Chicken Thighs with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce

It’s been a while since we’ve had a true ‘dog’ meal.  This was the last one I made — nearly a month ago.  It was right before we were getting ready to leave for North Carolina, and I knew we would spend the next two and a half weeks eating every meal out.  And while it was fun, all that eating out, I was ready to come back home — and back to my kitchen where I knew what was really going into my food.

After being home just a couple of days, Matt turned around and headed back to North Carolina.  While I’ve been in the kitchen, it has been mostly for baking.  I’m looking forward to preparing and eating this weekend’s ‘dog’ meal….but in the meantime, below are the recipes from our last adventure.  All of these recipes were new to us (a Puttin’ on the Dog requirement), and I have to say I hit a home run with this meal.  Matt put it on his ‘this will go on my menu if I ever open a restaurant’ list.  That’s a big compliment.

Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce from damndelicious.net

  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup Julienne sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 t. dried thyme
  • 1/4 t. dried oregano
  • 1/4 t. dried basil
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken, skin-side down, and sear both sides until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side; set aside.  Melt remaining tablespoon butter (I skipped this part and actually drained a bit of the grease out of the skillet) in the skillet. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, heavy cream, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan, thyme, oregano and basil.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Return chicken to the skillet.  Place in the oven and roast until completely cooked through, reaching an internal temperature of 175 degrees F, about 25-30 minutes.  Serve immediately, garnished with fresh basil.

Rice with Mushroom and Asparagus from primaverakitchen.com

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups mushroom, diced
  • 1 cup asparagus (cut the spears on a diagonal into 2 inch pieces)
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 t. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 T. feta cheese

In a medium-sized skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.  Add mushrooms. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until lightly browned and tender. Don’t cover the skillet or you will steam the mushrooms instead of sauté them.  Add asparagus. Cook and stir about 3 to 4 minutes or until tender-crisp.  Add the rice, salt and pepper. Stir to coat the rice with the mushroom and asparagus.  (My rice had gotten a bit sticky, so I added just a touch of chicken stock here to loosen everything up a little.)  Cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Garnish with fresh parsley and feta cheese before serving.

chicken thighs with sundried tomato cream sauce

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie from the firstyearblog.com

  • 1 package Oreos
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 container Cool Whip, thawed
  • 1 & 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, chopped

Process the Oreos in a food processor until they become fine crumbs.  In a large bowl, combine the crushed Oreos with the melted butter. Press this mixture evenly into a 10 inch pie pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Place in fridge until ready to use.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the cool whip and stir with a spatula until mixed. Spread this mixture on the crust and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Place chocolate chips in a medium heat-proof bowl.  In a small pot over low heat, heat the heavy cream until just before boiling.  Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate chips. Allow the mixture to stand for 1-2 minutes.  Use a spatula to stir the mixture until smooth.  Allow the ganache to cool a bit before adding it to the top of the pie.  Top with chopped peanut butter cups.  Refrigerate the pie for 1-2 hours before cutting and serving.

pb cup pie

(I might have gotten a bit carried away with the peanut butter cups.)

Braised Brisket with Mushrooms

To say my friend Bonnie’s husband Paul loves meat is an understatement.  His philosophy is that no meal is complete without a lot of meat, so I’m guessing they don’t do “Meatless Mondays” in their house.

I just had lunch with Bonnie, and of course, the conversation eventually turned to food.  We talked about how our Pinterest pages are mostly consumed with recipes, and she had the same problem I now have — making something from Pinterest, loving it, and then not being able to find the recipe.  So, she gave me a great tip on how to better organize all my ‘already made’ recipes.

She mentioned that she liked following my blog (Which I consider a huge compliment.  After all, I thought only my mom read this thing.), but she did remind me that she doesn’t bake much — that’s because both her sister and her friend Anita keep her well supplied with desserts, but she loves to cook and experiment.  And then there’s Paul with his love of meat.  I told her about this brisket recipe, and she requested that I share it soon.  So, this one’s for Bonnie:

 

Braised Brisket with Mushrooms

Braised Brisket with Mushrooms from Mel’s Kitchen

  • 2-3 pounds brisket roast, fat trimmed to 1/4-inch
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 T. packed brown sugar
  • 3 T. AP flour
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 t. dried thyme
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup low-sodium beef broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 t. balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Pat the brisket dry with paper towels and cut it in half crosswise into two roasts. Season each roast with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over medium or medium-high heat until rippling and hot. Brown the brisket on both sides, working with one roast at a time, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.  Repeat with the second roast.
  3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from the pan. Add the mushrooms and 1/8 teaspoon salt and cook over medium heat until the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms are golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. Add the onions and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add the flour, garlic, and thyme and cook, stirring constantly, until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the broths and bay leaves, scraping up any browned bits. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, about 6-7 minutes.
  4. Place the brisket back in the pan and place the lid on top.  Bake the roasts in the preheated oven until very tender, 4 1/2 to 5 hours. Remove the dish from the oven and let it cool, covered, for 30 minutes to 1 hour, flipping the roasts and recovering the dish halfway through cooling.
  5. Transfer the roasts to a cutting board and trim any extra fat off, if the roasts are excessively fatty. Strain the sauce from the pan through a fine mesh strainer into a fat separator; reserving the mushrooms. Let the liquid settle and then pour into a microwave-safe bowl, leaving the fat behind. Stir in the vinegar and microwave the sauce for about a minute. If the sauce is too thick, thin with chicken or beef broth. Slice or shred the brisket roasts and place on a serving platter with the reserved mushrooms. Pour the warmed sauce over the meat. Serve immediately.

Ina Garten’s Oven-Roasted Vegetables

  • 2 small fennel bulbs, tops removed
  • 1 lb small potato
  • 13 cup olive oil
  • 2 t. kosher salt
  • 1 t. black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 lb French string beans
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, ends removed, cut diagonally into 3-inch pieces
  • 14 cup fresh parmesan cheese
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut the fennel bulbs into 6 wedges each, cutting through the core to keep the wedges intact. Place on a sheet pan. Cut the potatoes in half length-wise and place them on the pan with the fennel. Drizzle the olive oil on the vegetables, then sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss with your hands.
  3. Roast the vegetables for 25 – 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, tossing once while cooking. Toss the string beans and asparagus with the roasted vegetables and roast for another 10 – 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese and roast for another minute or two until the cheese melts.

Paula Deen’s Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

  • 1 1/4 cups Bisquick
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 t. garlic powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/8 t. dried parsley flakes

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the biscuit mix and cheese in a small bowl. Add the water and stir just until combined. The dough will be slightly moist. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the biscuits are firm and beginning to brown.
  3. While the biscuits are baking, make the garlic butter. In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic powder, salt, and parsley flakes. Mix well. As soon as you bring the biscuits from the oven, brush them with the garlic butter using a pastry brush.

Italian Pot Roast

I might have put the cart before the horse on this one.  Back in June, I shared a recipe for Braised Beef Risotto.  The recipe calls for using the leftovers from this roast, but when I made the risotto, I happened to have some roast in the freezer.  I shared a link to the roast but didn’t at all do it justice.

Sunday night we had some friends over for dinner.  Earlier in the week, Matt asked me what I thought I was going to make.  I told him I was thinking about this roast, and he said he was hoping I would say that.  This roast is absolutely one of his favorites — so much so that the first time I made it, he went to the farm and made it for his parents the very next weekend.  Of course he had to use venison, and he also insisted that we make both a beef and venison roast this past weekend.  Now, you know I didn’t try the venison, but our guests had both versions and said they were equally delicious.

Italian Pot Roast

  • Extra virgin olive oil for sautéing and drizzling
  • 4 onions, very thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 3 pounds chuck, bottom round or top sirloin steak
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4-5 starchy potatoes
  • 1 can diced Italian tomatoes (32 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • A few fresh basil leaves, torn

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat with a thin layer of olive oil. Add the onions and garlic to the hot oil and sweat them until very soft and very light caramel in color, 20-30 minutes. Turn off the heat and reserve.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add a thin layer of olive oil to the pan. Pat the meat dry and season very liberally with salt and pepper. Brown the meat to a deep brown all over, 12-15 minutes.

Peel the potatoes and very thinly slice them lengthwise into planks. (I didn’t peel the potatoes.)

Arrange half of the onions over top of the meat. Season with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon thyme. Arrange half of the potatoes over the onions and dress with a liberal drizzle of olive oil, about 1 tablespoon, salt, pepper, half of the rosemary and a handful freshly grated cheese. Top the potatoes with half of the tomatoes and their juices and season with salt and pepper. Scatter a few leaves of torn basil. Repeat the layers. Do not add the basil to the top layer of tomatoes. (We did 2 layers.)

Cover the pan and roast the meat in the oven until very tender, about 4 hours.

Italian pot roast

I cannot begin to put into words just how good this roast is.  It’s so incredibly flavorful and tender — seriously, it melts in your mouth like butter.  It requires some time upfront, but once you put it in the oven, you can forget about it until it’s time to eat.  And it’s totally worth the time.  I’m so glad we decided to make this for our guests, and they were glad too.

 

The First Annual Treading of the Grapes

Last Sunday on the way home from church, Matt had an epiphany.  He wanted to have a grape harvesting party, let the kids stomp the grapes, and then serve Italian food.  Have I ever mentioned that Matt has a ‘vineyard’?  I like to poke fun at him — and he typically takes it well.  He has around 40 plants and has tried his hand at making wine for the last few years now.  It has gone from flat-out terrible to relatively drinkable.  I’d call that progress.

Last Sunday the vines were loaded with ripe grapes, but he wanted to wait one more week as last year he felt he picked them a bit too early.  He extended invitations to The First Annual Treading of the Grapes, 22 folks committed, and then he left for Greensboro for the week.  I, of course, never paid a bit of attention to the grapes while he was gone.  All last week I made preparations for Saturday’s big meal by doing all the shopping, making meatballs ahead of time, and chopping vegetables.  Friday afternoon, I made Nutella Cookies and an Italian Cream Cake.

Saturday morning I had just finished my run and was walking toward our house, and Matt, in his truck, started heading my way.  He stopped, and I could just tell something was wrong.  “Have you seen the grapes?” he asked.  Of course, I don’t pay a bit of attention to the grapes so I missed the fact that critters of some sort had nearly stripped the vines clean.  He was so disappointed.  But, alas, 22 people would be there in a few hours….so the party went on with a small token picking and no stomping.

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There’s always next year for that.

Now the meal was a huge success.  We started with Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus and Rosemary Parmesan Breadsticks while the kids enjoyed Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies.

me and food 3

Dinner consisted of Arugula Salad and Spaghetti and Meatballs. (Here’s the link to the marinara recipe I used.)

me and food 4

The troops were happy.

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Finally dessert of Italian Cream Cake and a Gelato bar.

me and food 1

me and food 2

And while the grape thing was a bust, it was an evening of sheer happiness for me — getting to feed lots of people.

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Braised Beef Risotto

I was reminded of this dish last week when I pulled some leftover roast out of the freezer.  I smiled when I thought about that day, well over a year ago, when I discovered these recipes.  That’s because I knew what we were in store for at dinner time.  Here’s how the story goes.

It was my lucky day.  I failed to get up at 5 a.m., so I had to run after taking Gray to school.  But it was raining, so instead of running outside I headed to the gym.  Now normally I would not think running on the treadmill was something to be excited about, but there, on the television right in front of me, was The Rachael Ray Show.  She was making this incredible Braised Italian Pot Roast.  My mouth watered as I ran, and that’s when I started feeling lucky.  But that wasn’t the end — it got even better.  She then had a couple of celebrity chefs come on and morph the leftover pot roast into other dishes.  Say hello to Braised Beef Risotto a la Josh Capon.

Braised beef risotto 1

I’m not going to sugar coat this — the roast is time-consuming.  I’ve made it a couple of times as a Saturday Night Dog Dinner, but I’m telling you that it is totally worth the effort.  Make a double batch.  Seriously.  Not only is it fantastic leftover on its own, you take it — this moist, tender, flavorful roast — and make it into something completely new.  I can’t put it into words.  This is a grand slam.  Make the roast.  Then make the risotto.  You’ll thank me.

 

Chicken Bryan

If given the choice, we avoid chain-type restaurants and instead search for locally-owned joints.  If I am to be completely honest, however, there are a few chain restaurants that we often frequent.  First, there’s Chick-fil-a; I have an 8-year-old so there’s no explanation required here.  Then there’s Chipotle; I love big fat burritos, and they by far have the best.  But the chain restaurant I want to talk about in this post is Carrabba’s.

I really do like Carrabba’s.  I love Italian food, and their food is consistently good.  Matt goes to the one in Greensboro fairly regularly, but I haven’t been in quite some time.  He called one night not too long ago to tell me he was there.  I immediately started thinking about my favorite dish — Pollo Rosa Maria.  We hadn’t even ended our conversation, and I was on my iPad searching for copycat recipes.  While I found one, I also found one on food.com for Carrabba’s Chicken Bryan.  I had a dilemma on my hands.  Which one would I make?  The refrigerator chose for me — I had half a package of goat cheese that needed to be used.

Now, I haven’t had Chicken Bryan in quite some time so I cannot tell you if it tastes just like Carrabba’s version.  What I can tell you is this is very, very tasty.  I’d totally make it again.  But be warned — it’s not terribly figure friendly.  The little voice in my head wouldn’t allow me to use all the butter it called for, so I cut the amount of butter in the sauce in half.

Chicken Bryan

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup cold butter, sliced (I used half this amount)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 ounces goat cheese at room temperature

Saute garlic and onion in 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat until tender.  Stir in wine and lemon juice.  Increase heat to medium high and simmer until reduced by half.  Reduce heat to low and stir in the cold butter one slice at a time.

Stir in tomatoes, basil, salt, and white pepper.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Brush the chicken with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill chicken until cooked through.

To serve, top each chicken breast with the goat cheese and then spoon over the sauce.

chicken bryan

 

Flat Iron Steak and Roasted Garlic Potatoes

I love cookbooks.  Most people like to sit down with a good book.  I like to sit down with a good cookbook.  I love to peruse the pages, dreaming about when I might get to make choice recipes.

Ten plus years ago, I discovered the Food Network.  (Matt swears it was the best day of his life.)  One show I found rather quickly was Everyday Italian, and it inspired me to get creative in the kitchen.  Shortly after I discovered the show, she published her first cookbook:

cookbook photo

I immediately purchased it, and I have to say that it is by far my most favorite and most used cookbook.  You can tell by the pages, which are both worn and stained.  Here’s a recipe that I make quite often — Roasted Baby Potatoes with Herbs and Garlic.  When we have company or if I’m making a ‘dog’ meal, I follow the recipe as written.  But these things are terrific with any type of potato.  Many times I’ll just use a few baking potatoes from the cabinet.  Here’s how I made the version in the photo that’s below:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon herbs de Provence
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 pounds baking potatoes, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the potatoes and garlic on a cookie sheet lined with foil.  Drizzle on the olive oil and sprinkle on the herbs, salt and pepper.  Toss with your hands to make sure the potatoes are all coated, and space them out evenly on the pan in a single layer.  Roast the potatoes in the oven for about 1 hour, turning a couple of times.

These potatoes go with everything — chicken, frittatas, but they are especially good with steak.  Wednesday night, I made Flat Iron Steak with Blue Cheese Chive Butter.  Have you ever made compound butter?  It’s simply butter with some supplementary ingredients mixed in.  Compound butter is quite pretty, especially if made ahead, rolled in a log, and sliced.  Place a disk of this stuff over a piece of steak and watch your guests ooh and aah.  Do it on a Wednesday night like I did, and watch your family ooh and aah.

flat iron steak and potatoes