Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Not Authentic, Definitely Inspired, Thai Cuisine.

Often I do not follow recipes to the letter; I want it to be mine and I love to play with my food. Then there are those times when I just don't want to make the full effort. Yeppers, this is one of those times when I like the whole idea, but I'm not going the full route. Being a rogue, it also helps when you don't have all the listed ingredients, so need to make due with what you have.

Thai Glazed Chicken Thighs was the original recipe, but I didn't have any coconut milk nor chicken thighs; instead it was orange juice concentrate and chicken breasts. It didn't exactly come out as a "sweet and sour" dish, more like a "sweet and savory" because of the soy sauce I added as an after thought. I also was going to make a vegetable stir fry as the side dish; there was so much sauce created in the chicken cooking process, that simply cooking the vegetables in the sauce was the sensible thing to do.

...and away we go.



Thai Inspired Chicken

Ingredients:

4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (8 at 1/2 lb. each)
1 (12 oz) container orange juice concentrate, defrosted
1/2 cup honey
2 tsp. ground ginger
4 Thai chiles, stem removed, minced
1 Tbsp. dried, crushed Thai basil
1/4 cup soy sauce

Preparation:

 




Place chicken into a 4 quart crock pot. 














In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together orange juice, honey, ginger and chiles; pour over chicken. 




























Sprinkle basil and soy sauce over contents in crock pot; cover, set on low and cook for four hours.







 

Remove chicken from crock pot and keep warm.  Place four cups of cut up vegetables into crock pot, set on high and cook for 15 minutes.  Serve as side dish with the chicken.
 
 

 Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Stir Fry Instead of Butter or Cheese.

I'm not a huge fan of broccoli or asparagus, but my hubby is and I will make these vegetables for him.  Usually it's, "Hunny, how do you want your broccoli?" and he will either answer "butter" or "cheese".  For the asparagus, I use it to make two quiches, one for him and one for his mother.  Yep, it's a "rut" thing.

Well I'm tired of being in a rut, so this time I decided not to ask him how he'd like his broccoli; nor even ask his opinion when I worked out how I was going to cook it.  Let him be surprised!

For the stir fry, I chopped up one medium sized head of broccoli; removing the woody ends off a half pound of asparagus, I cut that up into one inch pieces.  Now a medium sized stockpot, filled halfway with water and three tablespoons of salt, was coming to a boil on medium-high heat.  I put the cut up vegetables into the boiling water to cook for only three minutes; I had ready a large plastic mixing bowl filled halfway with cold water.  After three minutes, I used a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables from the stockpot to the mixing bowl; the cold water would stop the cooking process and keep them bright green.  I strained the vegetables, spread them out on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels and let any excess water be absorbed.

I had a couple of very small bell peppers (one orange, one red), cut them open, seeded, and cut into half inch pieces.  A large skillet went onto the stove top, three tablespoons of olive oil inside and the heat turned up to medium-high.  I put the broccoli, asparagus, bell pepper in plus a heaping tablespoon of minced garlic and a tablespoon of Italian herb mixture.  It only took five minutes for the entire mix to heat up nicely; I didn't want any of the vegetables to wilt or get any browned edges.  Hubby's opinion?  Oh yeah, he liked it big time!  He thought it tasted fresh and savory; especially when paired with the protein cooked up with it...New York Strip Steak.



The steak was prepared via a lazy woman's grilling; seasoning the steaks with sea salt and ground black pepper (both sides); they were laid on an aluminum jellyroll pan brushed lightly with olive oil.  A large onion was cut into rings and laid along side the steaks; into a preheated to 450F they went for twenty minutes (turn the steak and onions over after the first ten minutes).



Now this kind of rut we can both live with for awhile.  Enjoy!

Mary Cokenour


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Subtle Changes Make Comfort More Comforting.

I enjoy trying out new foods; many I end up adding to my list of recipes or staples in the pantry; others, not so much.  The most important feature though is the degree of comfort I receive; how good does this food item make me feel?  Oh yes, taste, texture, smell and the "eye candy" factor are important features too, but then again, I am a "comfort cook". 

I have recipes that I often do not change as they seem to be as good as they'll ever be.  Then I get that little voice in my head nagging me, "..but what if you add or change this...?"  That's what happened when I began prepping to make one of my hubby's favorite meals, "Little Smokies and Bean Casserole".  Usually I add in diced raw onion; but what if I rough chop the onion, saute' in olive oil till softened and just browning on the edges?  While this dish is usually sweet, salty and savory; what if I add in some green chiles for a kick start?

Just a couple of subtle changes made this comfort food recipe into a "hugging your favorite stuffed toy while licking the bowl clean" comfort food.  Absolute Yum!!!

First I'll give you the original recipe; then the newest version.

Little Smokies and Bean Casserole

Ingredients:

1 (15.5 oz) can each pinto, white kidney (Great Northern) and butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp each molasses and spicy brown mustard
1 small onion, diced
1 (13 oz) package beef Little Smokies
1 (8 oz) package shredded sharp Cheddar Cheese

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 2 quart casserole dish with nonstick spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except 1/4 cup of cheese.  Pour mixture into the casserole dish; sprinkle remaining cheese over top.  Bake for one hour.

Makes 6 servings.

Now I've been making this casserole this way since 1994 without any changes; talk about being in a rut!

Here's the new version which I believe is so much better in so many ways.



Subtle Little Smokies and Bean Casserole

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp each salt and ground black pepper
1 (53 oz) can pork and beans in tomato sauce; drain off top layer of clear liquid
1 (4 oz) can green chiles (mild gives a soft savory taste, medium gives some heat)
1 (13 oz) package beef little smokies
1/3 cup dark corn syrup
1 (8 oz) package sharp Cheddar cheese, divided in half

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 2 quart casserole dish with nonstick spray.

In a small skillet, medium-high heat, saute' onions in olive oil until softened and just browning on the edges; about 5 minutes.  The onions will begin to "hop" in the skillet, add the salt and pepper; remove from heat.





In a large mixing bowl, combine the onions with the beans, chiles, little smokies, corn syrup and half the cheese.  Pour into the casserole dish; bake for 30 minutes.






Remove dish from oven, sprinkle remaining cheese over top and bake an additional 20 minutes.  Let casserole rest for 10 minutes before serving.






Makes 6 servings.

Well, I did make more than the two initial changes, but sauteing the onions and adding the chiles increased the savory flavor.  Using corn syrup, instead of the molasses plus brown sugar, lessened the sweetness, but caused all the ingredients to be a perfect flavor harmony.  The overall mouth feel was just yum - yum - yum and the desire to lick the bowl clean was strong!

Try out both recipes and see which one comforts you the most.  Enjoy!

Mary Cokenour


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Simply Bake Fish is Simply Yum!

Gorton's Simply Bake Fish



I am a fan of the Gorton's brand of seafood products, so trying out their new Simply Bake items was a given.  The version I sampled was the Tilapia in Signature Seasoning. 

Even the cooking instructions are easy; preheat the oven to 350F; place sealed foil packet (window side up) onto baking sheet; 25 to 30 minutes and eat!  The sauce that cooks with the fish is plentiful; enough to go over a portion of rice or steamed vegetables to give them a boost of flavor.  The packet does puff up during the baking process, so be careful when opening it as very hot steam is released.

So how did it taste?  The fish was moist, tender, flaky...simply, perfectly cooked; it took a lot of will power not to put the other one (two come in the box) in the oven, bake it and eat that too!  The sauce had a mild kick to it, but the overall flavor was simply delicious with the herbs; not too runny, not too thick, just right in texture.  Gorton's named this product correctly with "Simply Bake"; and when buying fresh fish is near to impossible where I live, this product is perfect for a fish lover like myself.

This must be one of the shortest product reviews I've done yet, but all I can truly say is, if you enjoy seafood as a meal, buy Gorton's Simply Bake.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, March 24, 2014

Fill 'Er Up at Red Cliff Lodge's Cowboy Grill.

Cowboy Grill at Red Cliffs Lodge

Mile 14 on Highway 128
Moab, Utah, 84532

Telephone: (435) 259-2002 or (866) 812-2002

Email: office@redcliffslodge.com

Website: http://www.redcliffslodge.com/restaurant/


 
 
We have always wanted to try out the Cowboy Grill at Red Cliffs Lodge, but thought, due to the outside packaging that we could never afford it.  Were we wrong and happy about that!  First off, a little background about the area and the Lodge compound before I get to the restaurant.  The location is only 14 miles east on Route 128 outside of Moab; the roadway parallels the Colorado River and is spectacular scenery wise.  At the entrance, a large sign will direct you to either reception/restaurant or the Castle Creek Winery.  Going along the drive, you'll pass by the corral and see the cabins available for rental; there is also a pool/spa, so basically everything you need for a glorious vacation in the red rocks of Moab.




 
 
The inside of the Lodge is stunning with the Old West decor; there are meeting rooms available, a museum and gift shop.  Brochures galore are all over offering all the sites any visitor would want to indulge in.



 
What truly impressed us was the staff, so very friendly and helpful; not once were we made to feel like we "didn't belong", considering we were only there for the Sunday brunch, and not staying at the Lodge itself.   We paid for our meals at the front desk, took the short walk to the restaurant area and chose a table at the windows.  There is also seating outside and the view is truly to die for!



 
 
Once again, the friendliest staff ever, from the omelet chef to the gentleman who made sure all the hot food items were kept full.  Diane, aka the "Head Guru of Breakfast", made sure that our every need was met, and her smile was infectious; simply adored that woman!  The buffet area is in sections; hot foods, fruits and cobblers, the meats (bacon, ham, sausage), omelet station, pastries near the coffee and tea (to-go containers are available)...all-you-can-eat!!!



 
Talk about delicious!!!  Made to order omelets, fluffy scrambled or southwestern eggs, the pancakes and biscuits are the airyous, the meats are thick and they even served up thin slices of "melt in the mouth" prime rib in a mild barbecue sauce; we were in brunch heaven.

 
 
Whenever we're in the mood for a Sunday brunch, you can bet your bottom dollar that you'll find us at the Cowboy Grill at Red Cliffs Lodge.  By the way, they also serve up daily breakfast and lunch buffets, and nightly dinners.  Our wedding anniversary is in October, so you know where we'll be having our celebration dinner...at the Cowboy Grill.
 
Mary Cokenour
 
 

Cowboy Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sweet and Sour Pork Roast Made in a Crock Pot.

So, I was going through some cooking magazines and saw several recipes geared towards "sweet and sour". Whether it was pork or chicken, none of the recipes involved any type of frying, simply crock pot cookery or baking in the oven. Which got me to further thinking, since I had a boneless pork loin roast sitting in the freezer and I usually make pulled pork with that cut of meat. I don't know if I warned you of this before, but my mind tends to be its own game of Trivial Pursuit.

I noticed one recipe, for ingredients, it simply had: boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into pieces, soy sauce, brown sugar;  for preparation it had: place in crock pot on low for 6 hours.  The recipe name was "Hawaiian Chicken Teriyaki" and try as I might, I was just not seeing it; nope, not one second of imagery.  Instead, I pictured "sweet and sour pork" in my mind, what the ingredients were and what it would look like if I did not fry up the pork in a cornstarch coating.

The house smelled amazing as the ingredients cooked away in my crock pot; the final product though was simply out of this world!  Oh, how did I get from "sweet and sour" to "Hawaiian teriyaki" and back to "sweet and sour"?  Yeah, its that Trivial Pursuit thing again.  Anyway, here's the recipe and I'm very sure you are going to lap up your plates so clean, you'll think they were not used at all.



Sweet and Sour Pork Roast

Ingredients:

2 and 1/2 lb boneless pork loin roast
1 large red onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 (20 oz) can pineapple chunks in natural juice; strain juice, but reserve
3 Tbsp flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce

Preparation:

 

 
Spray a 4 quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray; place pork roast inside.  Place onion, bell pepper and pineapple over and around roast.

 


 
 
In a small bowl, whisk together reserved pineapple juice, flour, brown sugar and soy sauce until all flour is incorporated.  Pour mixture over roast, fruit and vegetables; cover and cook on low for eight hours.

 

 
 
 
Remove roast from crock pot to serving platter to rest for five minutes; surround with fruit and vegetables.  If serving with rice, substitute half cup of cooking water with sauce from crock pot; cook rice according to directions.

 

Makes 8 servings.
 
 
Now just in case you need to know how to make simple white rice, but this isn't the fluffy variety.  This rice will be moist and almost a "risotto" consistency.
 
Ingredients:
 
4 cups water (or 3 and 1/2 plus 1/2 cup sauce for this dish)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
3 Tbsp butter
2 cups long grain rice
 
Preparation:
 
In medium sauce pan, bring water (or water plus sauce), salt, black pepper and butter to a rolling boil.  Add the rice and stir vigorously (helps keep rice from sticking immediately); allow to boil for 15 minutes and stir occasionally to make sure it is not sticking.  Turn off heat, cover and let sit for 20 minutes. 
 
Makes 8 servings.
 
Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Layers of Flavor in a Strata.

Remember that brined turkey I made and saved the white meat for future use? The future is here!  One recipe my husband loves, simply loves, is Turkey Vegetable Strata.  When we lived in Pennsylvania, my mother would make several trays of this dish just for him; we would freeze the trays for when he felt the desire for it.  Well, she is 2700 miles away in Pennsylvania; we're in Utah, so I needed to make this dish on my own for him; of course I tweaked the recipe.  No, I just can't leave recipes as is; have to keep playing with new ingredients.

Anyway, my husband paid me the most awesome compliment the other day, "Hunny, this strata is so good; it's even better than your mother's."  I was on cloud nine and still climbing; I think the smile on my face was so wide, I dented the walls in the kitchen.

Turkey Vegetable Strata is one of those casserole dishes that takes two days to prepare.  The first day, the body of the casserole needs to rest in the refrigerator, so moisture and flavor can soak into the bread stuffing.  The second day is the baking process and to be truthful, the casserole is even better the next day after that when all the flavors have melded together...but who can wait!?!

Enough teasing, lets get to baking and eating!



Turkey Vegetable Strata

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup diced mushrooms
2 Tbsp butter
1 (10 oz) bag herb seasoned, cubed bread stuffing (white or cornbread)
1 (16 oz) bag frozen white corn
1 and 1/2 lbs cooked turkey, white meat, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided in half
2 eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt
3 cups milk, divide into 2 cups and 1 cup
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 (10 3/4 oz) cans cream of mushroom soup
1 (10 3/4 oz) can cream of celery soup
1 tsp crushed dry sage

Preparation:
 
 

 

In a 12 inch skillet, melt butter on medium heat; sauté onion, bell pepper and mushrooms for 10 minutes; do not let brown, just soften. 

 






With nonstick cooking spray, spray a 4 quart baking dish.  In a large mixing bowl, combine cubed bread, corn, turkey, one cup cheese and sautéed vegetables; spread out into sprayed baking dish.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, mayonnaise (or yogurt), two cups milk and black pepper until smooth.  Pour evenly over contents in baking dish; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours.
 

 
 
 

 
Next day, bread stuffing is moist and double in size.

 
Next day, preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, mix together soups, sage, one cup milk and one cup cheese till well combined; spread evenly over top of contents in baking dish. 
 

 
 
 
Bake covered with aluminum foil  for 50 minutes; uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes.  Let casserole rest for 15 minutes before serving.

 

Makes 12 servings.

 

Mary Cokenour