Lighter Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

My recipe for these beauties appeared in Disney’s Family Fun magazine in March 2012.  They’re easy to make, and kids of all ages love ’em!

1/2 cup raisins, soaked in enough water to cover them

1/2 cup sifted flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup melted butter

3 cups quick cooking oats (old fashioned oats is fine too)

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray or grease two cookie sheet pans.

  1. Soak the raisins for at least 15 minutes.  If you forget about them for a few hours, they’ll still work well in this recipe
  2. Sift together the flour sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Stir until they are evenly mixed together.
  3. Strain the raisins, and set aside 3 tablespoons of the water
  4. Combine the beaten egg, vanilla and melted butter, and mix into to dry mixture.
  5. Add oatmeal and raisins combine .  This will be a VERY dense dough. Add the 3 tablespoons of reserved raisin soaking water to the dough and mix thoroughly
  6. Using either a rounded tablespoon, or a #40 cookie scoop, place the dough on the prepared cookie sheets
  7. Bake for 12-16 mins, or until the cookies are golden brown on the bottom

Yield: approximately 24 cookies

 

 

Mmmmm. Roasted Chicken…

I’ve been a little obsessed with poultry lately.  In a class last week, we made little meatballs, with ground turkey, which went into a classic Italian wedding soup.  And last night, it was roasted chicken on my brain.  And in my tummy.

There’s something about a roasted chicken that just defines comfort food.  I have nothing against the rotisserie chickens that are sold in just about every supermarket on the planet.  Some of them are even tasty.  But for sheer volume, flavor, and properly-cooked goodness, there’s nothing like roasting it yourself.  Why?  Oh, where to begin…?

I have a theory that’s based on nothing except my own imagination: when you buy a cooked rotisserie chicken, it’s overcooked.  Sure, it might be tasty.  But I think they cook them just short of being turned into sand because of a fear of undercooking them.  Apparently, cooking them to the right temperature (170°, give or take a few degrees) is too much of a stretch.  Or maybe they’re sitting under the heat lamp at market-central for so long they’ve started to roast all over again.  For whatever the reason, they always come up short.  Except, of course, when you buy it and have to have dinner on the table in 11 minutes.  Then they pass the dinner test with flying colors.

If you do have upwards of 75-90 minutes for your chicken to roast, then I hugely encourage you to do it.  It’s going to taste much better, because it’ll be freshly roasted.  All you have to do is follow these simple instructions.  And voila! You have an excellent meal that’ll feed at least four people, probably provide some leftovers, and give you the foundation (the bones!) to make chicken stock when your meal is done.

Try getting all of that, and the self-satisfied thrill of doing it yourself, with a rotisserie chicken. Not gonna happen.  Ever.

Roasted Chicken

1 4-7 pound chicken, whole

1 peeled onion, whole, or cut in half

olive oil

salt, pepper, and paprika

Technique #1.  Preheat the oven to 375˚.

  1. Place the roasting pan you’ll be using, with nothing in it, in the preheated oven while you prepare the bird for cooking.  Remove the giblets from the cavity of the bird. Put the onion in the cavity, and lightly oil the bird’s skin. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, and paprika.
  2. CAREFULLY remove the heated pan from the oven, and place the bird in the pan. CAREFULLY put the chicken in the oven, and cook it for 15-20 minutes per pound, or until the bird is cooked through.  The internal temperature of the chicken (check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer, at the thigh) should be 170°

Technique #2. Preheat the oven to 375˚.

  1. Place a cast iron skillet, with nothing in it, and large enough to hold the chicken, into the preheated oven while you prepare the bird for cooking.  Remove the giblets from the cavity of the bird. Put the onion in the cavity, and lightly oil the birds skin. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, and paprika.
  2. CAREFULLY remove the heated pan from the oven, and place the bird in the pan. CAREFULLY put the chicken in the oven, and cook it for 15-20 minutes per pound, or until the bird is cooked through. The internal temperature of the chicken (check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer, at the thigh) should be 170°

When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the oven, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes, for the juices to settle.

Makes 6-8 servings

NOTES:

  • Additional seasonings: before cooking, you can sprinkle on garlic and/or onion powder, as well as adobo seasoning
  • In addition to an onion in the cavity, you can also put in a cut-up lemon

Chicken Marsala

 

This recipe is a wee bit different than most other.  Instead of thickening the sauce at the end with a knob of butter, this recipe uses pumpkin.  Happy cooking!

 

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup flour

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

8 oz mushrooms, cleaned

and quartered

1/4-1/2 cup marsala wine (to taste)

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1/3 cup (or so) canned pumpkin (not with pie spices added.  Just plain)

salt and pepper

  1. Add salt and pepper to the flour.  Dredge the chicken in the flour. THIS STEP (dredging in flour)  IS OPTIONAL.
  2. In the skillet, over a medium heat, add the olive oil, and the chicken breasts.  Sauté until browned on both sides.  Remove from pan.
  3. Increase the heat to high.  Wait a moment, until the pan is hot.  Add a bit of the chicken stock.  With a wooden spoon, scrape up the “stuck bits” in the pan.
  4. Add the mushrooms, with salt, pepper, and a splash of marsala wine. Cover, and sauté until cooked, approximately 5-8 minutes.
  5. Add the remaining chicken stock and marsala.  Bring to a simmer, and simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Return the chicken to the pan, and simmer for 7-10 more minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken from the pan.
  6. Check the flavor of the sauce.  If it needs more salt, pepper, or marsala, add it now.  Whisk in the pumpkin, and check the seasoning.  If you’d like the sauce thicker, add more pumpkin.
  7. Pour the sauce over the chicken, and serve.

Makes 4 servings

 

Pulled Pork Chili

This will need two days to prepare.  Or one long one.  Prepare the pork a day or two ahead.  And cook the beans then, too.  Then it’s easier to make the chili the next day.

To prepare the pork

2 to 2 ½ pounds pork butt

1/4 cup  ground black pepper

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons cumin

2 tablespoons salt

1 cup chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 300°.

Combine the pepper, brown sugar, paprika, cumin, and salt in a bowl.  Rub it all over the pork, and place it in a roasting pan.

  1. Add the stock to the pan, and add any remaining pepper mixture into the stock.
  2. Cover the pork with a double layer of foil.  Place on layer onto the pork, so that the foil is pressed into the pork, and is flat on the surface of the liquid  Place the other piece of foil on top to cover the pan.
  3. Braise in the oven until it’s done, approximately 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours.  It’s done when the meat easily pills apart with a fork, or two knives.
  4. Remove from pan, reserve the cooking liquid.
  5. Chop up the meat while it’s still warm.  It’s easier than when it’s cold.  Chop it into small, barely bite-sized pieces.
  6. If you do this the day before, refrigerate the meat and the cooking liquid.  The next day, remove the fat from the top of the cooking liquids.

The Chili

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 medium onions, peeled and chopped

1 head of garlic, peeled and minced

2 teaspoons oregano

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons salt

5 cups of cooked red beans (approximately 3 cans, or 1 pound dried beans)

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can tomato puree

½ teaspoon Tabasco (or to taste)

In a heated large stock pot, over a medium heat, add the olive oil, and then the onions.  Keep the heat at medium/medium low.  Sautee the onions for 30 minutes, or until they’re mostly softened, but not browned.

  1. Add the garlic.
  2. Increase the heat to medium, and add the oregano, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and salt.  Sautee for 1 minute, stirring occasionally, or until the onions have darkened from the seasoning.
  3. Add the chopped pork, and combine with the onions.
  4. Add the beans, reserved pork cooking liquid, Tabasco, and tomatoes.  Cover the chili, and bring to a simmer.  Do this over a medium heat.  Do not be tempted to increase the heat to high to speed this up.  The chili can easily burn.
  5. Once the chili is at a simmer, reduce the heat to low/medium low, and gently simmer, covered,  for 1 ½ hours.
  6. Adjust the seasoning, using chili powder, salt, cumin, and/or Tabasco.

Makes 1+ gallon, or approximately 10-14+ servings.

 

Valentine’s Day. And Night!

Harbor Sweets Valentine

Just in case you forgot to make a reservation at your favorite restaurant for the big night, I have an even better idea: make dinner instead.  Oh sure, you can call me to do it for you.  But I think I’m busy that night.  That leaves you on your own to do something special for that special someone.  So what’re you going to do?  And how’re you going to do it on a work night, too?

I’m here to help.  My short answer, and full advice, is to keep it simple.  Valentine’s Day is not the time to roll out a new, experimental menu that will keep you in the kitchen for hours.  No, what you want is elegance and simplicity.  If you’re preparing beef, why not make pan seared rib eye steaks with a red wine and gorgonzola sauce?  It can go from skillet to plate in less than 15 minutes.  Perhaps some pan seared scallops with an orange, grapefruit, and ginger sauce?  Less than 30 minutes.  That’ll give you time to get your appetizer and side dishes ready.

And for dessert?  While I do like my chocolate and non-chocolate specialties, this could be a great time to break out some chocolates and champagne.  And those chocolates?  Those would be my favorites, Harbor Sweets.

Plus, the biggest WOW that you’ll get from Valentine’s Day is the huge appreciation from that special someone is that you made them dinner.  Trust me.  This is ALWAYS appreciated.

So there you have it: simple and elegant.  This way, you’ll spend more time with your true love, and less time in the kitchen. And don’t forget the candles. It’s just as Saint Valentine would want it.

Scallops with Orange and Grapefruit

1 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons grapefruit juice

1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated

1 pound scallops

salt and pepper

1-2 tablespoons canola oil

  1. Combine the orange and grapefruit juices, and ginger, in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, and simmer (Boil actually.  A gentle simmer will take too long) until the juices are reduced by approximately 3/4, or until the sauce has thickened a bit and is noticeably darker. This could take 15 minutes or more.
  2. In a skillet, over a med-high heat, add the oil to the hot skillet, and then the scallops.  Cook/sear the scallops on one side, until they start to get a golden color, and turn them over.  Add the sauce to the pan, and continue to cook the scallops until they’re done to your liking. This might just be another minute or two.
  3. Remove the scallops for the pan, and serve.

Makes two-three servings.  Jasmine rice or couscous both go well with this dish.

NOTE:  You can also do this recipe with fresh tuna instead of scallops