Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Week 22: Avocado Mac and Cheese

The Recipe
150g dry elbow macaroni
150g bacon
Chilli to taste
1 cloves garlic, minced
1 avocado
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup milk
1 cups shredded cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh avocado chunks, for garnish, optional

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, place garlic, avocado, lime juice, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, cook bacon until done, adding chilli to taste. Remove from pan and add to the (now drained) macaroni. Add butter to the saucepan and heat over medium heat. When butter is melted, whisk in flour to create a paste. Whisk in milk until smooth. Stir until the sauce starts to thicken. Add in cheese and stir until cheese is melted and sauce is creamy.

Pour the avocado sauce over the macaroni and bacon and stir until well coated. Add the cheese sauce and stir until macaroni is coated and creamy. Season with salt and pepper and chili flakes, to taste. Serve warm. Garnish with fresh avocado chunks, if desired.

The Verdict
Not half bad! Although I think I used a tad too much garlic, as it ended up being somewhat overpowering. If I make this again (which I may, as I rather liked it), I think I'll cook the garlic together with the bacon rather than adding it to the avocado sauce. Other than that I really enjoyed it. The avocado added a lovely touch. The original recipe didn't call for bacon, but I've found that mac'n'cheese by itself isn't really my thing, so I thought this would be a nice addition. I was right, and this, the avocado and the extra chili flakes I added kept the dish from being as uncomfortably rich as it sometimes can be.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Week 21: Cajun Chicken Pasta

The Recipe
250g linguine or similar (any fresh pasta will do)
400g chicken breast strips
1-2 tsp Cajun seasoning
1 tbsp olive oil
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
250g fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 spring onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup milk
1 tbsp flour
3 tbsp lcream cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare pasta in salted water according to package directions.Prep all your vegetables. In a small bowl make a slurry by combining milk, flour and cream cheese. Set aside. Season chicken generously with Cajun seasoning, garlic powder and salt.
Heat half of the oil in a large skillet; add the chicken. Sauté 5 to 6 minutes or until done. Set aside.

Add the rest of the olive oil to the skillet and add bell peppers, onions, and garlic to skillet, sauté 3-4 minutes. Add mushrooms and tomatoes and sauté 3-4 more minutes or until vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add chicken broth and pour in slurry stirring about 2 minutes. Return chicken to skillet; cook another minute or two until hot, then add linguine; toss well to coat.

The Verdict
Unfortunately not nearly as good as the recipe made it sound. But then I never can get slurries to thicken anything, so I won't deny that that may have something to do with it. It wasn't bad, just a lot of work for something not all that good.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Week 20: Italian Pot Pie

The Recipe
Meat Sauce
1 lb ground beef
2-3 carrots
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
chili flakes (optional)
2 cups of your favourite tomato sauce (homemade or from a jar - doesn't matter - but remember that the better the sauce, the better your dish)

Biscuit topping
1 cup flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup grated parm or similar
1/4 tsp herbs (e.g. thyme, oregano, rosemary)
dash of salt
1/2 cup milk
4 tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 225C.

Finely chop onion and carrots. Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet, add vegetables, season with salt and pepper and let them cook until tender, 5-10 minutes. Add ground beef, garlic and chili flakes. Cook until beef is no longer pink. Add tomato sauce. Bring the vegetable/sauce/meat mixture to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and let to go for 8-10 minutes until it's thickened a bit. Stir occasionally.

Meanwhile mix together the dry ingredients for your biscuit topping. Make a well in the middle of your mix and pour in the butter and milk. Stir the whole thing up until it comes together as a dough.

Season your stew according to taste and add any additional vegetables you feel like - corn, bell pepper, whatever. Spoon the meat sauce into four oven proof bowls (at least 8oz each or it won't fit). Put the bowls on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil for easy cleanup in case of spills. Use a spoon to dop your topping dough over the stews. There might be gaps where you can see the stew through the topping - that's fine. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the topping is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

The Verdict
I think just possibly I didn't leave it long enough in the oven - the dough still seemed rather doughy and not at all as crisp and puffy as I would have expected. It tasted great though, and as I have leftovers, it'll be interesting to see what they're like after a second round in the oven.

The recipe above serves 3 generously.

ETA: Okay, the results are in, I definitely hadn't left it in the oven for long enough. I gave the left-overs another 20 minutes in a pre-heated oven, and they're so much better and crispier now! Still didn't rise all that much, but I expect that's because of the weird double heating.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Week 19: Corn, Sausage and Pepper Chowder

The Recipe
1 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 pound red potatoes, cut into chunks
A dash of white pepper
A dash of cumin
1 can (160g) corn
225g sausage of some kind, halved and sliced
1/3 cup milk

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Cook onion, garlic and bell pepper until tender, approx. 10 minutes. Stir in broth, potatoes, pepper and cumin and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and leave to simmer for 25 minutes.

Puree half the corn in a blender or food processor. Stir pureed corn, remaining whole corn, sausage and milk into the soup. Leave to simmer for another 25 minutes or until the potatoes are done.

The Verdict
YUM!!! I like my corn chowder with a bit of a kick, so I added chilli flakes to my portion, and thought it tasted fantastic :-) But there was too little of it - according to the recipe, this should serve 3 - DH and I scraped the pot and hardly got our fill. Next time I'll increase the measurements by 50% - the liquids possibly by 100% as I don't mind my soup being a tad more liquid. Also not entirely sure that it's necessary to puree half the corn, but it might have added to the creaminess, so I don't know...

Anyway, this is DEFINITELY a soup I'll be making again. It was one of the best I've tried in awhile.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Week 18: Asian Peanut Butter Pork

The Recipe
600g pork tenderloin (or similar)
1 onion, sliced
2 bell peppers, sliced
2 tomatoes, cut into eights
4 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp water
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 dl peanut butter
1 lime, cut in wedges (optional)

This recipe fits my 4 quart (3.5 liter) crockpot.

Put onion, bell pepper and tomatoes into the bottom of the crockpot. Put pork on top. Add sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, water, garlic, and peanut butter. No need to stir--the peanut butter needs to melt before you can do so. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. 1 hour before serving, flip the meat over in the crockpot to allow the other side to soak up the sauce. Garnish with lime wedges.

Serve with rice.

The Verdict
I wanted to love this - I really did. It smelled fantastic while it was cooking, and the meat was perfectly tender. Unfortunately the peanut butter was a bit overpowering and made it just a tad too rich for my taste. I think if I'd added a bit less peanut butter or a bit more of the other liquids, it would have been a lot better, because I did like it - it was just a tad too much.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Week 17: Tacos con Chicken

The Recipe
4 corn tortillas (didn't have any, so I used wheat instead)
2 tsp oil, divided
350g chicken breast meat, cut into very thin strips
2 onions, sliced
2 bell peppers, sliced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
3/4 tbsp cumin
1dl salsa, plus additional for garnish
1can (160g) corn
Guacamole for garnish.

Heat half of the oil in a skillet over high heat until smokin’ hot. Add chicken, cook and stir until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Reduce skillet heat to medium and add remaining oil. Add onion slices and cook and stir until they start to brown around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Add bell pepper, garlic, corn and cumin; cook and stir until peppers are bright but still crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in salsa and reserved chicken; cook and stir until chicken is heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve with warmed tortillas and extra salsa and guacamole for garnish.

The Verdict
I think this works equally well in corn and wheat tortillas, but I still want to try corn next anyway - I love tacos :D Both DH and I are partial to Mexican food, and this tasted great :) For once I took the time to actually slice the chicken thinly enough, and it made a huge difference. Quick and easy meal - definitely worth a repeat!