Teaching myself to cook, one recipe at a time.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Roast Chicken

You may have noticed that I took a little hiatus from posting over the past few weeks. To be honest, I just wasn’t feeling it. I guess it was a combination of feeling a bit overwhelmed with juggling all the things in my life (working two part time jobs, school, dogs, holiday get-togethers, helping hubby make a few extra bucks by doing some work for a friend), so it wasn’t my highest priority. Also, I was worried that I’d been annoying my facebook friends by linking to my posts too often. I have plenty of people that annoy me to death on facebook and I really didn’t want to become one of those people. Yet I sense that the majority of people who read this blog do so because I post those links. I’m a little confused, then, as to whether I should continue this blog. I enjoy it, yes, and I feel a sense of pride  about it, but do people read it?

Anyway, I’ve had a break and I think I feel better. Also, I finally discovered pictures of roast chicken that I accidentally buried in a folder of pictures from my sophomore year in college, and I was excited about this because I’d been looking for them since August.

And I’m drinking wine. But that’s totally unrelated.


This was a recipe posted by Ree on The Pioneer Woman Cooks over the summer. I made it a few weeks later and it was delicious and especially photogenic.

See? Pretty ingredients.


I started off by zesting the lemon.


And tossing the zest in a bowl.


Then I took some of the fresh rosemary off its sprig


and chopped it all up.


I threw it in the bowl with the lemon zest


And took a poorly lit and oddly focused picture of some softened butter thrown in there, as well.


Here it is all mixed up.


Basically, you put a whole chicken on a greased baking sheet and smear the butter all over it.


In retrospect, this seems pretty disgusting. I feel as though I used far more butter than I was supposed to. But I feel as though I should also mention that the lemon zest smelled wonderful and it was easy to get carried away. I swear.


Next, halve the lemons. Squeeze one over the chicken itself.


Shove some sprigs of rosemary into the cavity,


Followed by as many lemon halves as you can get in there.


And then roast it until it looks like this and the internal temp is where it should be (don’t make me go look it up. I don’t remember what that is and I’m feeling lazy from a day of playing in the snow with huskies, alternated with watching movies with hubby).


Let it rest for at least 10 minutes, then serve it up! I served it with broccoli and rice. Simple and easy.


And delicious.




Okay, yes, it was a LOT of butter. That came across in the taste. It was really tasty, though I do remember thinking that it was a bit much to take in. Next time, I’ll scale it back. But the tasted of the butter, combined with the lemon and rosemary, was really good overall. The meal was easy to put together and tasty, and it also made for good leftovers. If I recall correctly, they went toward a barbecue chicken pizza or something like that.

I recommend clicking over to Ree’s original post and giving the recipe a try. Her pictures are far more professional than mine, anyway.

And if you have any thoughts on the future of this little blog project, please leave a comment!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pumpkin Brownies: A Comedy of Errors

It’s actually quite astounding that these brownies turned out edible, much less delicious.

Let me back up. Hubby and I were invited to dinner at my brother’s house. I promised to bring dessert. I was, for some reason, utterly fixated on the fact that I wanted a pumpkin dessert. Wanted one SO BADLY. I did a lot of googling and ended up quite disappointed because I had neither cream cheese nor sufficient eggs for pretty much every recipe that I found. I finally decided to borrow an egg from my downstairs neighbor so that I could make pumpkin brownies.

My neighbor, T, is an older, retired guy who really shouldn’t be retired. He’s bored out of his mind, lonely, and dying to strike up a conversation with anyone who walks by. Since our front doors are right next to each other and we both have dogs, this happens a lot to me (hubby is better at skirting by undetected than I am). T likes to do things like show me pictures of wolves, commenting on how much they look like my dogs (they really don’t) and share all the neighborhood gossip and ask me questions about hubby. T was the one that greeted the guys who delivered our washer and dryer when we first moved in (the delivery guys were a little stunned by the swiftness by which they became best buddies with this guy), and I still laugh about how seeing hubby in his Army ACUs stunned him into utter silence (for a few seconds at least). Most recently, T has offered to pose for a picture in a Santa suit with my dogs. This fact is only slightly less weird when you know that he’s Santa down at the mall. Anyway, T is pretty weird, but he’s harmless and friendly. He was thrilled to give me eggs and refused to take any back when I finally made a Wegman’s run. I really am grateful to finally live somewhere where I feel comfortable enough to actually knock on my neighbor’s doors when I have these last minute baking problems. I didn’t have that in Maryland.

So I started on my pumpkin brownies.

Basically, you make two separate batters, a chocolate one and a pumpkin one, and then swirl them together. Unless you’re an idiot, like me. We’ll get to that.

The batters start off as one. Flour, baking powder and salt here.


In another bowl, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla.




Gradually add the flour mixture


Until you’ve got this. Leave half in this bowl and put the other half in another bowl.


To the first bowl, add cocoa powder and chocolate chips.



It’s very thick! How weird.


To the other half of the batter, add some pumpkin puree


Along with cinnamon, ground cloves, and nutmeg. Also chopped walnuts, but I didn’t have those.



The recipe says to layer them in the pan, half of each mixture at a time. I used a pie plate simply because my square pyrex was dirty and I didn’t feel like cleaning it.

Sure is a weird texture. Wasn’t too sure about this.


Ended up smooshing it down with my fingers.


The pumpkin mixture was easier to spread.


Chocolate again. Again, required finger smooshing.


And the last of the pumpkin.


The recipe said to use a knife to swirl everything together at this point. I had trouble with this, since the chocolate was so firm.


It wasn’t until just after I put the brownies in the oven that my eyes fell on this.


I forgot the eggs! Total dumbass move. No wonder the mixture was so firm and weird!!! I was supposed to mix them into sugar-vanilla-butter mixture, just before adding the flour mixture and splitting the batter.

So I took the batter back out of the oven, beat my eggs, and then poured the eggs into the batter.


That’s better! I just ruined all chances of pretty marbling, but at least the texture looks better.


You’re not going to believe this. About 15 minutes after I put the brownies back in the oven, I realized that I’d only added the 2 eggs that I already had, not the 3rd that I’d had to borrow from my weird neighbor. At this point, it was too late to mix it in, so I decided to leave it alone.

But wait, there’s more! I also, at some point, managed to turn off the oven without realizing it. My brownies took FOREVER to cook, and it turns out that’s because they were just in a warm oven for a long time. I eventually figured it out, but I’m sure the extended warmness had a drying effect.

Finally, they were done and I took them out.


Looks okay…


Truth be told, they were somehow pretty good. I make a million stupid mistakes, but they were still fudgy and yummy. I’d like to make this again without messing up so much, but at least I know that the recipe has potential.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bringing Cajun Flair to a Yankee Thanksgiving

Hey, everyone!  Jolie's husband Andy here.  I'm back again with another guest post.  No liquid libations to speak of this time, though.  Nope, this post is all about Thanksgiving.  Yup, FRIED turkey, delicious cornbread dressing, and of course, yummy pecan pie.

Let's start with the turkey, shall we?  My mom's youngest brother, my uncle Mark, is a whiz in the kitchen.  They are pure Cajun (or coon-ass as we say in Louisiana) and I've learned lots of dishes, tips, and tricks from them.  My uncle moved to Florida with his family about 10 or so years ago and I've reconnected with him on Facebook these past few years.  I genuinely hate Facebook, but it really is an easy way to stay in touch with family and friends.  Ok, back to the turkey.  I caught up with my uncle to get some turkey frying tips.  We talked for about 20 minutes and he gave me the necessary pointers to ensure success.

The most important thing is safety.  Because we have Thanksgiving dinner at Jolie's parents' house, I ran the idea of frying the turkey by her mom.  She was concerned about the house/garage being burned down.  I assured her that wouldn't be an issue.  There are two important steps to making sure you don't end up with a grease fire.  First is to know how much oil you're going to need.  Do this by placing your turkey in the frying pot and fill with water until the turkey is submerged with about an extra inch above the bird.  However much water you've used, that's how much oil you need.  Next, once you heat up the oil, you have to pat the turkey down to remove excess water and SLOWLY and CAREFULLY lower the turkey into the fryer.  This could take 5-10 minutes.  Whatever you do, you can't just drop the turkey into the hot oil, it will spill over the top and you WILL have a grease fire on your hands.


Ok, now that we have that out of the way, on to the nuts and bolts.  When frying, you want a bird between 10-14 lbs.  I ended up with one that was a touch over 13.  For the injectable marinade, I ordered Cajun Injector brand Creole Butter.  I got it online and it shipped from Louisiana.  Jolie ordered a nice, big stainless steel injection syringe from amazon.com.  Thaw the turkey and inject as you normally would.  I focused more on the breasts than anywhere else.  If there's one thing I can't stand, it's dry, flavorless white meat.  I injected the turkey with the entire jar.  After that, I used some Tony Chachere's Spice N' Herb seasoning.  I sprinkled it very generously all over the skin of the turkey and inside of the cavity.  Once finished, I stuck it in the fridge to marinade.  I did this almost 48 hours prior to frying the turkey.  Minimum marinade time is 12 hours but I knew that giving it 48 would make it that much better.


At that point I got started on the cornbread dressing.  This was another of Uncle Mark's concoctions and it is very good.  I made it for the first time last Thanksgiving and it was a hit with Jolie's family.  I started by mixing up 5 boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Muffin mix according to the directions.  I normally would split the mix into two pans for baking but the foil pans I picked up were too big so I just baked all 5 boxes in a big pan.  The cornbread came out beautifully.  At that point, I boiled a whole chicken in water for an hour.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  Once the chicken is cooked, removed from the stock and let cool.  Do NOT get rid of the chicken stock.  I knew better than to do this and I fubar'd it by pouring it out.  In the back of my head, a voice was telling me, "you know you're going to need that stock...right?"  I ignored it and poured it out anyways.  Fortunately, Jolie had some chicken bouillon cubes and suggested I use them to recreate my stock.  So I did.  It wasn't bad at all, actually.
Next step was to brown a pound of pork and a pound of beef together on the stove.  I added in some Emeril's Essence seasoning, 5 tbsp of Cajun Power Garlic Sauce (also came from Louisiana), onion powder, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.  While that was going, I went ahead and de-boned the chicken.  I kept the chicken stock at a simmer and once the chicken was de-boned and shredded, I added it back to the stock, along with the meat mixture.  Then I added 2 large onions, 2 celery hearts, 2 peppers, and I think that was about it.  I gave the mixture about 4 hours of simmer time on the stove.  30 minutes before it was done, I added in some green onions and parsley.

After the four hours is up, remove the pot from the heat and add to the cornbread.  If you've done the cornbread in two separate pans (unlike me), just pour half of the mixture into each pan and mix with the cornbread thoroughly.  Then cover and refrigerate overnight.  Whenever you're ready to cook, just leave covered with foil and put in the over for about an hour, then uncovered for 30 minutes or so.  I was busy with the turkey so Jolie handled the oven temperature and the timing this year.  The nice thing about the recipe is it makes two batches.  After cooling overnight in the fridge, stick it in the freezer and you've already got your dressing for Christmas dinner done!


(This blurry picture was from last year’s batch. It hadn’t been cooked yet. Imagine if it looked like this, except darker and way yummier.)

Meanwhile, it's time to get the turkey into the fryer.  Add however much oil you previously measured into the frying pot.  Turn on the burner and crank it up until it hits about 375 degrees.  Once it does, VERY slowly and CAREFULLY lower the turkey into the hot oil.  It will spit and splatter, that's normal.  Take your time and don't get in a rush.  If the oil start to rise too much, pull the turkey back out a little until it calms.  After a few minutes, the turkey will be submerged.  Keep an eye on the temperature, you want the oil to stay between 325 and 350.  Cook the turkey for 4 - 4 1/2 minutes per pound.  Mine was 13 pounds and I cooked it for about 50 minutes.  Once it's finished, remove from the oil and let drain in a pan or tray with some paper towels to catch the oil.  Let it sit for at least 15 minutes before carving.


Now on to the pie.  Normally I make these pecan pies from my mother's recipe a few times a year.  I buy store bought pie crusts and have at it.  This year, Jolie made her "from scratch" home made pie crust.  That crust is so flaky and terrific.  Anyways, I was kind of worn out from doing the turkey and dressing so I asked her if she would mind handling the pie.  She graciously obliged :D


So, that's about it.  The turkey was PHENOMENAL.  There wasn't any left, all of it was eaten.  Although I botched the chicken stock for the cornbread dressing and had to re-create it, you'd never know.  It was as good as ever.  The pecan pie was delicious, as well.  Sorry for the long post, but I hope you all enjoyed it!


Friday, November 30, 2012

Beef Enchiladas with Corn and Black Beans

The strange thing about this recipe is that it’s entirely my own! I didn’t borrow or steal this recipe from anyone, I just threw everything together and made a meal all on my own.


Very strange.

But fun, I think.

I’ve made beef enchiladas a million times, but when I’ve done it, it’s been a primarily ground beef and enchilada sauce mixed up, put inside flour tortillas, and topped with more sauce and a whole bunch of cheese.

It’s very tasty done this way, but the problem is that it’s very boring. I just wasn’t feeling it, but I wanted something similar, so I decided to spice it up a bit with some additions.

Here is what I used: black beans, enchilada sauce, chopped green chilis, cilantro, onion, canned corn, ground beef, Greek yogurt, Mexican-blend cheese, flour tortillas, and a bit of refried beans to serve on the side.


First step, chop up the onion.


Second step: I sautéed a half cup of chopped onion for a few minutes, then added a half cup of rinsed and drained black beans. I figured they needed to cook down a bit so that they’d be tender before I put them in the enchiladas.


Then I added a half cup of corn.


Mixed all around.


Finally, I added the whole little can of chopped green chilis and let everything cook down until tender.


Then I took the mixture out of the skillet and set it aside.

(Nazzers – recognize the bowl? Points for those who do!)


Moving on. Next, I sautéed the beef in the same skillet.


After it was browned, I drained off the grease and then added a can of enchilada sauce.


Once it was heated up, I added most of the bean/ onion/ corn/ chilis mixture back in, though not all of it because it seemed like a lot.


In retrospect, I’m not sure it was necessary to separate everything out only to recombine, but ah well. It worked out.


Last step: a spoonful of Greek yogurt. This was really the change I was most looking forward to. I have recently discovered Greek yogurt and was looking for ways to sneak it into food, making it creamy, without tipping hubby off.


All melted and mixed into the mixture, this is what it looked like.


I laid out a bunch of tortillas in a dish and carefully scooped a bit into each one of them.


When the mixture was doled out, I rolled up the tortillas.


I poured the other can of enchilada sauce on top


And finally, I topped it off with Mexican-blend cheese.


Okay, by this point, my camera’s battery light was blinking at I wasn’t able to use the screen, so I actually had to use a viewfinder. That’s not something I’ve done in years! Ha.

Anyway, I served the enchiladas with some Mexican rice and refried beans on the side, and also topped with a spoonful of Greek yogurt in place of sour cream.


Very tasty. Different. I think I should have included less chilis, since they were a little overwhelming, but otherwise I liked it a lot.


Who am I kidding? I’m just smug that I made my own recipe and that hubby liked it enough to eat the leftovers. Maybe I’m learning a thing or two about cooking.