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Posts Tagged ‘Lissa’s recipe file’

What I’m Cooking – Braised Cabernet Chicken

Posted by Lissa on May 16, 2014

Happy Friday, all! You know how you never know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone? Well, you never know how easy it is to balance life tasks and your first kid until your second kid shows up.

It’s Friday, which means that Mike is going for a haircut after work. Little Gronk’s new preschool is about fifteen minutes from here, but Mike’s work is perhaps halfway there, so he’d normally pick up The Package. (Yes, we send each other texts that say “I have the package.” What?) However, since the barber shop is by the house, I’m going to head over and get him. Which means making sure Bubber is fed either before or after, getting him packed up, and juggling baby-in-a-popout-car seat along with Little Gronk. Who needs weight-lifting when you have two sons that both need to be carried?

The challenge here is that I’m cooking dinner (as opposed to serving leftovers) and that Little Gronk does NOT like when I cook. That is, he whines and fusses and begs to be picked up and can’t understand why I tell him he has to wait.

(Of course, sometimes he doesn’t like WHAT I cook, either. Child is a seriously picky eater, and like all toddlers we play the fun game of wondering whether his new “favorite food” will get devoured or violently rejected the next time I serve it.)

In tonight’s case, I’m making braised cabernet chicken (basic recipe below), which is one of the few grown-up dishes he’s consistently eaten. The challenge is that I can’t leave it bubbling on the stove while I go for the pickup; nor can I wait to start it until I get home from pickup. (It’s a bath night.) I’ve therefore adapted it for the crockpot and it’s heating up on the counter.

Is there anything that smells better than onions and garlic cooking in bacon fat?

P.S. I wonder if I should include a #firstworldproblems disclaimer with these posts. I assure you that I know how lucky I am that I have two wonderful, healthy children, a marvelous and healthy husband, and sufficient material comfort that I have childcare options and vehicular ability to juggle pickups. Does that go without saying? I don’t want anyone to think I’m complaining in earnest!

Braised Cabernet Chicken – Originally from the Pampered Chef and adapted for crockpot cooking

-2 packages boneless skinless chicken thighs (12 thighs total)
-4-6 slices of bacon (however many your biggest frying pan will comfortably hold)
-1 white onion
-4 cloves of garlic (your taste may vary; any recipe that calls for 2 cloves usually gets about 6 in my kitchen)
-8 oz mushrooms (white mushrooms is the default, but baby bellas will add a richer flavor)
-4 sprigs fresh thyme
-1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
-1 cup chicken broth
– 1/2 cup red wine (Cabernet is called for but I use whatever is left over)
– starch to serve – I recommend egg noodles

– Fry bacon over medium heat until crisp (slightly overdone is okay). Dice the onion while it’s cooking.
– Remove bacon to a plate. Use as much of the leftover fat as fits your diet. (I personally hate pouring fat out of a pan, as it inevitably gets down the side and the bottom; I’ll use a paper towel to sop it up instead.)
– Toss the onion into the fat and slice the garlic while it cooks. The onion needs four or five more minutes than the garlic does. (If it takes you longer than five minutes to slice five cloves of garlic then you need to practice your knife skills.) Add the garlic to the pan and cook 2-3 more minutes until you can smell the deliciousness.
– Plop the chicken thighs into the (large!) crock pot. Pour wine and broth over chicken. Add salt and pepper to taste (you can add more later if needed). Lay mushrooms on top and glug the Worcestershire sauce over it (I don’t measure; you don’t have to either). Lay the thyme down the side where it will definitely be covered by the liquid. Toss the hot onion, garlic and bacon fat mix over the top.

I’m not sure how long to cook it; usually I’d simmer it stovetop for a half hour or so. In this case, I’m putting it on high for four hours. If I’d started earlier in the day I’d have done six hours on low instead. We’ll see what level of doneness results.

Also? I cheat on the sauce. I like it to be thick and cling to the egg noodles, so I add a cornstarch slurry at the end and boil for two minutes.

Enjoy, and have a wonderful weekend!

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Lissa’s recipe file: Spaghetti sauce

Posted by Lissa on September 5, 2012

Since guffaw asked so nicely . . . 🙂

Nana’s Spaghetti Sauce*

3 large cans crushed tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find them)
1 can tomato puree
1 can tomato paste
3 large cloves garlic
1 TBSP dried parsley
1 package Italian sausages
Meatballs (they’re better if you make your own, though I haven’t thus far)

Roughly chop garlic.
Pour a small amount of olive oil into a baking pan and add the chopped garlic. Bake at 350 for a few minutes; watch to make sure it doesn’t burn!
Pour 1/2 cup of water into the pan to rinse it out and empty into a large pot.
Add crushed tomatoes, puree, paste and parsley to pot and bring to a simmer.
Put sausages in pan or baking sheet and broil until brown. Add to sauce and simmer uncovered for 1.25 hours.
Make meatballs and broil until brown. Add to sauce and continue cooking for 45 minutes. Enjoy!

*Nana, Mike’s Italian grandmother, never measured anything nor wrote down her recipes. One of his aunts followed her around the kitchen one day and scraped together this recipe. I tend to use it as a template when making sauce but not follow it religiously. Some of my alterations:

– I use a LOT more garlic, including a number of whole cloves
– I also add onion powder, Italian seasoning, thyme, salt, pepper, and any other spice that catches my eye
– I cook it for as many hours as I can manage – 5 or 6 if possible
– I top it with fresh Greek oregano and/or fresh basil when serving
– You can use sweet Italian or hot Italian sausage. I prefer using sweet sausage and adding red pepper flakes to the sauce.

I’ve tried to make this in a crock pot but it comes out very watery. Save this for a weekend when you can leave it burbling on the back of the stove all day! Oh, and keep a loaf of Italian bread on hand so that the hungry people demanding samples can be given a little bowl and some dipping slices.

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Lissa’s Recipe File: Pan-roasted Chicken Breasts

Posted by Lissa on April 9, 2010

Q: Is there anything more painful than chopping fresh garlic when you have a cut on your thumb?

A: Why sure there is!  Mix that fresh garlic into a marinade and add some hot sauce!!

Pain aside, I really do like this recipe; it’s tasty, the flavors are complex and interesting, and the timing works out such that I can do a veggie while the meat finishes.

Recipe adapted from Rachel Ray:

Preheat oven to 400°.  (Or if, like mine, your oven runs cold, preheat to 405.  Thanks for that oven thermometer, sweetie!)

In bowl or gallon Ziploc bag, mix together:

  • four finely chopped garlic cloves
  • half-bunch chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (the recipe calls for one whole teaspoon but we liked it better halved.  Also, I used Tabasco but I’m sure sriracha will do)
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • salt and pepper

Add two 8-oz chicken breasts; toss to coat, then let sit for five minutes.

Heat nonstick, oven-safe skillet to medium-high.  Lay chicken in pan and cook 2-3 minutes on each side until nicely browned.  Turn off burner and place skillet in oven.

Cook for roughly 15 minutes (check it with a meat thermometer!) until chicken reaches 165°.  Serve hot!  The top will be all roasty and juicy and the bottom will have almost caramelized garlic.  I sliced this one in half so you could see both the top and the bottom:

Oops, camera shadow! But still - NOM NOM NOM!

If you just can’t bear to see those pan-drippings goes to waste, you can scrape them up and stick them on a slice of fresh bread.  Or deglaze the pan and make into a sauce.

Word to the wise — When you handle the skillet after it’s been in the oven, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY DON’T FORGET TO WEAR AN OVEN MITT.  The pan may LOOK all innocent and friendly, like when you use it for stovetop cooking, but that sly sucker is just WAITING for you to grab it so it can test your reflexes.  *sniff* Meanie.

Happy Friday!

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Kicking potato chips’ butts halfway into next week

Posted by Lissa on March 30, 2010

A.K.A. Kale chips!!!!

Feather-light, salty and crispy, these little green morsels beat potato chips all hollow. I got the basic recipe from Lyn but it’s simple enough that I’ll re-post here:

Preheat oven to 350°.  Snap the leafy part free from the stem, wash, and spin dry.  Slice out the stems and arrange the leaves on a [foil-lined] cookie sheet*.  (I’ve seen some recipes that tell you to cut them into three-inch chunks. While it takes a little more room, I find it easier to keep the pieces as big as possible; it allows you to turn them more easily.)  Use a Misto to spritz the leaves with olive oil then lightly season.  (Per the recipe, I used salt.  Next time I may try Montreal Steak Seasoning . . . or perhaps some BACON SALT!)  Turn the leaves over; spray-and-season the other side.  Cook at 350° for five minutes, then turn the leaves over.  Pop into the oven for another five or so (keep checking on it) until the leaves break into pieces when you bend them.

These were DELICIOUS.  I couldn’t help eating a bunch last night — I, er, ate all the ones that were over-browned so Mike wouldn’t have to, you see — and saved the rest to serve as an appetizer for tonight’s dinner.  This sounds like a super-happy snack for the weekends!  Enjoy!!

*I don’t think the foil is really necessary, but my sink is small and washing cookie sheets are a major pain, so I use it.

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Lissa’s Recipe File: Mom’s Apple Pie

Posted by Lissa on December 1, 2009

Quick, simple, and oh-so-delicious; what more could you ask?

Preheat oven and remove dough from freezer.  (You purists who make your own dough – well, you have my admiration.  Me, I’m cool with the store-bought stuff.)  I use a deep-dish 9″ pie shell, and I buy the Pillsbury refrigerated pie dough to top it with.  The pie shell needs to sit fifteen minutes at room temp before baking; prick all over bottom and sides, then bake at 375° for 7-8 minutes.  (The pastry dough needs to sit at room temp for fifteen before you bake the apples.  If you don’t plan for this, you will sit around with your sliced apples waiting for pie dough . . .  as I did . . . )

Peel 7-8 medium golden delicious apples.  (If the apples are ginonormous you can reduce to 5-6.)  Core and slice apples; toss with 1/2 to 1 tsp lemon juice to keep from browning.  (If you’re using very tart apples, such as granny smith, skip the lemon!)

In small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons flour, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (depends on how sweet you like your pie and how tart your apples are) and a bit of fresh grated nutmeg if you have it (I used powdered).  Toss with apples.

Pour apple slices into pie shell; arrange them so they form a rounded mound with a hollow dip in the center.  Dot with butter, then top with pastry dough.  Prick dough with fork and cut an inch-long X in the middle; push down flaps so the dough forms a small open area in the center.

Cover the edges of the pie with foil.  Bake at 375° for 40 minutes or 350° for 45 minutes, removing foil halfway.  As soon as that hollow middle bubbles up with frothy juice, remove to cooling rack.

You can serve it warm with ice cream, but it’s just fine without — good enough to lick the plate!

Happy Baking!

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Lissa’s Recipe File: Chicken Penne alla Vodka

Posted by Lissa on July 20, 2009

Hmph.  I wouldn’t call it a Domestication FAIL — I do have a whole category of that, you know — but it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it, either.  Well, that’s what happens the first time you make a new recipe (shrug).

Got this from a friend of mine (my comments in italics)

Prep time: ~15 minutes (yeah f*@%ing right!!!  Maybe YOU can mince two large shallots and a whole head of garlic in fifteen minutes.  Not so much me.  If you’ve got a sous-chef or you’re trying out for Iron Chef America you MIGHT manage in 25.  Maybe.)

Cooking time: ~30-45 minutes (closer to 30 than 45, if it helps)


  • 1.25lbs boneless, skinless chicken – cubed
  • X cloves of garlic – very finely chopped
  • X shallots – very finely chopped (garlic and shallots to taste)
  • Two large cans petite diced tomatoes – drained (really, really drain these suckers — I mean pour them into a strainer and press gently with a spoon.  Just up-turning them and shaking will not do the job.)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes – a little or a lot (I used one tbsp or so and couldn’t taste it, so I sprinkled more.  That was a mistake.  Sticking with one tbsp next time!)
  • Basil (yeah, so, this basil never shows up in the recipe instructions below.  Add it or don’t add it, knock yourself out.)
  • Olive oil (about three times round the pan)
  • ¼-1/2 cups of vodka
  • 1 1lb box Penne
  • 1-2 cups heavy cream (unless you’re cooking for Mike, who really dislikes cream sauces.  Hmph.  I held myself to about a quarter cup.)


Add olive oil to large skillet – warm on low/medium

Sauté garlic and shallots – brown very lightly – DO NOT BURN (because there’s nothing sadder in a kitchen than to spend fifteen minutes carefully mincing garlic only to burn the whole mess.  No, didn’t happen this time, but has happened in the past!)

Add tomatoes – sauté for a decent while over medium heat

Add vodka – simmer down (yes, simmer down) until at least half in volume (YOU simmer down.  Schmuck.)

Add red pepper flakes to taste

Start penne in boiling water – keep for ten minutes  (box says eleven minutes, but what do I know. . . )

Add chicken to the now medium hot pan, at the same time as the pasta – until cooked (DO NOT COVER!!  I was afraid the chicken wouldn’t cook through, so I covered the pan for a few minutes.  When I lifted the lid some wicked kitchen elf had snuck over and added an entire cup of water to my sauce!  . . . at least, that’s what it looked like.  Boo!)

When penne is finished drain, add to pan

Add cream to pan over very low heat, stir!

Serves 4-6 people

The result?  Not quite a meh, but I wouldn’t call it a yay.  The watery-ness of the sauce was kind of disappointing; I almost forgot to drain the tomatoes at all, and shaking them quickly over the sink just didn’t cut it.  The dish wasn’t TOO spicy, but adding that second helping of red pepper flakes meant that you didn’t really taste the minced garlic and shallots – a great pity.  (They smelled absolutely killer while VERY lightly browning, seriously.)

Oh well!  For a first experiment, it was Okay.  I’ll heat up the leftovers using a saucepan, which should help evaporate some of that extra liquid.  Next time will be better!

Oh, I almost forgot — serve with fava beans and a nice Chianti.  (Evil grin)  No, no, just serve with some green veggies and whatever wine you like.  Enjoy!

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Lissa’s Recipe File: Berry Brie Bites

Posted by Lissa on June 16, 2009


–         2 boxes (30) mini-phyllo shells
–         1 package Brie
–         10 large strawberries
–         assorted berries (I used half a package of raspberries)
–         apple jelly

Heat the oven to 350.  Remove the mini-shells from their packaging and place on a cookie sheet.  Place a slice of Brie in the bottom of each shell and bake according to directions, until shells are crisp and Brie is bubbly.  (Usually about 12-15 minutes.)

While the shells are baking – or before you start, as is my preference – wash and finely chop the strawberries, then place in small bowl.  I sliced the raspberries in half or kept them whole; try to slice them smaller and they might collapse into mush!  Add them to the bowl, then spoon in two large dollops of apple jelly.  Using your fingers, mix the jelly and the berry bits until all the large jelly blobs are gone and the mixture is spoonable.

Remove the shells from the oven and add as much berry mixture as each one will hold.  Top with a larger piece of strawberry or raspberry for garnish, if you like, and a sprinkle of cinnamon if that is to your taste.  Serve immediately.

And now – a few helpful tips!

1)      Do NOT, repeat NOT, use Brie Light.  The taste isn’t bad but the texture is TOTALLY wrong; instead of being all soft and creamy it’s sort of rubbery. 

2)      Please, for the love of god, use a cookie sheet with a lip.  Otherwise you might run into a situation where you tilt the cookie sheet as you place it in the oven and half the shells make a break for it, skidding off the sheet to die a filthy undignified death in the depths of your oven while you shriek “sh*t sh*t SH*T DAMMIT NO!!!”

Um, hypothetically speaking.


(Note: Recipe adapted from this book.)

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Lissa’s Recipe File: Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Posted by Lissa on March 12, 2009

This is the very simplest of Crock Pot recipes, but o-so-tasty:


– 1 whole chicken, giblets removed, washed
– 2 or 3 large onions (vary to taste)
– 40 peeled cloves of garlic (vary to taste)
– 1 can chicken broth (or water)
– Optional: 2 small-ish onions for stuffing, likewise carrots or celery etc., salt, pepper

Slice the onions thickly (about one-inch slices) and lay them across the bottom of the Crock Pot.  Lay the chicken on top of the onions; if you have stuffings for your chicken, shove them in now.  (I like to stuff mine with a few whole onions.)  Place the garlic cloves under, over, and inside the chicken.  Sprinkle with salt/pepper etc. if you like.

I generally do the first part the night before and store it in the fridge.  Come morning, pour the broth over the top.  (You probably don’t need more than half a cup, but I use one can — I like having lots of chicken juice available for dipping and drinking and general yumminess.)  Place in the Crock Pot and cook on Low for 8-12 hours, depending on your size.  (I usually just leave it on till we come home; it’s practically impossible to overcook it.)

Voila!  You’ve got yourself a juicy, moist, tender chicken that practically falls off the bone.  Actually, to be perfectly accurate, the chickeny goodness is so tender the bones fall APART — don’t expect beautifully-carved slices.  I use tongs to grab large pieces and later pick through the remains with my fingers to separate meat from bone.

You can serve with noodles, or rice, or potatoes, but you should definitely have some fresh bread ready; the savory soft delicious cloves of garlic make a perfect spread.

And now, to come to the real reason I posted this recipe . . . Rajah says, “It’s finger-lickin’ good!!”

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Lissa’s recipe file: Chicken fried rice

Posted by Lissa on January 8, 2009

Well, technically I should say Mom’s recipe file, since it came from her.  Or maybe Mike’s, since he made it while I was still feeling wobbly.  But anyway, it worked pretty well, so this way if we lose it we can find it again 🙂

Ingredients and cooking times and spices are all approximate/eyeballed — feel free to experiment and find what works best for your palate! 


6 cups day-old rice
3 eggs, beaten
1 small bunch green onions (chop the white ends for cooking; chop the green part to add at the end)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
3 tablespoons sesame oil (or you can half-and-half it with regular cooking oil, for health or expense reasons)
mix-ins as you choose (cooked chicken, cooked pork, canned or frozen peas, etc.;  all meat should be cooked and diced)

Heat the wok over medium to medium-high heat and drop in the beaten eggs.  Season as you wish with pepper and garlic (salt also, but soy sauce plus oyster sauce equals pretty salty, so careful!).  It doesn’t have to be cooked totally, but at least 3/4 of the way to omelette-dom.  Remove from wok; during next cooking period chop into small bits.  Turn wok to medium-high and pour in oil(s).  Once heated, add rice and (white parts of) green onion; fry for several minutes, stirring frequently, until rice is very hot.  Add chicken/pork/peas etc; once mix-ins are heated through, add egg back in.  If you’re out of oil at this point you can pour in a bit more sesame.  Add the soy sauce and cook for another two minutes; turn off heat.  Add oyster sauce and a bit more sesame oil, stir well.  Add garnish if you like (green bits of green onions, cilantro, etc.).  Serve immediately.


P.S.  I firmly believe all good rice is made in a rice pot.

P.P.S.  Mom customarily refrigerates her rice overnight before making fried rice; my grandma laughed and called her a “mun-tzai” (dummy).  “You think we had fridge in China?  Hanh!  Stupid girl!”

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Today’s tip

Posted by Lissa on August 13, 2008

Are you a fan of meatloaf?  Next time you cook it, try making muffins.

Instead of shaping all that delicious ground meat, spices, eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese and ketchup/tomato sauce into one loaf, cook it in a muffin tin.  Rather than the 30-45 minutes it would take to cook one large loaf, cooking 12 muffins reduces the baketime to under 20 minutes — just long enough for you to shuck and boil that fresh corn-on-the-cob. 

For my own personal taste, I also add WAY more garlic than any recipe ever advises.  There are very few meat dishes that can’t use a little extra garlic.  Also, I don’t use the “meatloaf mix” sold by Stop ‘n’ Shop; I’d rather hand-mix ground beef and pork, while skipping the ground veal.  (I’m told baby cows are delicious, but they’re just too gosh-darn cute.  I’d happily eat bunnies before I’d eat veal.  I don’t trust bunnies.)

Meatloaf sandwiches for dinner tomorrow night!

(Muffins idea from my very favorite beginner’s cookbook, The Everything Quick and Easy 30-minute, 5-ingredient Cookbook.  There are lots of lower-fat substitutes you can use to make the recipes healthier, or you can just take the general idea and fancy-it-up as you please.  Rachel Ray is great for some stuff, and of course I have a Joy of Cooking, but anything that takes more than fifteen ingredients tends to make my eyes glaze over, my fingers twitch, my cheeks tic, and general moronic incompetence to ensue.)

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