Sunday, January 31, 2010

January Poll Results

The votes for "What Should I Cook?" are in!

Barbecue Scalloped Potatoes pretty much dominated the entire month until Muffaletta Pasta Salad took a narrow lead at the end. Since only one vote ended up separating them, I'll make both this month. Stay tuned!

And, there are five new recipes to vote on, so let me know your February pick!

Monday, January 25, 2010

8. Spinach-Ravioli Lasagna

From 2008 Southern Living Annual Recipes

This was a that I'll definitely make again! It's a great five-ingredient casserole that's ideal for busy nights, since you don't even have to cook the pasta. It comes together easily and cooks in 30 minutes.

I liked the variation of using a white sauce instead of red, and the spinach-pesto mixture gave this dish a huge punch of flavor.

Baked pasta is my ultimate comfort food, and this recipe is a unique, delicious twist that's a new favorite.

1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup refrigerated pesto sauce
1 (15-ounce) jar Alfredo sauce
1 (25-ounce) package frozen cheese ravioli (not thawed)
1 cup shredded Italian six-cheese blend

Chop spinach and toss with pesto.

Spoon 1/3 of Alfredo sauce (about 1/2 cup) into a lightly greased 11x7 baking dish. Top with half of spinach mixture. Arrange half of ravioli in a single layer over spinach mixture. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining Alfredo sauce.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and bake five more minutes.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

7. Chicken-Pecan Quiche

From 1999 Southern Living

O...M...G. This was amazing!

I was hunting through the SL cookbooks looking for a quiche dish because I had the second half of a pie crust package and a bunch of eggs in the fridge, and I came across this recipe.

You make your own crust...but that's the BEST part. It tastes like the classic Southern cheese wafer, and it makes for a killer crust for this quiche.

With the chicken, it's hearty enough for dinner (I just served with salad), but it would be a great addition to a brunch, as well.

Let me reiterate...the crust is soooo good.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups finely chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
3 drops of hot sauce

Combine first four ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well. Add oil; stir well. Firmly press mixture in bottom and up sides of a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Cool completely.

Combine sour cream and next three ingredients. Stir with a wire whisk until smooth. Stir in chicken, cheese, and hot sauce. Pour chicken mixture over prepared crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes or until set. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Note: The recipe called for pecan halves to be placed on top before baking, which I didn't do, but it would enhance the presentation.

Friday, January 22, 2010

6. Sweet-and-Sour Chicken

From 1997 Southern Living Annual Recipes

I'm a fan of Chinese food, particularly egg rolls and hot-and-sour soup. I love the flavor of those deep-fried dishes, like sweet-and-sour chicken, but I'm usually wary of ordering them, since so many restaurants over-batter the chicken to the point of wondering if there's really any meat in there.

So, the idea of "takeout" flavor with un-fried chicken appealed to me. And, I'm sure there's a way to make good sweet-and-sour chicken in your own kitchen...but I'm not sure this recipe is it. To be clear, I wasn't expecting a duplication, but I did expect a little more flavor than what this delivered.

The sauce was pretty good, but it was too thin. The vegetables were nice and crisp, but it was the chicken that killed this dish for me. It tasted like bland boiled chicken...which is pretty much what it was.

I don't know if I should have cut the chicken into small chunks instead of strips so that more sauce could have covered each piece...or if I should have breaded and baked the chicken strips and then tossed them with the sauce.

What's the key to getting closer to restaurant quality with this dish without frying? Or, is this one of those dishes that's just better to order out?

(Note: I'm listing the recipe as it appeared in the book, but I made a few adjustments. I used fresh, crinkle-cut carrots in place of canned ones, and I used broccoli florets instead of bell pepper.)

1 can condensed tomato soup
1 (8-ounce) can pineapple chunks, undrained
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
4 skinned and boned chicken breast halves, cut into strips
1 (14.5-ounce) can sliced carrots, drained
1 green bell pepper, cut into strips

Cook first five ingredients in a large skillet over medium heat until thoroughly heated.

Add chicken, carrots and peppers. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until chicken is done. Serve over rice.

Monday, January 18, 2010

5. Cheesy Corn-Rice Casserole

From 2001 Southern Living Annual Recipes

I love broccoli-cheese-rice casserole, so when I saw this recipe, I thought it would be a nice variation for a different side dish.

I loved the texture of the corn in contrast to the overall creaminess of the dish, and the Mexican ingredients gave it just the right amount of heat to balance out the sweetness.

I was really pushed for time after work/gym, so I bought two packets of Uncle Ben's microwave long-grain rice, and it worked well as a substitute for cooking the rice from scratch.

I served this with a grilled strip steak, but it also would be great as a side for chicken or pork...or as part of a potluck or taco night...or as a one-dish meal with cooked, chopped chicken added.

2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
1 (15.5-ounce) can cream-style corn
1 (11-ounce) can Mexicorn, drained
1 (11-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomato and green chiles (Rotel), undrained
1 (8-ounce) loaf mild Mexican Velveeta, cubed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Cook rice according to directions.

Stir rice together with remaining ingredients. Spoon into a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. (If desired, top with 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese and bake 5 more minutes.)

Note: This dish makes 10-12 servings. The recipe notes gave a "freezes beautifully" option, so I split the mixture into two dishes and froze one.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

4. Linguine with White Clam Sauce

From 2005 Southern Living Annual Recipes

This dish may not photograph well, but don't let that fool's packed full of flavor.

This is one of those dishes that I've ordered out but never made at home. It was easy and delicious...and had a "restaurant" quality to it.

The white wine and lemon juice gave it a fresh, clean flavor, and adding a little butter at the end finished off the sauce perfectly and helped it stick to the noodles.

The hands-down best part of this dish is the broth at the bottom of the bowl, so be sure to serve with plenty of crusty bread for dipping.

8 ounces uncooked linguine
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper (I omitted)
3 (6.5-ounce) cans chopped clams, drained
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter (optional)

Prepare linguine according to package directions; drain and keep warm.

Saute garlic in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat for one to two minutes. Add clam juice and crushed red pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes.

Stir in clams and next three ingredients, and simmer for three minutes.

Toss with pasta and, if desired, butter. Serve immediately. Serves four.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

3. Beef With Red Wine Sauce

From 2006 Southern Living Annual Recipes

Talk about winter comfort food! There's nothing like a delicious meal simmering in the crockpot on a cold day, making the house smell amazing.

This was similar in taste to Beef Stroganoff, but the wine definitely added depth to the flavor (and fewer calories without the sour cream!). I liked that I didn't have to brown the meat beforehand...and it turned out tender and juicy.

As I peered through the lid throughout the day, I was concerned that the sauce seemed really thin, but it thickened up nicely in the last hour of cooking.

3-pound boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, sliced (I omitted)
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, halved
1 (1.61-oz.) package brown gravy mix
1 (10.5-oz.) can beef broth
1 cup red wine
2 Tbsp. tomato paste

Place first three ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker.

Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour evenly over beef and vegetables.

Cover and cook on high for six hours. Serve over hot cooked egg noodles or rice.

This post is part of Weekend Cooking, which is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2. Chicken Sopa

From 2006 Southern Living Annual Recipes

I had bookmarked this recipe because 1) I love Mexican food and 2) the particular combination of ingredients looked appealing.

But, I'll be honest...this dish didn't thrill me. The consistency was odd (thick and kind of mushy), and it lacked a certain "punch." I went back and added several halved, jarred jalapeno pepper slices to my bowl to give it a little texture and a boost of flavor, which helped.

I think this is a pretty popular Mexican dish, so I'm you have a better recipe?

1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 (14-oz.) can chicken broth
2 (4-oz.) cans roasted diced green chiles (or 1 can Rotel)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
4 cups chopped cooked chicken
12 corn tortillas, torn into bite-size pieces
Two cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided

Combine first seven ingredients, along with half of cheese. Spread into buttered 9x13 baking dish and top with remaining cheese.

Bake covered at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 more minutes or until golden brown.

Tip: When a recipe calls for chopped cooked chicken, I sometimes use shredded rotisserie chicken, but more often than not, I put three chicken breasts in a dish with a bouillon cube, cover with water, and microwave for 10 minutes.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

1. Texas Toast Breakfast Bread Pudding

From 2009 Southern Living Annual Recipes

I made this casserole for New Year's Day brunch, and it was easy to put together, hearty, and delicious. The Texas toast gave it great flavor, and the crunchy edges were divine.

Right after I assembled it, I regretted not adding some cooked ham or sausage in between the bread layers. It was wonderful on its own, but I think the addition of meat would have put it over the top.

5 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
1 (9.5-oz.) package frozen mozzarella and Monterey Jack cheese Texas toast, chopped
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Whisk together first 5 ingredients until blended. In a greased 11x7 baking dish, layer half of the Texas toast and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Repeat layers. Pour the egg mixture over the top. Cover and chill 4 to 24 hours.

Bake at 325 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes or until center is set.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Challenge Explanation and Kick-Off

I'm tired of not cooking from my cookbooks. Tired of it.

I'm tired of making a list in each of the 100+ cookbooks in my collection of delicious-sounding recipes that I intend to make...and rarely ever do. It's a new year, and it's time for a change.

I received the 2009 edition of Southern Living Annual Recipes for Christmas, and I realized that I now have 10 years' worth of these cookbooks (not all consecutive)...and I really should start cooking from them.

So, that said, I'm going to cook 100 recipes from the 10 editions over the next 12 months. I'm not going to cook a certain/equal amount from each book...just 100 total.

Why these cookbooks? Well, there are tons of recipes to choose from each year (800+), they range in difficulty, and, above all else, they're Southern.

I'll review every recipe I try, good or bad, along with any substitutions or adjustments I made along the way.!

Let me be perfectly clear...this is strictly personal. This challenge is for my own sense of accomplishment. The blog is really just a way to keep me accountable...and I'd love for you to tune in for the ride.

In fact, I'd love your help! Once a month, I'll post a list of five recipes I'm considering for the upcoming weeks...cast your vote and I'll cook the winner.