Balsamic-Braised Chicken with Swiss Chard

Holding cooking classes has shown me a few ways that some people perceive what goes on in the kitchen and also how some interpret recipes. Some of the people I have had in my kitchen are very literal, if they don’t have say the bone in pork chop they only have boneless on hand; they just move on to another recipe. It asks for chicken breast and they only have thighs. Some the ingredients throw them off either they don’t know what it is or have it on hand so they just bypass it. I try to give them a little more in control of what they are making. I personally am not in love with mushrooms but I have been buying and using them more. They do add a lot of earthiness to some recipes. And one of the best beef gravy I have ever had was mushroom based; and I didn’t even make it.

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Balsamic-Braised Chicken with Swiss Chard over Creamy Polenta

My point is I would love people to feel more comfortable in their kitchens and I hope I help them out a little bit one class or blog at a time. I was chuckling to myself on my short commute (less than 10 minutes) home yesterday I must have considered about 8 meals I wanted to make. It could be the weather but I am pumped to get back in the kitchen versus grilling; I have 3 soups in mind, and I am going to throw one of the 4 meals I thought about in the crockpot for tomorrow so it is ready for when I get back from my day in Boston.

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OK so I had to rush around this morning and wasn’t able to finish my blog, I do apologize and hope that you find this recipe yummy enough to make. My house smelled awesome and it tasted great to boot. I will be making this again!  It asked for quick polenta; which I have never made and didn’t find at the store; I did find regular polenta and made that; again for the first time and I kind of liked it; it kind of reminded me of cream of wheat; so I guess if you didn’t like that growing up; you might not care of creamy polenta.

 

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1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, mixed
5 tsp minced fresh thyme or 1 2/2 tsp dried
1 TBS tomato paste
3 garlic  cloves, minced
1 anchovy fillet, I used anchovy paste cuz that’s what I have on hand
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 TBS all-purpose flour
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar – I used Honey Ginger Balsamic Vinegar; what I had on hand
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomato, drained – I used 28 ounce plum tomatoes again; what I had
1/2 chicken broth
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 bay leaves
12 bone in skinless chicken thighs
6 ounces swiss chard, stemmed and leaves sliced 1/2 inch thick
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Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, thyme, tomato paste, garlic, anchovy, and red pepper flakes and cook until onion is softened and lightly browned. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in vinegar, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps: cook until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes and transfer to slow cooker.

Stir tomatoes, broth, wine and bay leaves into slow cooker. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place chicken into sauce. Cover and cook until chicken is tender 4 to 6 hours on low.

Gently stir in chard, cover and cook on high until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to serving platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let braising liquid settle for 5 minutes, remove fat from surface using large spoon. Discard bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon sauce over chicken

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Italian Bruschetta – Florence Cooking Class

Let me start off with Italy was awesome and everything I thought it was going to be! Let me next apologize for the delay in sending out my weekly blog. Last week I mentioned I wanted to travel light so I left my laptop at home. Well that would have all worked out fine and dandy had the airline Alitalia not understood the concept of how to cue lines and decided to sell my ticket plus several others to the people in the standby line versus us who were waiting 2½ hours in line to check in. So while being stranded another night in Italy sounds like a pretty cool place to be, I was less than thrilled or prepared for that matter. I got home last night around 10:30 versus Saturday night which had I been prepared I could have written my blog plus maybe a short novel with how much time I spent sitting in the airport. But enough about that, let’s get to why we are all here – YUMMY FOOD!

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I can say with some certainty that tomatoes, mozzarella and basil were the basis of pretty much every meal we ate, breakfast included. If it wasn’t a margarita pizza, it could have been caprese salad or bruschetta, or even in a sandwich form; the options were endless. We had the most amazing burrata ever. I want to learn how to make this; the Italian way of course.

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Caprese

A few interesting things we learned in the cooking class that I wanted to share. They like a specific bread for bruschetta, it is rustic and doesn’t have a lot of flavor so you taste nothing but the basil, tomatoes and garlic ahhhhhhh love or better yet Amare! When they use onions they do not add any garlic and vice versus. I definitely do not follow that rule; I add garlic to just about everything I make. This other is a huge no no with them but I can go either way with it. They take great offense to pineapple on pizzas. Not my first choice but I can deal.

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Class Pizza Abbi and I made – artichoke hearts OK

I would like to recommend to anyone traveling to Italy to take a cooking class. The one we took in Florence was jammed packed with history and information and yummy food. We met some very nice people and I am very happy we signed up.  We went with Taste Italy Food and Wine Tours. Oh yeah I haven’t even brought up all the wine we drank, I mean tried. First night walking around Rome we picked a restaurant randomly and ordered their bruschetta and a glass of wine. We ended up enjoying both so we ordered a margarita pizza and another glass of wine. Our waiter was SO disappointed in us, he told us next time we have to order the bottle of wine; it is less expensive that way. SO that is how the rest of the trip went.

Just sharing how adorable my daughter is

Just sharing how adorable my daughter is

Italian way to make bruschetta

3-4 ripe from the vine tomatoes chopped

Rustic bread sliced and toasted

1 Clove of garlic chopped (I personally would use 2-3)

Bunch of fresh basil ripped and chopped with the garlic

Extra Virgin Olive oil – the extra virgin means first press of the olives – we learned that in class

Black pepper

Salt

Toast bread dry, set aside. Chop several tomatoes and place in a bowl. Chop basil and garlic together add to the tomatoes, add about 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. Only add salt when serving. Side note, they did say we could rub garlic on the toast if we wanted to.

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Burrata – Best I have ever had!

I don’t know how to make burrata just yet but I will learn and share, if you haven’t tried it or know what it is, it starts as mozzarella and ends with a creamy curd center mozzarella ball . I have had it before and liked it, now I LOVE it! I hope it’s not only awesome in Italy.

Barramundi with a Butter Garlic Lemon sauce

I was at my local grocery store the other day and was looking for some Mahi Mahi they didn’t have fresh and I usually find it in the vacuum sealed frozen section. Unfortunately they did not have any but I did run across a name I have heard a couple of times on TV but have never tried; Barramundi; I was intrigued enough to pick a package up.  Yesterday I decided was the day we were going to have it for dinner.

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The beets are from my garden, I canned them over the summer

Barramundi is a mild white buttery fish from Australia; it is also called The Sustainable Seabass.

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We didn’t have internet all weekend; so my usual recipe searching wasn’t an option; I decided to keep it simple and a little light; I had on hand garlic, butter, lemon and basil which actually isn’t that unusual I pretty sure I always have them on hand. I also wanted something a little different for my sides.  I haven’t had potato latkes in a real long time and they sounded yummy.

I didn’t want a lot of clean up since my usual dishwasher; my son; wasn’t home LOL. That’s not true I was just being a little lazy. I had my skillet ready for my potatoes; I cooked them up and set them aside, added my fish and cooked them for a few minutes on each side, in a small sauce pan I made my sauce and added  to my fish and voila dinner. I bet it took less than 30 minutes for everything to be on the table.

It was delicious and very fresh, not even a little fishy smell; which is an added bonus that it didn’t smell up the house which sometimes fish can do. Not sure if you have ever shied away from buying frozen fish but it has never disappointed me. I do only buy the vacuum sealed kind; I don’t think you can go wrong since it was flash-frozen and sealed; try it if your store has it.

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Barramundi

Salt and pepper

Dry the fish on both side salt and pepper. Heat skillet on medium high olive oil, place fish in skillet cook for about 5-7 minutes, turning once cook on the other side for another 3-5 minutes till just done, do not overcook it will become dry.

Garlic Butter Sauce

2 Tbs butter

2 cloves garlic

½ tsp dried basil

2 Tbs lemon juice – I had a half of a fresh lemon that I squeezed

I really do not measure so the above is a guideline; I had 2 fillets and covered them with the sauce.

Melt butter, garlic and basil on low do not brown the garlic but you want the flavors to meld together. Add the lemon juice, set aside till needed.  This would taste delicious on any white fish.

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Simple Potato Latkes

2 Potatoes peeled and grated

1 egg

1 medium onion peeled and grated

Salt and pepper

If I am making a lot of them, I take out my food processor to grate the potatoes and onion. It was just my husband and I and I didn’t want left overs so I just brought out my box grater because I was making only a few.

Grate potatoes and onion, set aside and squeeze as much water out of them as you can.  Add the beaten egg, salt and pepper and mix till all blended.  Drop by spoonful and squish down with either a fork or I used my fish turner. Cook till browned, flip and cook the other side till browned.  Keep warm in the oven if you need to.

So I would like apologize for the delay, our internet has been down all weekend and come to find out the router is dead.  They are sending a new one out in the mail today.  Who knew in this day and age trying to find WIFI in my little town would be so difficult. I couldn’t logon to my day job WIFI, I went to Dunkin Donuts at lunch and that was pretty painful; I left.  One of the lunch spots in town USED to offer it, no more. I am currently sitting in my favorite restaurant having a yummy cocktail just so I can post my blog. Things I do for you all.

Individual Chocolate Lava Cake

Valentine’s Day date night was more of a weekend thing this year; due to yet another snow storm for the North East. I swear it feels like we are in a snow globe and a 5 year is having a blast shaking it and we can’t get it away from him. My husband has a plow route so making dinner plans was definitely out of the question.  We figured Friday night would be the only time we could sit down for dinner so we had a nice steak, pan seared scallops, smashed potatoes and roasted asparagus and I picked up some ice cream for dessert.

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Top off with confectioners sugar, fresh berries and a side of ice cream YUM

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The snow started around 10 am on Saturday and literally ended just a few hours ago. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to have dinner together Saturday night so I picked up some nice thick cut bone-in pork chops from a semi local butcher shop along with a couple of their baked stuffed potatoes; just a few things I could throw together quickly without a lot of fuss.  SO with that being said I wanted to make a nice homemade dessert.

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The Pork Chops were D’lish – A little Cajun seasoning and finished off with a little honey

My husband loves to tell me that “chocolate calls his name”. He’ll hunt around the kitchen and pantry looking for it. He’ll even go for my chocolate chips if he can’t find anything else. So I figured Chocolate Lava Cake would be a huge hit, and I could make it when we were ready for it.  This is the first time I have tried making them and they didn’t quite flow like I wanted them to but the flavor is really delicious and I know what I would do differently. (my daughter called me out on this statement. Apparently I have tried making these before; I honestly do not remember it. During the first book of our book club we made several recipes from the book and Abbi and I made the chocolate lava cake. I still don’t remember doing this but she does so there is it) I will not forget making this one, I have pictures and put it in writing!

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Individual Chocolate Lava Cake

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk (room temperature)

½ cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp salt

2 Tbs AP flour

Eight 6 ounce ramekins

Confectioners’ sugar or unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)

With rack in the middle of the oven; pre-heat oven to 400’. Grease and dust with either confectioners’ sugar or cocoa.

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Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Melt chocolate and butter in either a double boiler or a heatproof bowl over a sauce pan filled with about an inch of water, do not let water touch the bottom of what you are using and do not allow water to boil. Stirring occasionally until smooth; remove from the heat and set aside.

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Using a stand a stand mixer with whisk attachment; whip eggs, yolk granulated sugar, vanilla and salt on high speed until volume nearly triples. The color should be very light, and the mixture should fall from the beater in a smooth thick stream, roughly 5-7 minutes.

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Pour chocolate mixture over egg mixture and sprinkle flour over the top. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold all together until uniformly colored. Ladle or pour into prepared ramekins. Bake until cakes have puffed up about; have formed a thin crust with the center being able to jiggle slightly when shaken very gently. 12-13 minutes. run a thin knife around the edges, invert onto a plate; let sit until the cakes release themselves, roughly 1 minute. Lift off ramekins. Dust with confections sugar if you chose to use.

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This was a little over done – a minute or two less would have worked better

Couple of notes: you can keep the ramekins in the fridge for up to 8 hours before baking. Let them set on the counter for about 30 minutes before baking.

I used cocoa powder but next time I would dust with confections sugar, cocoa was messy.

You can also use a spring-form pan if you want to make 1 large cake. It is best served warm (within 30 minutes) but can stay in the pan for up to an hour.  Bake at 375’ around 22-25 minutes for a 9 inch pan or 27-30 for an 8 inch. Let it cool for 15 minutes; then run a thin knife around to loosen the cake and invert on a plate.

Beef Burgundy

My girlfriend KP made this “her way” a week or so ago and sent me a text “Soooo Yummy!!! U gotta make it” I also can’t help thinking Ron Burgundy every time I say Beef Burgundy 🙂

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I do have pretty good intentions when I make up my grocery shopping list for the week. Even though I mostly have a plan; sometimes life happens and I just can’t get to what I planned on cooking. This week I bought 5-lb beef chuck roast with the whole intention of prepping my slow-cooker some night during the week and putting it on to cook while at work. Well the week totally got away from me this week and here we are at Friday already and the roast was still sitting in the fridge.

I’m not a huge fan of freezing beef; well except for hamburger; and my guys were leaving Saturday afternoon for a 5-day ski trip out West so I decided to try something new. I prepped the crock-pot when I got home from work Friday night and put it on before I went to bed. I figured we would have it for lunch; it is a little extravagant for our typical Saturday lunch; but I didn’t have to freeze the roast and I sent the guys off with a really nice meal.

My buddy SF was here as he was going skiing with my guys; he has made a few of the meals from this blog and he really liked this one but when I told him “it is a process” I could tell he was a little less thrilled. He tends to take recipes and tweaks them a little to what he has on hand or feels like. I totally respect that – KP did the same thing! I can’t wait for him to try this recipe and tell me how he made it his own.

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Beef Burgundy

1 (5-pound) boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

Kosher Salt & Fresh cracked Black Pepper

1 tbs olive oil

4-5 pieces of bacon cooked to crisp and minced

2-3 onions, minced

1 carrot, peeled and minced

¼ cup tomato paste

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp dried thyme

1/3 cup flour

2 ½ cups or 1 bottle Pinot Noir

1 ½ cups chicken broth

1/3 soy sauce

2 bay leaves

2 cups frozen pearl onions

½ cup water

3 tbs unsalted butter

2 tsp sugar

1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and halved if small or quartered if large

Dry beef with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Place half of beef in the slow cooker. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking; brown remaining beef well on all sides transfer to slow cooker.

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Cook bacon in the skillet until crisp remove and set aside. Stir in chopped onions, carrot, tomato paste, garlic, and thyme and cook until onions are softened and lightly browned.  Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in 1 ¼ cups wine, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps; transfer to slow cooker.

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Stir in broth, soy sauce, and bay leaves into the slow cooker. Cover and cook until beef is tender. 9-11 hours on low or 5-7 hours on high.

About 20 minutes before serving, bring frozen pearl onions, water, butter, and sugar to boil in 12-inch skillet. Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook until onions are fully thawed and tender. 5-8 minutes. Uncover, bring to a boil, and cook until all liquid evaporates. Stir in mushrooms and cook until vegetables are browned and glazed. Transfer to slow cooker.

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Add remaining 1 ¼ cups wine to skillet and simmer until reduced by half. Let stew settle for 5-10 minutes, then remove the fat from the top. Discard bay leaves, adjust stew consistency with hot broth if needed, mine did not. Season with salt and pepper to taste and sever over mashed potatoes.

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Tomatillo Chili w/Pork and Hominy – or as I referred to it as running with scissors

I am definitely open to trying new things; I actually encourage everyone to at least try something before you decide “I don’t like it”. Which is a far cry from how I grew up; I had a strict rule I would not eat anything that was green; except iceberg lettuce. Thankfully I have changed my ways or life would certainly be pretty boring and I would not have a damn thing to write about.

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This week I totally went out on a limb; at least for me.  I have never bought tomatillos, hominy or Poblanos before.  I will also confess I have never heard of hominy before until I heard Guy Fieri say he LOVED them. So I at the very least I wanted to try them. I think that is HUGE growth for me and I won’t say love just yet; but I definitely liked them.

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Tomatillo

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Poblano Pepper

This recipe is another with some prep up front you can let the slow cooker finish the job.  If you don’t have a free night during the week than try this on the weekend!

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Tomatillos 15-20 medium, husks and stems removed, rinsed well, dried and halved

1 large onion, cut into 1 inch pieces

4-6 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp cumin

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of ground cinnamon

3 tbs vegetable oil

2 cans white or yellow hominy, drained and rinsed

2 ½ cups chicken broth

2-3 poblano chilies, stemmed, seeded, and minced

3 tbs minute tapioca – I found mine in the baking isle of my local grocery store

2 tsp sugar

2 bay leaves

1 4lb boneless pork butt roast, trimmed and cut into 1 ½ inch chunks

Salt and pepper

½ cup minced fresh cilantro

Position oven rack 6 inches from broiler, toss tomatillos, onion, garlic, cumin, cloves and cinnamon with oil and spread onto aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Broil until vegetables are blackened and begin to soften. 8-12 minutes rotating pan halfway through.

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Let vegetables cool slightly, pulse vegetables along with juices in a food processor until almost smooth. About 10-15 pulses; transfer to slow cooker.

Stir hominy, broth, poblanos, tapioca, sugar, and bay leaves into slow cooker. Cover and cook until pork is tender, 9-11 hours on low or 5-7 on high.

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Let chili settle for 5-10 minutes, then remove the fat from the surface, discard bay leaves, stir in cilantro, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with your favorite chili toppings.  Shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa it’s all good!!!

Signing off to watch the super bowl – GO PATS!!!!

Chicken & Dumplings

I totally intended on trying another recipe in my slow cooker this last week but every night seemed to have something going on so I didn’t have time to prep and I am really not interested in making and cleaning a mess so early in the am. So instead I made chicken & dumplings on the stove top. It is definitely a warm comfort meal and pretty easy to make.  The batter for the dumplings is pretty simple and they cook themselves to perfection sitting on the top of the yummy broth. Homemade if you have it on hand.

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By using one pot to brown the chicken and made the stew it can’t help but being delicious, there is SO much flavor sticking to the bottom of the pot.

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I do use a lot of chicken broth both homemade, which I refer to as liquid gold, and pre-boxed which is great when I forget to take mine out of the freezer.

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I am not a fan of mushy peas so I only use frozen ones and by throwing those in last works out really well.

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The dumpling dough is really easy to make; it will be slightly thicker than pancake mix.

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The size of your dumplings depends on the size of the dollop you place on top of the stew. Be mindful they will expand.

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If you can hold off, it tastes a lot better if you can let it sit and let all the flavors meld.

Season chicken liberally with salt, pepper and adobo; add oil to a heavy duty pot, such as a Dutch oven. Cook chicken letting each side get nice and brown and remove to a plate until cool enough to shred.  Add celery, carrots and onions to hot pot, if too dry add more oil. Saute until onions are soft but not browned. Add flour and cook another minute; add chicken broth and simmer until veggies are cooked through. At the last minute add peas. Whisk all dumpling ingredients and add by spoonful. Cover and let the dumplings steam for about 15-20 minutes. Let meld and enjoy!!!

Stew

1-2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast cut into chunks

Kosher Salt

Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

Adobo seasoning

Olive Oil

2 ribs celery diced

3 carrots diced

1-2 onions diced

3 tbs flour

Chicken Broth

Handful of peas

Dumplings

Whisk all ingredients

¾ Cup Flour

1 ¾ tsp Baking Powder

½ tsp Salt

½ Cup Milk