Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Chicken Tikka Masala

John and I have only been to an Indian restaurant once, and I don't know if anything we ate there was Chicken Tikka Masala, so I don't know if this recipe I cobbled together from a several others is spicier than typical. I do know that it's spicier than any of the Indian and Pakistani dishes I make, and that my hot-pepper munching husband even thought it was spicy. When I asked if I should alter the recipe, though, he said that it was, and I quote, "Perfect." Since this is now his favorite, and his opinion matters most in my eyes, we'll keep it. Chicken tikka masala is a hybrid dish and has no set recipe, anyway, so if you want to tone down the heat, just cut the cayenne and black peppers in half and reduce the garlic and ginger. (Our poor girls thought it was too spicy even with only basmati and the chicken and requested peanut butter and jelly naan. Seriously.) **Edit: I've since made it identical to this recipe only using 1 tsp. of cayenne instead of 3-4 tsp. total for the recipe. The girls and I love it this way, but John thinks we're wimps and adds about a teaspoon of cayenne to each helping.

1 cup yogurt
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. cayenne
2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 tbsp. ginger root, grated or crushed
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes

Mix all the above ingredients together and marinate for a couple of hours before broiling or grilling. Place on broiler rack or grill; marinade should cling to the cubed chicken. Broil or grill until fully cooked and browned on top.

Masala Sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves freshly minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon crushed or grated ginger root
1 medium onion, chopped

Saute the above in butter until translucent, then add:

1 and 1/2 tsp. garam masala
1 and 1/2- 2 tsp. cayenne
1 16 oz. can stewed tomatoes (Separate into small chunks with spoon or knife after adding)
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream (Okay, I'm lame. We only have heavy cream in the house for special occasions, and I substituted evaporated milk.)
a pinch of sugar
a few good shakes of cilantro, to taste (torn, fresh cilantro when in season)
1/2 tsp. salt/black pepper, to taste
a good shake of cumin
a good shake of turmeric

Heat the masala sauce over medium heat until blended and heated through. Spoon over basmati, top with the broiled/grilled chicken pieces, and serve with naan.

Wow. What a dish.

Cheryl Mack's Chocolate Chip Cookies

I grew up eating chocolate chip cookies that were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. I still prefer this type of chocolate chip cookie, but I love these softer cookies fresh from the oven, too. So, for you soft cookie lovers (BEN), here's your recipe.

This recipe surpasses other soft chocolate chip cookies for several reasons.
1. It uses only butter (no nasty vegetable shortening) but still remains high and fluffy.
2. Fresh from the oven, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, with a tall glass o' milk, even chewy cookie lovers rave over them.
3. The original recipe calls for them to be scooped out in HALF CUP mounds, which makes for a dazzling cookie that also doubles as a meal.
4. Mrs. Mack is one of the sweetest ladies I know. She was the lunch lady when I was in high school and a partner in crime; I would sneak out of classes and bring back freshly made cookies for my cohorts to eat in the hall while they were supposed to be "going to the restroom." I was on the honor society, so I didn't need a hall pass at any time, but my chocolate-smeared mouth was probably noted by more than one teacher over the course of the year.

Here they are.

1 pound butter
1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tbsp. baking soda
1/2 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
5 and 1/4 cups flour
3 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter and sugars until light and fluffy; add baking soda, salt, vanilla, and eggs, beating eggs in one at a time just until combined. Add flour and then stir in chips. Form into 1/2 cup balls for giant cookies, or about 2-3 tablespoon's worth for moderate cookies. Bake on ungreased cookies sheets for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

This recipe makes about 2 dozen giant cookies, 4 dozen moderate cookies, or the corresponding number of normal-sized cookies. Make sure there are several gallons of cold milk waiting.

Garlic and Basil Roast Chicken with Balsamic Sauce

(Balsamic sauce recipe found here.)

I love roast chicken because it's easy to prepare, versatile, and yields delicious results. I usually sprinkle and stuff whatever seasonings I feel like using at the time, but even simply brushing it with olive oil and sprinkling on salt and pepper results in a feast. Last week, I used these seasonings, but feel free to omit or add your own. (Usually I sprinkle on thyme and sage, but I opted for a more straightforward garlic and basil flavor this time.)

One dead and beheaded chicken (a roaster or a broiler/fryer), innards removed
One large onion
About 15 cloves garlic
7-8 carrots
5 medium potatoes
black pepper
olive oil
fresh rosemary
1-2 tsp. basil (or fresh, when in season!)
garlic powder
about one cup chicken broth
8 oz. mushrooms, stems removed

Wash chicken and pat dry. Loosen skin from back and slide about 15 cloves of garlic between the skin and the meat. Brush the chicken with olive oil and rub with a liberal mixture of salt, black pepper, basil, and a dash of garlic powder. Cut large onion into quarters and place two quarters inside the chicken cavity. If you've recently been to Steve and Nicole's wedding and have brought home a table setting of potted rosemary, pluck several sprigs and place inside the chicken cavity, as well. Tie the legs together near the cavity opening and tuck the wings under the body. (I'm skipping elementary chicken roasting directions, so if you've never roasted one before, consult your cookbook for step by step directions.)

Cut carrots into sticks, cut unpeeled potatoes in half or quarters, and chop the remaining half an onion into large wedges. Arrange vegetables around the chicken and pour the chicken broth on top of them, making sure that all are moistened. Sprinkle vegetables liberally with salt and pepper, and shake on some basil, too. In the last 15-20 minutes of roasting, stir in the mushrooms.

Roast in a 375 degree oven for about 1 and 1/2 hours for a four-pound bird, or 20-25 minutes per pound. As it roasts, occasionally baste the vegetables and the bird with the juices. If vegetables begin to brown, loosely tent with foil until the chicken is done. When drumsticks move loosely, chicken is most likely done.

Remove from oven and let sit for about 10-15 minutes before cutting so that the juices will settle and stay inside the chicken. Cut slices to serve and drizzle individual servings with the unbelievably good balsamic sauce (recipe below).

Because they are cooked alongside the chicken, the vegetables may be greasier than your liking, though the chicken grease also helps flavor them. Remove with a slotted spoon and toss on a paper towel to remove some of the oil, or, if you wish, you may roast them in a separate dish at the same time as the chicken.

Balsamic and Basil Sauce

This sauce can be used to baste outdoor grilled chicken or indoor broiled chicken or spooned on top of meat sliced from whole chicken before serving. We spooned it on top of our roast chicken slices, and it was delectable. If you like balsamic vinegar, you can't help but love this sauce. It retains the sweet tanginess of balsamic vinegar, only tempered a touch with sugar, and the addition of garlic and basil make it to die for. If you don't like balsamic vinegar, you probably wouldn't try this recipe, anyway...

I think it would make an excellent dipping sauce for crusty bread, too.

1/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
healthy splash of lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon butter
3 garlic cloves, freshly minced
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. black pepper
several shakes of salt
dry basil, to taste, about 1-2 teaspoons (Use torn, fresh basil when in season)

Saute garlic in butter and olive oil until translucent and slightly golden. In a small saucepan, stir together chicken broth and balsamic vinegar. Add lemon juice, garlic mixture, sugar, pepper, salt, and basil. Heat over medium heat until hot. Spoon over chicken or pork (or use as a basting mixture for grilling or broiling meat).

Garlic and Herb Couscous

My mom-in-law also gave us couscous! I prepared this couscous with neither the traditional North African flavor nor a Mediterranean flavor, but instead created a mixture of spices I hoped would pair well with our roast chicken dinner. It's fairly mild, so it doesn't overpower the other dishes, but it has enough flavor to taste good on its own, too. You know, for breakfast the next morning...

1 and 1/2 cups uncooked Coucous
not quite 2 cups chicken broth
Cook according to directions (basically, just use broth instead of water)

1 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves freshly minced garlic
one small onion, finely chopped
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. lemon juice
a few good shakes of ground thyme

Saute garlic and onion in oil and butter until translucent. Stir in remaining ingredients. When couscous is prepared, mix this mixture into the couscous, stirring well to distribute evenly. I prefer my couscous lukewarm or cold, so I let it cool a bit. Feel free to bolt yours piping hot, though.

Broiled Sirloin Steaks with Lime and Garlic

Given my frugal nature, I've never purchased sirloin steaks before. I needn't have worried that our family would miss out, though. My mother-in-law is beyond generous-- she pretty much spoils us rotton, so much so that I'm helpless about how to adequately thank her. Their last trip up, she and Dude filled our freezer full of different kinds and cuts of meat, and included in these were some sirloin steaks. Becky found this recipe for me to try out, so I tested it on Mother's Day and found it good enough to post. I'm a sucker for garlic in its many uses, but its taste paired with hints of lime is a new (and wonderful!) one for me.

2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ground mustard
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme

4 boneless beef sirloin steaks, about 5 oz. each (Ours were bone-in and larger)
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

In a small bowl, combine the first six ingredients; rub over both sides of steaks. Broil 4 in from the heat for seven minutes. Turn steaks; top with mushrooms. Broil 7-8 minutes longer or until meat reaches desired doneness (for medium rare, meat thermometer should read 145; medium, 160; well-done, 170) and mushrooms are tender. Yield: 4 servings

I made a few changes:
I doubled the lime mixture and marinated the meat in it for at least half an hour.
I added some minced garlic in with the lime mixture, too.
Oh, yeah...I also scorched half of them when Susannah fell down the stairs, so they were dry on the outside and raw on the inside. (The first batch was excellent, though!)

If you're an expert meat broiler or griller (which I'm not), please leave some tips for me in the comments. I'll take any help you're willing to give.

Rhubarb Crunch

So I just went out today and picked some rhubarb to make a double batch of this sticky, super-sweet, dessert. You should go and do the same.
*Cut the sugar, as desired. With ice cream or cream, it's great, and sweet-teethed superheros eat this plain, but the rest of you, cut the sugar!

1 cup flour
3/4 cup rolled oats (old fashioned)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tsp. cinnamon

Mix until crumbly in a small bowl and then press 1/2 of the mixture into a greased 9x9" square pan.

Layer on 4 cups of chopped rhubarb (fresh or frozen can be used).

In a saucepan, combine 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons corn starch, 1 tsp. vanilla, and, if desired, one package of strawberry jello. Cook until transparent and bubbly, then pour over the rhubarb layer.

Top with the remaining 1/2 of the crumb mixture and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Let sit to cool a bit and thicken. Serve with ice cream or eat plain at any hour. (You can also eat piping hot with ice cream, which is also delicious, but it will be more like rhubarb soup than rhubarb crunch.)

Garlic-Basil Beans and Carrot Medley

This side dish is perfect. Really- I pair it with chicken, this fish, and beef, and it pleases us every time. I gave this recipe once before, but as I don't use specific measurements, it may not have been a help. After having eaten them at our place, though, Becky wanted to make some for her family. Keep in mind that these are rough approximations, and everything should be frequently tasted in order to ensure flawless flavor. (That's what I do...)

A bag of baby carrots or sliced, large carrots
cut green beans, fresh or frozen
one large onion
at least 4 fresh garlic cloves, minimum, minced
3-4 tablespoons butter
1/2 - 1 tsp. salt
1/4- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
@ 1 tsp. dried basil
@ 1 to 1 and 1/2 tbsp. granulated sugar

Saute onion and garlic butter until translucent and somewhat carmelized (a bit golden), cook beans and carrots, toss all together, add spices and stir to evenly distribute seasonings. Eat with great pleasure.

Seasoned Oven Fries

I only make honestly fried french fries a few times a year, so these oven fries fit the bill when we're hankering for crispy potato sticks. They can be seasoned to pair with whatever flavor is present in the main dish or simply with salt and pepper, so sprinkle away!

Here's a rough list of what I usually sprinkle on them:

4-5 medium potatoes, unpeeled and cut into fries.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Toss potatoes and oil together in a bowl.

Liberally shake on salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and cayenne powder, to taste, and stir until potatoes are evenly coated

Other variations include grated parmesan, thyme, sage, oregano, rosemary (in whatever combinations you like).

Bake in a single layer on a baking sheet or jellyroll pan. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven until golden brown and crispy, about 30 to 45 minutes. Flip them every 5 to 10 minutes so they bake evenly, and serve fresh from the oven.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Spice Layer Cake with Brown Butter Frosting

When John's family was here, I forced Sarah to choose a dessert from a cookbook she'd given me for Christmas. Since we were in the middle of an April snowstorm, this cake seemed to fit the bill. It's a moist, rich cake, with a taste akin to carrot cake (sans carrots). The frosting is delectable and pairs perfectly with the cake's spices. It's a basic butter frosting, but before the butter is mixed in, it's browned in a saucepan over medium heat, which gives the frosting a delicious toffee flavor.


2 and 2/3 cups flour
2 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown)
5 large eggs
1 cup milk

Brown Butter Frosting (recipe follows) or desired frosting

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg, and cloves.

3. In a large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat butter, granulated, sugar, and brown sugar until blended. Increase speed to medium; beat, frequently scraping bowl with spatula, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat just until blended, scraping bowl with spatula.

4. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans and spread evenly. Stagger pans on two oven racks, placing two on upper rack and one on lower rack so that pans are not directly above one another. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of each layer comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool layers in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Run thin knife around edges to loosen layers from sides of pans. Invert onto wire racks. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare Brown Butter Frosting. (Recipe here.)

Brown Butter Frosting

This is so good-- rich and creamy with a toffee twist. I made one and a half times this recipe for the spice cake.

In a small skillet, over medium heat, cook 1/2 cup butter until melted and lightly browned; let cool. In a large bowl, with mixer at medium-low speed, beat butter, 16 oz. confectioner's sugar, 3 tbsp. cream (or light cream, half and half, or milk), and 1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract until smooth and blended. Beat in additional milk as needed to reach proper spreading consistancy. Beat on medium high for about one minute, until frosting is light and fluffy. Makes about 2 and 1/3 cups.

Mopsy's Lasagna

Some of you may feel that lasagna isn't fit for a company meal, but, growing up, this was THE company meal in my family's house, paired with (you guessed it) standard tossed salad and garlic bread. When everyone still lived at home, our family only ate meat when it was stretched thin in casseroles, and if we complained of still being hungry after the meal, we were told to have another potato/piece of toast/some more rice (usually without whatever it was that we spooned over it for the meal), so lasagna was a heavenly treat.

I don't know if these environmental circumstances are the reason why I think my mom's lasagna is the best in the world, but, even if so, it's pretty darn good. She only uses canned garden tomatoes in the sauce, as do I, which may account in part for its great flavor.

This recipe makes two pans, so if you only want one, cut all amounts in half. (The extra pan can be frozen for up to six months; simply thaw on the counter overnight and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.)

1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 pound ground beef
2 cloves garlic (I use quite a few more)
2 medium onions, diced
2 tbsp. basil (I use fresh, frozen garden basil, in a greater amount)
1 tbsp. salt
2 one pound cans whole tomatoes (I use more, if using canned garden tomatoes, 'cause the sauce is the best part)
4 (6 oz.) cans tomato paste
20 oz. lasagna noodles

1. Brown meat, drain off fat, add remaining ingredients (except the noodles, of course) and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cook the lasagna noodles

3. Mix together:
4 eggs
6 cups cottage cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. parsley flakes (or 3 tbsp. fresh, frozen parsley)
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

You also need 2 pounds of mozzerella cheese to layer on.

4. Spray or lightly grease two 9x13 pans.

5. Layer 1/4 of the noodles in the bottom of each pan, spread with 1/4 of the cottage cheese mixture, spread with 1/4 of the mozzerella cheese, and top with 1/4 of the meat mixture. Repeat the layers, ending with the meat layer.

6. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Garlic Bread

Garlic bread is easy to make, and everyone already knows how, but since I have a picture, here's a recipe.

Lots of melted butter
Lots of grated parmesan
Lots and lots of freshly minced garlic
A few shakes of garlic powder
Basil/Oregano/Italian seasoning, if desired

Mix everything all together, spread over a split French or Italian loaf, broil until crisp and golden brown. Crunch and munch until nothing's left but a few crumbs.

Tangy Meatballs

First, I apologize to any vegetarians out there, for searing your eyeballs and your soul with the snapshot above.

These meatballs are sweet, sticky, and tangy. Once a month, it's my responsibility to provide the food for the fellowship time between services at church. I decided meatballs would be a good addition to the other food I took this past Sunday, and since one of the families can't have gluten, I thought that a recipe that used oatmeal as the binder instead of bread would be perfect. Too bad I'm cheap and used generic ketchup (which may contain gluten...who knew? oh! and quick cooking oats do, too) instead of Heinz. Mrs. Eckley would be so ashamed of me.

Oh, well. Next time, I'll whip out a few extra pennies for the brand name. Until then, all of you people who can eat gluten may devour these. They're good.

2 eggs
2 cups quick cooking oats
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
3 pounds lean ground beef

2 cups ketchup
1 and 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

In a large bowl, beat eggs. Add oats, milk, onion, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Add the ground beef; mix well. Shape into 1 and 1/2 inch balls. Place in two greased 13x9 baking pans. Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 30 minutes; drain. Place all of the meatballs in one of the pans. In a saucepan, bring sauce ingredients to a boil. Pour over meatballs. Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until meatballs are done and sauce has reduced and is thicker and sticky.

This is supposed to make 4 dozen meatballs, but it made more than that for me, and I made one and one half times the sauce.