Recipe: Red Meatloaf & White Carrots

Dinner last night was one of those “comfort meals” that everyone talks about… meatloaf and mashed potatoes… classic, right?  I have a habit of taking classics and adding a new “wine’d up” spin on things, so this dinner was no different.  I was craving meatloaf and I had a small bag of baby carrots in the fridge, so I came up with a way to cook both dishes at the same time.  Brilliant, right?  Actually, it was more of a fluke the first time I tried it last week, but it really does work!RedMeatloaf&WhiteCarrots

I started out making the meatloaf.  I used one package ground turkey, two palms full of seasoned bread crumbs, some dark red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon that my neighbor had given me… yummy!), a hefty squirt of dijon mustard, some Montreal Steak Seasoning, an egg, and some parsley.   I mixed everything together until it was nicely combined (feel free to add a little more of the bread crumbs if it’s too moist).  Then I assembled the baking portion of the meal.

Using a loaf pan, I sprinkled a layer of baby carrots on the bottom of the pan and poured some white wine (I used the Chardonnay I had in the fridge) over top.  I then put a large piece of foil over the carrots, to create a new “loaf pan” for the meatloaf, and sprayed it with cooking spray.  I formed the meatloaf into the pan and made a bit of a well down the center.  Before I popped the pan into the 375 degree oven for an hour, I added a touch of ketchup on top for color and sweetness.

  DOnce the meatloaf had cooked for the hour, I removed it and let the pan sit for 5-7 minutes before lifting the meatloaf off the carrots and slicing the loaf for dinner.  The white wine had cooked the carrots to a perfect al dente’ and the meatloaf was dense and tasty.  Adding some homemade mashed potatoes was just the perfect accompaniment.

If you’re looking for a simple way to make comfort food, this really did it for me.  I hope you’ll try it and let me know how it turns out for you!  Enjoy….

Recipe: Asian Wine’d Salmon ‘n Veggies

Here’s a basic recipe that I used last night for dinner.  It’s a very classic “Using the Force” sort of recipe, where I started with a single ingredient for dinner and then started pulling things from the fridge/cabinet, blending them until the sauce tasted the way I wanted.  I actually went to a few recipe sites, but wasn’t finding the sort of ingredient list I could pull together, so I “Used The Force”.  If this term is new to you, please check out my explanation at the very beginning of this blog (almost <gasp> two years ago).

I started out with two packets of Salmon for our dinner.  Seriously, these are 4-oz packets of frozen salmon that I picked up on a “super deal” at the local grocery store… awesome for a quick meal and easy to add/subtract as your guest count changes.  I  let the salmon thaw in the fridge during the day so it was easier to handle when dinner time rolled around.  NOTE: It might have thawed faster if I had taken it out of the packaging, but I didn’t want to worry about the mess.

Looking in my fridge, I found four small Yukon Gold Potatoes and a head of broccoli.  For two of us. this seemed like the perfect amount to roast for dinner, as long as the potato pieces were thin enough and the broccoli was sliced into bite-sized pieces.  Again, these are items that you could easily increase to serve more people if necessary.  NOTE: If you end up doubling this recipe, I would separate the vegetables from the salmon and roast them in different pans so that you can control the cooking times of each as needed.  You can also substitute your favorite vegetables for this dish… just be aware of size and cooking times of whatever you choose.AsianWine'dSalmon&Veggies

Once I had my main ingredients picked, I needed to create a sauce…and here’s where The Force came into play.  All-in-all, I used the following ingredients:  Hoisin sauce, dijon mustard, white wine (I used a Chardonnay I had in the fridge), balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and honey.  Using a medium bowl, I spooned some hoisin (asian BBQ sauce) into the bowl, poured in some wine. and squirted in some dijon mustard.  These were not equal measures, but I went light on everything so I could add more if needed.  I like using hoisin because it’s got a bit of a kick and it thickens up things nicely.  I then added a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, a generous portion of soy sauce, and sweetened everything up with a bit of honey.  After whisking everything together, I tasted the result and added another bit of honey so the sauce didn’t have too much bite.

I chose to make this recipe on one sheet pan, so I covered a baking sheet with foil and sprayed it with cooking spray so the sweet/sticky sauce wouldn’t be difficult to handle after cooking.  I sliced each potato in half, length-wise, and sliced each half into very thin half-rounds that would cook fairly quickly before layering them on the baking sheet.  I then cut the broccoli into thin slivers, cutting small stalks in half as needed, and layered them on top of the potato thins.  I decided to top the veggies with a bit of sauce before adding the salmon because I wanted to make sure I got most of the veggies touched with the sauce… not necessarily coated, but a little bit would go a long way with this flavor.

Once I had spooned sauce on the veggies, I laid the salmon fillets on top and spooned sauce over them as well, using up all the sauce.  It smelled rich and flavorful, even as it hit the oven, which was my intent… I love when the house smells like something delicious when we’re getting ready for dinner!

Dinner cooked for 30 minutes in a 375-degree preheated oven and was really tasty.  The potato thins were cooked, the broccoli was crisp-tender, and the salmon was delicious. I reheated rolls to have along side this meal, but it really wasn’t necessary.  Just follow your instincts and see what your family prefers.

Remember, this is a recipe that you can change up in a million ways to suit your family’s individual tastes so have fun with it.  We thought it was a hit!

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!

Recipe: Asian Chardonnay Chicken and Pasta

The inspiration for tonight’s dinner came by way of the salad dressing in my fridge… really!  I picked up a national brand Asian Sesame salad dressing recently and wondered how it would pair with chicken for dinner.  Thankfully, it paired beautifully and became the focus of this recipe.  NOTE: You can substitute your own favorite dressing in this recipe… if you like it, feel free to use it for more than a salad.AsianChardChickenNPasta

I started with two chicken breasts.  I made a foil packet (using two pieces of foil) in my baking dish and placed the breasts together  on the bottom of the dish.  I then poured some Chardonnay white wine (I love using James River Chardonnay for this sort of recipe) and drizzled the dressing on the breasts before closing up the packet.  I could have easily cooked the chicken for 30 minutes at 350 degrees,  but I wanted to cook dinner much slower, so I let the breasts steam in the packet at 250 degrees for an hour.  NOTE: Even at this much longer time frame, the breasts were tender and juicy… I love when an experiment goes well!

About 20 minutes before I wanted to serve dinner, I started making the bow tie pasta and added a touch of Chardonnay to the cooking liquid to flavor the pasta to mirror the chicken’s sauce.  After taking the chicken out of the oven and opening the packet, I realized that the sauce was much too thin to be “good enough”, so I had some work to do.

I removed the chicken to a plate and poured the cooking liquid into a saute pan.  Using a bit of the cooking liquid, I made a slurry with some flour, whisked the slurry into the pan, and cooked the sauce until it thickened (which happened really quickly).  For flavor, I added a few tablespoons of a garlic/herb light cheese, some salt and pepper, and a sprinkling of herbs de provence.  Then, using a spoon and a fork, I turned the cooked chicken breasts over twice to pick up the sauce and warm the chicken a bit.

Serving dinner was easy… I ladled pasta onto the plates, placed the chicken breast on top, then poured sauce over the entire meal.  A side salad or a vegetable would have added a bit more color and a great boost of nutrition, but we opted to go with a very simple meal tonight.  If my entire family was coming to dinner, I could have easily cooked more chicken/pasta and the additional vegetables/salad would have completed the meal.

It’s the little things that can add to your meal each night.  Adding your family’s favorite vegetable or some crusty bread to dinner can round things out quickly.  Follow your instincts when it comes to cooking… and wait to hear the sounds of happy, satisfied family members singing your praises.

Enjoy the food journey we all travel… it’s so much fun that way!

Crockpot Recipe: Asian Pulled Pork

As the weather gets warmer, I like to use my crockpot to help keep the kitchen cool.  This recipe came about when I had a full day scheduled at work but wanted to have something delicious and easy for dinner… enter my handy-dandy crockpot!AsianPulledPork CP

I created a sauce to pour over a large pork loin, using a varying amount of the following ingredients:  James River Cellars Montpelier wine (NOTE: This a Cabernet Franc blanc/rose’ wine that smells like strawberries and tastes of cranberries – I love this wine with pork recipes.  You could also use Boordy Landmark Dry Rose’ which has the same sort of properties but is a dry wine), hoisin sauce, soy sauce, blackberry jam, garlic, honey, salt and pepper.  

I started dinner by slicing a large sweet onion and layered the onion on the bottom of the crock pot.  I then laid the pork on top and poured the sauce over everything and set the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours.

Once the pork was completely cooked, I removed it and put it into a bowl to shred, using two forks.  The pork is now ready for the addition of a delicious sauce to make it into a yummy dinner for my family.

I ladled the cooking liquid out of the crockpot and warmed it in a small saucepan.  As yet, I hadn’t added anything more to the liquid than what I’d poured over the pork earlier in the day.  The sauce was too thin for my taste, so I mixed up a slurry of cornstarch and Montpelier wine to thicken the sauce as it cooked a bit.  Once the slurry was added to the sauce, it took about 5 minutes to tighten up and become wonderful.  NOTE:  If you prefer to add some more spices for the pulled pork, this would be a great time – you could add a pinch of Five-spice powder or use more of the original flavors.  Have fun and be creative!

After the sauce was thickened, I tossed it with the pulled pork and served it on homemade rolls (only cuz I had them on hand…. I could have easily picked up some rolls at the local grocery store on the way home if needed).    This recipe ended up being a huge hit with my family and I hope it will become a favorite of yours as well!

Recipe: Red Chicken Parmesan

Chicken parmesan is one of those “easy/go-to” recipes for me.  Saute up some chicken, add sauce, top with cheese and serve with spaghetti noodles.  That’s the quickest way to explain this dish, but I love to add a little bit of flair when I’m cooking (almost always with wine), so my version is a little snazzier.

I start with two chicken breasts and roll them in a little egg white substitute before patting them down in some seasoned bread crumbs.  NOTE:  This is where you have some creative and quantity options – if you’re serving more than two people, use more chicken.  If you want to use Panko or cracker crumbs or even parmesan cheese at this point, feel free.  This is your meal, so enjoy using your favorite products.  RedChickenParm

Once the chicken is prepared, you need to prepare your pan.  Using a nice size saute pan, melt a mixture of a little butter and a bit of olive oil until it’s starting to sizzle a bit.  Place your chicken, breast side down, into the hot oil and allow the meat to cook until it lifts up easily (this will tell you when it’s done).  Flip the chicken and allow it to cook the same way on the other side.  Your chicken is now seared but not thoroughly cooked.

Since the “pretty” side is facing up, I like to leave the breasts alone at this point.  I add some red wine to give the chicken breasts some liquid to soak up and allow to cook thoroughly.  Note: Use as much or as little red wine as you’d like at this point.  You can also substitute chicken stock if you’d prefer, but I do love the depth added by the wine.  I usually use a favorite dry red wine, but I don’t mind using a lovely tasting Malbec or a Meritage if that’s what I’ve got in my cabinet. The idea to remember is to use a wine you’d like to drink because if you cook with wine, you’re concentrating the flavors and if you wouldn’t want to drink it, you definitely don’t want to cook with it.

After adding the wine, I also add some tomato sauce.  I love having the time to make my own sauce, but for the ease of apartment living at the moment, I use some jarred sauce, mix in the wine and the pan drippings, and pop the entire pan into the oven to allow it to bake (usually around 325 degrees or so) until we’re ready for dinner… just remember to leave enough time to cook your pasta so that’s ready when you want to plate your meal.  An extra note:  I have found if you pop a few ice cubes into the pasta when it’s finished cooking, your pasta won’t stick.  I’m not exactly sure why this happens, but it works well for us… better than adding oil or butter to keep the pasta from sticking to itself.

A few minutes before you’re ready to pull dinner out of the oven is when I like to top the chicken breasts with cheese. How much or how little is really up to you.  For the meal pictured, I placed a slice of provolone cheese each breast and then sprinkled on some Parmesan cheese to melt in the oven before serving the chicken and sauce over the pasta.

Enjoy personalizing this meal and making it your own… before long, you’ll have come up with your own favorite variation!

Recipe and a Bonus: Double Duty Red Pasta

Have you ever wondered what pasta looks like if you cook it entirely in red wine?  I was curious and, since I worked at a winery, had access to some good red wine that was left over from a festival.  This was my opportunity to cook some corkscrew pasta in red wine, so I ran with it!

I decided to make a very basic recipe using chicken breasts and corkscrew pasta.  I diced the breasts into thick 1″ cubes and sauteed them in a small amount of butter and a touch of olive oil until they were nicely browned and thoroughly cooked.  This recipe was going to be my first go-round, so I wanted everything to be very simple and “clean”, so I wasn’t playing with lots of extra flavors… I really wanted the taste of the wine to shine.

In a stockpot, I poured a bottle of red wine and a box of corkscrew pasta together and let the pasta cook in the wine until it was done to al dente’.  Since the pasta had cooked in the wine, there was a nice amount of starch in the cooking liquid, so I ladled some in with the chicken to create a bit of a sauce and added a pat of butter to gloss the sauce.  The only addition to the sauce after this was some salt and pepper to taste… it was delicious!  I served it with some lightly steamed broccoli for color, but the dinner was grand. Deep purple in color from the wine, everything looked and tasted just as I’d hoped.  Score one for the cook!DoubleDutyRedPasta

The bonus came when I realized that cooking an entire box of pasta made too much for two people to eat in one sitting.  A day or two later, my cousins came by unexpectedly and I needed to throw a quick, late night dinner together for them.  Since they weren’t looking for a three course meal, I decided to make a quick pasta salad to tide them over for the night.  I had rolls that I could slice up and serve as garlic toasts on the side, so I set about creating a new Leftover Recipe from the red pasta.

Since I had saved the red pasta in a plastic bag, I just had to add a few ingredients that I had on hand: frozen fresh corn off the cob, frozen peas, finely diced onions, one can of Veg-all, and some italian salad dressing that I had in the fridge.  I ran the frozen veggies under hot water in a colander so they would thaw and then dried them off before adding them to the pasta.  The canned veggies included carrots and potatoes, so that added just enough extra colors to the salad to make it look great.  I also had one extra cooked chicken breast that I diced fairly fine and added it into the pasta salad as well.  It was a great leftover meal that would have been terrific for a picnic or as a complete meal with a burger or steak.

Never discount what you’ve got in your fridge… remember that the most expensive ingredient is one that you throw away, so try and find a use, no matter how obscure, for anything you bring home.  Food can be a challenge but it can also be a lot of fun!  Enjoy creating your own bonus meals…