Buttery Garlic-Herb Broccoli

A while back, Hubby, Kiddo and I stopped in at a neighborhood steak house for dinner before heading to the theater. I don’t remember exactly what I had ordered – some sort of grilled chicken breast with a side of Broccoli. The chicken was good, but the broccoli was absolutely wonderful. I could have made a meal of the Broccoli – all buttery and bright with a wonderful blend of garlic and other seasonings. Since then, I have been trying to recreate that delicious broccoli at home. Some attempts were closer than others. This recipe is perfect – and a home-run with my guys (which is where it really counts). Hubby said it was some of the best broccoli he has ever tasted. That’s a huge compliment from a man who once complained when I didn’t drown his broccoli in a cheese sauce or Hollandaise sauce or some other sauce.

The blend of garlic and herbs enhanced the beautiful flavor of the broccoli, and the butter – I love melted butter over my veggies. Don’t you? While I generally don’t promote one brand of seasoning over another, after sampling different spice blends – everything from my own combination to the pre-packaged variety – this one had all the flavor I was looking for.

Buttery Garlic-Herb Broccoli
1/2 lb Broccoli
1 Tablespoon Garlic-Herb Blend (McCormick’s has a nice blend)
4 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieced
1 gallon size zip-lock freezer bag

Cut broccoli into individual pieces and place into the bag. Season with Garlic-Herb seasoning. Shake bag a little to distribute seasoning. Lay bag flat on a micro-wave safe plate. Distribute pieces of butter throughout the bag.

Seal bag, leaving small gap at the center of closure to vent. Micro-wave on HIGH 90 seconds. Turn bag over, micro-wave on HIGH an additional 90 seconds. Check broccoli for doneness. It should be hot and tender-crisp. If still firm, turn bag again and micro-wave on HIGH for another minute. Repeat until broccoli is heated through, tender but not “soft”.

CAREFULLY open bag (it will be steaming hot) and empty into a serving dish. Toss and serve. Perfect with my Buttery Panko Baked Chicken.

Buttery Panko Chicken (3)

Buttery Panko Baked Chicken

You know what they say about best laid plans and all that jazz. On my meal planner this week was a recipe from Cookiesandcups.com for Butter Chicken. The recipe called for 1 sleeve of Ritz Crackers for breading the chicken. I’ve used Ritz Crackers before, but unlike my method, this recipe had the chicken breasts dipped in egg, rolled in crushed crackers and baked in the oven with pats of butter scattered around the pan. When I’ve made my Ritz Cracker chicken, I brush my breasts with Miracle Whip (for a little “zip” while creating a thermal blanket to hold in the moisture), then rolled the chicken in crackers and baked on a pan lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

The night before making my chicken, I thawed the breasts in the refrigerator. The next night, when we returned home, I was ready to make dinner. My mouth was all set for the buttery breasts with salty-crushed crackers. That’s when I discovered we did not have any Ritz crackers in the pantry, or any other kind of cracker that would suffice. Time to improvise. We had butter, panko crumbs and a wide assortment of seasonings to choose from. I rolled up my sleeves, put on my creative thinking cap and made an awesome, flavorful chicken supper for my hungry guys.

Buttery Panko Baked Chicken
4 Boneless Chicken Breasts
1 1/2 Cup Panko Crumbs, Plain or Italian
2 Tablespoons Mrs. Dash Original Blend
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) Butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small casserole dish (Just large enough to dip and roll chicken one  piece at a time), place panko crumbs and mix with Mrs. Dash Original Blend. Set aside.

In another casserole dish, melt 1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons) in the micro wave. Heat butter in intervals of about 20 seconds until just melted but not heated. Set aside.

Slice breast lengthwise to create two thin breasts. Repeat with remaining breasts. Rinse sliced breasts under cold water. Place in a single layer on sheets of paper towels over a cutting board. Place more paper towels over the chicken breast and pat dry. Season lightly with salt and pepper on both sides.

Dip each breast into the melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into the dish. Press and roll the breast in the panko crumb mixture and place on a rimmed baking pan. Repeat with remaining breasts, allowing about 1/2 inch between them.

Place baking pan into the pre-heated oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until done, turning breast over about mid-way through the cooking time.

Remove from oven and serve with your favorite sides. (This is great with Stove-Top Boxed Stuffing with a Home-Made Twist. Just make the stuffing while the chicken bakes.)

Grilled Spicy Chorizo-Bean Burrito Supreme

A little while back, while Hubby was out-of-town on business, I enjoyed a good old-fashion sleep-over with a good friend of mine from work. We talked all night, went for coffee and pastries in the mornings and just had a great time.  For dinner one night, we picked up some Mexican food (tacos and refried beans) from a little strip-mall taco shop. One of the best things about the refried beans is that it contained chorizo – adding both texture and flavor to the beans. Since then, I’ve made it a point whenever possible to throw a little chorizo into my refried pinto beans.

I’ve made Grilled Beef and Chorizo Spicy Burritos and on meatless Fridays, plain bean burritos. Then it occurred to me – combine the Chorizo and Refried Beans to make a spicy Chorizo-Bean Burrito. They were quick, easy and very tasty. My guys gobbled ’em up. Served with Mexican Rice with Chunky Salsa for a complete, satisfying supper that will take no time to prepare, perfect for busy week nights. Maybe a simple salad of green-leaf lettuce and tomato wedges just to round things out.

For a little extra “kick”, refried beans containing jalapeno peppers will do the trick.

Grilled Spicy Chorizo-Bean Burrito Supreme
1 lb Chorizo, bulk
1 Can Refried Beans
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1/2 Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 or 2 tomatoes, diced
6 Flour Tortillas, Burrito Size
Cooking Spray

In a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, cook chorizo meat, breaking it into small pieces as it browns (like ground beef). Once the chorizo is cooked through, lower heat and add 1 can spicy refried beans. Stir well to blend and heat through.

Spray cooking spray on a flat griddle pan over medium heat. Place a tortilla on griddle and spray side up with additional cooking spray. Heat through until tortilla is warm and pliable, about 30 seconds per side. As tortillas warm, stack on a plate for assembly. Repeat until all the tortillas are warm.

Spread about 1 tablespoon over one side of the tortilla. Sprinkle a line of cheese down the tortillas, about 1 inch from the edge. Spoon some chorizo-bean mixture over cheese. Top chorizo mixture with some diced tomatoes. Fold tortilla over filling, tuck under and fold in ends. (Creating an envelope to hold filling). Roll/fold into a burrito. Place on the griddle to grill. Repeat with next tortilla. When ready to place on griddle, turn first burrito over to grill other side. Repeat with third burrito. Remove first, turn second and place third. This is a nice, steady rhythm of fill, grill, roll, remove.

If desired, serve with Mexican or Spanish Rice and enjoy.

William-Sonoma Garlic-Thyme Smashed Potatoes

There are mashed potatoes, and then there are smashed potatoes . . .

Tonight we dined on a wonderful, herb-infused roasted Pork Tenderloin. It had been a while since I’ve cooked up this family favorite. The roast needed a potato dish that was equally as flavorful and could be prepared on the stove-top since the roast was cooked at 375 degrees. (Most roasted potatoes are cooked at a higher temperature). Timing is everything. About thirty minutes before the pork roast was done, the Smashed Potatoes were started. When the roast was resting, the potatoes were browning nicely and soaking in the last of the butter. Everything was perfect – and oh so good! Besides, when you’ve plucked a recipe from William-Sonoma and tweaked it just a bit, how can you go wrong?

These potatoes are awesome when you are looking for an easy to make side of potatoes that don’t require whipping or gravy to enhance their flavor. A pound was perfect for the three of us – my guys being big potato eaters.

William-Sonoma Garlic-Thyme Smashed Potatoes
4 Tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb. Small Yukon Gold, each about 1 inch in diameter
1 cup water
Kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

In a large nonstick fry pan over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter with the olive oil.

Add the potatoes and water and season generously with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and smash the potatoes lightly with a spatula. Return to medium-high heat and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are just beginning to brown underneath, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter, stir to melt into the potatoes.

Serve immediately.


If you would like to try these potatoes with my pork tenderloin, here’s the link: Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Red Grapes & White Wine

Pork - Roast Pork with Grapes 01-07-2013 (2) Crop

Broiled London Broil with Mushroom Sauce

Make no mistake about it – London Broil (a thick cut of top round) is an easy cut of meat to turn into something akin to shoe leather. If you don’t like your meat bloody, avoid – I repeat – AVOID this hunk of beef. However; hunk of meat still mooing is to your liking, London Broil is a cheap steak that can be delicious.

While the USDA recommends a minimum temperature of steak to be 145 degrees, (classified by most chefs as “medium” and by many streak lovers as overcooked) “Medium rare”, the temperature when most steaks are at their most tender and juicy, is achieved at about 130 degrees at most. (Somewhere between rare and medium-rare and no more).

No matter how you cook it  – be it pan-seared, grilled or “broiled”, the key to a successful London Broil is to create a nice outer “crust” while keeping the interior a bloody medium-rare. Not pretty and pink, but red. Once cooked, let the steak rest for ten minutes, then slice against the grain into thin cuts before serving.

London Broil with Mushroom Sauce
1 London Broil, 1 ½-inches thick
Salt and Pepper to Taste
2-4 Garlic Cloves, pressed
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 Tablespoon Black Truffle Oil (Optional)
2 Cups Fresh Mushrooms, sliced (about 6 oz)
1/2 cup Red Onion, chopped
1 Can Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/3 Cup Milk
3 Teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce

Season London Broil with salt and pepper. Rub with pressed garlic.Place steak on the unheated rack of a broiler pan and let rest on the counter for 45 minutes to an hour. This will let the salt do its thing to breakdown the proteins and tenderize the meat. A steak broiled at room temperature will allow meat to cook evenly and quickly without becoming too dry.

Heat broiler element. Let the oven get good and hot.

Broil steak 4 inches from heat element until desired charring is reached, turning once midway through, about 18 to 20 minutes at most for medium-rare. DO NOT OVER COOK the steak or it will be tough. Charred on the outside, red on the inside – perfect. Be sure to keep your eye not only on the timer, but the temperature of the meat as well.

While the meat is broiling, melt butter with truffle oil (if using) in a skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onions. Sauté until vegetables are tender and liquid has evaporated, about 5-8 minutes.

Add soup, milk and Worcestershire sauce. Heat through, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

When steak is done, transfer to serving platter, tent loosely and allow to rest 5-10 minutes to retain juices.

Thinly slice meat diagonally across the grain. Spoon mushroom sauce over sliced meat and serve.

Roast Chicken with Cinnamon and Spice and Everything Nice

This is one of those recipes that has been on my menu planner several times, only to be removed, my head filling with second thoughts and fears. It was inspired by a quaint dish on Everyday French Chef. While I had yet to try a recipe from that site that I didn’t enjoy, the idea of Chicken with Cinnamon – I’ll admit it – I had my doubts. Finally, after much debate in my head, I decided to plunge forward and go for it. And go for it I did – daring to take the original recipe and go two steps further – doubling the amount of cinnamon and adding an entire stick to the chicken’s cavity.

While the distinct cinnamon flavor could be found in every bite, it wasn’t over powering. The combination of cinnamon and spice mingling in the pan dripping were a delight to the senses. So wonderful! No fears, no regrets. This was a beautiful dish.

My guys loved this wonderful, succulent roasted chicken.  After dinner, as we were clearing the table, Kiddo made an awesome suggestion for next time. Apples. Place apple slices inside the bird What a great idea! I’ve added his suggestion to my recipe, completely optional. (We all know how the flavors of cinnamon and apples go well together). The apples tucked into the cavity of the bird will add a wonderful moisture to the meat.

Roast Chicken with Cinnamon and Spice
1 Roasting chicken, about 4 lbs, preferably free-range or organic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 branch fresh thyme
1 cinnamon stick
1 Apple, cut into wedges (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Rinse chicken inside and out, removing any excess fat. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the olive oil with the cumin and cinnamon to make a sauce. Using a brush, a spoon or – better yet – your hands, coat the chicken all over with the spice mixture. If there is any extra, you can pour it over the chicken and work into all the crevices.

Insert the branch of thyme. Spread out and place a whole stick of cinnamon on top of the thyme. If using, slice apple into wedges, stuff into the cavity on top of the cinnamon stick.

Place the chicken on a rack in your roasting pan, breast side up. Place, uncovered, in the hot oven. After 10 minutes, without opening door, reduce oven to 400 degrees. Continue to roast chicken uncovered for about 50 minutes.

Remove chicken from oven, add about 1/2 cup water to the roasting pan to create steam. Turn chicken breast side down, cover and continue to roast another 30 minutes.

Remove chicken for a second time from oven and turn breast-side up. Check for doneness. If not fully cooked, continue to roast, uncovered, in intervals of 10 minutes. Continue checking for doneness.

When chicken is done, remove from oven, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Transfer to a large cutting board and carve for serving. (Discard thyme, stick and apples).

Arrange carved chicken on a platter. Pour pan drippings over chicken. Season with salt and pepper just before serving.

I served this wonderful roasted chicken with wild rice and steamed green beans. What a great Sunday supper!


French Beef Stew with Red Wine over Mashed Potatoes

What sets this French Beef Stew served over mashed potatoes apart from all the others? The wine – an entire bottle of your favorite wine! (And by that I don’t mean your favorite cooking wine, but the stuff you like to sip by the glassful). The whole house will smell like a winery as the stew simmers on the stove top. When selecting which red wine to use, keep in mind different wines will yield a different flavor – a sweeter red wine will render a sweeter stew, a deep red wine will produce a deep, rich broth. Since this stew relies on an entire bottle of red wine for its broth, make sure it’s one you truly enjoy. If you aren’t a fan of strong red wine flavors (and let me tell you this stew will pack one heck of a wine punch), you can cut back on the wine while adding beef stock to make up the difference. Don’t abandon the wine completely, as it is an important component to the overall flavor of the stew.

Just before serving, be sure to taste the stew and add salt just a pinch more if needed. Remember, the green olives will bring a salty flavor to the finished dish, so tasting at the end is important.

French Beef Stew with Red Wine
2 lb stew beef
Sea Salt, slightly coarse (but only a pinch)
White Pepper (lightly)
1 bottle of your favorite Red Wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme, more for garnish if desired
2 bay leaves
1 Cup Baby Carrots
1 orange, peeled and broken into natural segments
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced into rings
2 or 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 6-oz can tomato paste (10 tablespoons if using from a tube)
1/2 cup green olives, optional

Season meat with salt and pepper and set aside. Go lightly with the white pepper, it is a much finer grade than black pepper. You can always add a pinch or two more at the end, but you can never take back too much pepper.

Pour wine into a resealable bag or large marinating container. Add thyme, bay leaves, carrots, orange segments, onion rings and garlic. Mix well. If using a bag (my preferred method only because the bag can lay flat in the refrigerator), give the sealed bag a few good shakes. Place stew meat in same container as your wine marinade and allow to sit in the refrigerator overnight.

When ready to cook, heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Use just enough oil to lightly coat pot to prevent the meat from sticking. Using tongs, remove stew meat from bag and brown in hot oil, turning as needed to brown on all sides. DO NOT strain wine marinade. Pour contents of bag over browned stew meat and bring to a boil. Gently boil for about 5-8 minutes. Lower the heat to a simmer and add tomato paste. Stir well. Cover, and let simmer on low heat for about 2 or 3 hours, until meat is fork-tender.

Add olives (if using) and let stew simmer uncovered for about 15-20 minutes to thicken, creating a rich, flavorful reduced wine “gravy”.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes
8 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
salt to taste
8 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 cup half & half,  warmed

Place cubed potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water, salt liberally, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil potatoes for about 10-15 minutes until they are fork-tender. Keep an eye on the potatoes as they boil to make sure they don’t boil over. If necessary, skim the top of the pot to remove any excessive “foam”.

Drain potatoes, then return to the sauce pan and “dry” them over low heat. Add garlic and warmed half & half. Heat until garlic is fragrant and cream begins to simmer.

Transfer to the large bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whip. Whip potatoes until completely smooth.

Ladle potatoes into bowls or rimmed plates. Ladle stew over potatoes. Garnish each serving with a sprig of thyme for added color, if desired.

Serve and enjoy. As with most stews, warm French bread is a great addition to lap up all the wonderful juices.