Recipe: Roasted BBQ Chardonnay Chicken

This recipe was inspired by Ree Drummond of Pioneer Woman when I was looking for a new twist on making BBQ chicken for one of our last meals in our apartment.  I wanted to make something that would fill the apartment with “yummy smells” and give us a meal that could be eaten for a few days in chicken salad or sandwiches.  While I really liked the original recipe, I found it difficult to replicate, possibly because I was using an electric oven instead of a gas range.  I also was trying to use up ingredients from my fridge before the move to our new home, so I definitely did some substituting along the way to create something truly finger-linking.  Here’s my take… I hope you enjoy!

I started with a package of 10 chicken thighs.  I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and used a large, high-edged baking pan, drizzled with the last of my olive oil.  I placed the thighs, skin-side down, in the pan and liberally topped them with garlic salt and pepper before placing the pan in the oven to roast for 25 minutes.  NOTE: I removed the skin from half the thighs to see if there was a marked difference in taste…  in the end,  I didn’t miss the BBQ’d skin in the least.OvenRoastedBBQChardChicken

While the chicken roasted, I made a sauce of 3/4 bottle of BBQ sauce (use what you like), 1/2 jar apple jelly (use whatever preserves you like best – I would have preferred grape or blackberry, but apple jelly was in my fridge, waiting to be finished), a thumb’s length of crushed garlic (the stuff from the tube is fine, unless you want to mince your own… then use 2 cloves or so),  1/2 cup of Chardonnay (I would suggest using your favorite non-oak chardonnay here), and 1/4 cup ketchup.  I heated the sauce on the stovetop and kept it warm throughout the cooking process so I could easily brush the meat with the thickened sauce.

Once the thighs have roasted for 25 minutes, I brushed them with sauce and flipped them over before liberally brushing sauce on the top.   Thus began a series of three “roast for 10 minutes- baste with sauce- pop back in the oven” segments.  Since I didn’t really see the crispy BBQ-look I wanted, I then popped the oven temp to 425 degrees and roasted for another 10-15 minutes.  I liked that the original recipe didn’t call for any flipping of the chicken thighs, but I did have a lot of extra “juice” that I removed after the second or third “10 minutes in the oven” segment.  You can see by the photos that the sauce does get really dark and caramelized as it continues to roast and I do believe that this would have cooked a little quicker in a gas range, but I ended up with the result I wanted and we thoroughly enjoyed every bite!

I”ll post the recipe for the accompanying Twice-baked Potatoes with chardonnay as soon as I can…. these are fast becoming a staple in our house, so I really need to share this recipe as well.  If you like baked potatoes, crossed with mashed potatoes, crossed with potato skins, you’ll love this easy side-dish.

Until then…. enjoy cooking for your family!

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Recipe: Red Chicken and Pasta

I made a really delicious dinner last night that I want to share with you.  It was very simple, as most of my meals are in our current apartment situation, but the result was great.  Feel free to add a salad or green vegetable if you so desire… and bread or a dinner roll is always a great way to stretch your dinner.

I started by marinating two chicken breasts in a mixture of a lightly sweet red wine (Boordy’s Chambourcin Merlot blend could work here), a touch of olive oil, some garlic salt, honey, and herbs de provence.  I put everything into a plastic, resealable bag and left it in the fridge for the day.  NOTE:  I always place a plastic bag into a bowl if I’m leaving it in the fridge for the day so there’s no risk of mess to the fridge if anything happens.

I also reconstituted a half cup of dehydrated sun-dried tomatoes and sliced them to add to the pasta for flavor and color.  This was easily done by pouring some hot water over the dehydrated tomatoes and then allowing them time to plump up before slicing them.  Doing this early in the day (or even the night before) makes things so much simpler when you start cooking.

When I started cooking, I decided to toast some whole wheat pasta in garlic butter to add some flavor to the side portion of this meal. Rather than leaving the whole wheat pasta (spaghetti) whole, I chose to break it up into 2″ pieces so the garlic butter would have a better chance of toasting all the pasta.  Once this was done, I added a handful of bowtie pasta and the sliced sun-dried tomatoes to the mixture and allowed the pasta to pick up some of the flavor before adding a few ladles of chicken stock and some red wine to cook the pasta thoroughly. RedChicken&Pasta

I then began cooking the chicken.  I heated a touch of olive oil in a large skillet and sauteed the chicken breasts on both sides until they were nicely browned but not cooked through.  I added the leftover marinade from the plastic bag and stirred up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  At this point, I could have simply left the chicken on the stovetop to cook (with the lid on), but I’m not entirely comfortable with the electric stovetop that I’m currently using so I chose to alter the recipe in mid-stream.

I pushed the chicken off to the sides of the pan and added the pasta/liquid into the pan.  I then put the lid on the pan and popped it into a 350 degree oven to braise everything in the liquid until we were ready for dinner.  Just before serving, I added a Tablespoon of soft cheese to round out the flavors of the pastas, sun-dried tomatoes, *and* the chicken.  NOTE:  Some of the bowtie pasta didn’t get all the way into the liquid and ended up a little crunchy, which is NOT something my husband enjoys. Make sure to keep stirring the pasta throughout the cooking process to make sure that all the pasta is cooked thoroughly before serving.

I really liked this meal – the difference in pasta shapes was fun to me and the chicken was flavorful and yummy.  I’m not always sure how a meal is going to turn out when I start without any sort of structure, but this one was fun.  Next time, I think I will adjust the flavors a bit and make sure that all the pasta is thoroughly cooked before serving… otherwise, this was a good one to repeat.  The basics are all there… now to play with it…

Enjoy!

Recipe: Easy Chicken Cassoulet

I apologize for taking so long to get this typed up, but things have been a bit chaotic in our apartment-life lately.  Nevertheless, here’s a very easy recipe to throw together if you’re looking for a comfort meal without a lot of excess fuss.  It’s one that you can work on pulling together and then pop into the oven to “tighten up”, so it comes out looking amazing… and isn’t that the best kind of recipe to have in your arsenal?SimpleChickenCassoulet

It starts with half a package of canadian bacon, diced into small even pieces. Saute these in a bit of olive oil until they’re crispy and then add your vegetables (I used a mixture of diced onion, celery, and carrots) to saute until they’re translucent and smell wonderful.

I love using boneless, skinless chicken thighs in this recipe so there are no bones or excess fat from the skin to worry about, but if you prefer to use the other, feel free… it’s your dinner you’re making,  I seasoned each thigh with salt, pepper, and herbs de provence before putting the meat (seasoned side down) into the hot pan to sear.  Once the first side was seared nicely, I flipped the thighs over and seared them on the other side.  I wasn’t as patient as I should have been, so my “searing” didn’t look as golden as it could have, but I wasn’t too concerned this time.

Once the meat was seared on both sides, it was time to add liquid and beans.  For the liquid, I used a cup of one of my favorite white wines (James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay), but I’ve used a number of different white wines in this recipe from time to time.  Use what you like to drink and the recipe will come out just the way you like it.  I also added a cup of chicken broth and an extra chicken broth bouillon cube to deepen the flavor of the stock.   I also added two cans (with liquid) of white cannellini beans, but have used other beans when that’s what I’ve found in my cupboard.  If you have a preference, roll with that… it’s not a huge deal.

I brought the cassoulet up to a simmer and decided to stir in about a quarter cup of orzo pasta that I had in a baggie in the cupboard – I had no idea where I might use it otherwise, and this was a way to soak up some of the stock, if needed.  This is totally unnecessary, but it used up something I already had, without wasting it, so I was happy.

I popped the cassoulet into a 325 degree oven for about an hour and stirred it occasionally.  At some point, I took a potato masher and smashed some of the beans to thicken the stew, which gave it a lovely homey feel when dished out.  I may have cooked the cassoulet for another hour, but as time went on, I reduced the heat so nothing was going to burn.  The idea is to cook everything through until it’s falling apart and all the flavors combine.  I love cooking this way!

As I got ready to serve our dinner, I sliced a single ciabatta roll, sprayed each slice with cooking spray and sprinkled on some garlic salt to make easy garlic toasts to go with our meal.  5-7 minutes in the oven was all that they needed to get crispy and toasty.

I hope you’ll consider trying this recipe sometime on your own.  It’s so easy to swap out ingredients and make something entirely personalized… you’ll come up with a new “family favorite” in no time!

Recipe: Easy Wine’d Beef

Since the weather was so chilly last week, I was searching out a way to make something for dinner that would warm us up.  Stir-fry would have been tasty, but since I don’t have a good non-stick pan at my disposal yet (still in the apartment), I opted to make a faster version of a traditional Beef Bourguignon.  EasyWine'dBeef

I started with a piece of beef that was on sale at the local grocery store.  I’m not exactly sure what cut of beef I purchased… I just know that there was some great marbling of fat (for yummy flavor) and it was boneless.  I popped it in the freezer for a bit to make it easier to cube, then tossed the cubes of beef with some flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.

In the meantime, I heated some olive oil in a large stock pot and then sauteed a diced onion, a little green pepper, and a few handfuls of celery until they were softened and fragrant.  I love the way the smells in a kitchen can permeate the entire apartment and make the place smell “homey”, don’t you?

Once everything had a nice browned glaze to it, I moved them over and added the flour/seasoned beef to the pot.  I added a little more fat (some olive oil and a little margarine) to start the browning process for the beef.  This took some time, but it was well worth it.  NOTE: You’re not trying to cook the beef the whole way through, you’re just browning it in preparation for the slow cooking it will do in the liquid you’ll add next.

Once the beef is nicely browned, you are now going to add liquid.  I like to add a half bottle of a delicious red wine (like James River Cellars Merlot, Meritage, Rad Red, or even Hanover Red).  I also add about a cup of water and a beef bouillon cube to add some depth of beef flavor to the meal.  Your seasonings can be added now – I like to use a bay leaf or two, some herbs de provence, some worchestershire sauce, and a glop of ketchup.  Mix everything together, pop a lid on the top, and put the entire pot into a preheated 300 degree oven for an hour or two.  Stir it occasionally, to make sure that you’re getting the right blend of thickness and flavors… feel free to add more liquid if it’s getting too dry and don’t forget to remove the bay leaf before serving.

When you get close to dinner time, choose and cook a vegetable and a pasta of your choice.  As you can see by the photo, I used spaghetti noodles and broccoli.  Since my pantry is limited at the moment, I have an abundance of spaghetti, so I just broke the noodles in half and cooked them in salted water.  I then put a small bag of broccoli into the microwave and cooked it until it was bright green and cooked through.  I love serving this meal with wide egg noodles, but those didn’t make the cut when I was choosing what to bring to the apartment… feel free to use whatever pasta (or even a baked potato) you and your family like best.

I hope my recipes give you some ideas of meals you can make for your family, even if you don’t have a lot of “extras” at your disposal.  Play with what you’ve got on hand, pick up one or two essentials, and you can make a delicious dinner at home instead of spending extra money on dining out every night.  I have a hard time going to a restaurant and ordering something that I know I am able to make at home.  While I believe that going out should be a special experience, I do believe that staying in and making dinner for your family can bring about some pretty wonderful satisfaction as well.  It’s all in how you frame the experience.

Wishing you fun as you re-frame your own cooking experiences with your family!

 

 

Recipe: Meritage Mock Lasagna

I was craving something Italian last night for dinner, but needed to come up with something that would be do-able in our current apartment situation.  Going to the store and purchasing all the individual ingredients for a delicious lasagna sounded wonderful, but the reality is that I brought tons of spaghetti noodles with us in the move (they didn’t fit as well into Ziploc storage bags).  I also didn’t want to have extra foods around that might spoil, so I came up with a simpler plan.  I utilized the salad bar at the local Fresh Market next to our apartment building.

After an extended afternoon (which included another trip to the leasing office to replace the “new” garage gate remote), I didn’t want to waste a lot of time trying to make a full-on lasagna.  Instead, I used quicker cooking spaghetti noodles (broken into thirds) and some delectable James River Cellars Meritage to create our dinner for last night.  Here’s how things came together.MeritageMockLasagna

I diced the peppers (from the salad bar) and added half an onion into a stock pot with touch of olive oil to saute everything together.  I added one package of ground turkey and browned everything well before adding a healthy dose of James River Cellars Meritage red table wine.  NOTE: By using the words “red table wine”, a winery doesn’t have to post the exact percentage of alcohol in the wine… if the words “red wine” are used, the wine must by law share the exact percentage of alcohol.  Interesting, huh?

Once the base of the sauce was well cooked, I added one large can of crushed tomatoes and a spoonful of tomato paste.  After combining everything (and adding another pour of wine), I added a handful of dry spaghetti noodles, carefully breaking the strands into thirds, and allowed it to cook until the spaghetti was al dente (“to the tooth”).  At this point, I could have served dinner as a version of mazetti, but I was craving more of a lasagna-style flavor, so I kept cooking.

To turn this yummy pot of food into something that resembled lasagna, I simply added three spoonfuls of ricotta cheese and a handful of shredded mozzarella cheese.  Once mixed together, the cheese added a creaminess to the sauce and bumped up the flavor to a “lasagna-esque” taste that made me happy.  I added some garlic toasts to complete a wonderful, meal.

This is definitely something that it pretty simple to personalize to suit each family’s particular taste preferences.  Feel free to try it on your own… we loved it!

Recipe: Chicken Veggie Gris

Ok, I’ll admit that this is a strange name for a recipe, but at least it gives you an idea of what you’re getting… right?

Let me share a little background before launching into this recipe with you.

We recently relocated to a new state, in a new town, in a furnished corporate apartment.  Have you ever had to do this?  It’s sort of like cooking in “your own” kitchen, but it’s not.  The pots and pans are different… the utensils are unique (even though I *did* bring my own)… and even the cooking vessel (an electric stove instead of my beloved gas range) is different.  Challenges to be sure, but I was determined to make our transition to this new place as smooth as possible… which meant cooking dinner each night.  

Yesterday, our first weekday in our new apartment, brought on my first challenge.  I had to purchase *enough* food and seasonings without purchasing *too much* because, remember, this is only our temporary home.  I already have the necessary pots, pans, seasonings, etc to make the meals that I want to make… but they’re currently sitting in a Jessup, MD storage unit.  So, in the meantime, I’ll be doing my best to create delicious meals without purchasing too many items that will end up being duplicates if I don’t use them up before we move from our current residence.  I hope you find my journey to be interesting and maybe even a little helpful!

Dinner on Monday was a challenge.  I went to the local Walmart to pick up some things, but this particular store was rather sparse in selection, especially since it carried no fresh produce or proteins.  This is where I bought the kitty litter, toilet paper, skim milk, orange juice, spaghetti sauce, canned chicken, a loaf of bread, foil, and a large bag of individually packaged chips. While I could have stopped at the Fresh Market store a block from our apartment, I was on a particular mission to find something that would help me get groceries (and cat litter) from my car to our new home, so I was traveling around town with this goal in mind.  I eventually found a collapsible cart that will be perfect for my needs and darted into the closest grocery store to stock up on some fresh items.

Since this was my first venture out for supplies, I was trying to mentally flip through a number of meal options that could create the most amount of duplicate ingredients.  I ended up choosing two packages of ground turkey, two packages of chicken breasts (with three in each, which could yield three meals for the two of us), some broccoli slaw, a bag of onions, romaine (for my lunch salads),  a bag of onions, a small box of frozen meatballs, cooking spray, and spices (garlic salt, herbs de provence, dry mustard, italian seasonings, pepper, and Hungarian Paprika).  Using these basics, I decided to go with something very simple for dinner… and my Chicken Veggie Gris was born.ChickenVeggieGris

I started by seasoning two chicken breasts with garlic salt and herbs de provence.  Using the apartment’s skillet, I turned the electric burner to “8” and allowed the pan to heat.  Clearly, this is not the way to do things with an electric oven because when I added some margarine and a thinly sliced onion to the pan, there was entirely too much smoke in the apartment. I quickly turned down the heat and turned *on* the vent fan to keep from setting off the fire alarm so things calmed down a little.  NOTE: there was never any real danger, but it really did freak me out a bit. 

Once the onion had time to saute in the margarine to soften, I opened a bottle of white wine (I used a Pinot Gris, but only because I couldn’t find a bottle of James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay fast enough) and added that to the onions to allow them to soak up some of the yummy wine flavor.  I then moved the onions away from the center of the pan, placed the chicken breasts in the center to brown, and seasoned the underside of the breasts with the same seasonings as mentioned above.

Dinner was looking a little bleak at this point so, after I flipped the breasts over to cook through, I added some broccoli slaw to the pan for color and veggie-goodness.  Seasonings were now the priority… dinner couldn’t be bland, especially for my first attempt.  I opted to add a few dashes of soy sauce, some balsamic vinegar, and about a half cup of the wine to create a sauce that would make things come together.  I then cooked everything until all the flavors combined, about 10-15 minutes.  The chicken was poaching nicely and, while I would have preferred to have the veggies with a little more crunch and color, the softened broccoli slaw suited my husband’s tastes and still looked pretty on the plate.  To finish off the meal, I cooked a packet of brown and wild rice and used that as our starch for dinner.  It wasn’t exactly the meal I’d planned, but it was tasty and home-cooked… the best way to finish out a stressful “first day”.

I’ll continue to add recipes, both from before and during our move, so I hope you’ll check back to see how things are progressing.  I have some recipes that I never had the chance to share, so I’ll let you know when those are posted.  My attempt tonight is going to be something along the lines of a lasagna, without lasagna noodles…. will that even work?

Follow me on this journey… I promise to share both the highs (yummy recipes) and lows (how in the world am I going to learn to cook without a gas stove?) of the coming weeks.