook on medium to high heat for about 5 minutes.  The fun started when I started adding the rest of the ingredients and saw that I was actually making a chowder.  I added my potatoes, the corn, the parsley, and the mushrooms.  I stir fried them for about 5 minutes before adding 2 cups of fat free chicken stock and a little bit of white wine.  Once it reached a boil I added 2 cups of heavy cream  and a bay leaf.  I then added 2 tbls of flour.  I did it slowly while mixing the chowder as to not create flour lumps. I lowered the heat to about medium so it would cook slowly without burning.  I seasoned it with crushed red peppers and more salt.  It is important to not be afraid of seasoning your food!  Restaurants do it all the time!

Once the potatoes were soft the chowder was pretty much done!  I kept tasting it throughout to make sure the seasoning was right and checking to see if the consistency was good.  If you feel it's too thick add more cream or milk.  If it's too thin then add more flour.  I really, really, recommend making this!  Everyone will love it!  This is all we had for dinner tonight and it was very fulfilling!  I can't understand why people would buy canned soup!!!  Including prep time this should take about 1 hour but you can chop everything up ahead of time!  So, try it this weekend and you won't regret it especially if it's cold or raining outside!

Tuna for lunch

I wanted to have a healthy lunch today so I made some tuna!  I pretty much can't stand plain old tuna so I jazzed it up a little bit!  First I opened my tuna can and took all the water out.  In a small bowl I mixed in 1 tsp of ketchup, 2 tsps of reduced fat mayonnaise, 1/2 a cup of corn, some salt and some pepper.  I then squeezed in half a lime and mixed it all together!

I had some whole grain pita bread still lying around so I cut them into bite size slices, drizzled them with extra virgin olive oil and salt and toasted them for about 5 minutes!  This took less than 10 minutes to prepare and it was not only healthy but it was also very tasty!  Try jazzing up your tuna!  You can't go wrong!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Baked Penne with Prosciutto

I had a pound of prosciutto sitting in my fridge and couldn't think of what to do with it until I thought about a baked ziti!  I didn't have any ziti so penne pinch hit last night.  I love making pink sauces for my pasta so the pint of heavy cream I had left in the fridge came in handy!  I also still had some fresh mozzarella so I decided to slice it and serve it with tomatoes.  Once I figured out that I had too much breadcrumbs left over from my penne topping I decided to coat some mozzarella slices and do a version of fried mozzarella.  

First I boiled my pasta with a whole clove of garlic in the water.  I pretty much use garlic for everything!  It just rocks!  While my penne was cooking I started to prepare my sauce by simmering 1 pint of heavy cream with 2 minced cloves of garlic.  After about 3 minutes I added 1 pint of marinara sauce.  There are great marinara sauces out there so there's no need to make your own.  Once the sauce started bubbling on medium heat I added about 2 tsps of... wait for it... wait for it... nutmeg!  I pretty much add nutmeg to most of my sauces, stews, or soups.  Not as much as I added on this one though.  I wanted the nutmeg to really stand out on this dish and if this nutmeg was a president it would stand out like Obama on an all US presidents head-shots poster!  Once my penne was done I salted it, drained it, and poured it on a casserole dish.  I then added 1 cup of parmesan cheese, half a cup of chopped up provolone, some salt, and crushed red pepper to my sauce.  Once the cheese blended in I evenly poured everything on top of the penne.  

Using a mixture of italian breadcrumbs and panko breadcrumbs I started to prepare my topping.  I used 1 cup but next time I'll probably use half of that.  I got one of my big bowls and added 3 tbls of butter, 1 cup of chopped fresh mozzarella, 1 tbls of chopped fresh thyme, and some salt and pepper.  I squeezed it all together with my hands until the butter was pretty much blended in.  After that it was pretty easy!  I layered the top of the penne with the breadcrumbs, preheated the oven to 350, and baked it for 20 minutes!  

For the appetizer I played around with doing a fried mozzarella but even though it tasted good it wasn't the result I was looking for looks wise.  I guess fresh mozzarella isn't cut out for this.  The sliced mozzarella with vine tomatoes and spinach came out great though!  I dropped a little extra virgin olive oil on them and it was perfect! 

I was really happy with how this dish turned out.  It was a perfect way to make use of the prosciutto I had left over.  I will definitely be making this again and I encourage you to try it also!  You will not regret using the nutmeg like I did.   I'm never afraid of seasoning and most of the time I'm happy with the results... but I guess more importantly those who are eating my food are also happy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sweet and Sour Chicken with a kick

I was searching my fridge and freezer for ideas on what to make for dinner last night because I wanted to get rid of some stuff before going grocery shopping again.  I had the idea to make my own version of sweet and sour chicken with pineapples!  I'm really glad I did because this was one of my favorite dishes so far!  

First I marinated 4 chicken breasts in some mojo (goya makes a great one) for about 30 minutes.  I wish I had done it before but it still softened and seasoned the breasts.  I then dropped all four breasts in a deep frying pan and let them cook about 5 minutes on each side.  Even though I knew I was going to chop them for this dish I still cooked them before doing so.  This way it's a lot easier and less likely to spread bacteria all over yourself!  I took them out of the pan and let them sit on a plate while I chopped all my vegetables including a green pepper, half of a red pepper, onions, half a fresh pineapple about 2 cloves of garlic, and scallions.  

With some of the marinade still in the pan I dropped my onions and garlic and let them swim around a little bit.  Once I thought it was appropriate I put in my peppers.  After about 2 minutes I found myself having to make a very important decision!  I had white wine ready to go on my hot full of veggies pan but I wanted to try something different.  What has more of a kick than wine?  Definitely tequila!!!  Yeah baby!  I poured in about 1/2 a cup of it.  Just enough to lift all the flavors off the pan.  I let it simmer for about 2 minutes and then put in my pineapple and two key ingredients:  Ketchup and honey!  About 4 tbls of each!  The sweet, sour, and hot combination was awesome!!!   After about another 2 minutes I put in my chicken.  I figured I'd let the pineapple juice in the pan a little bit.  You can use pineapple from the can too.  I'm sure it'll be more nicely chopped than mine.  Once I had all my ingredients in the pan I started seasoning them with a lot of chili powder, paprika, crushed red pepper, plenty of hot sauce, and kosher salt.  I wanted it to kick and if this dish played soccer it would win the world cup by itself!  I then added about 1 cup of water and let it simmer while I prepared some rice.  

Mirella really liked this one and I think I'll definitely prepare it again. I liked serving it in a bowl.  I tried to get fancy with the rice tower but you can just put the rice in there and then just lay the chicken on top.  Try this tonight or sometime this week!  It's always worth it to look in your fridge for ideas and use what you have.  Making the same thing all the time is not fun!  I guarantee you'll love making this one!  

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fresh Mozzarela

What a long day!  I did not feel like cooking today so we settled for homemade subs!  I got some really good prosciutto at BJ's along with some fresh mozzarella!  YES!  I found it!  I slapped some mayo on French bread, laid down my meat and cheese, covered them nicely with green leaf lettuce and vine tomatoes, and coated them with olive oil and vinegar.  A little salt and pepper and dinner was served!  It tasted pretty good!  What I really wanted was good Italian bread but I just didn't have a chance to pick some up today.  Oh, and yes, I did eat that whole sandwich! It was way better than your regular $5 foot long! lol

If anyone has an idea for a dish for me to try to make please comment!  I'd love to try something new and challenging.  I will soon have a gallery of the dishes I've prepared up on the blog.  

I must now go to sleep and prepare for an early morning 3 mile run and a zumba class at 10:30am.  Mirella is going with me on this one so it should be a lot of fun! 
I'm hoping to just go out for dinner tomorrow.

Chicken Cordon Bleu with a Cranberry Chutney

I set out to make something healthy for dinner tonight and came across Chicken Cordon Bleu. I know it's not the healthiest of chicken dishes but if served with a salad it's not that bad.  That's exactly what I did!  I prepared the chicken with Italian Prosciutto and Swiss Cheese.  I also made a Cranberry Chutney which is almost like a cranberry sauce but with a stronger taste.  It was great to learn what a chutney is!  It's basically a side sauce made with a fruit cooked with vinegar, sugar, and spices.  I made mine with red wine instead of vinegar.  It's awesome because once you know how to make a Cranberry Chutney you can use it with any other dish and with other fruits as well.  So here's how I prepared this meal.

First I laid my chicken breasts on my cutting board and covered them with plastic wrap.  Why you ask?  So I don't splash bacteria all over the place when I smash it with a meat mallet (hammer).  After I got all six breasts down to about 1/4 inch in thickness I seasoned them with Adobo.  I love adobo!  If you don't have any go to BJs and buy the big container.  I then placed my breasts (that's what she said) on top of a large piece of plastic wrap.  Next I laid down a thin slice of prosciutto on the breast followed by a slice of swiss cheese.  I pretty much kept it within the boundaries of the breast.  The next part was quite tricky due to inexperience but it was fun nonetheless.  I rolled one breast at a time on top of plastic wrap. Then I rolled the plastic wrap around it like a you would wrap a piece of candy.  I had never done this before and it was great because by the time you are done with all the breasts the chicken takes it's shape.  

The next step was to season (I season every step of cooking) all purpose flour with some black pepper and salt.  Then I melted some butter! About 3 tbls. Everything good has butter in it. Next I used a breadcrumb that I just came to know.  It's called Panko!  What an amazing crumb this is!  I took the melted butter and mixed it with the crumbs along with more salt, pepper, and thyme.  When using fresh thyme only use the little leaves.  I took 3 eggs and beat them with more salt and pepper.  

The fun part is putting the all purpose flour on the rolled up breasts, then dipping it on the eggs, then rolling it on the Panko breadcrumbs.   After you have a good amount around the rolled breast just place it on an oven safe pan covered with some olive oil.  Do not use a cookie sheet.  I find that it makes the chicken dry.   I baked it at 360 for about 25 minutes.  Just keep checking it to make sure it's not burning.  The crust should be crispy and a little brown.  

To serve it I placed it on a board and cut it like sushi.  Then I layered it over some spinach that were seasoned with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.  
Back to the cranberry chutney.  It wasn't easy finding cranberries at the supermarket but since I shop at Publix someone stopped what they were doing and found the few bags that were left for me.  Basically just put 2 cups of fresh cranberries in a small sauce pan with 1/2 cup of red wine, 1/4 cup of sugar, and lots of ground black pepper.  This is optional for the meal of course but it was suggested as a side sauce for this chicken on the food network.  I thought it was awesome!

Today was definitely a learning experience.  I now know a new breadcrumb and how to use it in other dishes.  I plan on doing a post later just about breading your meats!  I also learned what a chutney is.  I plan on trying it with different fruits like raspberries for instance!  I will try to post more pictures next time.

The cheese was perfectly melted and the chicken was very juicy! You have to try this dish this weekend!  Just go for it! If you have any questions just ask!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I love to cook

My name is Filipe and I love to cook!  Maybe what I really like is to feed people food that I make but in either case I really love to cook.  Ever since we bought the Rachel Ray pan set I've been exploring in the kitchen.  I've cooked several dishes since last year and have gotten good feedback from people.  I tend to season my food quite a bit and I'm not afraid to try new things.  I have a few pictures of what I've cooked so far but I'm looking forward to documenting my experiences and recipes on this blog because I rarely cook the same thing twice.  Not because I have so many options but because I forget what I've already made. I also plan on talking about different restaurants I go to or have been to.  Please feel free to comment on my posts and to give me suggestions.  I also hope to one day have videos of myself cooking on this blog.  Thanks Mirella and Summer for your support and for liking my food... most of them anyway!  lol